Peace Bowl a reminder to kids that they 'don't come from a broken neighborhood'

Fatal shooting didn't end effort to stop violence

CINCINNATI -- The Rev. Peterson Mingo was at his 11th Peace Bowl this weekend.

It almost ended at year one.

The Peace Bowl brings together hundreds of young athletes from different inner-city neighborhoods at the University of Cincinnati. The idea is to help them end gang rivalries and misconceptions through football. 

"It teaches discipline. Kids learn how to hit each other, but only within the rules. They learn to respect each other," Mingo said.

He was at the first Peace Bowl, in 2007. It was the renewal of a decade-long football tournament, the Victory Parkway Bowl, that had ended in 2003.

Eleven years ago, all seemed to be going well until gunshots rang out. A young man, Ernest Crear, was shot and killed right next to the event.

The crowd scattered.

Mingo tried to save Crear and saw the killer run away. In the chaos, someone snatched the cash box. 

"It was just total devastation. I was just broken almost," Mingo said.

Instead of spending that day on a field promoting peace, he found himself at the police station as a witness to a crime. The day's three remaining games were canceled.

Mingo went back and talked with the coaches, and they had a message:

"They said, 'We're not running from anybody. This is our neighborhood. This is our city. We're taking it back.'"

So teams returned the following Sunday to finish the tournament, and the Peace Bowl continued. 

Thousands of kids have come through over the years. Several have gotten scholarships to Division I schools; Mingo says some even have gone on to play for the NFL.

"One thing a kid needs to realize: you may come from a broken home, but you don't come from a broken neighborhood. And we're doing everything we can to become family again," Mingo said.

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