Young mothers with bobby pins securing freshly wrapped hair push babies in strollers, while girlfriends at their sides talk loudly on cell phones, carrying brightly colored shopping bags.
The neighborhood is alive, and from the looks of things, it barely seems as if a blizzard hit less than one week ago.
Prior to the blizzard, on another unseasonably warm afternoon, an unusual yet familiar sound fills the streets.
Further approaching this sound, it becomes more and more recognizable.
Using this as an indirect invitation, a trip back to the neighborhood on the next “nice” day is placed in motion. Surprisingly, all they are all here, with the addition of several more. They recognize me instantly as if they are expecting me and without hesitation, a new face signals me and tosses the ball.
“I’ve been into this since I was a kid, my brothers and uncles showed me,” says Malik Tejera, 19, who “handballs” every chance he gets.
Tejera says his first handball was made of rubber bands and string, something he put together in school as a child. “I kept trying to play with it but most of the time it would blow away or get wet from the street puddles. I thought if I made it bigger it would bounce like everyone else’s. It wasn’t until I got older that I found out they had a jacks ball inside of it,” he adds.
“It’s risky with the cars driving through, but most people park on the street,” he says. “I guess the customers might not want to bother them, it should be the other way around.”
“Last year we had an all night tournament, our families came by and my sister taped it in her camera phone. She says she’s gonna put it on YouTube, but I haven’t seen it yet,” Webb says as they tease him about being the namesake of Phillies first baseman, Ryan Howard.
“You ain’t no number 6,” they yell as he takes his turn.
In a neighborhood struggling with cultural barriers and socio-economic hardships, one simple game brings together a diverse group of young men, interacting in a positive recreational setting.
By Cris Robinson, Kendra Howard and Kurtis Lee.
MURL, Group 22 - Hunting Park