November 26 2013
Power Forward! In basketball you hear the worlds "power forward" and you think of someone's position. You think of their strength, ability and skill set on the floor. Well these two words now mean something so much more in Abuja, Nigeria, and soon all over Africa. Power Forward is a new partnership formed through the NBA, WNBA & ExxonMobile and is a youth engagement initiative that will use basketball to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria. Along with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and former NBA player Obinna Ekezie I was excited to help launch this exciting new program. This trip was my first to the continent of Africa but it surely won't be my last. It was an amazing, eye opening experience that truly hit me at my core. I feel like I have so much to share and could go on and on. Instead I will give you 5 unforgettable moments that happened on my trip.
1. Most of you know Swin isn't my full name, it's Swintayla. Well after giving a speech at the Power Forward press conference, the MC for the event Dayou, known as the local enterprise communicator (And yes she was wonderful and funny) decided I needed a Nigeria name. That same evening at the VIP Reception she announced my new name would be Omedele! In Nigeria it means "Child who has come back home." Of course what is a name without a cool poster! They surprised me with a poster including a quote from the press conference. This was a first for me. It was truly moving and I appreciated the love. As Dayou would say, this was something new and fresh!
2. As a young girl growing up, I watched Hakeem Olajuwon play. I was always taken by his amazing skill set but more so by his constant humility. So to finally have a chance to break bread with him, well I was a total sponge. My first conversation with him was of course about hoops and training this off season. He literally got up from the table where we were all eating and showed me an exercise to do this off season. Seriously! A live demonstration right on the spot from Hakeem Olajuwon! Not because he had to, but because he wanted to genuinely share his knowledge of the game.People just see the finished product on the court but they don't see all the work behind the scenes. This was a perfect example of some of that work, learning from an expert. Of course, I pulled out my phone and started taking notes! Don't ever feel you're too young, or have done too much that you don't have to learn. That's what's wrong with some players today!
At the end of the press conference I was able to pass "Hakeem The Dream" the ball for the ceremonial basket. Checkout the Amazing video..... Although Hakeem blamed me for a bad pass LOL! This was officially an epic moment..
3. Another epic moment for me was meeting the Minister of Finance for Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Yes, she is one of the most influential women in the country. When she walks in a room it's with humility and this quiet yet commanding strength. You know she is one of the most intelligent people in the room, but she doesn't make people feel below her, she is connected to the people. That was one of the reasons I was so taken by her. During the press conference I encouraged the young women to take advantage of the program and not stand behind the boys but beside them. Well the minister of finance took it a step further. During her speech at the press conference, she called Hakeem, (Obinna, former NBA player that now runs the top travel agency in Nigeria) and I on stage with her. She thanked us all and then told the girls to not only stand beside the boys as I said but step in front of them! Because there is a huge importance of women in the country of Nigeria. The minister of finance is a Harvard and MIT graduate who's invested in the youth. Her words were heart felt, her conviction evident. Nigeria will continue to rise not only on the strength of their hard working young men, but on the empowerment of their young women. So Ngozi I appreciate you! And also your son Okechukwu Iwealas who is another Harvard graduate, that is now teaching at his own school in Abuja, Nigeria and creating change one student at a time!
4. (Clap, Clap, Clap) That is me giving a standing ovation to NBA Africa, ExxonMobil and Africare. The execution of such a pilot, with a lot of moving parts is a massive undertaking, but you all did it like a championship team. Having a vision is one thing, but finding the resources and people to execute it is another. I didn't expect anything less but I know a lot of times people behind the scenes don't get recognition. Well this is me saluting you on a job well done!
5. I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of youth through sports and other platforms. This Power Forward program was introducing some young people to the game of basketball for the first time. To see the look in their eyes was beautiful. That look of excitement, joy but also of care is what it's all about. Two young girls pulled me to the side after the event and said to me "Ms. Swin I want to be like you. How can we be like you?" When I tell yall my heart just melted it did. I said to them "No my love not just like me, better than me! You make the choice today to use this program to help you grow as a young girl. And when no one is watching and it's just you, you've got to work on fundamentals of this game. Now give me a hug!" Well the smiles on their faces were too cute. Then that's when the flood gates open and everyone wanted a hug. Lol it was so sweet and powerful to embrace them and show love. Yes kids need discipline, guidance and all those things. But don't ever under estimate the power of a hug to show you truly care. And not just young girls, our young boys need to see and know that kind of care as well.
In closing I would just like to thank everyone who made this launch of Power Forward a success. I would also like to thank the city of Abuja for allowing me to experience Africa for the first time with you. Just like I said during the press conference, With visibility comes responsibility and I'm so happy NBA Africa, Africare and ExxonMobil is taking this social responsibility a step further with this program.
God Bless and #Power4wd
Swin "Omedele" Cash
@NBA, @NBA_Africa, @nbacares, @Africare, @XOMFoundation, @exxonmobil, @DR34M
To see exclusive video of what happens when Swin Cash throws a pass to Hakeem for a dunk visit my Facebook page here!
To see exclusive photos from the trip visit my Facebook page here!