Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Where there once was grass, now lies dirt caused by basketballs bouncing on the earth. Three hoops, all at different heights, sit where the dirt meets the grass to form a makeshift court adjacent to the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.
The tallest hoop’s backboard is covered in different messages with “Black Lives Matter” in the center. The shortest of the three only has a metal frame for a backboard with the glass missing.
In late June, the hoops withstood clashes with the police and on June 24, the lone basketball hoop at the time was removed. Then, it reappeared, this time with two more to accompany it.
Within the graffiti-covered cement barricades in the area known as Marcus-David Peters Circle, many say these iron cylinders provide a place for joy.
VCU junior Solomon Ghirmai said when he first saw the basketball hoops he instantly smiled.
“That was the first time that I picked up the ball since March, and it was just nice to get back into it there shooting the ball with other people,” Ghirmai said. “It was a rare moment of joy, and we were just there having fun.”
Beth Almore, a Museum District resident who’s played her cello in front of the monument at times, said as soon as she saw the basketball hoops appear in the circle, she understood the meaning.
“To me, it represents Black freedom, Black bodies enjoying sunshine, enjoying health,” Almore said, “using their bodies gracefully and joyfully in a space that used to glorify slavery, torture, rape [and] the dehumanization of blackness.”
The basketball hoops sit in a place where many gather to protest social injustices in Richmond and the country at large. Ghirmai said the space shows people “making lemonade out of all of this.”
“I don’t want to say it’s an escape because we’re here fighting for change,” Ghirmai said. “Even though we’re here for that, it’s great to see that we can come together and find joy in this time.”
Almore described the monument and the surrounding grass as a performance art project, and basketball is just one part of it.
“It’s more than joyous, it’s purposely aggravating toward racists,” Almore said. “Seeing Black people engaged in an activity that’s come to be the purview of Black people, it’s very discomforting for some people. I do think it’s kind of a political, theatrical ‘F-U.’”
The basketball hoops are not the only things that sit in the circle. There is a garden, a community library and occasionally people playing instruments. Almore described it as a mobile that shifts in the wind, as the area is ever changing.
The area serves as a meeting place for several groups, and Ghirmai called it “a place for community building.”
“It’s a place where we can all just connect and be ourselves and also enjoy the company of like-minded individuals who understand that the time is now and we need to make change,” Ghirmai said, “not just for ourselves, but the future generations.”