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Two former Harlem Globetrotters present Emporia Mayor Dr. Carolyn Carey a picture of the world’s most famous basketball team. Pictured from left are Tommy “Hawk” Long, Carey, Michael Douglas.

The Mayor’s Community Initiative Project found itself in the spotlight on June 26 at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church. The CIP Community Kick-Off and Business Expo attracted vendors, a pair of world-famous Harlem Globetrotters, and plenty of people showing up at the site to discover what the group seeks to bring to Emporia.

Youth and adults took advantage of the opportunity to play a little basketball with a pair of former Harlem Globetrotters. They also met with local entrepreneurs and indulging in delicious food and flavored ice on a sweltering day.

“This is an event to help facilitate the well-being of the citizens and to bring awareness to local entrepreneurs in an effort to promote the general welfare of the public, Mayor Carolyn Carey said. “The entertainment portion of the event has an objective to lift the morale of the youth and adults impacted by the pandemic.”

The event allowed citizens to network and collaborate with the community and local business owners. Also, it allowed entrepreneurs to promote their businesses. Shillpa Naavaal made the trip from Richmond as a representative of the Virginia Commonwealth School of Dentistry. Naavaal and her staff promoted dental health and touted the importance of citizens getting vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Mayor’s The Mayor’s Community Initiative Project was in the works before Carey won her election to office in November. It’s basically a program designed to bring new employment, improving education, and expanding working opportunities for youth. Carey sought assistance from former Harlem Globetrotter Tommy “Hawk” Long of Durham, North Carolina, and independent consultant Roscoe Brown of Virginia Beach.

They came up with the Community Initiative Project plan. It is designed on a successful program Brown headed in the 1990s in Richmond. The Project READY initiative earned state recognition for its effectiveness. Carey hopes the CIP gets off the ground as an investment in area citizens.

The kick-off event brought smiles, laughter, and a day of family fun to those in attendance. Michael Douglas of Lawrenceville, Georgia, played for the Harlem Globetrotters for eight years.

During the Kick-Off event, he helped the mayor spin a basketball on the tip of her index finger. The applause followed, but there was a message behind his gesture. It showed that teamwork is a trademark that would allow the CIP to help the citizens of Emporia. He did the same with children throughout the afternoon.

Douglas and Long gathered adults and children together for a free throw shooting contest. It was quickly apparent that some had shot a basketball in the past. Others were unfamiliar with the fundamentals of successfully sinking free throw attempts or were rusty at the art form at best.

Emporia City Manager William Johnson and Emporia City Council members Carol Mercer and Dale Temple were on hand to assist Carey in promoting the project. CIP volunteers also put a lot of effort into making the kick-off event successful. The mission was accomplished. Now, Carey hopes the CIP gets implemented to achieve its mission.

Summer day and recreational camps for youth are a vital piece of the CIP structure. Project consultants would develop employment training programs for the unemployed and underemployed.

Long met Carey in 1974 when he lived in Emporia and served as the Southampton Correctional Complex athletic director. The federal bureau of Prisons retiree has extensive experience creating youth programs. He is a certified substance abuse counselor and recreational therapist.

The Mayor’s CIP, as it is now known, is a way for the former Harlem Globetrotter to encourage others the way he was growing up in Durham. More than once, he was told he would never be successful.

“That was my driving force to prove that they were wrong,” Long said. “I had a coach that encouraged me. He saw something special in me, and he got me out of the City of Durham before it got me in trouble.”

Long played basketball at Norfolk State, then later became a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. When he met Carey in 1974, he was the Southampton Correctional Complex athletic director. Long has extensive experience creating youth programs and is a certified substance abuse counselor and recreational therapist.

Carey hopes her CIP will lead to similar stories for youth in Emporia. The kids are only part of the CIP.

“Future CIP events will highlight adults that will encourage elderly participation,” Carey said.

Long said the mayor should be recognized for having the foresight and vision for founding the CIP to help improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Emporia. The Mayor’s CIP Community Kick-Off and Business Expo was the next step forward in the plan to make that dream a reality. Still, it will take involvement from the entire Emporia-Greensville community to realize the vision.