‘Zay Day’ – Local hoops star Isaiah Wilkerson hosts community celebration to end gun violence

Isaiah Wilkerson is a local hoops star whose professional basketball career has taken him all over the world, but the former Curtis HS standout isn’t quick to forget where he comes from.

Born and raised in Dongan Hills, Wilkerson went on to score over 1,200 points for Division-I NJIT before embarking on a continued professional career overseas – but that number pales in comparison to the number of buckets he has. poured into the cylinders of General Douglas. MacArthur Park at the Berry Homes.

Jefferson St. is home to Wilkerson — and it’s where he will host the inaugural “Zay Day” celebration on Sunday. The community event, which begins at noon and ends at 5 p.m., will include food, basketball and other fun games and activities to celebrate the life of Cesar Sanchez.

The late Sanchez, whose name is now honored by the basketball court, was close friends with Wilkerson and a victim of the gun violence at the park that claimed his life in 2014. Sanchez, who was just 20, frequently called Wilkerson his “favorite player“, according to his friend.

“I’ve always wanted to do something for the community and now is the perfect time,” Wilkerson said. “My friend Cesar Sanchez, who was a dear friend to everyone who lived in the Berry Homes, a wonderful kid and always a light in the park. He considered me his favorite basketball player.

“Sadly eight years ago he was shot and killed at the Berry Homes,” Wilkerson continued. “I always said to myself that I had to do something to honor Cease, but I never had the opportunity to do it… It’s the perfect year to do it, so why not start this year .”

The Cesar Sanchez, Jr. basketball courts, adjacent to the Berry Houses, in Dongan Hills. July 27, 2021. (Staten Island Advance/Derek Alvez)

In the wake of recent world events marked by negativity and tragedy, Wilkerson is calling on friends and neighbors to spread some light and love on Sunday. He hopes the rally can unite Staten Islanders from all walks of life and help end gun violence, as well as raise awareness of mental health issues and honor the life of the late Sanchez.

“I’m from Staten Island, New York. People don’t expect much, but I feel like we can do whatever we can think of,” Wilkerson said. “There is more to this world than what we see. My message to kids is to be a leader and focus on improving each other. Before we stop gun violence, we need to understand that there is a bigger world than the neighborhood we live in and there is more to this world.

“We have to help each other, talk to each other and really try to come together and solve social problems,” he added. “We could really live in a better world.”

Sunday festivities include a block party on Jefferson St., a baseball game in the park as well as four youth and high school basketball games, rock climbing, video games, and more. and will be sponsored by a number of local businesses as well as the NYPD and NYC Parks Dept.

Those interested can head to 211 Jefferson St., directly across from the Berry Houses apartment complex.

“The plan is to have it every year and grow it and make it something special,” Wilkerson explained. “We take advantage of it. It will be a day of fun and family and we will remember those who are and are not with us.

“I hope the whole world stops. I hope everyone stops,” he concluded. the world, I wouldn’t be here, I certainly wouldn’t be able to make this day.”


Wilkerson during his DI days at NJIT.

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