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San Fernando : Tourney Focuses on Better Race Relations

The Los Angeles County Probation Department tonight will sponsor the first of a series of events designed to improve race relations and cultural understanding among youths in Los Angeles.

The Probation Department, in cooperation with several San Fernando Valley-based youth organizations and a group called the Repair the World coalition, has organized a special three-on-three “cultural diversity” basketball tournament, to be held at 5 today at San Fernando High School.

About 40 youngsters ages 14-18 will participate in the tournament. They were nominated by community organizations such as the Pacoima Youth Culture Center, New Directions for Youth, Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles and the Pacific Islander Council.

The tournament corresponds with what has been dubbed “Repair the World Day” by the state Legislature, the County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) and Councilman Richard Alarcon are expected to attend.

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“What we hope to do is, on the heels of the whole O.J. Simpson matter and the racial divide that resulted, demonstrate that we can work together,” said Jitahadi Imara, program services director for the Probation Department. “We want to demonstrate that Los Angeles is not as divided a place as people think.”

Youths participating in the tournament have received training over the past several weeks and will be asked to report back to their communities on the significance of the tournament, and the ability of people with different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds to work and play together.

Future events planned by the coalition include a series of workshops to be held in January in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Imara said.

San Fernando High School is at 11133 O’Melveny Ave., Pacoima.

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