Alex Kotlowitz, award-winning journalist, author, and SLAM friend, worked with Joakim Noah to bring us this heart-wrenching video, featuring Bulls stars and Chicago youth alike. Watch “You’re Not Alone” above, and read Alex’s words about the journey below.
I first met Joakim in the wake of my documentary film The Interrupters (a collaboration with longtime friend Steve James.) Joakim was a fan. As we got to talking, we shared stories of how profoundly the violence effected friends—and effected us. Joakim with an assist from Cobe Williams—one of the central figures in The Interrupters—has devoted much of his time to trying to quell the violence that plagues parts of Chicago, the parts which have been abandoned by the rest of us. Joakim and Cobe now host an annual peace basketball tournament. Joakim hangs out in the neighborhoods, just talking to kids—and listening. Joakim hopes to get people—from all walks of life—to wear a teardrop which was designed by his mother, Cecilia Rhode. It offers a powerful statement: We’re all in this together.
Talk to people who have lost a loved one to the street violence—from inner-city youth to NBA stars, and the thing that’s so striking—and unsettling—is how completely isolated they feel. Many never talk about their grief and anger. They pull inward. No one speaks of the deep scars on the soul. And yet in listening to them it’s clear that their experiences are profoundly similar—and so this video has a rather simple intent: to let people—especially young people—know they’re not alone.