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‘Don’t hold your head down’: Basketball team commemorates anniversary of teen’s death with special meeting

Not only did the organization’s executive director, Mark Raley, want to honor the life of a teammate who was killed, he also wanted to speak to the players about teen violence in Charlotte.
Several teen basketball players from the NC Bulldogz basketball organization gathered for a special meeting Monday night.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 9:55 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Several teen basketball players from the NC Bulldogz basketball organization gathered for a special meeting at Mission Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in west Charlotte Monday night.

Not only did the organization’s executive director, Mark Raley, want to honor the life of a teammate who was killed, he also wanted to speak to the players about teen violence in Charlotte.

“Something I say tonight might change you and save your life so don’t hold your head down,” said Raley to the teens during the meeting.

Marcquan Goodman, a former NC Bulldogz player, was shot and killed in April of 2021. The anniversary of his death is this Thursday.

“I valued him so much and he was a precious young man towards our basketball team – respectful, polite – just a gentleman, all heart and when he passed last year, it really hit the team really hard,” explained Raley.

Joshua Johnson, a 17-year-old who attends Harding University High School, played with Goodman on a NC Bulldogz team. He spoke to WBTV about the death of his former teammate.

“It definitely did shock me because you know, you don’t really think oh it could be someone that close to you, but it could be anybody – could be me, could be the person next to me,” explained Johnson.

During Monday night’s meeting, Raley asked Johnson and the other basketball players difficult questions about youth violence in Charlotte. He asked the players if they knew peers who carried guns and if they had any proposed solutions for gun violence.

“That was the reason for tonight – to see what these young men had to say,” said Raley. “We can talk to parents, have so many meetings, but we need to talk directly to our youth and see where these guns are coming from and see what kind of conflict solutions we can have for the community.”

Some players did open up during the meeting, speaking about the root cause of community violence.

“Peer pressure, social media pressures you into stuff. Trying feed to feed you into the violence and stuff like that,” noted Johnson.

While Monday night’s meeting was stern and at times uncomfortable, Raley explained that he hopes that the candid conversation left a lasting impact on the young men from the basketball program.

“We may not reach them all, but one by one, we’re going to touch somebody and change somebody’s life,” said Raley.

He said that later this week the basketball organization is holding a balloon release for Marcquan Goodman.

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