Angienette Dixon has been putting on the Hoop Don’t Shoot program at Danville’s Doyle Thomas Park for four years now, and this summer, she authored a book about her experiences working with the city’s youth.
Hoop Don’t Shoot started in summer 2017 with basketball games every Tuesday and Thursday at the Green Street Park, and it has since grown into a haven and learning ground for at least 300 participants since then.
Dixon, who attended George Washington High School, said she started the program to suppress gang violence in the area by showing gang members — and potential gang recruits — that their lives don’t have to be dictated by their surroundings or unhealthy relationships.
“Doing Hoop Don’t Shoot brought the north side and the south side together here in Danville,” Dixon, 54, said. “They play ball together, they get along better.”
The book — titled “Hoop! Don’t Shoot!: My Concealed Weapon Is Love” — centers on Dixon’s experiences running the Hoop Don’t Shoot program and the successes and failures that have come out of it.
“It’s testimonies of how the gang members came out of the gang and got jobs and joined the Army,” she said. “Some get locked up. I’ve lost some to incarceration. I’ve got a story in there about how I lost one to murder here in Danville. The book is deep. … It’ll bring tears to your eyes.”
Dixon will host a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Main Street Art Collective at 326 Main St. in Danville. The book is 76 pages and is also available on Amazon.
In addition to the basketball games, Hoop Don’t Shoot also helps participants arrange to finish their high school education or find jobs.
Kaheem Johnson, 29, is a Danville native and has taken advantage of all that Dixon’s program has had to offer.
“I benefit by getting my GED. It’s helped me build my faith up. It’s also helped me get a couple of jobs,” he said. “Hoop Don’t Shoot has been a great impact on my life.”
Dixon hopes that anyone who reads her book will see Danville’s gang violence as an issue that can be solved through proper mentorship, productive activities, love and understanding. Dixon said the importance of setting young men on a path to following their dreams cannot be overstated.
“A lot of them fall to their zip code, their address, the atmosphere where they live and they join gangs,” she said. “I wrote this book to let the people see that there’s more to it than them just being gang members. They are people that need a chance.”
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