For the celebrations on June 15 this year, Danny R. Wright has decided to do his part to bridge the gap between police and civilians with his basketball tournament.
A look through the 40e The annual support of the Danny R. Wright tournament showed several youth and adult teams ready to show off their skills at the boys and girls clubs of Wilkerson and Woodson.
Among the adults was a squad made up of officers from the Odessa Police Department.
By inviting the police department, Wright wanted to create a positive environment and build stronger human interactions between residents and officers in the future.
“These are things that we, as community leaders, have a responsibility to do,” Wright said. “These are small things, but it’s a bit like putting a puzzle together, you can’t see the big picture until you put the first two together.”
Although some police officers had competed individually in previous tournaments, the police department had never been invited as a whole.
Wright was happy to see Chief Mike Gerke and Officer Tommy Jones accept an invitation for the department to participate in the holiday celebrations.
This year’s basketball tournament opened on Friday night with a few games between the youth teams before the Odessa Police Department played against The Horsemen.
Wright believed that young children would benefit from seeing the interactions between the police and some of the athletes they grew up around.
“I think they’re starting to see the Boys and Girls Club as a place of unity,” he said. “That sort of thing makes everyone a little more comfortable and a little more comfortable.”
Kobe Robinson, a Permian graduate and current UTPB wide receiver, represented the Horsemen when they played against the Police Department team.
Robinson felt the toll of events in 2020, like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
He said that interacting with the Odessa Police Department in a festive setting shows that there is a unity with the townspeople.
“We are one,” Robinson said. “Being able to come together and organize this tournament was fun.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Robinson was like young children watching his games in the stands.
Becoming this model for the younger generation meant a lot to the Odessa native.
In the past, only adults were eligible to participate in the Juneteenth tournament.
Wright wanted to make sure the city’s youth would feel welcome at this year’s competition.
Their portion of the tournament ended early on Saturday and after completing their games Wright encouraged them to check out the Black Cultural Council of Odessa panel of speakers at Blackshear Elementary.
He wants to focus more on the upliftment of youth.
When police rookie Joel Contreras found out the department was in for the weekend tournament, he quickly accepted the offer.
The first reason for joining was his love of basketball and the second was to connect with the community.
“We like to have fun, we are going to play basketball and try to get closer to everyone,” Contreras said. “It’s a really good experience, I’m really glad we can come here, just have fun with everyone and play ball.”
President Joe Biden signed a law on Thursday to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, giving it the same status as days like Memorial Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Wright believes the party should have been recognized a long time ago and that some places like Texas are still lagging behind when it comes to a tie.
“I’m glad it’s always been a vacation for me, I’ve been celebrating it since I was a little boy,” he said. “But Texas has a different kind of personality.”
Although he has seen the country take some steps in the right direction, Wright knows there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to young people.
“What we need to do is kind of like teachers,” Wright said. “If you can reach them, you can teach them. “
>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya