Things are not going well in Birmingham, Alabama. On March 18, a 15-year-old boy was shot dead at Railroad Park in the city’s downtown section. The teen, Jarmaine Walton, had been shot in the head in an apparent teenage gun battle that raised alarms about gang activity and youth violence in the Southern city. The death was just one of 13 violent deaths that took place in Birmingham over the course of a single week.
Among many things, Alabama is high school sports obsessed. So, facing a need to get through to the teens who were allegedly involved in the fracas, Birmingham officials turned to precisely the people most likely to get through to those pulling the trigger: High school basketball stars.
As reported by MaxPreps, among other sources, Birmingham enlisted the help of three stars from the state champion Birmingham (Al.) Wenonah High basketball team. All State selections Justin Coleman, De’Runya Wilson and Isaiah Maston were all among the Wenonah players to film community service messages, calling for an immediate end to the escalating violence that appeared to threaten safety throughout the city.
It’s obviously far too early to judge the success of the Wenonah High stars’ message. Still, the effort is a notable one because of the focus it puts on the teenagers themselves. While it is widely acknowledged that prep athletes are silent role models for some of their peers, this video actively positions four different teenagers as thought leaders who could bring about a better chance for peace.
Naturally, no one is calling All-State basketball selections from Alabama the next Hillary Clinton. Nor are they expecting similar results. Yet the fact that some officials though there was a chance that prep athletes could be successful where adults had consistently failed in recent times is a watershed moment for athlete visibility and the creeping recognition that prep athletes are role models, whether they want to be or not.
Luckily, these athletes appear to be truly committed to ensuring that their surroundings remain safe, and they’re willing to step up to make that happen.