BILOXI, Mississippi—Community sport is about more than fun and games for Raquel Eason and the East Biloxi Community Collaborative (EBCC). It’s about community engagement and a sense of belonging for children and their entire families.
In her desire to have more local sport activities for her own children, Eason found a need in the community and began to host neighborhood play where children of all ages hung out and played games together.
With the help of EBCC, tournaments and other organized sports activities for East Biloxi were formed.
“The community was feeling abandoned,” said Eason. “It was giving the kids and families something to look forward to and have our own league in the East Biloxi area. It also helped to revitalize the use of Todd Migues Ball Park. We were playing with kids in the community, trying to get them off the streets.”
Eason organized several softball and kickball tournaments, during the month of August, September, and October. She says each event involved 30 to 45 participants, including churches and organizations. Even though weather sometimes became an issue, it never stopped Eason’s desire to want to make a difference or the children’s desire to want to participate. She says the time together led to something much more meaningful than play.
“The parents felt like it really gave their children a sense of belonging to a group of kids in the community,” she said. “Knowing each other helps them stay out of trouble. It really helped the older children too, because I would use them to help mentor some of the younger ones.”
Community engagement has been an important component of the East Biloxi Community Collaborative since its inception, and that’s one reason Eason and Lucas Melton were eventually hired as community organizers for EBCC on a temporary basis. In addition to the organized games giving children and their families something positive to do, it also became a strategic part of community organizing. The games provided a way to bring residents together in a light-hearted environment while informing them of upcoming events and getting feedback on the needs of the community.
Eason hopes for the future, and says the tournaments have helped lay the foundation for more to come.
“Moving forward, I would like to continue to partner with EBCC and come up with some camps in the future where the children can learn the basics of sports like football, baseball, and others. The end goal is to eventually have our very own sports league,” she said.