Antoine’s Story

Taken from a letter in 2014

It is with pleasure that I present to you, together with Mrs. Cathy De Schouwer, my “Crossover Mission.”  I thank all of our supporters and participants in advance for your consideration and time and hope the community will find this program to be meaningful and impactful.

I am a native of Gifford, born into a family with challenges and dysfunction.  I lived with my father and twin brother until eleven years of age, in a strict, tightly controlled household that, while it was rough, was surprisingly grounded in education and staying out of trouble.  This foundation would prove helpful later.  Unknown to me at the time, my father was the leader of a drug ring from Vero to Miami.  When I was ten, he was arrested and sent to prison for 20 years, as were several uncles and cousins who were involved.  My brother and I were left with our mother who was not financially stable and had five kids to support.  We were surrounded by other disinterested family members who provided little supervision and support.  We became street boys.  We learned to fight, steal, and survive at a young age.

One good thing remained constant.  Basketball.  My twin brother, Haven, and I played often and whenever possible.  We were good.  And opportunities came through basketball, but always lack of money, transportation and support shut the doors.  In the end, important and potentially life-changing college opportunities were lost because of ignorance, poor attitudes, shame and bad advice.  It was a low and hopeless time after high school.  I got lost in it and lawlessness took over.  So went the cycle, again.  I began selling drugs.  Women.  It was no life I ever imagined for myself.

I had a transformational experience several years ago, as I lay face down with a gun to my head.  I prayed to God, that if he would spare me, I would change my life.  He did spare me.  And there began a new direction and the real purpose of my life.  No more dealing drugs.  I walked away from all violent networks.  I took no more revenge.  I stopped the cycle despite great resistance from friends and family.  In the black culture, you are not a man if you let someone get one up on you without retaliation.  Despite the pressure to be a man and to live up to the image, I stood firm in my promise.  I made peace with my enemies while many eyes were watching me.  I became a real father to my son and daughter.  I refocused on my job and worked hard to better myself.  I joined a church.  I married the mother of my children.

I have continued to play basketball, officiate, and coach.  It is the great passion of my life.  I hope to make a difference in the lives of misdirected young lives like mine, through Crossover Mission.  The significance of the name is in the double meaning.  In basketball, the crossover is an effective offensive technique which involves faking to one side to throw the defender off and make space for a move.  In my life, the crossover represents the transition to a better, God-centered life.  It represents a crossover from a low mentality to principled living.  From weakness to strength.  From poverty to stability.  From hate to love.  From self-centered to community centered.

I have been developing Crossover Mission for several years.  I have encountered many setbacks and have learned much about what is done well and what is not.  In the black community, there are many attempts to create basketball programs, but most are poorly organized and managed.  There have been some self-serving individuals who put on a good story, but in the end, the product has been weak and serves mainly to fill their own pockets with a few hundred dollars.  It is not good enough to promote a tournament or a program without the proper venue, support, equipment, staff, vision and mentality.  How many tournaments have I attended in Gifford where the gym wasn’t made available the day of the tournament and the event had to be held outside on the pavement?  How many guys are out there trying to create a league where players pay high entry fees, only to find there are not enough coaches, too few organized tournaments, weak skills, and no real exposure to opportunities.  In Vero Beach, we need a solid competitive league for the advancement of excellent talent in the black community and beyond.  We need a serious program, financially supported and managed properly.  We need to train kids and to equip them to rise up to success and to higher education.  We must mentor them.  We must be solid role models.  We can make a difference here and now. So let’s Crossover!

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