right is SYFL Commissioner Haamid Wadood. Vashion Bullock is to the far right (in White t-shirt). Photos: Timothy 6X

A promise made, a promise kept

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Last year, following a spate of youth killings in the city of Chicago, Hip Hop icon Snoop Dogg came here and promised to open a chapter of his successful Snoop Youth Football League.

On July 30, he made his word bond as nearly 1,000 youth from across the city joined him to officially launch the inaugural season of the SYFL here in the Windy City.

Snoop Dogg with members of the Near North Side Raiders.

A full media contingent was present to watch the popular entertainer slap high fives, take pictures and throw passes to the youngsters. The Snoop Youth Football League began in 2004 in Los Angeles with Snoop Dogg’s personal investment of $1 million.

The Chicago division was established as a direct response to the rise in youth violence in the Chicago area and successfully opened the 2011 season in August with chapters representing all parts of the city: the Chicago Chargers (West Side), Bridgeport Hurricanes, South Side Seahawks, Humboldt Park Patriots, Near North Side Raiders and the Pilsen Jets.

“This is the beginning of something that is going to be here twenty years from now,” Snoop Dogg told the eager youngsters and their coaches. “Know and understand that you all are a part of something that is going to be very historic. This football league here is going to change a lot of your lives, some of you are going to make it to the next level, high school football, college football, even the NFL,” he added.

(Top)Junior cheerleaders for the Chicago Chargers representing the West Side. (Bottom)Snoop slaps hands with the Bridgeport Hurricanes….

The SYFL now services nearly 4,000 youth throughout California. Chicago was the first city outside of California to get teams and Snoop told The Final Call the strong growth has led to expansion in San Diego and Las Vegas. In addition to the athletics, the program offers educational programming and timely guidance from Snoop himself, who at a young age was caught in the snare of gang violence and the legal system.

“It’s all about how you put in your work when you’re out here, when your coaches are talking to you and trying to coach you, listen to the coach, they know more than you and are trying to help you. The coaches don’t get paid to be out here, its volunteer work; it’s their time that they are giving you to try to help you better your life,” said Snoop.

Triumph out of tragedy

After the tragic death of 16-year old Derrion Albert in September 2009, SYFL President Tonja Styles took immediate action with the goal of attacking the problem of youth violence in Chicago. While many stood around and complained, she went to work trying to find someone who could effectively and consistently work with the children who are living in what she described as a “war zone.”

Ms. Styles–the driving force bringing the league to Chicago–reached out to Snoop Dogg and intervened on behalf of Vashon Bullock, one of the young men caught up in the melee which claimed Derrion Albert’s life.

“Vashion Bullock, who many of you all know, was involved in that tragedy, expelled from school for two years as a senior, not able to go back to Chicago Public Schools for two years,” said Ms. Styles at the July 30 press conference. “We were able to get him back into school,” she added.

Ms. Styles went on to recount how in April of 2010, she took Mr. Bullock to Normal, Illinois to meet Snoop Dogg, who immediately gave Vashion Bullock an internship. When she approached Snoop about bringing the SYFL to Chicago he was on board immediately. “Snoop said without hesitation ‘let’s do it!’” said Ms. Styles.

Ms. Styles told The Final Call there has been strong support within the Chicago business community to stem the tide of violence that made Chicago infamous over the last two summers. She announced partnerships with doctors at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Medical Center who have agreed to provide medical treatment for the league and mentorship opportunities in medical careers. She also spoke of sponsorship from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago offering financial empowerment training for the youth.

“I am so proud, I am so honored that against all odds, against all the doubters and those who didn’t want to see this day happen and thought we weren’t going to make it–we’re here! We’re in the building!” said Ms. Styles.

…then running drills with the Pilsen Jets.

SYFL Commissioner Haamid Wadood regularly tells stories of youth and their parents sacrificing in order to be involved in the football league, especially in areas plagued by gang violence. He told The Final Call that plans are also underway to have the top teams in the league compete regionally against each other, culminating in the SYFL Super Bowl, in which the teams would travel to California, and play the championship game.

Snoop reminded the youth that despite the different neighborhoods and teams, having fun, unity and discipline are the keys to success in life.

“We’re the SYFL we play for one league,” Snoop told the crowd. “Yes, you play for your team, but when we all come together, it’s SYFL or nothing. It ain’t about the individualism, it’s about the unit.”

(To learn more about SYFL, visit http://www.snoopyfl.net. For information on Chicago teams, go to http://www.snoopyflchicago.org or call 312-794-7809)