On December 13, 1994, four professional sports teams cam together and jointly sponsored the first Team Harmony Event. This ensemble consisted of the Celtics, the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Bruins. The first Team Harmony event brought together 6,000 middle school and high school students and teachers from 300 schools in taking a stand against hatred and bigotry. "The Team Harmony Event is a partnership between the Anti-Defamation League of New England, Jon Jennings, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Team Harmony was developed and implemented to augment the on-going work of the Anti-Defamation League's national anti-bias program, the A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute. The institute is designed to end discrimination, primarily through teacher and student training workshops."(Team Harmony III, program book)
Jon Jennings worked together with the ADL, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the four sports teams to honor the work and memory of his dear friend, former Celtics Captain, the late Reggie Lewis. Team Harmony was "based on the philosophy of a "team" effort to overcome bigotry in our communities and driven by a belief in giving youth a chance to make a difference. Before Lewis' death, he along with Jennings were in the planning stages of such an event." (Team Harmony III, program book)
Since the first Team Harmony in 1994 the number of young people who wish to lend their support to the end of bigotry and racism continues to grow. In 1997, the Team Harmony Event which was held at the Fleet Center, drew over 10,000 students , teachers and athletes. Student from states around New England including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island were both the audience and the entertainment for the afternoon celebration.
Student Keynote speakers included Jesse Green from Needham high school and Rasheena Howard from Boston Latin School. Dramatic presentations were performed by members of the Young At Arts Program from the Wang Center. Athletes, celebrities, the cast of MTV's Real World all came together to support the kids. This was also the first year that Hillary Clinton came to Boston's event. Voices in Blue and the Blessed Union of Souls provided much the musical entertainment.
Many students returned to their schools with a greater appreciation for the contributions of the various ethnic groups in the country.
The artistic works of the Young Graffiti Masters in Team Harmony IV, Program was displayed. The idea behind the program is to give young people who are artistically gifted the opportunity to displayed their artwork on murals, posters and billboards. This type of artwork is usually seen illegally, spray painted on walls. The program wants to help these kids transfer their work into an permissible art form.
Since Team Harmony I, in December of 1994 Team Harmony had grown significantly. The Team Harmony Foundation was established in 1997 in an effort to spread out nationally. The goal of the organization is to "reach put to community organizations, maintaining a broad-based approach in addressing bigotry and discrimination (Team Harmony Washington D.C. Program Book)." Their efforts proved successful on May 28, 1998, when the first Team Harmony event outside of Boston was held at the George Washington University in Washington D.C.. On this day approximately 3,000 students and teachers from nearly 150 schools convened . The keynote address was made by first lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton who also spoke at Team Harmony IV. There was entertainment provided by students and the AT&T Learning Network/Team Harmony Awards and the Lewis/Jennings Award were presented by Representative of Washington D.C's professional sports team, Donna Harris Lewis, and Jon Jennings . It was an overall success and there is no doubt that Team Harmony will continue to spread throughout the country.
"I've gained a lot of respect from my peers, in terms of speaking out and speaking the truth. I've been through a lot and I'm not afraid to speak out, and I encourage then to do the same...through my work with the Anti-Defamation League I've learned that Reggie Lewis was more than a basketball player. He was a man of caring, one who'd give anything up for kids, one who remembered where he came from, a man who wanted to give to the world everything he had."
"Being involved with Team Harmony, I've come to realize the impact of the work the Drama Club does and it is valuable...it has let us to think about a traveling ensemble and other things that Young at Arts can become in the future. There are a lot of stereotypes about basketball players and administrators, especially with the segregation that exists in that type of business. Jon and Reggie's friendship makes you realize that you can hold that type of friendship, and you never expect that nowadays. That unexpected union needs to happen more often. That is what Team Harmony's about and that's what Drama Club is all about-people learning to relate to one another and finding that connection, because everyone is there to promote diversity and respect."
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