Last weekend, nearly 300 people attended or participated in the MAPSO Legends March Madness Basketball tournament at Columbia High School in Maplewood.
Founded in 2021 by Kieonna Holiday Hill, MAPSO Legends is an annual series of sport tournaments and gatherings that unite the community of South Orange and Maplewood to honor and remember friends and family in the community who have passed away.
“The event was fantastic…from all the Columbia high school alumni basketball players that showed up as well as participation from Maplewood and South Orange police departments, the Maplewood Foundation, the South Orange Rescue Squad and so many groups,” said Former Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee.
Learn more about MAPSO Legends here.
Read more from Kieonna Holiday Hill about the genesis of the organization and the recent tournament:
After the tragic deaths of three close friends, one being my best friend, in 2021 I founded MAPSO Legends with the intentional goal of reuniting our community and celebrating their lives and legacies by bringing joy to a painful experience via sporting and service events that encouraged camaraderie (as well as a little friendly competition).
The success of the first sporting event led to former Mayor Frank McGehee and town committee to declare September 5, 2021 as MAPSO Legends Day.
Since that day, MAPSO Legends has gained traction and support from our community members town wide leading to the cultivation of more events such as the Iftar (the first daily meal after fasting during the holy month of Ramadan).
After learning about the incident regarding the student and their hijab at Seth Boyden Elementary school, I felt the need to act right away. I wanted to raise awareness in the community by showing solidarity and there is no better time than the most sacred month of the year for Muslims, Ramadan. The Iftar had over 100 attendees including the student and her family. The event was a beautiful expression of love and the Mapso community and beyond.
Mapso Legends has established a mentorship program which gives our youth the opportunity to interact with leaders. The mentorship program started after we ran our youth basketball tournament and realized the impact we had on the kids and how they were eager to continue their interactions off the court.
The mentorship program identified the specific needs of students through a thorough intake process and then created programs which included encouraging one-on-one interactions that ensured that each student felt supported with their short- and long-term goals and assistance with navigating through the nuances of life as well as empowerment and self-confidence to excel academically.
Most recently we thought it was paramount to bridge a community gap given the national and local tension between police and civilians. Former Mayor McGehee and I had a goal in mind, to collaborate with the Maplewood and South Orange police departments and create basketball teams to meet and play together as a community.
On March 25 that goal came into fruition and was a major success with our Mapso Legends March Madness Tournament.
The smiles, competition, laughter and love warmed our hearts as we took action to mend and build relationships with the mindset that we are one community – that comes together to work, play and live as one.