There’s a new game in town — specifically, the Leimert Park area: lacrosse
Last August, Los Angeles King Cheetahs player Nesly Geffrard introduced the game to kids in this South L.A. neighborhood by starting the Black Star Lacrosse Club. “I started this organization to give Black and Brown kids the opportunity to learn the great game of lacrosse right in their neighborhood,” Geffrard says. “I feel the access to sports, education and opportunities should be equal in every neighborhood. We know it’s not. It is time to take control of our destiny.
“In every tournament or league we enter, we are the only team that looks the way we do,” he adds. “We are changing and redefining the narrative of lacrosse.”
And in introducing the sport to kids and families in South L.A., Geffrard also offers some historical knowledge. “Many people in America do not know that this beautiful game was created by indigenous tribes in the northeast,” he says. “Indigenous people played this game to please the creator and for medicinal purposes. Games could last several days. Hundreds of players from different tribes would participate. Lacrosse was also used as a tool to train boys for war. ‘Tewaaraton’ in the Mohawk language means ‘The Little Brother of War.’”
Geffrard, who has lived in L.A. for four years, grew up in Brooklyn, where he first started playing lacrosse as a teen, then went on to play the sport in college.
Because of its cultural significance, Geffrard chose Leimert Park as his team’s home. “There is a very special and sacred cultural energy in Leimert. You feel it the second you enter the neighborhood,” he says. “There is no other place like this in Los Angeles.”
Coming up with the name of his team was as culturally meaningful as choosing its home. “We used the name Black Star to pay homage to Marcus Garvey’s ideals of Pan-Africanism,” Geffrard says. “We emphasize fun, creating your own opportunities, overcoming your struggles and self-discipline.”
For their part, the kids are loving learning a new game. “The positive response has been overwhelmingly supportive from the parents and community,” Geffrard says.
Black Star currently practices at Jim Gilliam Recreation Center and plays games and tournaments in El Segundo, Irvine, San Diego and elsewhere.
To learn more, visit Black Star’s website.