Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball

Onaje X.O. Woodbine. Columbia Univ., $30 (224p) ISBN 978-0-231-17728-3
Inner-city youth turn to hoops to find hope and healing in this vivid ethnography of street basketball in Boston. Viewing street basketball as an urban “lived religion”—where the principal problems and structural sins of inner-city life are ritualized, renegotiated, and reimagined—Woodbine interprets the games as religious performances and practices where young men exorcise their metaphorical demons through dancing, exercising, and dunking. This narrative is more than academic prose; it is a deeply personal and poetic travel through the author’s own story of racial struggle and the survival tactics of the players he befriends. The composition drips with Woodbine’s passion for the game as he weaves street-court scenes of damnation and redemption with richly textured biographies of the young men who play to fight off the specters of racism, violence, and drug addiction. In this majestic study of basketball as ritual, religion, and culture, Woodbine plunges into the courts of Boston with an insider’s savvy to catalogue the urban sport’s pulsating (and potentially transcendent) dialogue. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/24/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-231-54112-1
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