Memphis rap star Al Kapone (right) was among the celebrities that showed up in support of LaDell Beaman and the Heal The Hood Foundation. (Photos: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

With school out for the summer and the official start of the season on the horizon, the Heal the Hood (HTH) Foundation of Memphis has launched its “Cool Summer” initiative to “set the tone for a positive and safe summer in Memphis.”

The weekend kickoff featured a Youth Basketball Camp and Celebrity All-Star Basketball Game.

At the Friday camp, youth ages 7 to 18 learned or got a refresher in the fundamentals of the game in a safe and fun environment. Each participant received a T-shirt, instruction through coaching and drills, lunch, and more. Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins helped the players learn some NBA moves.

On Saturday, the All-Star Celebrity Basketball Game featured rappers/songwriters/producers Kia Shine and Al Kapone, along with award-winning super producers Drumma Boy and Boo Mitchell. Also on hand were various professional wrestlers and other special celebrity guests.

Both events took place at Ridgeway High School, located at 2009 Ridgeway Rd. 

Created by LaDell Beamon, The Heal the Hood (HTH) Foundation of Memphis is a nonprofit organization that provides positive outlets for youth and young adults through singing, dancing, art, acting, motivational speaking, screenwriting, and modeling.

HTH’s in-school and summer programming seeks to positively influence young people to think before making life-altering decisions, get out of gangs, stay away from drugs, alcohol, weapons, and other objects of mass destruction.

The Cool Summer initiative reflected HTH picking up after a two-year hiatus.

“We had to shut down for two years because of COVID,” said Beamon as he reflected on the history of the initiative.

“What it’s all about is basically bringing celebrities together, all types of stars …. We have pro ballplayers that have been at the University of Memphis. So many different people … 

“A lot of the celebrities have come in to play basketball but at the same time they were doing it to raise funds for the kids and the summer programs because there is a lot of violence that happens in the city of Memphis.”

Fortunately, said Beamon, “When we say heal the hood, we are not just talking about the ‘hood.’ We’re talking about the suffix at the end of words like brotherhood, fatherhood, parenthood, priesthood. Everybody has a hood. If we can heal those hoods by using the arts, we know we can change our neighborhoods and communities.”

Mitchell, who is co-owner of Royal Studios, said he was happy to help raise funds for HTH, particularly their “Hero Empowerment Center that will be going into the Hickory Ridge Mall. 

“It’s an amazing complex that they are building to give some of these kids activities and stuff to do after school and keep youth engaged with music and empowering our youth to strive for more, do more, achieve more. I am happy to have my face in the place.”