Interview: Elle Clay

Photos: Jalan and Jibril Durimel

The UNITE stories go deeper on Jordan Brand’s new film series celebrating the power of basketball culture. UNITE is a rallying cry for inspiring and empowering the next generation to never fly alone.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) organization was founded almost 50 years ago to provide comprehensive, long term community healing and support for Harlem and New York City families. The organization currently serves more than 14,000 youth, with programs that help from birth all the way through college.

Since 2017, Jordan Brand’s WINGS program has supported HCZ through grants focused on helping students prepare for college, access to WINGS design, scholarship and internship programs and product donations. Part of HCZ’s emphasis on education includes sports programs like basketball, which teach valuable lessons not always learned in the classroom.

Sixth-graders Mane and Storm play basketball at HCZ’s Promise Academy II middle school. Thanks to HCZ’s attentive teaching and coaching, Mane and Storm say that they’ve improved as players and gained team-building skills.

“When they started a girls team in third grade, we would do these activities and just bond together,” Mane says. “When we’re in the gym, we’re peaceful, we’re calm, and we just come together.” Storm adds: “When we’re practicing, we don’t always get stuff right away. It’s important to collaborate, because we don’t always know what to do, but we can learn together.”

Playing together has also taught the girls about the value of having each other’s backs. “When somebody goes down, that doesn’t mean all of us have to go down,” Mane explains. “That means all of us have to help lift that one person up as a team.”

Jordan Brand and HCZ hope that these experiences will impact Mane, Storm, their teammates and other young girls for years to come. “Some people say that girls can’t shoot or throw,” says Storm. “Not only are boys entitled to this, but girls are, too. It helps bring the community together to accept the fact that girls also want to do sports.”

Mane continues: “This is important, because a lot of kids don’t have an education or the other materials that some people have. It means a lot for us to have this opportunity.”

Learn more about UNITE here and look forward to more stories in the coming months.