Team Harmony

"I've had enough!
I'm tired of swastikas and vandalism!
I don't have to be quiet and stand by. . . . I can make a real difference . . ."
-Lenny


Lenny and Hillary Rodham Clinton at
Team Harmony 1998, Washington, D.C.

What is Team Harmony? The Team Harmony Foundation mission statement reads as follows:The Team Harmony Foundation seeks to motivate and inspire young people without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, or gender to combat all forms of bigotry and to promote respect for diversity.

This idea is the cornerstone for the Team Harmony Foundation. The concept has been a powerful motivation for people to overcome hatred, bigotry, and anti-Semitism in their every day lives since day one of Team Harmony. The organization began in the early 1990's and has grown to become an nationally recognized program with tremendous support for the annual summit in the Fleet Center. Team Harmony has exposed an estimated 40,000 teenagers to its day long convention.

History

A rural white man from Indiana named JonJennings and an inner city black man from Baltimore named Reggie Lewis became good friends in the late 1980's. At the time Jennings was working as a Assistant coach for the basketball team for which Lewis was captain. Both men loved kids and basketball. They shared a common dream of making the world a better place. In 1992, after race riots in Los Angeles and steadily increasing reports of school violence, the two friends sat in a hotel lobby and expressed their dismay over what the world was coming to. That same evening these two friends decided to do something. Their goal was to improve race relations in America. Their shared dream was to create a series of events that would aid young people, regardless of their backgrounds, learn to respect each other's differences. Lewis and Jennings felt it was important to help young people end prejudice, hatred, anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry that they saw as the real problems behind much of the violence. Sadly, in 1993, Reggie Lewis died suddenly at age 27 and Jennings looked elsewhere for support to carry on the cause.


Jon Jennings and Donna H. Lewis talking about Regie Lewis

Jennings found Leonard Zakim of the Anti-Defimation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute to help continue the effort that he and Lewis had started.

Operations

The concept of having a team effort to rise above hatred and bigotry in communities was essential to the beginning of Team Harmony. At the first event, held on December 13, 1994, it was the first time in a major city's history that four professional sports teams came together to sponsor a single event. The Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, and Boston Bruins joined 6,000 middle and high school students along with teachers from 300 schools all took a stand against hatred and bigotry. The event combined entertainment, education, and inspiration with the belief that young people must be given a chance to make a difference. Jennings and Zakim felt that, given the opportunity, teenagers might be able to teach adults a thing or two about celebrating difference. A critic was remembered as saying just prior to the first event, "Aren't you afraid of putting that many teenagers in one place?" Zakim's reply was simply, "I'm more afraid of what would happen if we don't."

 

The Event

The first Team Harmony was held on December 13, 1994 and drew about 6,000 people. The event has grown in size and in recognition ever since it began. The last event to have happened, Team Harmony VI, took place on November 16, 1999 and hosted about 12,000 people representing over 400 schools. Team Harmony has also been featured by major newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and USA Today. Also the event has received national media coverage on NBC's Today show and Inside Stuff. In 1998, the White House named Team Harmony one of the top 10 most promising diversity programs in the nation. Team Harmony has attracted many appearances from noteworthy people in the public spotlight. From sports stars and entertainers to community leaders and political figures. A key figure in Team Harmony IV, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, led an interactive dialogue with the young people who attended in Boston. Mrs. Clinton also mentioned Team Harmony in her book It Takes a Village as an example of an effective approach to "promoting affirmative living" because of its involvement in the entire village.


Lenny talking about the message of Team Harmony

Impact On Lenny

Lenny thrived on making a difference. He loved to have a positive influence on people. Much of Lenny's seemingly infinite strength came from these positive deeds. Lenny made it a point to make it to Team Harmony VI even though his health was rather weak. He felt an obligation to the kids at the event and he knew that he would gain strength from the experience to help fight his disease.

Team Harmony VI

Team Harmony VI was the most recent and largest event in Team Harmony's history. The event drew more than 12,000 students and filled Boston's Fleet Center. To date, this gathering is the country's largest gathering of interracial youth.


Lenny speaking about the evolution of Team Harmony

Youths celebrate befor going on to perform


The crowd

click here for official Team Harmony page: www.teamharmony.org