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PeacePlayers Chicago engages youth in the Roseland/Pullman community, located on the far south side of Chicago.

A once very thriving community, now faces many challenges, such as gun violence, bullying, poverty, school and gang violence, lack of adult supervision, racial disparities in healthcare and education, unsafe housing, and a lack of jobs and resources for young people.

These disparities have fueled cultural divides among youth living in this community. PeacePlayers Chicago’s intentional programming focuses on positive youth development through the fostering of healthy relationships and by providing the support needed for youth to discover their inner leader.

Our Programming

PeacePlayers Chicago, within a nationwide network, engages nearly 50 youth, ages 8-18, in year-round and multi-year basketball training, conflict resolution education and leadership development activities. Programs are divided as follows:

PeacePlayers Chicago Peace League


Peace League provides a safe space and gives participants a chance to have fun and develop skills. 

PeacePlayers Chicago Leadership Development Program

Leadership Development Program

In the Leadership Development Program, we focus on leadership skills, hard and soft skills development and building deeper relationships. 

Our Impact

Leadership Development Program
“I’ve learned leadership skills and to be open minded about everything. My most memorable moment was the time when we were playing a 5 on 5 and Coach Johnson sat me down because of my attitude and from that day on I realized PeacePlayers is bigger than basketball -, it’s a family, an organization trying to bring better things to not only Roseland but the city of Chicago.”
- Walter Boyd III

Upcoming events

Our Team

Ben Vasquez PeacePlayers Chicago

Ben Vazquez

Director, PeacePlayers Chicago

Location: Chicago

Benjamin Vazquez led various projects focusing on community development to identify assets that contribute to positive community growth. Benjamin assisted in developing the creative arts charter school, Art in Motion, which serves 7th-12th grade students in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing community. He also helped implement a partnership network on the southside of Chicago that consisted of 28 community business partners that helped launch the Chatham Center Chicago and The Chance Center, a community center that focuses on workforce, housing & economic development in the southside of Chicago. He also founded Urban Mission Chicago, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing scholarship opportunities to youth of color that reside in economically marginalized communities to travel abroad and immerse themselves in cross-cultural learning and engagement.


Previously to his role at PeacePlayers, Benjamin worked as Director of Social Enterprise. He was the consultative and technical lead on market analysis, research, program design, and business development projects for Covenant Enterprises based out of Chicago. He supported the development and helped launch collaborative social enterprises that engaged in broad issues of poverty and economic injustice in the US. 


Benjamin earned his Master’s in theological studies and a certificate in Urban Studies & Intercultural Dialogue from North Park University, Chicago, IL, and his BA in business management from Bryant & Stratton College.  

Benjamin is a diehard Chicago Bulls fan! He thought you should know.

Andrea Johnson, PeacePlayers United States

Andrea Johnson

Senior Program Manager, PeacePlayers Chicago

Location: Chicago

Andrea Johnson joined PeacePlayers in the spring of 2018 as operations manager in Chicago. A native of Chicago, grew up on the southside and attended academic and basketball powerhouse, Whitney Young Magnet High School. After high school, she continued her education and basketball career at Palm Beach Junior College in Florida. Her first year at Palm Beach, the team finished 7th nationally in the NJCAA championship and 3rd her second year. After earning her Associates of Arts degree, she decided to return home to attend the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she finished her playing career and earned a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology.


Andrea found a new love for basketball as a coach. She was asked to join the coaching staff at her alma mater, the University of Illinois Chicago, where she coached 5 years. During her time at UIC, she was asked to volunteer working with at-risk kids at a local elementary school in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. This is where she learned the value in teaching kids life skills through sports. After 5 years at UIC, Andrea was offered a coaching position at Northwestern University, where she continued coaching for another 5 years.


Andrea then made the difficult decision to leave the world of coaching, to start a new career. In 2005, she landed a job at Nike INC, as an EKIN (tech rep/Brand ambassador). This job led to a 12 here career at Nike in various marketing positions. Andrea truly enjoyed her time working at Nike, which she considered her “dream job” coming out of college. She learned so much and grew personally and professionally during her time there. At Nike, she was able to work on basketball projects as well as working with at-risk kids from low income and underserved neighborhoods.


Andrea is so happy to join the PeacePlayers team and excited to get back to doing the two things she is most passionate about; coaching and helping kids reach their full potential.  Andrea has seen first hand how the game of basketball can inspire kids, teach them life lessons, and ultimately change their lives

David Smith

David Smith

Program Coordinator, PeacePlayers Chicago

Location: Chicago

“I remember my first basketball camp as a coach. I was 16 years old, it was at Wheaton College hosted by CURE, The Chicago Urban Reconciliation Enterprise, and The Fellowship of Christian athletes. The camp was a week long stay on the Wheaton College campus. We partnered with an organization from Englewood Chicago and it was one of the several most impactful experiences of my life. 


The training I received prior to the camp was minimal but very valuable. More importantly, to me, I was an athlete and I knew what style of coaching I responded better to and that is how I approached the youth I was trusted with. As I got to know my team over the week and I learned that I had the privilege of training the younger versions of myself. These 9-12 year olds had experienced the same trauma I had and had the nearly identical journeys to adolescence as I did. Whether it was domestic, learning challenges or cultural stigmas, we were the same kids living different lives and the opportunity I had was to help these youth understand the game of basketball, train them in the better character of the game and encourage them to work on their game everyday and make good life choices. And I promised them I would be there every summer to be their coach.”


I grew up in the Abbott Homes of Chicago. At that time my entire family lived in different projects housing around the city of Chicago—Cabrini Greens, Altgeld Gardens, Lathrop Homes, Jane Addams Housing and Circle Park. I later learned it wasn’t because we were poor, it was because my grandmother was very active in providing community services through her church, she was an activist and the family supported her in everything she did so we stayed close until she was unable to serve.


Back then we played basketball on the monkey bars because we didn’t have basketball rims on the courts because the parks were to dangerous play in. We eventually got creative and used crates and bike rims and attached them to wood for a backboard, nailed it to a tree or a 2×4 and had someone hold it while we shot the ball and it was the worst because the target was always moving. 


My uncle played for the Chicago Bulls in the 70’s and I grew up going to watch him, my dad and their friends play. I remember the ball hardly ever touching the ground, non-stop running, they hardly ever missed shots, everyone called their shots, no one made calls, no one called fouls, fouls were only given, you pretty much only heard screeching shoes and players calling out screens. THAT’S THE GAME I FELL IN LOVE WITH. I literally never dribbled the ball when I started playing because I thought you were only supposed to pass and shoot.


As I grew up I became pretty good at the game but I also wanted to go my own way and rebel against the rules of my parents household. With many opportunities to play at a higher level I was determined to live a street lifestyle and that was my pursuit.


At the age of 46, I am a father of three and married to my high school sweetheart of 23 years. I am still very active in basketball leagues of all ages and it has been the greatest blessing to play the sport with my now 20 year old son. I am also a huge volleyball fan. I play that regularly too.


 Pre-COVID, my family and I had a very active faith-based charity named Flirt w/ Life where through a partnership with Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges, DePaul University, we hosted an awesome mentoring opportunity for youth, high school and pre-professionals at the infamous Gold Coast Dave & Busters in Chicago. We also host a motorcycle safety and awareness initiative where we partner with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, and several other State ran motorcycle licensing and training entities to encourage riders to take free State ran training courses. Through our great partnerships we also co-host a series of other awesome events.


I am also a the proprietor of a transportation and logistics entity.


I am a firm believer in entrepreneurship, education and mentoring.


With all the gifts, talents and passion in me, I am honored to be apart of the awesome initiatives to encourage our communities live out the core-values at PeacePlayers and to serve the city I love the most.

Our Coaches

Rodeny Harris

Steven Harris

Coach Tamara
Nike Community Ambassador

Coach Tahj
Nike Community Ambassador

Our LOCAL Partners

Chicago Park District

Chicago park district

Palmer Park

CICS Prairie

Pullman Community Center

Pullman Community Center

Pullman Community Center

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