Ballers shoot for social change

By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly


Photo by Izzy Ventura, PQ Monthly

It’s a particularly sporty summer, what with that tiny little competition going on in London — and Human Rights Campaign is doing its part once again to keep Portlanders active and engaged. The organization is putting on what’s become one of the year’s biggest and most anticipated draws: the Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament, which returns July 28 at Irving Park.

Basketball: one of those universal languages that can transcend difference, bringing all walks together to compete, and this time around the competition aims to make the world — or at least our city — a better place, through camaraderie, education, and inclusion.

The brainchild of HRC’s Shaley Howard, the tournament — in its fourth year — has enjoyed pretty incredible support, increased participation year after year, and impressive, sustained growth. Howard, respected ‘round the city as co-chair of HRC Oregon and SW Washington’s dynamic (and busy) membership and community events chapter (her other half: Jose Rivas), talked a little about how the event came to be, its logistics, and where it’s headed.

“The idea started over four years ago when I was trying to think of something that I’m passionate about — something that would also bring more women into HRC,” Howard explained. “I started researching women’s tournaments, specifically three-by-three tournaments in the area, and I discovered there were none. Lots of co-ed events but nothing for women only.”

Howard began recruiting by word of mouth at pick-up games and leagues she frequented, then moved on to posting fliers and spreading the word via social media and cross-promotional advertising.

“Anyone who’d give me two minutes to tell them about the tournament would hear all about it,” Howard recalled. “One of the most important and unique things about our event is that all women are encouraged to play — from ages 18 to 60 and up — and at any skill level. Having so many brackets allows for more diversity and inclusion.” (As of press time, 26 teams had signed up to play.)

There’s much to say about HRC’s social presence in the community — but what many don’t know is how, precisely, people like Howard and Rivas use these types of events — and yes, socializing — to go about effecting change.

“Social engagement is extremely important for bringing positive change to our community,” Howard said. “The more LGBTQ people interact with the community at large, people from all walks of life, the more we all realize how many things we have in common.”

“So much of the homophobia and other ‘isms’ of the world are born out of ignorance and fear,” she added. “When people actually sit down and have a friendly conversation with someone they’ve been taught to fear and hate — because of sexual orientation, race, sex — their perspective begins to shift. And, if you can have these interactions during a fun activity like bowling or basketball, it becomes easier to connect. These individual dialogues and connections through social events … inevitably have a positive ripple effect throughout our entire community and beyond.”

Howard and her cohort have twice garnered recognition from HRC nationally — at the organization’s annual gathering in Washington, D.C. — for their work surrounding community engagement. In 2010, the tournament won “Specialty Event of the Year” and last year Howard, Rivas & Co. won “Community Events Program of the Year,” which honored all the events held throughout 2011.

“We work hard to create unique, fun, creative events and are always looking for new ways to bring the entire community to HRC,” Howard said. “We’re thrilled and honored to receive national recognition.”
In addition to the basketball tournament, Howard is also looking forward to HRC’s Urban Farm Gala and Auction on Aug. 11 at Meriwhether’s Skyline Farms. “It’ll be a terrific night of food, drink, great company,” she says, “all coming together to support the cause of equality for LGBTQ people.”

In the interim, keep your fingers crossed for sunshine aplenty, because on the last Saturday of July, these ladies are going to be getting real sweaty. (Read: sexy.) And remember: men are welcome, too. This humble writer will be joining in the day’s festivities to catch glimpses of my favorite players in action, to cheer everyone on, and to rub elbows with the day’s special guest: Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown.

Most importantly: it’s not too late to sign up and shoot some hoops!

For more information, check out HRC’s Fourth Annual Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament on Facebook. To register and for all the logistical information, visit and click on “event details” in the tournament listing.