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Weequahic Courts Named in Honor of Activist Delano Gordon

Above the Rim founder memorialized at park where thousands of youth learned about basketball -- and life

Officials gathered Thursday at the Chancellor Avenue entrance to Weequahic Park, where the basketball complex there was renamed in honor of Delano M. Gordon, founder of Above the Rim, a youth outreach program that uses the sport to improve the lives of thousands of Newarkers.

Inspiration came to Delano M. Gordon at all times of the day and night, and usually accompanied by a catchphrase, speakers at Thursday’s ceremony said.

“He would call me up and say, ‘DP, bam!’ when an idea came to him,” said Donald Payne Jr., a member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders who, along with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, voted to rename the courts at the county park. Payne is also president of the Newark Municipal Council. 

“He went to sleep and would wake up in the middle of the night with plans for somebody else’s organization, after they’d called him with their problems,” said Gordon’s widow, Rochelle Howard. “He took it to sleep with him. Amazing, amazing.”

Gordon, who died last year at the age of 45, founded Above the Rim in 1990, and approximately 10,000 young people between the ages of 7 and 21 have take part in its programs since then. Gordon, a 1984 Weequahic High alumnus and one of 10 siblings, started Above the Rim in response to the violence that was claiming -- and continues to claim -- too many young lives in Newark, said Gordon’s sister, Alberta Gordon, an executive with Above the Rim.

Above the Rim “has never been about basketball. Basketball is just the means to get them into the program,” Alberta Gordon said.

Youth who take part in Above the Rim’s camps learn about academic subjects -- the trajectory of a free throw, for instance, can serve as a math lesson -- life skills and also the mechanics of the sport itself.

But most importantly, participants also learn about nonviolent ways to defuse conflicts before they start. During Thursday’s ceremony, a few of the campers acted out a skit, the moral of which is that a person involved in a brewing fight should first ask themselves what they can do to settle it peacefully, instead of demanding a solution of someone else.

Delano Gordon, his sister said, was a tireless advocate for the program in his South Ward neighborhood, and was not shy about prevailing upon the ward’s famously deep political power base for assistance. Gordon also knocked on doors to get dozens of corporate sponsorships, including from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Prudential, Verizon and other of the city’s heavy-hitters in the business community.

“Delano never took no for an answer. He wasn’t a guy who would run around and pander to you,” Alberta Gordon said. “He just felt it was the responsibility of the community leaders to do something.”

Among speakers Thursday were some young men who have been with Above the Rim for most of their lives.

“If it weren’t for Above the Rim, my mother probably would have sent me to boot camp,” said Zumar Muhammad, 23, and now an official with the program.

Markessian Willis, a 19-year-old who has been with Above the Rim for 10 years, said Gordon “was like a father to me....Above the Rim is the best thing I ever joined in my life.” 

To donate to Above the Rim or for more information, click here

Newarks' Baby August 17, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I am so Pleased That the County has Recognized such a Great Man for All of His Efforts. Im just confused as to why the article is addressing His Wife, as Rochelle Howard when her Name is clearly Rochelle Howard-Gordon. Maybe its from His sister Albertas' ignorant comment to purposely attack her sister in-law! This kind of ignorance is overflowing into the written word of the Media! Alberta is getting to much air time for work that she has not done! If You Really want to Honor This Man, Then Everyone should show Some More Respect to His Wife, His Widow, His Choice! The Woman who sweat Blood and Tears for Her Husband from the very start of Above The Rim., Inc. of Newark! Mrs. Rochelle Howard-Gordon! Thanks again Joey D for making this happen for Delano! He Deserved It!!!!!!!
Barbara August 17, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Delano deserve this a much more. Just as Donald Panye Jr said don't let it stop here! The event was wonderful and it shows how involved Delano was in his community. It seemed as if he knew everyone on a person level. He touched so many lives and had a way with people like no other. I agree with Newark's Baby on the way Delano's WIFE was addressed. She should have been addressed in person and thru the media with her full name! That was just disrespectful on a different level and I'm happy I wasn't the only one who noticed it! It's funny how everyone else addressed Mrs. Delano Gordon properly except for Alberta. How can you run his organization without giving respect to the woman he chose?? Besides that Joe D thanks to you and Donald Payne Jr. And everyone else who made this event possible! He was a Wonderful guy so derserving !!!
Jan August 17, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Ignorance is in abundance by the 2 comments I see I'm extremely embarrassed for who ever wrote them. why would someone turn something so special into something negative this is truly sad! apparently no one understood that yesterday was about Delano M Gordon !!!!!Founder and CeO of Above the Rim a man who put his all into changing lives of youth and adults in his community
Paul Milo (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 06:07 PM
@barbara, Newark's baby - There was no intention on my part to disrespect Mrs Howard (or Howard Gordon). The materials I was provided with in connection with the event referred to her surname as "Howard", so that was the naming i chose. A lot of wives these days don't take their husbands' surnames so I didn't see anything unusual about that.

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