Meet Johnny

2022 Friendship Games Ambassador from Detroit

July 28, 2022 Updated October 3, 2022

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I’m Johnny Harris Jr. and I’m 17 years old, born and raised in Detroit Michigan, and now I live in Harper Woods, just outside Detroit. I’ve played a lot of sports so far in my life. My first sport is baseball, and it’s my best sport. I started playing basketball when I was in third grade but I didn’t start getting seriously into it until middle school. That’s when I met PeacePlayers. They came to my school when I was in seventh grade, and I feel like I get better and better every time I play with them. The main coach that’s been helping with my skills is coach Doc and a few other coaches along the way. That’s how I got here now. I’ve been feeling like I’m at my best right now, but I feel like I have so much more room to improve. I just can’t wait to go on this trip and see other people’s skills and leadership.

Q: What's the one thing that you'd want people to know about you?

I just want them to know, like, I'm a really friendly guy. You know, sometimes I might not look like it. I might look serious, but I'm really friendly, a really nice guy and a really understanding person. And if there's anything they want to talk about, they can talk about it to me. I'll try to listen to you.

Q: Do you have a special talent that most people don't know about?

I would say skateboarding, but everybody knows that now. I guess, when I tell people that I play baseball, it's a little surprising because I'm mostly athletic for basketball, but I do really good in baseball, too. I play mostly outfield. I know a little bit more about first baseman.

Q: Who's your hero? Why?

I say mostly my parents, because they really take care of me and they take me to places. Even though it's a struggle, they still take me to places and my dad helps with everything, like working. And then he also raised me to be a really good man.

Q: What do you think are the most important attributes of a leader?

Communication and putting everybody before you. And what I mean by that is do stuff for everybody that makes them happy before you put yourself first. Because if you put yourself first, I think you make yourself selfish.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Friendship Games?

I'm really looking forward to meeting the people over there and to play basketball against people from different states and countries. I think that's like a really cool opportunity to have to play against people in other countries and see how they play, too.

Q: Will it be your first time on an airplane? In another country? If so, what are you looking forward to about visiting another country? How do you feel about traveling abroad without your family?

No, the last time I was on a plane was to visit Chicago for the 2019 Regional Friendship Games. The last country I went to was Puerto Rico, and I went over there to meet family members. But that was way back. It was like when I was a little kid, so I barely remember the whole experience. But I do remember going to Puerto Rico and meeting family over there. This will be my first time traveling abroad without my family. It makes me a little nervous because it's 11 days, but it sounds short, but I feel like it's going to be very long. Yeah, I should be fine. I should be fine. Yeah, it will be. I'll be fine.

Q: Is there anything you're nervous or unsure about going to the Friendship Games?

I feel like it's really cool, but also scary at the same time because there's a lot of stuff that can happen. But you don't, you know, you don't want to worry about all the bad things, just worry about the good things and have fun while you're there and just see all the different stuff that they do over there. And then different foods, different people and culture and look more into their culture and see how they celebrate it.

Q: Why do you think PeacePlayers wants to bring together 130 young people from around the world?

Oh, I never heard that one before. I feel like they want to bring us all around each other to see the other people, not only the people from the U.S., but the people from the other sites meet each other and have fun with each other and just play basketball. Because that's the whole point of PeacePlayers is they bring basketball to people. They bring people to basketball to have fun and bring each other together to make leaders. I think we're all going to learn to be better people and better leaders out of it. And grow to be more communicative instead of being all quiet. Because the world do need leaders right now. So I feel like that's what they're trying to get us to get out of it.

Q: If you could do anything you wanted when you grew up, what would it be/what's your biggest dream for the future - for yourself, for your family, for your community?

For me - What I would like to do in the future towards other kids to help them be better - I would like to pass on my knowledge, like the stuff that I learned and the basketball skills that I learned. And if it's baseball, the baseball skills that I learned. I’d like to pass that on to the younger generation to make them leaders at a young age. For my family - I wish I could take care of my family and try to help them so they won't have to work hard, because my parents worked hard for me too. So, I want to work hard for them and make their lives easier because I'll be older and I'll be old enough to take care of myself. So that takes one thing off their hands. So I want to help them more towards the future. My dream for my community’s future is to be better people. Because you know how communities, they can be like different things. They like different things, and there could be big problems. Well, I just hope that there's less of that. In my teaching our future generation better so that they don't cause those same problems like we did. So I like that for our community.

Q: What's it like in your city/town/neighborhood? How would you describe it to someone who's never been there?

So in Detroit, there are different sections of it, there's different miles and all that. But I live in Harper Woods, which is not far from 12 mile. It's like a suburb or a community just outside. But I also live literally on the street where the borderline between Harper Woods and Detroit is. So I'm very close to Detroit, but I used to live in Detroit when I was a kid and when I was in middle school. The people are really nice over here. They kind of supported me in a way because I remember I was skateboarding outside for the first time, and a lot of people were saying, “You're good, you're doing great, you're gonna be good.” And then they keep talking about it every time they drive by. So I’ll say, like, the community is very supportive. I always hear a lot of parties around the area. It's a really nice area to be around. I just really like the area. It's like a nice suburban area because if you go deeper past where I'm at in Harper Woods, there's really nice big houses around there.

Q: If you could time travel for one hour, where would you go? What would you do?

I guess I'll try to time travel back to the old days before COVID. And then try to have fun on those days. Yeah. Yeah, I’d do that.

We followed up with Jordan during the Games to hear about his experience in real time. Here’s what he had to say! 

Q: What's the most important thing you've learned this week?

The most important thing I learned this week was how all the people here, we all talk to each other like nothing, like we knew each other. So I feel like that was very important because that shows that PeacePlayers; they're teaching us leadership and teaching us to get comfortable with other people and to get out of your comfort zone so you can get comfortable with those other people and then learn what they like and learn what they do.

Q: Was it like that from the start or did it take a while to start to warm up to people and develop those relationships?

It took about a good minute, not a day, but less than a day for us to get comfortable. Northern Ireland and South Africa were friendly and they made us comfortable to talk to them.

Q: So it sounds like you've made some friends from other sites. What do you like about the people that you met?

What I like about people like Northern Ireland; I really liked how super, super friendly they were and they're always singing non-stop. I mean, non stop. I love the energy. And then South Africa, I really like how friendly they are and they're really talkative to us. So it really helped me learn to, you know, be comfortable, just talk to anybody or just go along with the flow, basically.

Q: What do you think can come of having all of these people together in one place? Beyond cultural learning, what happens when everyone comes together?

Beyond the cultural learning, I feel like we're all learning from each other. We’re learning the things we like, the things that they like, learning a lot of things from each place. And I feel like that's like the bigger picture, too. And not only that, it's helping us with our communication skills and we're talking to people across the world that we're probably barely going to see ever again. So I feel like it's helping us communicate with people outside our countries.

Q: Why is it important to learn about and meet from other places? What is the bigger picture?

The big picture; I think it is important because PeacePlayers is trying to help us become better leaders. Say someone goes overseas to do something like basketball or business, they'll already be comfortable talking to those types of people they already know, like, “oh, this person's like this.” Or “I can talk to this person like this because that's how they know that.”

Q: What have you enjoyed most about this week?

I really enjoyed Jerusalem and going to the Old City. I really enjoyed that trip because it showed me everything about the Hebrews and all the other religions in that area. And not only that, it taught me more about religious stuff, with God and all this stuff that happened especially way in the past. And I think it felt kind of crazy being in the same area where Jesus did all this stuff, especially his tomb where he got crucified. I think that was crazy that it was literally there and it's a one time opportunity. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to get to go see all that at a young age.

Q: Have you heard people talk about these players as a global movement and what do you think that means? And what does the global movement have the power to do?

So globally, yes, there's a lot of potential for all of us because if we're all taking it more seriously about what PeacePlayers main goal is, I feel like they have a lot of potential and it will become even bigger and bigger than it is now. And we'll have a lot more leaders and a lot more communication between other countries.

Q: Are there any things that you learned that you'll take home with?

I basically learned to just talk easier, not to just shy away and just wait. It made me learn how to talk to different people and get to know them. And then if they need help, then you can help them. Just be a much more talkative and more friendly person.

Q: What does basketball have to do with this unique contribution that young people give to the world?

I feel like everybody can play basketball and it’s an all around the world thing. Like there's basketball anywhere. I mean, there's some sports that are everywhere, but I feel like basketball is bigger than any other sport out there. Not only that, basketball like there is, there could be Hispanics, Koreans, Asians, South African people, Northern Ireland people, any type of person playing around the world. They can play basketball. And then you can bring those people into basketball and help them become leaders and help them speak out their voice.

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