In honor of Black History month, we’re revisiting a humbling era, when black athletes created their own sport renaissance amidst a racially charged society. The Black Fives had love for the game, pride in their communities and wisdom to know that the present will some day be the past so take the opportunity to leave a legacy.
ABOUT THE BLACK FIVES
America in the first half of the 20th century was a segregated culture and sport was no exception. In the early 1900s basketball was widely introduced to African American communities. Makeshift nets popped up in YMCAs, schools, churches and empty parking lots. Clubs were forming in DC and NYC. An all-black league, whose teams were referred to as “Black Fives,” would soon emerge, flourish and excel – “fives” referring to the five starting players in basketball.
Over twenty official teams were organized across the country, marking the start of the Black Fives Era. The passion of players and excitement from a national fan base helped chip away at the racial divide in sports, and in 1950 the National Basketball Association became integrated when the first African Americans joined the league.
The Black Fives Foundation was formed to educate and preserve the history of this era (1904-1950). Today, we’re celebrating the history-makers, the pioneers who made basketball more than just a sport in black communities, but an inclusive gathering and a lifestyle. A game evolved into something that brought communities and society together – a sport that evokes perpetual storytelling as it is weaved in the fabric of so many U.S. neighborhoods.
MAKE HISTORY NOW
On Chicago’s south side, stands the Wabash Avenue YMCA, one of the first indoor courts open to the Black Fives and general public. Taj GIbson of the Chicago Bulls and artist Swopes joined some of Chi City’s rising ballplayers at the historic landmark. The eloquent words of Joekenneth Museau help us reflect on the chance we all have to make history now.
Read Museau’s full monologue below, narrated by Lil Bibby:
We grew from the ground.
Our parents were the pavement
And they showed us how basketballs
could boomerang from concrete to hoops
made from crates hung on chain link fences.
This was our escape.
We dress all of our dreams
In tees, ball shorts and sneaks
Because we believe that this is the safest way to see the world
beyond the block.
Who knew that the real OGs
Had already won rings
in a league of their own.
In an era where every hood
had a black five.
Sometimes the present feels no different.
And yet we strive.
It must be the King in our DNA
that keeps us alive.
We just trying to find a way to make
our grandmothers proud.
Aiight. Pass me the rock.
It’s my turn to Make History Now.
The latest Black Fives x ’47 gear is dropping this week at LIDS.