Introducing The Africville Lakers

The first Debra Dixon Memorial Basketball Tournament for Bantam and Midget boys teams kicked off 12 April 2002 at the Community Y and at St. Pat's Alexander School in Halifax's North End. North Preston Bulls and the Aricville Lakers captured the championships two days later in a packed gym. It was hosted by the dynamic new Africville Lakers youth program.

Shunpiking's 6th Annual Black History Supplement
Volume 7, Number 41, 2002

IF YOU SHOP in the North End of Halifax, you've probably been approached by one of the players with the blue-jacketed Africville Lakers for a donation to support their junior basketball program. That's how I first encountered young Tirrell Carvery and later his dad, David Carvery, the driving force behind the program, its founder and coach, and a native of Africville.

The program has grown in two years from one to three teams, or 36 youth between the ages of 11 and 15, one of which is composed of girls.

"We derive our name from Africville, as I wanted my grassroots name to live on. It still exists -- not in terms of land, but in spirit." David left when he was six or seven years old and has a lot of positive memories. About half of the Lakers are youth from families who lived in the historic community.

His team plays splendid basketball, as is evidenced from their play at the Justin Coward Memorial and capturing the provincial Bantam title last year, and the Midget title earlier this year.

The Africville Lakers' Bantam Girls team, coached by Leslie States, won the city championship this February in their first year.

"A lot of our inner-city kids are not able to pay the registration to play so we formed the first team with kids unable to play. They come into the program knowing up-front that everyone has to participate in fund-raising, and that everyone plays." In fact, this coach benched his own son three games for slacking off from fund-raising.

"We provide an environment where the youth can interact with their peers, have fun and be safe," Carvery stressed.

This is one of his program's greatest accomplishments, a longtime observer of minor basketball told me. "They have taken a lot of kids, with very different temperaments and backgrounds, and they play together. At first sight you might not think that they would ever come together as a team, but they have."

This year the Lakers launched an annual invitational tournament for bantam and midget players. It commemorates Debra Dixon-Jones [1949-1989], a former resident of Africville and a founder of and activist with the Africville Genealogy Society.

Debra, a full-time taxicab driver, hair dresser and captain in the militia, had a dream to reunite the former residents of the historic African Nova Scotian community -- which was arbitrarily expropriated by the city of Halifax in the mid-1960s -- as well as to collect heritage and cultural data that would one day be compiled for historical purposes.

"She worked for years in our community," said Carvery, "and was a great role model for youth. She ran all types of games and tag days, even Easter Egg hunts, with always something going on for the youth."

The Debra Dixon Memorial Basketball Tournament was held April 12-14 at the Community Y, which itself has played an integral role in community sport over the past two decades. Twenty-three championship banners hang from the walls of the Community Y gym, now located beside the North End Branch Library. Carvery credits the late Terry Symonds, who spearheaded the Community Y program, as his own mentor. "He was always there for us, down in that old, cold gym."

The Tournament brought together nine teams from Dieppe, NB, New Minas in the Annapolis Valley, East and North Preston, the Canadian Martyrs from Halifax's South End, the Norwood Knights from the West End, and two Laker teams from the North End.

Although basketball has always been promoted "down south" as the "democratic", inner-city sport -- due to the relatively low cost in terms of gear to participate -- expenses in recent years are becoming as dear as hockey. Registration for each team in the Halifax Minor Basketball league is $1,000. Competition in provincials is another $300-350, depending on the division. "This doesn't count gym time at the George Dixon Centre (another $400-450) where we practice," said Carvery. All this is before new basketballs, travel, motel and food costs.

The entire program is financed by non-stop fund-raising. "From Day One all we do is fund raise, fund raise. We cannot cover everything on our own, and so we are appealing to the community for financial contributions."

You can reach David Carvery at (tel) 425-4341 or (mail) 2535 Creighton Street, Apt 202, Halifax, NS B3K 3S3.


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