By Nyesha Stone
Our Black youth need to know there’s a space for them in this world, even though society says differently. Fresh Coast Basketball Classic is on its 12th year, and it’s been working hard to bridge that gap between Black MPS graduates and college.
The very first year of Fresh Coast, five historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) were brought to the basketball event, so MPS students could see that there are colleges out there for them, said Willie Wade, Employ Milwaukee president.
“[The students] weren’t aware of HBCU’s,” said Wade, so Fresh Coast was created to fill that need.
Back then, flights were a lot cheaper, so Fresh Coast was able to afford flying out the HBCU’s bands for Fresh Coast’s Battle of the Bands competition. Although it is still held every year, it now features local high school bands. Due to the constant rise in fees for plane tickets, funds were put into various other parts of the event.
This year’s Basketball tournaments will be held on Nov. 23-24 at UW-Milwaukee Klotsche Center, 3409 N. Downer Ave. And the Classic will host the MEGA Drumline Showcase highlighting seven teams on Nov. 24.
“Everyone’s not a basketball player,” Wade said. “Some people like bands, drill teams.”
According to Wade, a lot of MPS students—who are mostly Black—don’t always connect with the local colleges and universities around them, so they need to know and have access to other colleges that tend to their culture and values, amongst other things.
Fresh Coast is the most integrated event in Wisconsin because it brings the best from the city and the best from the suburban areas, into one space to play basketball, Wade said.
“A place we can come and gather,” said Wade.
During Fresh Coast, the older generation has the chance to see old friends from high school, while the younger generation can spend time with their classmates and friends—a place to reconnect. It’s a great heartwarming gift that the entire family can partake in over the holiday weekend, said Wade.
Basketball is enjoyed across generations and it’s a bridge to bringing the option of HBCU’s to inner-city youth.
“Sports is a carrot like any extracurricular,” he said. “We can use sports as a way to maybe help [students] with their grades,” or a way to provide a positive role model, and more.
If you would like to preview the schedule and check out more information visit the Fresh Coast Classic website at http://www.freshcoastclassic.org/.