Art, Basketball and Character Come Together for Group
Back 2 Blacktop Gives Back to Youth and Parks
An organization that began in Bolton is putting a splash of color in Columbus County communities to help combat childhood obesity and address the mental health impacts of COVID-19.
Back 2 Blacktop is not only making an artistic mark on basketball courts, but they are also bringing local youth back together to play the game with their peers.
Back 2 Blacktop began when Shalisa Shaw spent some time at Bolton Community Park thinking up ways to give back to the area she loved so much. She launched a research and discovery phase to find current health statistics and other public data for the area. Armed with the knowledge that children were becoming increasingly physically and mentally unhealthy, Shaw set out to do something to about it.
The idea to paint basketball courts was inspired by the Black Lives Matter murals painted in the streets of Charlotte, and all she could envision was a color-filled court.
"Immediately, I called up my friend, DeNeer Davis, who was a featured artist and asked her thoughts," said Shaw. "When she loved the concept, I reached out to another friend, Terry Priah, another brilliant mind who is also a grant writer, and from December 2021 to May 2022, we led ideation and conception."
The three planned for the next two months, and from August through November, they executed four projects within the county.
Shaw said initially, the process for Columbus was all about her childhood and teenage memories. She reminisced about how local parks used to be filled with people from all different walks of life on the weekends and how the game of basketball brought them together.
"I thought of the many high school legends that played multiple hours each day on the basketball courts at Bolton Community Park, Bogue Community Park, West Whiteville Central Park, and Wilkes Street Park," Shaw explained.
The group visited the four parks and received approvals from the respective governing boards on May 3 and June 28 of 2022.
With Hallsboro not being an incorporated town, Back 2 Blacktop worked closely with the leaders of the Bogue Community Citizens Association to paint the courts at the local park. The group held the Hallsboro Community Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, to celebrate the project's completion.
The Whiteville location is still in the process of discussion. Though initially the city granted Back 2 Blacktop the approval to move forward at Central Park, the organization was informed of more concerns and is planning to go before the board within the next 45 days to clear up any confusion.
The group hopes to have Central Park and Bolton Community Park courts completed this spring.
The end result couldn't be accomplished without the help of others. Shaw said the group works as a cross functional team of three, but often, people giving their time out of the goodness of their heart makes all the difference.
"Since I am the only one local to the area, there are times where I have to put in more effort, but I am honored to serve the community I live in. Also, there have been many volunteers from each of the communities that have played a major role in our efforts. Teamwork makes the dream work," expressed Shaw.
Back 2 Blacktop is gearing up for their new season of mural artistry. They are interested in partnering with the art departments and clubs at local schools to provide the opportunity for kids to be involved in the revitalization efforts.
"By example, we would like youth to experience how a team of 'believers' can bring his/her vision to fruition," said the founder. "Ideally, youth could build the skills, confidence, and portfolio of work to go from art to entrepreneurship if desired."
Though the organization started with a focus on the physical and mental health of children, they have expanded their desire to take a multi-generational approach to ensure that each child has a 'triple threat position'. Much like basketball, triple threat is about having the ability to dribble, pass or shoot their way around their opponent.
Shaw said the situation is similar when compared to life skills that a young individual needs to be successful. "In life, the triple threat position requires an academic, athletic/team player, and advocate mindset to overcome various obstacles that will arise."
The group recently practiced some of their mission statement at Whiteville Primary School. Back 2 Blacktop shared their first interactive session with teachers and other volunteers to paint the Phase One Color Splash at the learning facility.
Hopscotch grids, inspirational phrases, and other activity boards were painted onto the concrete courtyard for students to play and learn together.
Back 2 Blacktop can always use donations to help keep the momentum going. Water and Gatorade are always accepted along with paint rollers, paint brushes, mineral spirits, and indoor/outdoor basketballs. As projects come up, a detailed list of other paint supplies and products is kept by the organization and will be available for those interested in donating the items.
Monetary donations can be made via CashApp at $back2blacktop, or a check can be mailed to P.O. Box 217, Bolton, N.C. 28423.
The group will also be partnering with Whiteville Parks and Recreation Center to host the Fundamentals 101 basketball camp. The camp will run from March 11 – April 29 every Saturday morning. Children ages 6-11 years old will attend from 9-11:30 a.m., and kids 12-17 years old will hold class from 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. The cost is $15 per child, and a free T-shirt will be provided to all participants. The program will take place at 155 Rec Center Drive. Visit https://parksrec.egov.basgov.com/whiteville to register or call 910.642.9052 for more information.
Back 2 Blacktop is also looking for a dedicated gym or other facility to launch an AAU team with basketball pro and Whiteville native Shannon McCallum leading the way. If you're interested in volunteering, donating, or hosting the team, call Shalisa Shaw at 910.317.0488, or visit the Back 2 Blacktop page at https://www.back2blacktop.com.