On Saturdays, the baseball diamond at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway is abuzz with excitement as youth, ages five to 14, decked out in red and blue t-shirts, storm in for the 6 Boro Flag Football League. According to 6 Boro founder, Davonne Gittens, their inaugural game on Saturday, October 19 was the kickoff to a new chapter for the housing project, which usually gets a bad rap for gang violence, and his hope is that the league will prove that Redfern is indeed a diamond in the rough offering a sparkle of hope for the community’s youth.
Gittens, a father of two with another one on the way, said he came up with the idea for the league this past August because he wanted to change the narrative around for children growing up in the housing project. “There are a lot of killings in the area. From a young age, children are looking up to the wrong people and getting involved in a lot of stuff that’s just not good. I love football and one day I was just sitting down thinking what to do to shift the children’s attention to something more positive and uplifting. The only youth community football program out here is the Rockaway Ravens, which is contact football, so I said to myself, ‘Why not start a flag football league?’ Once the idea sunk in, I immediately hit the ground running, and started reaching out to parents. And now, here we are two months later with our very own flag football league, and the kids, parents and the community-at-large have really come out to make it happen,” Gittens crowed.
Gittens also shared that a few years ago, he was going through a rough patch in his life, but once he was blessed with a second chance, he felt there was no better time than now to kick off the league with the sport that he loves, football.
“My father was big on football when I was a kid, so since I was about age six, I started learning and playing the sport. I first started playing with the Inwood Buccaneers. Then in high school, I played for Boys and Girls H.S. and then for Far Rockaway, from which I graduated. I really wasn’t too fond of school. Thankfully I did graduate, but school was not my thing. Football helped me stay in school, and it’s my hope that 6 Boro will keep our kids out of trouble and build long-lasting relationships with each other, while learning football. Also, I wanted to expose my son to the sport, so I figured that if I started the league, then he too would get involved, and I could also help other kids. Hopefully with this league, they’ll find something that they love—the way I love the game,” Gittens said.
6 Boro is divided into two age brackets, five to nine years old and 10 to 14. The kids train in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Saturdays, they play a game. Gittens said he set the registration at just $30 to make sure it was affordable for parents, however, though they have received some donations, the league is in dire need of more equipment and monetary help, and he’s hoping that as more people learn what 6 Boro Flag Football League is striving to do for the youth in Redfern, more support will start flowing in.
“We basically kicked off with nothing. I reached out to folks on social media, and we did receive some equipment, but with over 40 kids and on some days, even upward of 50 kids on the field, we definitely need footballs, flags, water bottles, and cones. Plus, I’m looking to get trophies, which I believe will give the children a boost of confidence knowing that they won something at the end of season. We just received our official 6 Boro football jerseys, and the kids love it!
“Also, we are looking for a football field for the youth to practice and play on, as currently we use Redfern’s baseball field. Also, I would like to learn about how we can play against other flag football leagues. As for now, the children just play against each other. However, this is just a start. There’s a lot on the list, but I’m big on fulfilling goals that I set my heart on, and I really want this league to be a mainstay for the kids,” Gittens said.
One parent, Armando Bracey, said his five-year-old son loves it. “What Davonne is doing is great. Seeing all the children coming together is a beautiful thing. I’ve been a football man all my life, since age five. I even coached at Beach Channel. So seeing my five-year-old loving it already makes me proud,” Bracey said.
Christopher Cribbs, father of a seven-year-old boy, agrees. “It’s good to see kids off their smartphones and tablets, and instead getting out there interacting with each other and getting some exercise. My hope is with the youth getting to know each other, as they get older, the violence in the community will stop,” he said.
For Gittens, who lost his brother to gang violence in 2006, said he wants 6 Boro to be a beacon of hope for the community.
“I want to help youth see there’s more to life than what you see in front of you. There are kids in the projects looking up to the wrong people. These kids don’t know how these guys are getting their money. So, if I could help uplift the community with something positive like football, it could have lasting effects. I don’t think kids from as young as five should be having beef, escalating to where they want to kill somebody. So I figure if I get these kids involved in something positive and fulfilling from a young age, that will shift the course of their life to pursue positive endeavors,” Gittens said.
As for the inspiration for the league’s name, 6 Boro. Gittens said, “Growing up in Far Rockaway, we didn’t consider ourselves Queens. We always dubbed ourselves, the sixth borough. You have to come through Nassau County to get to us. Stack Bundles, an up-and-coming rapper from our Redfern now deceased, was known for saying that Far Rockaway is not Queens, so I guess you could say it just stuck with me.”
For more information on 6 Boro Flag Football League and how to get involved, visit:
6boroflagfootball on Instagram.