Lessons of Basketball and War - An African Girls Basketball Team in Oregon

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Lessons of Basketball and War

Ron Bourke Films

We live in a world grappling with a refugee crisis that is nothing short of overwhelming. As governments debate the building of walls and the cost of caring for the millions fleeing war and famine - it's easy to lose sight of the individuals involved. Is it even possible for these men, women and children to successfully relocate into what will surely be a strange and foreign society?

What could it possibly be like to be a 13- or 14-year-old Somali refugee suddenly relocated to the US? One day you're in a refugee camp under the blazing Kenyan sun, and the next you're plunged into a strange country and culture you don't understand. And what if you're a Bantu or Oromo Muslim girl, head and body modestly covered, in a world of rampant consumerism and overt sexuality - Beyonce, Rihanna, Lady Gaga. For the teachers and administrators at Hosford Middle School, the Somali refugees presented an immediate crisis.

How do you teach a 14-year-old algebra or American history when he or she speaks little English or has never held a pencil? To make matters worse, old tribal rivalries brought with them from Somalia could erupt into fights between the girls - the ultimate form of vengeance being the scar of a deep bite to the other girl's face. Something had to be done, but what?

And then one morning, Principal Kevin Bacon noticed a couple of the Somali girls tossing a basketball at a basket on the school's playground and the idea for the African Girls Basketball Team was born.

"I have been telling everyone I know about the film and how much I enjoyed the inspiring, heartfelt...and at times hilarious...piece. As a high school teacher, I am always trying to reflect on how my presence and pedagogy impacts the youth I work with, and watching the film informed me in such a profound way. I imagine that the documentary could trigger the much needed dialogue in our building and our community." - Sarabeth Leitch, Educator, Portland, OR

"A deeply touching story. Anyone who has an interest in the challenges of being a teenage girl and refugee in a foreign country should watch this. The educators in this film work tirelessly to motivate and hold this team of girls together. A beautifully told story with great filmmaking. - Amazon Review

This award-winning documentary has been an official selection at more than a dozen European, Asian and American film festivals. A leaders guide is available for classroom or community use.

Running Time
66 mins
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2 videos included
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