Business as casual

If you’re hit, you’re out! If you catch one, then they’re out! These simple rules governed last Wednesday’s event for members of the Chicagoland Black Professional Socialites. Gathered at Lawndale Christian Fitness Center on Chicago’s Southwest Side, the group engaged in an old-school game of dodgeball. “I had this idea to play dodgeball, but I knew none of my usual friends would want to do it, so I opened it up to this group,” said Kylana Garrison, organizer of the event. Her idea caught on and now the matches regularly draw over a dozen people,a crowd who, from nine-to-five, are much more likely to be caught in suits than sneakers. This might seem to be an odd pastime for these Chicago professionals, but events like this are exactly what the club was created for. A few times every month, the Black Professional Socialites get together to relax and mingle through different recreational activities including playing board games and salsa dancing. Dodgeball, it appears, allows for slightly more aggressive elbow-brushing.

As house music blared, teams of five headed onto the basketball court to battle it out. Players strategically zig-zagged across the court, adroitly bending backwards and sideways to escape the balls zooming by. Their skills belied their actual experience: it was only the group’s second game, and some players hadn’t even touched a dodgeball since they were children. “It’s been 20 years since I played dodgeball,” admitted Michael Bennett, who works as a marketing, communications, and branding professional. “I haven’t played since I was in 7th grade.” Nevertheless, Bennett and many others summoned their inner child on the court and quickly got back in the swing.

During a short water break before the last set of matches, the players cordially greeted each other, many being introduced for the first time. Yet, this game was far from your typical networking event; it was an opportunity for these hardworking Chicagoans to let loose and have fun. Some participants, like Kylana and Michael, have even made good friends through attending events like Socialites’ dodgeball. “When you come from a workplace where you’re the only black person, it’s nice to come out and be around people who are in a similar situation as you,” said Bennett. On the court, they loosened their ties and could stand out for a different reason.

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