We witnessed the power of sports in the West Indies when cricket was used as a vehicle for bringing about social change. Numerous professional basketball players in the US have also praised the power of sports as a means to not only better themselves but also their community. In “the hood,” sports often provide the possibility of “a way out.” By being skilled at a sport and committing the dedication required to succeed, one learns disciple, which could then lead to a scholarship, access to a superior education, wealth and stability.
Recognizing the power inherent in sports is the SEEDS foundation (www.seedproject.org). According to their mission statement “SEEDS uses sports as a vehicle to inspire, empower and support a holistic development of promising African youth, preparing them to become global citizens and leads positive transformation in Senegal Africa, and the world.” As a means to help developing African youth, the program recruits “the best basketball players” from across West Africa and provides them with the necessary academic and athletic training to better themselves. Successful candidates of the program are then given full scholarships to preparatory schools in the US, where they are granted the opportunity to gain a better education and life for themselves and larger community.
The journey of four of these African young men from West Africa to the US is the focus of the new documentary Elevate. It provides a glimpse into the lives of these young men as they embark on their journey and the obstacles they face adapting to their new lives. They have to defend perpetuated perceptions of Africa and Africans and also come to terms with the fact their success is not only for themselves but also for their community and family.
While the act of using sports as a vehicle for change and development is not new, the fact that various athletic organizations are now seeking out and helping to foster the talents of young African players speaks volume to their skills, talent and potential. Nelson Mandela once said that sports had the power “to change the world … to inspire … to unite people.” The story of these African youths shows serves as a prime example of these words coming to fruition.
It is true that African players are not new to the world of basketball. Players like Hakeem Olajuwon Dikmbe Mutumbo, Loul Deng, the late Manute Bol and others have made and continue to make a mark for themselves and Africa on the sport. However, Africa and African players are emerging as a strong and formidable force in basketball. Websites such as www.africabasket.com continue to provide a platform to showcase and document the talents of African players. By looking at the skills and determination these players have, one can’t help but wonder if the next Michael Jordan will emerge from Africa.
Remember this movie? The Air Up there…
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