This former NBA player is Bridging gaps between Africa and America, using Basketball
Jamati Online had the pleasure to sit down with Jerrod Mustaf, Goodwill Ambassador to The Gambia, President of the African Tourism Organization, Founder and CEO of the Street Basketball Association, proposed President of the Greater Beltway Branch of the NAACP in Prince George’s County and the leader of the Greater Beltway Coalition, AND former NBA player for the NY Knicks and the Phoenix Suns….
As you can see this is one busy brother…..
Jamati: How do you possibly find the time to devote yourself to all these endeavors?
Its difficult some days, but I’ve learned to use email and the internet to my advantage. I have become very adept at time management over the past 7 years. Of all of the hats that I wear, none is more important to me than my responsibility as a father…and that’s my first priority.
Jamati: What motivates you to take an interest in Africa?
The television mini-series “Roots” had the biggest African influence on me when I first watched in 1977 as an 8 year-old. That opened my eyes to a whole world of people who looked just like me. My parents brought me the VHS edition of “Roots” for my 16th birthday and my guests are usually treated to view at least one episode when time permits. Jamati: As I mentioned to you it is important for people to know about the good things that African-Americans are doing for Africa because all too often we hear about main stream entertainers adopting a child from Africa or having a charity ball but we don’t hear about people such as yourself that has dedicated time, effort, energy and resources to Africa for development purposes…why do you think that is?
There has always been a disconnect with Africans and African-Americans. We have been systematically programmed to dislike most things originating in Africa, including our brothers and sisters. African-Americans never built a comfort level with Africa. An emphasis in America has been primarily on Europe. The media and the marketing industries have been absent in the promotion of Africa and we haven’t collectively adopted a Pan-African point of view.
Unfortunately, African-Americans tend to follow trends that others manufacture for us and knowing how we follow their lead, its great to see others breaking down that African barrier and making it ‘hip’ to socially invest in the continent (Angelina, Madonna, Brad, George).
Jamati: On that note, tell us about your involvement with The Gambia as the Goodwill Ambassador?
H.E. President Jammeh appointed me Goodwill Ambassador once he recognized my sincere love for The Gambia and the African continent. I have been steadfast in ensuring that an accurate image of The Gambia and her people is relayed to the world. I have been diligent to redefine Gambia’s image and to re-connect my brothers and sisters in America with their Homeland. I am using my role as Ambassador to encourage individuals, organizations, companies and investors top travel to The Gambia and partake in her progression and development.
Jamati: Now I am made to understand that you also work as a consultant to the Nigerian Basketball Association tell us a bit about that and how did that come about?
I signed an agreement in 2006 with Vandyke Sport in Nigeria to help promote and more specifically, to develop their Premiere Basketball League and to form an official Nigerian Street Basketball Association. We have experienced some turbulence with our partner and official sponsor in 2007, but we are confident that our new sponsors will allow us to fully integrate our technical assistance with the Nigeria Basketball Federation.
Jamati: Please tell our audience about your organization the Street Basketball Association?
Aside from being the first U.S. professional street basketball league, we are the first ever international basketball/entertainment organization that is fully committed to the sport as well as life skill/self sufficiency and overall holistic development of African youth. The SBA has created a forum through basketball where youth can reach their potential with character building such as; leadership development, teamwork/unity, responsibility, conflict resolution and other lifestyle enhancing intangibles.
Jamati: Do you think that basketball in Africa can be as popular as soccer aka football in Africa?
Africans have the physical tools to become supreme basketball players. Technical support, equipment and exposure to the sport will be required. Basketball has already become the first sport in Angola and is catching up in Nigeria and Senegal. Height, athleticism and coordination are attributes that are cherished in basketball; in which Africans have in abundance. Each year there are 300 plus African-American multi- millionaires making basketball a career. Soccer better watch out!
Jamati: Have you ever worked with other sports figures on African development projects and if so who?
A number of my contemporaries and current professional athletes have inquired about visiting and/or being involved in Africa. Two Washington Wizards players were ready to travel with me last June to The Gambia, but the official arrangements were not satisfactory.
Jamati: You recently became the President of the African Tourism Organization which is dedicated to stopping the human trafficking of African women for sex work…how do you plan to use your celebrity to shed light on the main objectives of the organization?
Not only have I become President of the ATO and a vocal opponent of human trafficking, but the SBA has become a vehicle to launch our 21st Century Campaign Against Human Trafficking in Sub-Sahara Africa. Our goal is to partner with government and the private sectors in 10-12 African nations and “Kick-Off” our “Stop Human Trafficking” Campaign with an educational seminar and SBA “Show” exhibition in each country.
Jamati: As you can well imagine Sexual Slavery is a world wide phenomenon that adversely affects those in developing countries why do you think that is and how does the African Tourism Organization plan to change this?
There is an economic reality that the financially strong will prey on those who are economically dependent and weaker. The lack of education and opportunity leads to hopelessness and despair. The ATO will have to pursue full integration of all youth and young women in the educational system. We immediately have to launch our campaign in the locales most severely affected by human trafficking and educate and make them aware of this inhumane practice. We also must simultaneously challenge the governments to draft legislation to prevent and prosecute human trafficking. We must implore the government to invest in life management skills and educational programs to create healthy options for youth and young women.
Jamati: I am sure that you do realize your celebrity and connections can and do make a positive impact here in the States as well as on the continent do you find that there are many like you out there that have a real desire and dedication to uplifting those that are less fortunate?
There are individuals like myself who value helping others, but most of their energies and resources are invested in the African-American communities domestically. I admire those who display a passion to give and do so since they have been Blessed with superior talents and more opportunities than others. The key to success as a united Black people in this world will be when we realize the true Greatness of Mother Africa and begin to treat her as Americans regard Europe.
Jamati: Finally let us talk about your role as the proposed President of the Greater Beltway NAACP and President of the Organizing Committee of the Greater Beltway Coalition? Are there many programs that the NAACP heads that reach out to the African Diaspora? For example, as you may know there is a large and very diverse African community in the metropolitan DC region that would benefit from the NAACP’s scope of influence do you know of a specific program that has been put in place that addresses this?
I’m very excited about this role as well. Prince George’s County has been recognized as the most affluent and educated domicile for Blacks in the entire world. In that vein, it is imperative that we reflect our leading role in our school system, in public safety, the housing industry and all governing industries. It is my role to make sure that our civil rights are protected in those areas. I must be the lead advocate to ensure equitable justice for people of color and I’m prepared for both; diplomacy and civil disobedience if necessary.
I’m strongly considering forming an African Affairs sub-committee which will foster a cooperative understanding and will demonstrate a working relationship between the African and African-American communities.
I have challenged each of our current 130 members to recruit 10 new members by April 1, 2008. I also plan to host monthly membership events as well as host a candidate’s forum for the open county council seat in Prince George’s County later this month.
Jamati: Well I just want to say that you are an inspiration to many with all of your various projects and initiatives and I wish you continued success. I thank you for your time today.
Thank you for your dedication to promoting African and Black culture. Your vision for Jamati should be applauded. You have provided us a platform as Black people to re-dedicate ourselves to each other and to strengthen the bond with Mother Africa.