The highlight and lure will be basketball, but people who come to play can also connect with job training and healthy living programs. Academic institutions such as TCC and Opportunity Inc. will work with young people to get them training and credentials for jobs that pay well but don’t require four-year degrees.

Photo essay: Norfolk’s Nighthawks

and the Return of Midnight Basketball

by Jeff hewitt

"If there’s anything even remotely novel about Norfolk’s Nighthawks it lies in the the level of commitment on the part of our fair city of the cannonball to seek out methods of preventing young adults from killing each other. The idea is simple enough: Give young men in crime ridden neighborhoods something to do during the hours they’re most likely to get killed. Use basketball to lure them off the street, and while you have them use that time as an opportunity to provide workshops focusing on skills that will improve their odds for a better life. In many ways it’s fitting that a city like Norfolk, a city that is arguably the cradle of the state of Virginia, draws upon lessons learned in a program that started a mere 70 miles away. A program that spawned countless iterations all across the country some thirty years ago and provoked national dialogue about crime and urban youth. Instead, the money went towards locking them up.

Of course, those with short memories may forget the political hot potato midnight basketball became as debate raged over Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill. Critics derided programs utilizing late night sporting events as bribes to criminals. Liberal proponents of the concept pointed towards lowered crime rates as a direct result. As conservatives seized control of most of our government, funding to divert at risk youth from crime largely went the way of passenger pigeons. That is to say: it vanished from the face of the earth.

I took a few hours to visit the two sites in Norfolk running the program. I left buoyed by what I witnessed. Young men, playing hard. Young men. Who, when they fell to the floor? Got back up. Competitive men. Who, when they caught a stray elbow in a tough game? Shook it off. I saw camaraderie and teamwork. I saw men with futures. I saw the beginning of something that may well grow into greatness.

I believe there’s possibility here. Will programs like this correct the issues that create crime in the first place? Well, no. We’ve much work to do in the areas of economic expansion and social justice before we start to see further advancement in that arena. But if midnight basketball can help keep young black men alive until we do begin to make real progress in this city? It’s a start. And not a bad start at that."

-Jeff Hewitt,

Participant Sign Up

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“Midnight basketball was described as paying money so that crackheads could play basketball in the middle of the night. What they left out was the fact that every time they put midnight basketball in a neighborhood, the crime rate plummeted. You saved more money than you spent on the midnight basketball. They left that part out.” — Representative Bobby Scott, speaking on the failures of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and critics of social programs of the early to mid 90s

June 23 to August 25, 2017

Friday & Saturday Nights 9-12:30am

Minimum age, 18

Huntersville Community Center  

June 23 - August 26

Norview Community Center

June 23-24

June 30- July 1

July 7-8

Berkley Community Center

June 23 - August 26

East Ocean View

July 14-15

Lambert's Point

July 21-22

Volunteer / outreach captain

We are looking for a young man or woman to be a liaison for the Urban Renewal Center to be a point of contact at the gym or community center. 

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What community center would you be able to participate in:
At the location(s) that you indicated, how many weekends can you commit to?