“I told em….didn’t I tell em…Those young boys ain’t got nothing on me. I’m old school.” Those were the words coming from the victorious point guard who’d just hit the game winning jumper to the dismay of his younger, high school age, opponents. His King’s Speech seemed to be directed to anyone who would listen, pretty much a general declaration of victory. Lucky for him, there was a fairly large audience for him to preach to.
On the outside of the basketball court, a line of African American senior citizens played music and sold Gatorade to the ballers. There was another set of sounds coming from the tennis courts,”Good stop….play up…..coming behind,” those where the songs coming from the bike polo players who were dominating the once tennis courts now bike polo arena.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Jackson Ward shooting a music video from the group HaBits. And while I thought I had a good understanding of Jackson Ward and Abner Clay Park, I’ve been absolutely floored by the positive energy, diversity and harmony that seems to happen every Sunday in Abner Clay.
It’s not just the basketball players – playing some of the best pick-up games in the city. It’s not just the bike polo players, with skills I could only dream to own. What impressed me is the balance of the Ward….the balance of old and new, hipster and hoops, old Ward merging with the change of gentrification. It’s not lost on me that Abner Clay sets across the street from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. I’m sure some of the older gentleman on the side of the court knew the Ward as a far different place. A place where the community thrived with Black Owned Business and legendary entertainment centers and hotels. They see a different Ward now – is just the latest in a long line of examples of change. It’s not lost on me that the Jackson Ward Neighborhood Association doesn’t necessarily want the bike polo players there (this according to some of the local players) and that it has little or nothing to do with history. Bike polo seems to be new version of skateboarding. Until it gets accepted there will certainly be detractors.
However, in face of those who may not want them there – they are there. Every Sunday afternoon building a new community of harmony and diversity. Centered around sports and backed with music and a grill, Jackson Ward is a special place. And it seems to be getting better one day at a time.