With violence becoming synonymous with Baltimore, local leaders are trying different ways to end the bloodshed. One group thinks that basketball may be the solution.

Shooting for Peace is a new organization that is partnering with the National Basketball Association (NBA), foundations, Baltimore’s churches, community organizations, government officials, schools, businesses, and private individuals.

The group is planning a series of events during the week of April 11 where professional athletes will speak at schools, churches, youth athletic programs and community organizations about ways to prevent violence. The week will end on April 16 with a celebrity basketball game at Coppin State University between former NBA stars and well-known Baltimore City basketball players.

“I didn’t grow up in the hood; I grew up in a neighborhood,” event organizer, Ray Sydnor, said in an interview with the AFRO. Sydnor, a Baltimore native, attended Northwestern High School and went on to play football and basketball at the University of Wisconsin. Sydnor also played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sydnor said because the media doesn’t portray Baltimore in the proper light, he wants to show that “a lot of people do good stuff” in Baltimore.

“I’m obligated to give back,” Sydnor said. “We care about Baltimore.”

Former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis is scheduled to speak at halftime during the game, along with other notable athletes. Lewis has experienced his own share of legal troubles. In 2000 two people were stabbed to death after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta that Lewis and several of his friends were attending. Initially charged with the murder, Lewis pled guilty to obstructing justice and was given probation. Lewis went on to win the Super Bowl MVP award the following year with the Ravens. Today Lewis is involved in a variety of philanthropic and spiritual organizations.

The celebrity basketball game is just the culmination of the events preceding it. Prior to the game, national and local athletes will visit every elementary, middle and high schools in the city from April 11-15 in an effort to emphasize nonviolence and encourage peace and unity, Sydnor said.  

The event comes at a time when Renaissance Academy, a Baltimore high school, saw three students die violently in a three-month span. In the 12 months prior, there were 344 homicides in Baltimore.