Anger forced Dari Arrington to seek change.
The kind of rage Arrington’s Facebook friends understood given the jarring footage circulating on the internet of George Floyd, a Black man, being killed in May by a white Minneapolis police officer. The kind of anger that wasn’t useful in a since-deleted, profanity-laced social media post.
“I was trying to find sanity in my head,” said Arrington, a Black man. “A friend saw it and reached out reminding me I can express myself more intelligently.”
The anger birthed a project Arrington calls “Shoot 4 Change” where he asks people to creatively put a wish for change on a piece of paper, ball it up and shoot into a plastic bucket.
But Arrington stops each person before they shoot their shot.
“Once you ball up what you wrote down, that represents your heart,” Arrington says to people who participate. “And everybody else’s hearts that are crushed in the world because so much chaos is going on. We all have these crushed hearts. But what’s inside our hearts is a beautiful message. A beautiful dream. A beautiful wish or whatever. And I want people to come together in unity to fight for change.”
By day, Arrington, 29, is a youth basketball trainer. But since June 10, he’s spent three evenings a week at CHOP — Capitol Hill Organized Protest — discussing police brutality, ways to create change and trying to bring smiles to people’s lives.
Arrington drew 40 participants in his first two days. The first was a homeless man named Gary who donated money someone gave him to Arrington’s cause. Gary’s wish was for his 94-year-old mother to see her 100th birthday.
Gary nailed his shot on the first try, according to Arrington. Others needed more attempts, some opting to dunk the paper wad into the bucket like Michael Jordan in the United Center.
“I tell them to keep going because I’m a trainer and can coach them,” Arrington said. “Also, it doesn’t take one day to change the world. You have to keep shooting until you make it.”
In July, Arrington will take the messages he’s collected and work with a friend who’s an artist to create a collage to possibly donate to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. He hopes to also bring his “Shoot 4 Change” project to other cities as well.
Arrington took a cue from entrepreneur Stephania Ergemlidze, who travels with a portable hoop and basketball around Philadelphia to play pickup games with anyone willing. Ergemlidze has a film crew to catch the action, posting clips on YouTube and Instagram that have since gone viral.
“The vibe in CHOP is peaceful and energetic,” Arrington said. “People really speaking out about the Black Lives Matter movement and it makes me feel like I’m in a creative bubble where people are looking to use their voice in a positive light to spread a very powerful message. They’re not willing to give up at all. We’re going to keep doing it until change actually comes about.”
Arrington said he’s no different than many Black Americans who feel tense and fear for their safety when police pull up behind their vehicle while driving or are present in stores while shopping. He’s had two negative confrontations, one at age 14 while riding his bike in front of his South Side of Chicago home. An Asian woman accused a Black man of stealing a bag, Arrington stating four police cars swarmed him and two friends, bringing them in for questioning, hours later confirming the boys weren’t in the area.
When Arrington moved to Seattle in 2014, he was employed at Jimmy John’s, delivering sandwiches. Peddling fast on a downtown sidewalk, Arrington said he was flanked by three bicycle cops questioning why he was in a hurry.
“They roughed me up,” Arrington said.
Arrington established his hoops academy — Team Arrington Elite — in 2014, utilizing public parks and YMCA courts to hold clinics for youths ages 5 to 19.
Gov. Jay Inslee shuttering businesses and playfields in March due to the spread of COVID-19 also eliminated Arrington’s income. He tapped into his savings to pull through the past two months and is slowly seeing clients return as nets are put back up at area basketball hoops.
But his bucket of change will suffice for now.
“I was really stressed out for a long time and am still dealing with the issues of it,” Arrington said. “I’m just trying to look at the positives and kind of keep going and do creative projects like my ‘Shoot 4 Change’ and use my platform to speak positivity. People still need to hear that stuff.”