POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie proclaimed July 23 an annual day of celebration and recognition for two current and one former Poughkeepsie Middle School students who created a summer basketball tournament at Malcolm X Park.
Seventh grader William Long and sixth grader Taier Amir Dancy were just looking for more summer activities and had played basketball together in the CYO league.
“It was just us making a team with people we know,” Long said. But then their friend, Semaj Amir Higgs found out.
“He said, ‘Let’s make it bigger, I can make a poster’.”
The tournament for youth ages 10-13 took off. They began collecting $1 per player to help pay for jerseys and snacks and began the task of organizing and creating teams. Soon they were up to 50 players. Another 30 showed up the day of the tournament and all were able to play.
Long said learning teamwork in school helped them with the tournament. “It was hard work and stressful,” he said, as Dancy added, “People wanted to pay less or didn’t want to pay. We let them in any way.”
Councilmember Yvonne Flowers worked with fellow councilmember Lorraine Johnson and Brian Laffin of the City Parks Department to help make the tournament a reality.
Dancy’s grandfather volunteered to make food and his father, Troy assisted with the tournament along with Higgs’ father, James. Two referees also volunteered time and parents helped pay for snacks and food.
Together, the work of the adults and youth, “exemplifies the power of community collaboration,” the proclamation says. It also states, “the City of Poughkeepsie extend our heartfelt congratulations and deepest gratitude to William Long Jr., Semaj Amir Higgs and Taier Amir Dancy for their remarkable efforts in organizing this tournament and for their dedication to improving our community.”
While Higgs no longer attends PCSD schools, Long and Dancy said they plan to do the tournament again and even spoke about making the July 23 tournament an annual event.
“We want to do it again, maybe in winter and try to get a gym,” Long said.
Next year’s tournament will expand, to allow children ages 10-15 so it can capture the students who played in this past summer’s tournament as well.
“We got an award from the mayor and that is something and I got to do it with my friends,” Long said about the honor.
Dancy said the one lesson he took away from the experience is, “you can’t do it by yourself.”