It has been a little over week since the LA Stars Celebrity All-Star Weekend ally-hooped its way into some of the most notable and not-so-notable neighborhoods of Los Angeles, CA. Now that the “star dust” has settled and many of the superstar athletes have jetted off to other parts of our great nation, its time to take a deeper look into what the festivities mean for the community beyond the August 3-5 2007 weekend. Before you get LA Stars confused for the name of an ABA team, let me tell you exactly what LA Stars is about and who are the fighting forces behind its success.
LA Stars is the collaborative effort of 4 notable foundations started by LA natives who have realized that the true definition of success means being able to give a little of what you have received. Team Play – The Baron Davis Foundation, The Paul Pierce Truth Foundation, Zero Two Hero – The Gilbert Arenas Foundation and The Magic Johnson Foundation are currently the four entities operating under the mission to “give back to our youth that need community-based programs and health-related resource.” Although only in its 2nd year as what it is known today, the efforts of the charity weekend steam from a rooted history established by NBA legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. For twenty years, Johnson held A Midsummer Night’s Magic for the city of Los Angeles to raise funds for various charitable programs. In a effort to help new blood get in the mix and carry on his visions for the city, the pass to NBA All-stars Baron Davis and Paul Pierce was made and 2006 and they have been shooting to win ever since.
For the 2007 year, the weekend included a private VIP reception hosted by Fendi for celebrity guests at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, a night of fashion, music and casino games on Rodeo Drive, a carnival and celebrity/NBA basketball game both held at the University of Southern California (USC). But most importantly the new addition to the onslaught of festivities commenced this year, The Legacy Project held at Richardson Park. The Legacy Project is just what it sounds like, a project geared toward leaving a legacy in the community in which it serves and with the people with whom it involves. The two components of any given Legacy Project are a day of service with a signature community service project and an event focused on health, wellness and community activity. For 2007, LA Stars partnered with The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), North Area Neighborhood Development Council and LA Works to help revitalize Richardson Family Park (a small urban asphalt park located half a mile from the USC campus at 27th and Budlong).
The Legacy Project
Record high temps and minimal bouts of cool breeze didn’t stop volunteers, athletes and even politicians from breaking a sweat in the effort to restore a once desolate inner-city neighborhood park. Approaching the location my photographer and I were greeted by homes that hung low and sad along streets lined with old food cartons and broke-down vehicles. However, a stream of music and the distant laughter of children pierced the still, hot air and somehow we knew that everything was going to be all good. At the park site, volunteers worked quickly and meticulously painting over graffiti laden walls and rusted fences. On the contrary, all work and no play was not the goal of the day. Pierce and Davis made time to stop between strokes of paint to sign an autograph, take a picture or greet a new face. Other NBA players that showed up to aid in the effort included Gabe Pruitt (Boston Celtics) and Arron Afflalo (Detroit Pistons).
Both Pruitt and Afflalo are newcomers to the NBA, but have already started to think about how they will give back to the Los Angeles Community where they both lived. Pruitt states that he loves working with kids and will probably venture to start something in that particular genre. Until then, he will be an advocate and supporter of LA Stars. In the area adjacent to the park, vendors had lined up booths to give out vital information about health, wellness and a host of other activities to those that participated. I had an opportunity to pose a couple questions to both Pierce and Davis who articulated their vision for LA Stars and what it means to them.
Takeisha Rayson: Why is your involvement in this effort so important?
Baron Davis: I grew up in this [Los Angeles] community and I felt that it was important for me to be able to give back and show kids that they have options when it comes to their life and their community.
Paul Pierce: We want to do anything we can in a effort to better the community and bring a newfound sense of hope to those that may have once felt hopeless.
Takeisha Rayson: Beyond the scope of the activities for this weekend, what is on the radar for improving the community?
Baron Davis: The foundations will continue works throughout the year to bring awareness, raise funds and support many communities around the city. It’s my goal to bring in positive elements to the community in order to drive out negative ones. I would like to see the establishment of fitness centers and other types of establishments that aren’t readily available within these [inner-city communities] presently.
Paul Pierce: Volunteers are needed on a continuum basis in order to keep the efforts going. Information on how the community can become involved will be posted on the Website (www.lastars.net)
In order to bring the vision of continued growth and involvement of the community into fruition, it is going to take a lot of support from the public and organizations like the LANLT. “By the adoption of various neighborhoods through our organization, we are able to be involved throughout the year to help maintain the parks and community,” states Gabriela Garcia, a Community Organizer with LANLT. Garcia will be the appointed organizer for the Richardson Park community and says that she will be there for neighborhood meetings and to ensure that the momentum of the day isn’t lost over the course of the year.
Tsilah Burman reiterates this by stating that it is part of LANLT’s mission to ensure community participation and collaboration in every step of the process of creating and managing the parks and community gardens. One way in achieving this is to appoint various members of the community with a job role in the maintenance of the park. “By making someone in the community responsible for an aspect of their community then they feel a sense of ownership and therefore are given a newfound sense of responsibility to their neighborhood,” states Burman. I couldn’t agree more and feel that this tactic is both meaningful and strategic to achieving the long-term goals.
Gilbert Arenas, Sr. was on hand holding the torch for his son, who plays for the Washington Wizards. Although Arenas Jr. couldn’t make it out to LA during the weekend, his father iterated how important this event and this cause was for him and the foundation in which he has dedicated to help the community. The Gilbert Arenas Foundation will be vital to the support of single parent families.
On the political front, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former police chief Bernard Parks came out to lend their voice in support of everyone’s efforts. Villaraigosa stated that this is only the beginning of numerous efforts to clean up communities around the city of LA. He applauded the efforts of all those involved and presented a plaque to those NBA players who played an important role in making the day possible. Villaraigosa even took time out during his speech to entertain a boisterous volunteer who couldn’t hold back her enthusiasm for the day’s events. When Parks stepped to the podium, his sentiments for the community in which he once helped to serve was touching and heart felt. His efforts to continue to be there for encouragement and support will last as many years as humanly possible and this is why he remains a respectable figure to the community.
Celebrity and NBA Basketball Game
USC’s Galen Center became the host of two lively basketball games, which helped to raise funds for the community. Although a bit chaotic at times, the effort to gain celebrity insight into their involvement and feelings surrounding the weekend became encouraging as the day went on. I had the opportunity to speak with Tichina Arnold and Angie Stone who both articulated that they do as much as they can to give back, especially for kids. They are both supporters of Baron Davis and have always been supporters of the Magic Midsummer night activities in the past. Angie Stone, who will be putting out her highly anticipated album in October of this year, was the headliner for the Rodeo Drive event along with Stevie Wonder.
Other’s that came out to support by playing in this year’s celebrity game included Snoop Dogg, Donald Faison, Ray J, Allison Sweeney, Zee Woods, Brian White, Flex Alexander and James Lesure. Lesure, who has a starring role on hit television series Las Vegas, stated that he always tries to involve himself in efforts that better the community and society as a whole. Efforts that are geared toward giving hope and opportunity to children are vital because after all, the children are our future.
NBA player that came out to support included Jason Kidd, Gabe Pruitt, Arron Afflalo, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar to name a few.
So, now that the weekend has come and gone and you have had the opportunity to rest and recuperate from the excitement, you might be asking yourself “what can I do to help make a positive change and better prepare myself for involvement in next year’s events?” Well, for starters, you can visit www.lastars.net for more information. Here you will be able to find out about each of the foundations supporting this effort and how you can become a volunteer. Also, start looking around your own community and become involved. If you see something that needs to be changed, you have the power to change it! Thoughts put into action create change.
Additionally, please be sure to check out the following organizations that could use your support:
A variety of corporate sponsors helped make this weekend become a realization. A HUGE thank you goes out to them all.
Special thanks goes out to BWR Public Relations – www.ogilvypr.com!
Additional Photos from the Weekend!