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Juneteenth-Inspired Basketball Nets Installed on Cambridge Courts

A basketball player dunks on a basketball hoop displaying a Juneteenth-inspired net with red, black, and green colors

Last week, more than 80 red, black, and green basketball nets were installed on 15 basketball courts across Cambridge. Designed by artist Glen Gaines, the nets reflect three of the colors associated with Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

Gaines got the idea for the public art installation in fall 2023, while watching the start of the NBA basketball season. A lifelong basketball player, the Boston-based Gaines had never seen the Pan-African colors represented on courts. Over the course of many months, he hand-configured a sample net and secured a manufacturer. The completed nets, entitled Lift Every Voice, arrived this spring.

When Gaines approached Cambridge about installing the nets, he was met with enthusiasm from City staff, including Recreation Director Adam Corbeil. “For me, the nets represent a date that is immensely important to recognize in our history,” he says. “I thought they would be a wonderful way to make people feel welcomed and empowered in public spaces across our city.”

Gaines hopes the nets’ visibility on the courts sparks conversation and awareness for those who see them. According to Vladimir Pierre, Recreation Facilities and Programming Manager, that community conversation has already started. During two major Cambridge basketball events last weekend - Hoops N Health at Hoyt Field and the Battle of the Bridge tournament at Sennott Park – Pierre witnessed players and spectators engaging with the nets. “Some people were familiar with their symbolism and excitedly took pictures, others were inquisitive and asked ‘What are those nets for?,’ which led to conversations about the Juneteenth holiday,” explains Pierre.

The significance of Juneteenth and the symbolism of Gaines’ art transcend a single day of commemoration. The nets will remain on display through the summer at locations including the City’s five Youth Centers, the War Memorial Recreation Center, and Recreation’s Summer Basketball Leagues.

“This year, we’ll welcome more than 450 Cambridge youth to our Summer Basketball Leagues,” says Geo Rodriguez, Recreation Activities Coordinator and a longtime Cambridge basketball coach. “Our leagues impact the Cambridge community is so many ways, bringing community members of all ages together for 5 days out of the week.”

Pierre agrees that basketball has the power to build community and create opportunity. “Cambridge basketball leagues help bring a lot of families together at a very low price point,” he explains. “In our younger leagues, we offer skills and drills - which can be very costly [in other programs] - and have systems in place to ensure that everyone plays. We even provide access to a free meal or snack for young people playing or watching the leagues.”

Cambridge basketball leagues are designed to encourage community and inclusion. This summer, high above the players’ heads, will be vibrant, physical reminders of what the leagues embody: Lift Every Voice.

Photo: A competitor in the Battle of the Bridge basketball tournament, held at Sennott Park, dunks on a hoop with a Juneteenth-inspired basketball net featuring red, black, and green colors. Photographer credit: Kevin Williams. 

Page was posted on 6/18/2024 2:37 PM
Page was last modified on 7/19/2024 3:13 PM
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