Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor
As crime spreads rapidly throughout the country in a great deal of communities around the world and the city of Chicago, there appears to be a lesser number of people who care about taking a stand to put a stop to violence and helping our youth, as well as young adults turn their life around for the better. For many years, NBA Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas, has made it his concern and also his effort to make a positive change against violence in his Westside Chicago hometown community, while not limiting himself to the world by giving back to at-risk, economically disadvantaged and underprivileged youth. No doubt, as a former basketball player, he is still our hero.
Recently, Isiah Thomas, co-founder of The Peace League and founder of Mary’s Court Foundation showed significant support to the Saint Sabina Faith Community as they demonstrated their Third Annual Peace League which consists of youth basketball games, life skills classes, mentoring, as well as offers young men the opportunity to take GED classes, employment training, and participate in internships. Over the years, Isiah Thomas, Father Pfleger and the people of the community have come together and observed the results of their work, witnessing a dramatic drop in violence in the area since The Peace League started.
Over the years, Isiah Thomas has been awarded many humanitarian awards concerning his community efforts and work. I was granted another opportunity to speak to the basketball legend regarding The Peace League, as well as speak about the amazing humanitarian and philanthropist work in which he has been doing for the community. Always genuine, meek and gracious, and possessing a heart of giving back, he not only made an impact on my life, but a tremendous impact on so many individual’s lives throughout the world.
Aaron Robinson: Hey Isiah, how are you doing?
Isiah Thomas: Hey Aaron, how are you doing?
Aaron: I’m good, I’m good. I just want to thank you again for wanting to pursue an interview with me.
Isiah: It’s my pleasure!
Aaron: You are the co-founder of The Peace League that helps young men in the areas of life skills, mentoring, employment training and so on. How did you become involved with this initiative?
Isiah: Actually, it was 3 years ago, Father Pfleger and I were out on one of his Friday Annual Peace Walks. He does a peace walk every Friday in the neighborhood. I joined him on one of his peace walks. On our walk, we ran across some gang members and the idea occurred to me that I would offer them a day of peace to come play a game with some of their rival members. And to Father Pfleger’s surprise and mines, they all said yes. And that’s when the peace game was born.
Aaron: That’s awesome! The event recently took place over the weekend. For those who didn’t receive the opportunity to attend, how would you sum it up?
Isiah: It really is a day of love and peace, and just showing the power that sports and play has when you bring people together. The first year of the peace game, when we asked all of the rival gangs to come compete against each other, we had to bus the 14 men because they were afraid to cross territorial boundaries. Last year and this year, those same brothers who were shooting at each other were now carpooling to the game. In hearing their experiences regarding where they are in life, some of them have gone on to college, some of them have opportunities to go to college and get their GED’s, some of them are working and they’re also spreading the word throughout the neighborhood about just loving your brother and caring for your brother, and not necessarily just looking at your brother as someone to fear – but instead someone to play with.
Aaron: How has your experience been working with Father Pfleger?
Isiah: It’s been good. You know, Father Pfleger is a long time family friend. He and my mother did things together. Father Pfleger is well known throughout the Chicago area…definitely is one who lives by his word [in the community] and has dedicated his life to his word in terms of assisting and helping the poor. We were a family that were living in poverty; we benefited from some of his work. So, being a long time family friend I am happy to be able to help in assisting him in his efforts.
Aaron: Mr. Thomas, what kind of enjoyment do you receive out of helping young people?
Isiah: The greatest feeling of emotions that you can possibly feel is joy, just overwhelming joy and a sense of a great feeling when you see a young sister or young brother finally understand the goodness that they can give to the world and the goodness that they are in the world – to see that light come on in their eyes and they turn around and start doing positive things in the community and wanting to be a part of the positivity that’s going on in the community. I can tell you, that’s the greatest sense of joy or accomplishment that I think a human being can feel.
Aaron: The last time we spoke you were continuing to pursue great endeavors with the Mary’s Court Foundation that also supported the 3rd Annual Peace League Tournament. Can we expect more community efforts in the future from this wonderful foundation?
Isiah: Absolutely! The work that we do in the community is our family’s business that’s been going on for four years. That’s the business that my mother started; Mary’s Court is part of living up to her work and traditions. Absolutely, you can expect that from our family.
Aaron: Through the last years and more it’s been really trying times with the youth. Do you have any words of encouragement that you would like to share with deprived or disadvantaged young individuals in hopes for them to have a greater and brighter future?
Isiah: I will keep preaching this. Education is the pathway. Knowledge is power. The more you read, write, articulate and express yourself gives you and your community a voice. That’s the message that our ancestors were fighting for. That’s the thing that your parents were fighting for – the ability to be educated in this country. Education gives you the ability to be free. Education is freedom.
Aaron: Mr. Thomas, before we close the interview, would you like to share anything that we haven’t mentioned regarding any of your endeavors, The Peace League, community efforts or so forth?
Isiah: The only endeavor that I am truly committed to and I have always had is to try to make our community better and that’s what I will continue to do. I hope others will join us in the fight and in the cause to make our community better.
Aaron: I just want to thank you again. Last time we spoke you gave me a lot of encouragement; coming from an individual like yourself, I really want to thank you again Mr. Thomas.
Isiah: You’re welcome and you keep up the good work and keep spreading the word.
Last modified: May 14, 2023