When Swish basketball club founder Jamiece Adams settled in Chicago in 2017, she was in search of community and a place to hoop. Having grown familiar with college life, where the community came built-in and you could form a crew off the strength of rec center runs, Adams was adjusting to life in a city where looking for a welcoming, safe place to hoop and be in community with other queer people of color was an exercise in futility. 

“I kept waiting for something to be created that was a more laid-back playing environment for queer, non-binary Black folks. I was like, it’s Chicago. It’ll happen,” Adams said during our conversation back in October. “It never happened, and I was, like, ‘well maybe I could do it.’”        

Heading into 2020, Adams was devising a plan to have meetups for queer people to play basketball, and be in community with each other — then the pandemic hit. With COVID-19 devastating Chicago, any type of contact sports were out of the question, not to mention the city removed basketball rims from parks across the city to encourage people to stay at home.

“When we knew we could be outside with masks around each other, I invited my friend T, and two other friends, Erma and Zipporah, to come play basketball,” Adams said. “We just had a good time playing basketball. They were really encouraging about the idea that I had for the meetups and felt like it could really take off.”

When Adams organized the first meetup for the Swish basketball club in summer 2021, it was just those same three friends who showed up, but as they kept sharing on Instagram and inviting people out to their weekly meetups, the community grew both on the internet and in real life.


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“There were people reaching out to us sharing the same feelings that inspired us to create Swish, where they wanted somewhere they could feel safe and supported on the court,” she said. “I think that it was feeling this need in myself for a space like that, and then hearing that need reflected by other people that let me know that this was a good space we were building that could bring people together.”

The Triibe spoke with Adams and T, one of the founding members of the Swish basketball club, about their principles, the value of the Swish experience and how they plan to build on the growth they’ve already seen. 

[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.]

So T, have you had experiences on the court before Swish was around where you might’ve felt uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe?

T: Well, my experiences are more in different sports. I grew up in a basketball family, but I played tennis and ran track. I played growing up, but I always wanted to learn and get into it deeper since my sisters were hoopers. I always wanted to have a recreational space with a community if I just want to go and know that people that support me and are friends, and not feel unsafe. 

Playing with cis-het men, a lot of times, it’s difficult for queer femmes, non-binary or trans people to hop in and play and not feel on edge or like people are always sizing you up. And that’s just the experience of queer people and women in general. I just always wanted to play, learn, and be active and this is a safe space to do it.

Adams:  And to add to the learning part of that, some people come to Swish and they’ve never really played basketball and they’ve improved throughout the summer. T [is] athletic but they have grown a lot. Ash is another person who is a consistent member at Swish who has begun to practice outside of our meetups so that they can get better. So I think that’s so beautiful, to inspire people to not only play at Swish, but keep moving their bodies on their own as well.

Swish basketball club. Photo by Chelsey Sincerray.
You’ve both brought up the physical movement aspect of Swish a couple times already. How much did health factor into your decision to start Swish?

Adams: Yeah, so I don’t love to work out, like, go out and run or go do push-ups. I like community-based exercise if that makes sense. So I needed something for myself to move my body. I want to be able to feel like I haven’t just been sitting because a lot of the pandemic was sitting, especially in Chicago when it gets cold. 

Taking the opportunity to get outside and do something with other people and not feel isolated, is important. That’s a part of why I feel like Swish was so important to me because it provided people with a way to move their bodies and to do it in a way that felt healthy but we didn’t want to create a toxic fitness culture. We wanted to feel like we’re doing this together, moving our bodies to stay active.

Can you explain to me the difference that you feel when you’re playing during Swish as opposed to how you’ve felt in the past?

Adams: I feel so much more comfortable to be able to make a mistake on the court. So I’m much more comfortable with taking a risk. The culture on the court [is] sometimes, like, they want you to be super good, they want to push you off the court, they don’t want to pass the ball to you. That’s not a thing that happens at Swish. 

Whether you’re one of our players who haven’t played the most, or one of our players that have come out from a college team, you’ll still get the ball passed to you, you get picked [to be] on the team. We don’t do captains. We number ourselves and pick teams like that, so that there isn’t that gym class feeling of being picked last. That’s something that we learned too because at one of our first meetups, we did team captains and somebody was like “Wow, this feels like gym class again,” and I was like, oh, yeah, that’s not a great feeling.

I know recently the thing you’ve been sharing on social media is the search for a steady, indoor location to continue meetups throughout the winter. What was the venue situation before this point? How has the search been going?

Adams: It was at Union Park. And you know, Union Park has Pitchfork and some other festivals so we moved to Harrison Park. But now as it’s getting colder, we are moving indoors. We are working with the [Chicago] Bulls right now. We built a relationship with them and they’re trying to help us find an indoor space. We’re going to send them some things that we’d like for this. A similar relationship is being built with Nike right now. We’re talking with them and basically, they want to support us more outside of June [Pride month]. So we’re cultivating a relationship with them to be able to hold them accountable for those things they’re saying.

Swish basketball club. Photo by Chelsey Sincerray.
Do you feel like Swish is something you see growing larger? Does that look like something that can at some point generate revenue?

Adams:  I think that right now, there are some things we’re thinking about: doing a fundraiser at the beginning of summer, doing a three-on-three tournament at the end of summer. Those are things that we’re just cultivating and talking about. My vision is to be like a meet-up space to have some moments where we do these like one-off things, like a 3-on-3 tournament that some of our more competitive members will watch. 

We have just started and the sky’s the limit, but for right now, I think that cultivating those ideas with our council, and building on ideas with our current members who continue to come and ask for things, is super important because we’ve made so many friendships and so many people have different capacities. So many people have different resources that they want to offer Swish, and we’re just figuring out day by day what to do. 

My philosophy is that we will move with the community. We won’t be growing in a way that feels like trying to capitalize on people. I believe very deeply that making sure that we’re doing it for the community means that we’re not trying to create something like a conglomerate business, but just trying to create a space that is full of care, and love.

T, have you ever thought about the potential to create something like this for some of the other sports you’ve played?

T: Man, I love this question! As I said, I played tennis growing up and Swish inspired me to start a tennis meetup that I began like a month ago. So it’s a BIPOC tennis meetup, very informal. As Jamiece said, the idea here is not to create new jobs for us, like the four of us on the council. We all do a lot of things and this is supposed to be a safe space, a fun space. So yeah, Swish inspired me to tap into tennis with my Black and brown community because I didn’t have that growing up because tennis is a very white sport. 

There are other organizations that are doing stuff like this, like, League of Their Own. We’re not affiliated with them at all, but we love what they’re doing. We have kind of thought this could eventually, like, deepen into something bigger, where there’s queer, trans [and] non-binary clubs for these different sports. I would love to see it as long as it continues to be community-based and continues to be fun. And whatever funding or support we get, it continues to go back into the community. We can’t emphasize that enough. And it also needs to continue to center our identities as queer people and Black and brown people. That’s what it’s all about. There is a renaissance happening right now that queer, trans, non-binary people of color are at the center of.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.