Mike Evans: What

Mike Evans: What "Us" And "We" Really Means And Looks Like At Full Court Peace

by Wendell Maxey

Earlier this week, Full Court Peace founder Mike Evans spoke to a group of middle school students at the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut to share about our FCP outreach programs and what it means to help bridge the gap between communities and cultures through basketball. Here is the message that hopefully made an impact as "we" try to connect with kids in and out of the game.

We speakers are tasked this morning with describing to you all what inspires us.I’ll start by telling you that it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. Meaning, it’s hard for me to remember what exactly sparked me to start Full Court Peace in 2006.

What I can tell you, though, is what keeps me working everyday to unite the separated and segregated communities both here and abroad. What keeps ME going, ——- in one word ——- “us.” But what does “us” mean? We have presidential candidates who use that word a lot, and who speak in terms of “we.” I’m sure you use the word “us” or “we” everyday. The fact is, “Us” means different things to everyone. And its definition has changed drastically for me over the past ten years.

The first time I joined a basketball team in Weston, just a few miles from here, I learned partly what “we” meant.

I learned about achieving goals together and pushing each other to each other’s limits.Then, when I was a teenager, I joined a basketball team where I was the only white player. And then I learned another definition of the word “us.” Ten years later, when I found myself playing on a semi-professional basketball team in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where half my teammates were Protestants and half were Catholics, a new definition of “us” was born.

In Cuba in 2009, while trying to figure out how basketball could give locals there a path to their own self-determination — while I too was being followed by the government — “us,” once again, became a new vocabulary word for me.

But perhaps it was five years ago, when I coached a high school basketball team of kids from Bridgeport and Stamford, Connecticut, and eight of them ended up in prison before our season ended, that the word “us,” started to confuse me.

And perhaps it was a 17 year old named Tayjon on that team, who, after one of our practices one day, invaded a home in Bridgeport, stole $50,000 in cash from an immigrant family while another one my players held them at gunpoint, and, when sentenced to 18 months in prison, asked me to hold a spot for him on OUR team, that “us” became one of the strongest words in my vocabulary.

What inspires me is all of you, everyone here, everyone I coach now and anyone basketball has ever introduced to me.

Through all of the work, what inspires me is helping others around the world —- and myself ——- despite all of our differences and all of today’s obstacles to peace —— agree what “us” really means.