Members of the marching band New Edition perform at the annual Labor Day celebration at Baltimore’s Cloverdale.

Baltimore’s Cloverdale neighborhood held its annual Labor Day Basketball Challenge with basketball, music and a strong sense of community.

The event started off years ago as a simple basketball game between old and young members of the community challenging each other to a game in 1957. That has transformed into what took place on Sept. 7; a celebration for all people to participate in.

“The event became an annual affair and it’s evolved to what we have here now,” said Earl Garner, president of Cloverdale Athletic Club and Basketball.

Garner helped lead the “Ring of Brotherly Love” during the morning as members of the community held hands and said a prayer.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (District 14) were some of the participants to show support of the community coming together and moving forward, Garner said.

“There’s so much focus around separation when it comes to African Americans in this town,” he said. “There’s a lot of separation but we can still show people that we are still a community and we can still come together.”

Community support like that displayed by Michael Mann, a participant for all 46 years, who continues to come back because he hopes he can help guide the youth.

“I haven’t played basketball in the last 20 years but I went out to play with them because I saw a lot of new faces,” said Mann.

Each year he returns to the Labor Day Basketball Challenge because he believes the event helps foster the young people and that they can listen to their elders, Mann said.

“Baltimore is a basketball city so you have a lot of kids who are into the game. It draws a lot of people,” Mann said.

The event also included free food and music from the marching band, New Edition, a band with over 75 members of many ages.

One of the members of the band, D’Shira Plummer, also spoke about the importance of hosting community events in the neighborhood because of the impact they had on young people.

“I think it’s important because it keeps our kids off the streets,” said Plummer. “It’s something positive. Less kids off the corner and more of them being productive.”

The Labor Day Basketball Challenge brought in over 200 residents, Garner said, including people from outside Baltimore.

Tommy Lyons, a Morgan State University student, visited the park along with his son and grandson in order to enjoy a game of basketball.

“Folks are coming together and we need that—especially after the riots. Anything that can bring this community together and make it feel organic is what we need in Baltimore,” said Lyons.