CINCINNATI — Ozie Davis, founder of the Queen City Youth Development Program, knows he only has a certain amount of time to make a lasting impression on the boys he mentors. The basketball games he plays with Avondale youth are his way of doing it.
“I don't even know how many games we've won this year,” he said Thursday night. “It's never been about that. I know this. We save lives."
Following the July 4 shooting that killed two teenagers — both of whom, police believe, fatally attacked each other — members of Cincinnati’s city government have extended a blanket call to communities in the city.
Mayor John Cranley described the attack as indicative of an issue of values among Cincinnati’s youth. Chief Eliot Isaac asked for community support but didn’t say exactly what he meant.
The children with whom Davis works are the ones affected by this kind of violence, he said.
“Ed Smith’s son, Jordan, No. 5 — man,” he said, referencing a former player on his team. “We lost him, but he’s still with us. We cherish him.”
Davis is the community support that leaders ask for. He thinks there are already many resources in place to fight gun violence among teens, but they lack interconnectivity. He wants systems that keep track of individuals and families over years, outside moments of crisis.
"If we can get the school to work better with the rec center, the rec center to work better with the Boys and Girls Club, all of them working better with the library — not just what they're offering, but also on who they're serving,” he said.
Davis said he believes there’s hope for every teenager, whether they’re on his team or not. He’s mentored children who lost their lives to gun violence. He’s also mentored children who lead the lives their parents hoped for.
"When they come around home plate, and send you that college invitation, graduation, first job, getting married — man, nothing like it,” he said. “No greater feeling. It's like you lived a purposeful life."