‘Lift Every Voice’ nets uplift basketball courts in Mattapan for Juneteenth holiday

Seth Daniel photo
State Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley and Mattapan’s Glen Gaines show off the ‘Lift Every Voice’ nets that Gaines designed and that now hang in Hunt Almont Park and Walker Playground. They hope to expand their use citywide next year for the Juneteenth holiday.

The 'Lift Every Voice' nets at Hunt Almont Park.

After a bumpy drive to the basket, Mattapan designer Glen Gaines has found nothing but a perfect swish with the debut of his ‘Lift Every Voice’ basketball nets, which reflect the Pan African flag colors of red, black and green, and were placed in two Mattapan parks to mark today’s Juneteenth holiday.
Taking the process from an idea to the playground has been exciting, Gaines said.
“To see an idea like this come to fruition is an amazing feeling,” he said. “That’s not something many people, especially of my race, get to experience. I want these nets to be something that is uplifting. It’s also about the idea of perseverance in coming up with an idea, coming up with a product, and then having the city support it. Each of those steps is significant.”
On Monday morning, Gaines, 33, dribbled around the courts at Hunt Almont Park in Mattapan and dropped perfect jump shots into his unique nets, which he said are layered with meaning and meant to spark dialogue in the midst of basketball.
The Boston Parks and Recreation Department placed multiple nets in Hunt Almont Park and Walker Playground last weekend to correspond with the June 19 federal holiday.
“These nets to me are like planting a flag,” said Gaines, who grew up in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan and hopes to see the nets in every Boston park next year. “I grew up playing basketball and wondered why the nets were only white or the USA colors. I do a lot of image gathering and once I came across a photo of Lebron James as a toddler playing on a [toy] basketball hoop. The colors were red, white, and blue and I changed them to reflect the Pan-African flag colors…I wanted to do that same thing but with a basketball net.”
That was only about a year ago, and Gaines went through a real-life science project by procuring different colored nets to put together a prototype. He cut a part of a red net and a part of a black net, then used hair dye on a white net to get the right green color. With that, he glued them together and went out to find a manufacturer.
While the nets were being made and packaged, he trademarked the design, and sought support for hanging them at local parks. While the nets are about ‘Lift Every Voice’ and sparking conversation about lifting all people together, as an artist he saw an opportunity to get them up for Juneteenth to get people talking as they played.
The journey at that point wasn’t easy, he said, and while gluing pieces of nets together was hard, the journey to hang them proved harder. He said he got good response from Cambridge, Brockton, two famous basketball courts in New York City, and various other outlets – such as the district for which Springfield state Rep. Bud Williams ordered nets. All those supporters paid full price for the nets.
In Boston, however, he hit a roadblock at first with little excitement politically, and complications in the Parks Department due to procurement regulations. His specially designed nets are priced at $18.50, but the city said it could only pay $3 each, something that Gaines hopes will change in the next budget cycle.
But for the moment, it seemed all hands were tied.
That’s when Gaines ran into state Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley at the State House when he was delivering nets to Rep. Williams. He gave her the quick story, and she said she was ready to find a way.
“I was excited and enthusiastic when Glen came to my office and told me what he wanted to do,” she said. “I thought it was so cool and I’m glad we got this pilot started. I think it’s so important when we see a young person from our community who has a good idea, that we find a way to support it. He told me about the roadblocks he encountered, and I said, ‘I think I can help.’ It’s amazing now to see them up.”
Working with the Parks Department, Fluker Oakley was able to purchase the nets at full price from Gaines using her own funds, and then donate them to the city to ensure they would be up this week.
“We think it is a good idea and a way to uplift a community member and his design and in a way that also enhances the Juneteenth holiday,” said Parks Commissioner Ryan Woods. “This is also supporting entrepreneurship as well.”
Added Fluker Oakley, “I am grateful for Glen’s perseverance and tenacity. Many people would have stopped at ‘no,’ but he reached out to me, and I was just the right person at the right time to help him.”
Both said they hope the special nets can be installed in every Boston park by June 1 in the coming years.
For Gaines, the ‘Lift Every Voice’ nets have many layers of meaning to them. He mentioned the concepts of “revelation” and of “ownership.” He also said they speak to “unity” of everyone and being okay to move on from things when “you’ve conquered that arena.”
Closer to his own heart, though, is that they aren’t just about basketball. Gaines had an impressive basketball run in high school, starring for New Mission High School as that program grew into a powerhouse. Then, he moved with a sibling to New York and earned a spot on the storied St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, NJ) 2008 national championship team, coached by the legendary Bobby Hurley, Sr. But he said he would rather his nets encourage non-athletes as much as athletes.
“In a lot of ways, the only way to have a voice is to be an athlete, but even for them at a certain point it’s ‘shut up and dribble,’” he said. “This is really about the kid who doesn’t want to be an athlete and wants to be an artist or a designer and everyone thinks he’s the weird kid for not wanting to be an athlete. That kid has a voice as well.”
The ‘Lift Every Voice’ nets are available for purchase on Suhrealist.com.


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