From Berrak Sarikaya
Jamal Coates was a dreamer. After spending the first part of his life wanting to be seen as a tough kid with street cred, he was finally starting to take control of his life. He was a little rough around the edges, but he was on the right path, according to neighborhood activist Bryan Weaver.
Coates’s journey was cut short at the funeral of Ashley McRae on September 28 where he he had tried to ease the tensions among attendees. The hostilities eventually led to a shootout at 11th and U Streets NW that claimed the life of the 21-year-old.
After Coates’s death, friends and neighbors wanted to know what they could do to honor his memory. His family established a scholarship fund in his name for students in Guatemala, where Coates once spent a month working with the Mayan indigenous community to develop basketball skills as part of cultural exchange.
Weaver, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and local activist, had known Coates for more than a decade. Weaver coached Coates in the Jellef Boys and Girls Club League when he was 14. Coates talked a lot about going to Guatemala with Hoops Sagrado but he didn’t want to make the commitment until 2009 when he finally lived up to the requirements and responsibilities.
Hoops Sagrado is a Washington, D.C.-based youth leadership and development that gives at-risk youth from D.C. a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a month during the summer in the highlands of Guatemala learning another language and culture, teaching their Mayan indigenous peers basketball skills, developing their sense of self and gaining a new perspective on life.
That was a turning point for Coates, who finally understood that he would need to take control of his own life to get on the right path.
“Jamal did get it,” says Weaver. “It might have taken him a bit longer to get there, but he was on his way.”
Donations to Scholarship Fund
Donations to the Jamal R. Coates Scholarship Fund will provide yearly scholarships for one boy and one girl from the village where Jamal taught basketball in Guatemala to attend high school. You can donate to the fund at Jamal R. Coates Scholarship Fund, c/o Hoops Sagrado, PO Box 21332, Washington, D.C. 20009.