After a COVID hiatus in 2020 and 2021, the Peace Basketball Tournament returned to Preston and Halifax on Thursday.
The tournament was inspired, in part, to help rally against violence in the Black community and the trauma it causes.
This is the fourth Peace Basketball Tournament and the first to be held in three years. It runs from Thursday to Sunday at the North Preston Community Centre, the East Preston Recreation Centre, and in Halifax at the Community YMCA, the University of King’s College, and Saint Mary’s University (SMU).
Tournament co-founder and organizer Miranda Cain spoke with the Halifax Examiner at the North Preston Rec Centre on Thursday’s opening night.
Raised in North Preston, Cain said that when she was growing up, a staple in her life was the former annual Black Invitational Basketball Tournament put on by the former Provincial Black Basketball Association.
She moved away from the province for a few years, and in 2013 the tournament — which had been in existence for more than 40 years —stopped running.
Two or three years after moving back home, Cain noticed “there was something missing.”
“There was no more Halifax meet Beechville meet North Preston meet East Preston. Everybody was in their separate silos because the Provincial Black Basketball Tournament brought us together,” said Cain.
Cain said her partner Corvell Beals, who helped organize the Peace Basketball Tournament, was just a kid when the Provincial Black Basketball Tournament ceased to exist. But he remembered the stories, saw the pictures, and wanted to experience it.
In 2017, Cain and Beals came up with an idea and the Peace Basketball Tournament was born.
“I’m like, ‘How can I bring that back but make it revamped to make our kids interested in going, but at the same time keep our older people interested and have our community teams come together again?’” This can be larger than life,” Cain recalled.
“Right now this is the largest urban event in Atlantic Canada. So if we could have more (Black people) come and support this movement — the basketball is just a ploy to get the people in the door. Once we have them in, then we move on to the real work.”
That work, Cain said, consists of Black community workshops and “peace talks” she helps organize in conjunction with the basketball tournament. They deal with inner peace as well as mental, physical, and emotional peace.
“So our problem in our Black communities, we don’t find that inner peace. We’re still fighting that struggle. We’re still looking for that piece of freedom where we want to emancipate ourselves,” Cain said.
“This blends into the event I did last week, it’s like ‘Emancipate your soul, emancipate your mind,’ so that once we know who we are, and we love and accept and are proud of who we are and what we bring to the table, we’ll be fine.”
Cain is also the director and founder of North Preston’s Future Community Organization Society.
She said she named it North Preston’s Future (NPF) to counter the NPF that stands for ‘North Preston’s Finest,’ a title that brings negative stigma to the community due to its common reference with “the pimping and the drug dealing” in the community.
“So now, thank God, I can say that (with what) my organization is doing, I hear way less of NPF as North Preston’s Finest, as a negative, and I see more as a positive,” Cain said. “And the kids see this.”
Since the last Peace Basketball Tournament, Cain said there are several hurdles she and her community had to overcome with respect to grief and loss.
Three major volunteers and staff members who Cain said were “very crucial” to the Peace Basketball Tournament have died since the last one was held.
One of them was Cain’s sister LaToya Cain, someone she trusted and was close to. Her sister died suddenly during the COVID lockdowns. Due to COVID restrictions, Cain was unable to attend her sister’s funeral.
Another hurdle was when eight-year-old Lee-Marion “Mar Mar” Cain from North Preston lost his life to gun violence just before Christmas last year.
Most recently, a close friend of Cain’s and a major supporter of the Peace Basketball Tournament was the victim of a targeted killing in East Preston last weekend.
“If my mind wasn’t mentally at peace I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Cain said.
“I wouldn’t be as organized as I am, I wouldn’t be able to put up this time with you, because I have to mentally make my mind at peace before I try to promote it to others.”
Halifax resident Wade Wright has family roots in Preston. Wright is the owner of WrightFit Inc. and has a team in the men’s division of the tournament. Wright is the team’s head coach, and they won the first game on opening night in North Preston vs Peace & Love.
“You’ve seen good basketball from a high-level bunch of guys who are ready to compete,” Wright said after Thursday’s game. “The other team played hard. I wish them the best the rest of the way.”
Cain said so far everything with the tournament is going according to plan.
“You’re gonna bring your kid, I’m gonna bring my kids, they’re gonna go to the playground, we’re gonna play, and I’m gonna remember that kid in 10 or 15 years so I’ll be less likely to wanna go shoot,” said Cain.
“My goal is happening because we’re coming back together.”
For more info on the teams, venues and tournament schedule, click here.