Evans, Ga. (WJBF)- The community is coming together to prevent violence since that brawl in Hephzibah attracted national attention and left 18-year-old Demahjay Bell dead. Today, a youth basketball tournament established in Bell’s honor wrapped up.
Tournament sponsor La-La Alston said she moved to Augusta to escape the violence in her home town of Philadelphia.
“I’ve lost one brother, nine cousins. All fell victim to violent crimes. Two brother-in-laws. And I have three sons, and I didn’t want them to fall victim to that same thing,” Alston said.
But she says that tragedy can lead to good.
“Demahjay Bell’s murder has brought a positive, loving unification over this city,” she said. “The entire city has come together.”
Bell was fatally stabbed when a large group of teens showed up at a usually quiet cul-de-sac, but activists like Alston, who is leader in the Stop the Violence movement, are trying to make sure nothing like that happens again.
At the Demahjah Bell Memorial Basketball Tournament, players from sixth to twelfth grade pledged to walk the line.
“The children are taking a pledge, which is just reinforcing that they pledge to promote change and unity in the community,” Alston said. “They pledge to not sag their pants, not kill anyone, to not be a part of any senseless drama.”
Kids and parents alike say that activities like this are great ways to keep kids out of trouble.
“Sports bring us closer and keeps the kids off the streets,” said participant A.J. Hasan.
“It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble and gives them something to do constructively rather than finding something that they could get into or something finding them,” said Jennifer Gibson, whose 16-year-old son played in the tournament.
While basketball is always fun, parents say that the message just makes it better.
“Stop the violence on any weekend is a good theme,” said Gregg Kearney.
Alston says she is planning a tour of schools in the CSRA with Demahjay Bell’s mother to raise awareness about street violence.