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Tuesday, Oct. 18 LECTURE – Leo Adam Biga’s Africa travels with Terence “Bud” Crawford and Pipeline Worldwide

October 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Tuesday, Oct. 18 LECTURE:  

My Travels in Rwanda and Uganda, Africa with Terence “Bud” Crawford and Pipeline Worldwide

By author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga

6:30-7:30 pm

Metro Fort Omaha Campus, Institute for the Culinary Arts Building, Swanson Conference Center, Room 201A

Free and open to the public

In June 2015, Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford, two-time world boxing champion and native of North Omaha, traveled with Jamie Nollette, his 4th grade teacher from Skinner Magnet Center, to learn about her work with Pipeline Worldwide, an organization that supports building fresh water wells and dormitories to support youth and families. Biga, funded by an Andy Award grant from UNO, traveled with them to observe and record their eye-opening activities on the two-week trip, which included meeting African, American and European program directors, educators, aid workers and humanitarians. They met survivors and perpetrators of violence, exploring rural and urban culture. Crawford was feted as a visiting prince by sports officials.

Tuesday, Oct. 18 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Fort Omaha Campus, Institute for the Culinary Arts Building

Swanson Conference Center, Room 201A

Free and open to the public

 

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Terence “Bud” Crawford has captured the hearts and minds of Nebraskans with his move to the front ranks of professional boxing. The Omaha native has traveled a long, hard journey to get to where he is. Boxing is in his blood. The fight game is his life, yet there is much more to him than the tenacious competitor, finely tuned, supremely conditioned, confident, technically sound, unbeaten world title holding prizefighter. He is also a devoted family man who loves kids. Crawford is a sincere advocate for his community and is curious about the wider world outside his hometown and home state, and has made it a point to broaden his horizons. To indulge his hunger to know more and see more, he has twice ventured to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa, and plans to go again in the fall.

The story of why he has gone to those places, whom he went with and what he did there reveals much about The Champ. His travels to Africa are under the auspices of Pipeline Worldwide, an American-based NGO whose executive director and co-founder, Jamie Nollette, was Bud’s fourth grade teacher at Skinner Magnet School in North Omaha. Pipeline Worldwide helps support sustainability and self-sufficiency programs in Uganda and Rwanda. The strong bond between the former pupil and instructor seems destined to last a lifetime since they reunited in 2014. That’s when Crawford joined her on his first journey to Africa. The experience changed him. In June 2015, Omaha author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa with Crawford and Nollette. His reporting mission was funded by the Andy Award for international journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Biga’s talk will highlight various facets of the experience with the aid of a video slideshow.

Biga has chronicled Crawford’s rise to boxing prominence and his single-handedly resurrecting the sport in his hometown by fighting title defenses here before huge crowds at the CenturyLink Center. Crawford operates a gym in North Omaha that is a sanctuary for at-risk youth and young adults, providing them structured, positive activities that teach lessons inside and outside the ring. Friends of Crawford have embarked on a major building campaign to renovate and expand the gym so it can serve more people.

Crawford’s first trip to Africa, Biga reports, was an awakening for the fighter as he saw everything from people living in want and healing from trauma to people working regular jobs, going to market and living in comfortable housing. He visited villages and organizations that Pipeline Worldwide assists with funding to build fresh water wells and dormitories and to support programming that helps youth, women and families. He met survivors of civil war, abduction, abuse and genocide. He played with and comforted sick and orphaned children. He also visited natural wonders.

During the Africa journey Biga joined, the travel party saw everything described above and more. Biga was there to observe and report on it all. It was the writer’s first trip outside the United States, so it was naturally an awakening for him, too.

The visitors met African, American and European program directors, educators, aid workers and humanitarians. They met survivors and perpetrators of violence. Crawford was feted as a visiting prince by sports officials who organized a press conference he handled with aplomb. The travel party divided their time between urban centers and rural areas. They shopped at open air markets and enclosed malls. They were treated to great hospitality wherever they went and they sampled all manner of the local cultures in the food and fashion and in the dance and music they were exposed to. They also did some service work at one stop. They went on safari and a gorilla trek. All in all, the two weeks added up to an eye-opening experience that none will soon forget.

One of the takeaways from it all is that there are many Africans and non-Africans alike working hard to improve conditions and raise quality of life in the countries visited.

And, as expected, traveling two weeks with Crawford gave Biga new insights into him. Biga also developed a deeper appreciation for what Nollette and Pipeline Worldwide does. If anything, the relationship between Crawford and Nollette has grown through their travels together. He helps bring awareness to Pipeline Worldwide and the programs and projects it supports, and she is helping lead the campaign to renovate and expand his B&B Boxing Academy.

Biga’s presentation describes in words and pictures the 2015 trip he made with The Champ to those countries. The talk will give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Crawford’s world away from boxing and his heart for people. The event is free and open to the general public.

Read Biga’s stories about the experience at https://leoadambiga.com/?s=crawford+africa

Come to my presentation about going to Africa with Terence Crawford @ July 21 Omaha Press Club Noon Forum


Terence Crawford has captured the hearts and minds of Nebraskans with his move to the front ranks of professional boxing. The Omaha native has traveled a long, hard journey to get where he is at. Boxing is in his blood. The fight game is his life. Yet there is much more to him than the tenacious competitor, finely-tuned, supremely-conditioned, confident, technically-sound, and unbeaten world title holding prizefighter. He is also a devoted family man who loves kids. He is a sincere advocate for his community. He is curious about the wider world outside his hometown and homestate and he has made it a point to broaden his horizons. To indulge his hunger to know more and to see more, particurlarly to experience the Motherland, he has twice ventured to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa. The story of why he went to those places, whom he went with and what he did there reveals much about The Champ. My July 21 Omaha Press Club Noon Forum presentation describes in words and pictures the 2015 trip I made with him to those countries. I hope to see you at this event, where you will get a behind the scenes glimpse into Terence’s world away from boxing and his heart for people. The event is open to the general public.

 

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Come to my presentation about going to Africa with Terence Crawford @ July 21 Omaha Press Club Noon Forum

In touting the event, Omaha Press Club Education Committee member Chris Allen, a colleague of mine who teaches at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, wrote this in the OPC newsletter:

Boxing champion and Omaha native Bud Crawford isn’t all hard abs and steel fists. Bud Crawford has a soft side to him as well.

On Thursday, July 21, Omaha writer Leo Adam Biga will talk about Crawford’s trip to Africa with his fourth-grade teacher to do humanity work.

Crawford made his first trip to Africa in August 2014, shortly after he defeated Yuriorkis Gamoa in a fight in Omaha to retain his light welterweight title. He accompanied Jamie Nollette, his fourth-grade teacher at Skinner Magnet School. Nollette is the founder and executive director of Pipeline Worldwide, a nonprofit organization working on sustainability and self-sufficiency in Uganda and Rwanda.

When she returned to Africa in June 2015, Crawford went along again, before he had to begin training to defend his title that October, which he successfully did. Biga went on that trip through an Andy Award from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

 

 

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Biga’s talk, including many photos from the trip, will highight their experiences over the 12-day journey.

“We met African, American and European program directors, educators, aid workers and humanitarians,” Biga said. “Crawford was feted as a visiting prince by sports officials, who orga-nized a press conference he handled with aplomb.”

Cost for the Noon Education Forum luncheon is $17. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m.. The event is open to the general public.

The Press Club is located on the 22nd floor of the old First National Bank Building at 1620 Dodge Street.

 

AFRICA TALES REVISITED: GOING TO AFRICA WITH THE CHAMP
Here I am doing my thing on the Africa trip I made in June 2015 with Terence Crawford, Jamie Nollette & Co.

Link to my stories about the experience at–
https://leoadambiga.com/?s=crawford+africa

Leo Adam Biga's photo.

Me interviewing our team tour guide in Uganda, Apollo Karugaba, a sweet-natured man who escaped the slums to get an education and to do good workwith Watoto Child Care Ministries. He helped give me a local’s sense for the way of life and the scale of need there. This interview took place outside the Bomah Hotel in Gulu, the largest city in Northern Uganda. In that northern region we visited Bless a Child and Sister Rosemary’s Saint Monica’s site in Gulu and Sister’s second site in Atiak.

 

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Flashback to June 2015: Visiting Africa with Terence “Bud” Crawford


Flashback to June 2015: Visiting Africa with Terence “Bud” Crawford

 

Leo Biga’s Journey in the Pipeline; Following The Champ, Terence “Bud” Crawford, in Africa

©by Leo Adam Biga

These are stories I wrote about my travels to Africa with boxing champ Terence “Bud’ Crawford. The pieces highlight various facets of the two-week trip to Uganda and Rwanda. The first is for Metro Magazine (http://www.spiritofomaha.com/Metro-Magazine/The-Magazine/) and the second is for The Reader (www.thereader.com).

In June 2015 I traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa with the help of the Andy Award for international journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Our travel party of seven included two-time world boxing champion Terence “Bud” Crawford of Omaha. I have been chronicling his rise to boxing prominence for four years and though he is a fighter through and through there is more to him than that. I have seen he has a real heart for his family and community as well as deep loyalty to those around him. He has single-handedly resurrected the sport of boxing in his hometown by fighting several title defenses here before huge crowds at the CenturyLink Center. He operates a gym that is a sanctuary for at-risk youth and young adults, providing them structured, positive activities that teach them lessons inside and outside the ring. Friends of Crawford have embarked on a major building campaign to renovate and expand the gym so that it can serve more people.

When I heard he had gone to Africa in August if 2014 I was intrigued. My interest grew when I learned he traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, two developing nations that have endured much conflict, killing and deprivation. Then I learned the story behind why he went and whom he went with and that motivated me to want to accompany him on the 2015 trip he was making to those same countries. It turns out that in the summer of 2014 Bud and his former fourth grade teacher at Skinner Magnet School in North O, Jamie Nollette, reconnected through social media. She congratulated him on all his success as a fighter and let him know how proud she is of him. When he learned what she does today as the founder and executive director of Pipeline Worldwide, a nonprofit that supports sustainability and self-sufficiency programs in Africa, he was fascinated to go to with her on her next trip.

For the African-American Crawford it was an opportunity to visit what he regards as the Motherland and to see how people there live. His first trip to Africa was indeed an awakening for him as he saw everything from people living in want and healing from trauma to people working regular jobs, going to market and living in comfortable housing. He visited villages and organizations that Pipeline Worldwide assists with funding to build fresh water wells and dormitories and to support programming that helps youth, women and families. He met survivors of civil war, abduction, abuse and genocide. He played with and comforted sick and orphaned children. He gave away lots of things. He also visited natural wonders.

I applied for and received the Andy Award grant from UNO to fund my way to Africa with Crawford, Nollette and four others for the June 1-12, 2015 journey. Our travel party saw everything described above and more. I was there to observe and report on it all. It was my first trip outside the United States and so it was naturally an awakening for me, too.

We met African, American and European program directors, educators, aid workers and humanitarians. We met survivors and perpetrators of violence. Crawford was feted as a visiting prince by sports officials who organized a press conference he handled with aplomb. We spent part of our time in urban centers and part of our time in rural areas. We shopped at open air markets and enclosed malls. We were treated to great hospitality wherever we went and we sampled all manner of the local cultures in the food and fashion and in the dance and music we were exposed to. We also did some service work at one stop. We went on safari and a gorilla trek. All in all, the two weeks added up to an eye opening experience that none of us will soon forget.

From a journalistic perspective, it was a challenge seeing so much in such a short time and capturing as much of it as possible. In my reporting I tried to be as faithful to the experience as time and space limitations allowed. The project did confirm what prompted me to go in the first place – that you should follow your instincts as a reporter and that you should stretch yourself beyond your routine comfort zones. I know I have grown as a result of the experience even if I can’t yet articulate how.

One of the takeaways from it all is that there are many Africans and non-Africans alike working hard to improve conditions and raise quality of life in the countries we visited. While I often felt like a tourist who was only glimpsing small aspects of life there at any given time, I do feel the totality of the journey gave me at least a rough appreciation for how people live.

And, as expected, traveling for two weeks with Crawford gave me new insights into him. I also developed a deeper appreciation for what Nollette and her Pipeline Worldwide does. If anything, the relationship between Crawford and Nollette has grown through their travels together. He helps bring awareness to her Pipeline Worldwide and the programs and projects it supports and she is helping lead the campaign to renovate and expand his B&B Boxing Academy.

There is another dynamic about the trip I made with them that is important to note. Six of the seven in the travel party are from Omaha. Four of us had never been to Africa before and in fact had done little or no travel abroad. Certainly our awareness of conditions, challenges and opportunities in those African nations was greatly increased by that experience and exposure. Eever since coming back I have been writing and presenting about the trip.

AFRICA TALES IN IMAGES
Here is a link to a video slideshow of the June trip I made to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa with The Champ.

The visuals were edited, set to music, given movement and in some cases captioned by my friend Victoria White, an Omaha filmmaker.

NOTE: I am available to make public presentations about the trip.

BTW: My blog, leoadambiga.com, features many other stories I’ve written about Crawford.

 

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The Champ Goes to Africa

Terence Crawford Visits Uganda and Rwanda with his former teacher, this reporter and friends

Two-time world boxing champ Terence Crawford of Omaha has the means to do anything he wants. You might not expect then that in the space of less than a year he chose to travel not once but twice to a pair of developing nations in Africa wracked by poverty, infrastructure problems and atrocity scars: Uganda and Rwanda, I accompanied his last trip as the 2015 winner of the Andy Award for international journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Until now I’ve posted a little about the grant that took me to Africa along with a few pictures and anecdotes from the trip. But now I’m sharing the first in a collection of stories I’m writing about the experience, which is of course why I went there in fhe first place. This cover story in the coming July issue of The Reader (www.thereader.com) emphasizes Crawford within the larger context of what he and the rest of us saw, who we met and what we did. Future pieces for other publications will go even more into where his Africa sojourns fit into his evolving story as a person and as an athlete. But at least one of my upcoming stories from the trip will try to convey the totality of the experience from my point of view and that of others. I feel privilged to have been given the opportunity to chronicle this journey. Look for new posts and updates and announcements related to this and future stories from my Africa Tales series.

 

 

 

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(Below is a text-only format of the same article)

The Champ Goes to Africa

Terence Crawford Visits Uganda and Rwanda with his former teacher, this reporter and friends

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally  appeared in The Reader (www.thereader.com)

EDITOR’S NOTE:
Senior contributing writer Leo Adam Biga, winner of the 2015 Andy Award for international journalism from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, chronicles recent travels he made in Africa with two-time world boxing champion Terence Crawford.

Expanding his vision
Terence “Bud” Crawford’s rise to world boxing stardom reads more graphic novel than storybook, defying inner city odds to become one of the state’s most decorated athletes. Not since Bob Gibson ruled the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s has a Nebraskan so dominated his sport.

When Bud overheard me say he might be the best fighter pound-for-pound Neb.’s produced, he took offense:. “Might be? I AM the best.”

En route to perhaps being his sport’s next marquee name, he’s done remarkable things in improbable places. His ascent to greatness began with a 2013 upset of Breidis Prescott in Las Vegas, In early 2014 he captured the WBO lightweight title in Glasgow, Scotland. He personally put Omaha back on the boxing map by twice defending that title in his hometown before huge CenturyLink Center crowds last year.

In between those successful defenses he traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa in August. He went with Pipeline Worldwide co-founder Jamie Fox Nollette, an Omaha native and Bud’s fourth grade teacher at Skinner Magnet School. After reuniting in mid-2014, he expressed interest going to Africa, where her charitable organization works with partners to drill water wells and to support youth-women’s programs.

When I caught up with The Champ last fall, he left no doubt the impact that first trip made.

“It’s life-changing when you get to go over there and help people,” he says.

Nollette recalls, “When Terence left he had an empty suitcase. He left all his clothes, except what he was wearing, to a bus driver.”

“I just felt they needed it more than I did,” he says. ‘I just thought it was the right thing to do.”

Seeing first-hand profound poverty, infrastructure gaps and atrocity scars made an impression.

“Well, it just made me appreciate things more. It kind of humbled me in a way to where I don’t want to take anything for granted. I haven’t in my life experienced anything of the nature they’re experiencing over there. For one thing, I have clean water – they don’t have clean water. That’s one of their biggest issues and I want to help them with it. They appreciate everything, even if it’s just a hug or a handshake.”

Simpatico and reciprocal
Nollette says the trips and fundraisers she organizes raise awareness and attract donors.

Only weeks after winning the vacant WBO light welterweight title over Thomas Dulorme in Arlington, Texas last April Bud returned to those same African nations with Nollette.

“I told Jamie I would like to go back.”

He says locals told him, “We have a lot of people that come and tell us they’re going to come back and never do. For you to come back means a lot to us.”

“Just the little things mean a lot to people with so little, and so I guess that’s why I’m here,” Bud told an assembly of Ugandans in June.

None of this may have happened if he and Nollettte didn’t reconnect. Their bond transcends his black urban and her white suburban background. He supports Pipeline’s work and she raises funds for his B&B Boxing Academy in North O.

His first Africa trip never made the news because he didn’t publicize it. His June 1 through 12 trip is a different matter.

What about Africa drew this streetwise athlete to go twice in 10 months when so much is coming at him in terms of requests and appearances, on top of training and family obligations?

Beyond the cool machismo, he has a sweet, soft side and burning curiosity. “He really listens to what people say,” Nollette notes. “He wants to understand things.”

His pensive nature gets overshadowed by his mischievous teasing, incessant horseplay and coarse language.

This father of four is easy around children, who gravitate to him. He supports anything, here or in Africa, that gets youth off the streets.

He gives money to family, friends, homies and complete strangers. In 2014 he so bonded with Pipeline’s Uganda guide, Apollo Karaguba, that he flew him to America to watch his Nov. fight in Omaha.

“When I met Apollo I felt like I’ve been knowing him for years. I just liked the vibe I got. He’s a nice guy, he’s caring. He took real good care of us while we were out there.”

Bud says paying his way “was my turn to show him my heart.”

He respects Nollette enough he let her form an advisory committee for his business affairs as his fame and fortune grow.

Even with a lifelong desire to see “the motherland” and a fascination with African wildlife, it took Nollette reentering his life for him to go.

“Certain opportunities don’t come every day. She goes all the time and I trust her.”

His fondness for her goes back to when they were at Skinner. “She was one of the only teachers that really cared. She would talk to me.”

He needed empathy, he says, because “I got kicked out of school so much – a fight here, a fight there, I just always had that chip on my shoulder.” He says she took the time to find out why he acted out.

Catching the vision
Boxing eventually superseded school.

“I used to fall asleep studying boxing.”

Meanwhile, Nollette moved to Phoenix. On a 2007 church mission trip to Uganda she found her calling to do service there.

“It really impacted me,” she says. “I’ve always had a heart for kids and
I always had an interest in Africa.”

She went several times.

“There’s not really anything that can prepare you for it. The volume of people. The overwhelming poverty. Driving for hours and seeing all the want. I didn’t know what possibly could be done because everything seemed so daunting.

“But once I had a chance to go into some villages I started to see things that gave me hope. I was absolutely amazed at the generosity and spirit of these people – their hospitality and kindness, their gratitude. You go there expecting to serve and after you’re there you walk away feeling like you’ve been given a lot more. I was hooked.”

Bud got hooked, too, or as ex-pats say in Africa, “caught the vision.”

“I was very touched by the people and how gracious and humble and thankful they were about everything that came towards them. I had a great time with great people. I experienced some great things.”

Coming to Africa i: 
Uganda
For this second trip via KLM Delta he brought girlfriend Alindra “Esha” Person, who’s the mother of his children. Joseph Sutter of Omaha and myself tagged along, Julia Brown of Phoenix joined us in Detroit and Scott Katskee, a native Omahan living in Los Angeles, added to our ranks in Amsterdam. Nollette arrived in Uganda a day early and met us in Entebbe, where Bud and Apollo enjoyed a warm reunion.

The next seven days in Uganda, which endured civil war only a decade ago, were a blur made foggier by jet lag and itinerary overload. Dividing our time between Kampala and rural areas we saw much.

Roadside shanties. Open market vendors. Christian schools, clinics, worship places. Vast, wild, lush open landscapes. Every shade of green vegetation contrasted with red dirt and blue-white-orange skies. Immense Lake Victoria. Crossing the storied Nile by bridge and boat.

The press of people. Folks variously balancing fruit or other items on their head. Unregulated, congested street traffic. Everything open overnight. Boda bodas (motor bikes) jutting amid cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians. One morning our group, sans me, rode aback boda bodas just for the thrill. I suggested to Bud Top Rank wouldn’t like him risking injury, and he bristled, “I run my life, you feel me? Ain’t nobody tell me what to do, nobody. Not even my mom or my dad.”

Ubiquitous Jerry cans – plastic yellow motor oil containers reused to carry and store water – carted by men, women, children, sometimes in long queues. “All waiting on water, that’s crazy,” Bud commented.

Stark contrasts of open slums and gated communities near each other. Mud huts with thatched roofs in the bush.

Long drives on unpaved roads rattled our bodies and mini-bus.

Whenever delays occurred it reminded us schedules don’t mean much there. Bud calls it TIA (This is Africa). “Just live in the moment…go with the flow,” he advised.

In a country where development’s piecemeal, Apollo says, “We’re not there yet, but we’re somewhere.”

Africans engaged in social action say they’ve all overcome struggles to raise themselves and their countrymen. “I was one of the lucky few to get out (of the slums),” Apollo says. They want partners from the developed world, but not at the expense of autonomy.

Many good works there are done by faith-based groups. Apollo works for Watoto Child Care Ministries, whose campus we toured. Three resident boys close to Nollette bonded with Bud on his last trip. The boys joined us for dinner one night.

We spent a day with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, whose vocational work with exploited females has won acclaim. Last year Nollette produced a video showing Bud training Sister for a mock fight with Stephen Colbert. This time, Nollette, Bud and Co. outfitted a dormitory for her girls in Atiak, where Pipeline built a well. Bud played music the girls danced to. They honored us with a traditional dinner and dance.

We toured Pastor Ben Kibumba’s Come Let’s Dance (CLD) community development organization. Bud and others gave out jerseys to kids.

Nakavuma Mercy directs CLD’s Thread of Life empowerment program for single moms in Kampala’s Katanga slum.

We met Patricia at Bless a Child, which serves cancer-stricken kids in Kampala, and Moses, who’s opening a second site in Gulu. We met young entrepreneurs Charles Mugabi and Richard Kirabira, whose Connect Enterprise and Chicken City Farms, respectively, are part of a creative class Pipeline partners with.

“One of the things I see is that you have a lot of young people with strong leadership skills and I want to be able to come alongside them and support them in their efforts,” Nollette says.

Apollo says Uganda needs new leadership that’s corruption-free and focused on good resource stewardship.

Nollette says she offers “a pipeline to connect people in the States with opportunities and projects in Africa that are really trying to make a difference in their communities.”

It’s all about leveraging relationships and expertise for maximum affect.

We met ex-pats living and work there: Todd Ellingson with City of Joy and Maggie Josiah with African Hospitality Institute.

Josiah offered this advice:

“A lot of times, especially we Americans come over thinking we have all the answers and we know how to fix all the problems, and really we don’t need to fix any of the African problems. They will fix them themselves in their own time. But come over and listen and learn from them. The Africans have so much to teach us about joy when we have very little, they have so much to teach us about what it really means to live in community, what it means to live the abundant life…”

Hail, hail, The Champ is here
Having a world champ visit proved a big deal to Ugandans, who take their boxing seriously. The nation’s sports ministry feted Bud like visiting royalty at a meeting and press conference. He gained extra cred revealing he’s friends with two Ugandan fighters in the U.S., Ismail Muwendo and Sharif Bogere.

“I want to come back with Ismail.”

Ministry official Mindra Celestino appealed to Bud “to be our ambassador for Uganda.” Celestino listed a litany of needs.

“Whatever I can do to help, I’d like to help out,” Bud said. “I’m currently helping out Ismail. He fought on the undercard of my last fight. We’re building him up.”

Bud won over officials, media and boxers with his honesty and generosity, signing t-shits and gloves, posing for pics, sharing his highlight video and delivering an inspirational message.

“For me coming up was kind of hard. You’ve got gangs, you’ve got drugs, you’ve got violence. I got into a lot of things and I just felt like boxing took me to another place in my life where I could get away from all the negativity. I got shot in my head in 2008 hanging out with the wrong crowd. At that time I knew I just wanted to do more with my life, so I started really pursuing my boxing career.

“I had a lot of days I wanted to quit. For you boxers out there this ain’t no easy sport. It’s hard, taking those punches. You might be in the best shape of your life, but mentally if you’re not in shape you’re going to break down.”

He emphasized how much work it takes to be great.

“Every day, any boxing I could watch, I would watch. I would take time out to study, like it was school. I would tell you to just work hard, stay dedicated, give your all every time you go in there and who knows maybe you can be the next champion of the world.”

He referred to the passion, discipline and motivation necessary to carry you past exhaustion or complacency.

“There’s going to be days you want to quit. Those are the days you’ve got to work the hardest. I never was given anything. I was one of those kids they said was never going to make it – I used that as an opportunity to prove them wrong.”

We did take time out to enjoy the outdoors, hiking to the top of Murchison Falls and going on safari at Paraa game preserve. I brought up the rear on the hike and Bud hung back to encourage me: “I’ve got you, Leo…you can do it.” On safari his fondest wish of seeing big cats was fulfilled when we came across two lion prides. He earlier spotted a rare leopard perched on a cliff.

Into Africa II:
Rwanda
Uganda still swam in our heads after flying into Kigali, Rwanda, a city less teeming than Kampala. Despite only a generation removed from genocide, urban Rwanda’s more developed than Uganda. There are even some street lights and stop signs, plus more Western-style construction. In the rural reaches, it’s a sprawling complex of hills and valleys unlike Uganda’s flatlands.

Our guide, Christophe Mbonyingabo, reunited with Bud at the airport.

Just as Bud was mistaken for Ugandan, Rwandans mistook him for one of theirs, too. He delighted in it, especially when residents tried engaging him in their language and he begged off, “I’m American.”

In both countries, access to clean water is a daily challenge.

“Whether you’re passionate about women or children or health or education, once a village gets access to clean drinking water, this very basic need, it just changes everything,” says Nollette. “If a village gets a well it all of a sudden gets a school, a clinic, some agriculture.”

We met young men hoping to make a difference when they complete their U.S. studies. Another, Olivier, lost his entire family in the genocide but has gone on to become a physician.

As Bud put it, we were “happy to meet new friends, new faces.”

Like the work Apollo does in Uganda, Christophe works to heal people in Rwanda. The eastern Congo native needed healing himself after losing his father and two brothers to violence there. He credits being spiritually saved with his founding CARSA (Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance), which counsels genocide survivors and perpetrators to find forgiveness. We met a man and woman – he was complicit in her husband’s murder and stole from her – who’ve come to a serene coexistence. They now share a cow.

All of us expressed awe at this turning-the-other-cheek model.

“They love each other, too, that’s the crazy part,” says Bud, though Christophe said not every survivor forgives and not every perpetrator makes amends.

Bud summed it up with, “Life’s about choices.”

We met a survivor widow for whom Pipeline’s building a new home.

Bud caught up with two boys he met last year. He nearly caused a riot when the gifts he gave and the backflips he performed were spent and a crowd of kids clamored for more.

On the drive into the hills, the stunning vistas resembled Calif. or Mediterranean wine country. It’s a sensory explosion of nature’s verdant, colorful abundance and folks plodding the roadsides on foot and bike, selling wares, hauling bundles, Jerry cans,. you name it.

Upon hiking into a pygmy village, a young woman, Agnes, impressed on us residents’ extreme poverty. Their subsistence living and limited water source pose problems. She shared aspirations to finish school. The villagers danced for us. Our group returned the favor. Then Scott Katskee played Pharrell’s “Happy” and everyone got jiggy.

Seeing so much disparity, Bud observed. “Money can’t make you happy, but it can make you comfortable.”

A sobering experience came at the genocide memorial in Kigali, where brutal killings of unimaginable scale are graphically documented.

Group dynamics and shooting the bull
The bleakness we sometimes glimpsed was counteracted by fun, whether playing with children or giving away things. Music helped. At various junctures, different members of our group acted as the bus DJ. Bud played a mix of hip hop and rap but proved he also knows old-school soul and R&B, though singing’s definitely not a second career. Photography may be, as he showed a flair for taking stills and videos.

In this device-dependent bunch, much time was spent texting, posting and finding wi-fi and hot spot connections.

On the many long hauls by bus or land cruiser, conversation ranged from music to movies to gun control to wildlife to sports. Apparel entrepreneur Scott Katskee entertained us with tales of China and southeast Asia travel and friendships with noted athletes and actors.

Bud gave insight into a tell Thomas Dulorme revealed at the weigh-in of their April fight.

“When you’re that close you can feel the tension. I could see it in his face. He was trying too hard. If you’re trying too hard you’re nervous. If he’s intimidated that means he’s more worried about me than I am about him. I won it right there.”

Our group made a gorilla trek, minus me. Even Bud said it was “hard” trudging uphill in mud and through thick brush. He rated “chilling with the gorillas” his “number one” highlight, though there were anxious moments. He got within arm’s reach of a baby gorilla only to have the mama cross her arms and grunt. “That’s when I was like, OK, I better back off.” A silverback charged.

Back home, Bud’s fond of fishing and driving fast. He has a collection of vehicles and (legal) firearms. He and Esha feel blessed the mixed northwest Omaha neighborhood they live in has welcomed them.

Nollette correctly predicted we’d “become a little family and get to know each other really well.” She was our mother, chaperone, referee and teacher. Her cousin Joseph Sutter, an athlete, became like a little brother to Bud, whom he already idolized. When the pair wrestled or sparred she warned them to take it easy.

“Stop babying him,” Bud said. “I’m not going to hurt him. I’m just going to rough him up. You know how boys play.”

Like all great athletes Bud’s hyper competitive – “I don’t like to lose at nothing,” he said – and he didn’t like getting taken down by Suetter.

Once, when Bud got testy with Nollette. Christophe chastised him, “I hope you remember she’s your teacher.” Bud played peacemaker when things got tense, saying, “Can’t we all get along? We’re supposed to be a family.” We were and he was a big reason why. “What would y’all do without me? I’m the life of the party,” he boasted.

Out of Africa…for now
As The Champ matures, there’s no telling where he’ll wind up next, though Africa’s a safe bet. When I mentioned he feels at home there, he said, “It IS home. I’m AFRICAN-American. It’s where a lot of my people come from historically down the line of my ancestors. Damn, I love this place. I’m just thankful I’m able to do the things I’m able to do. I can help people and it fills my heart.”

Our last night in Africa Christophe and Nollette implored us not to forget what we’d seen. Fat chance.

Recapping the journey, Bud said, “That was tight.”

Bud may next fight in Oct. or Feb., likely in Omaha again.

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My Journey to Africa with The Champ: Free Talk & Video Slideshow

December 7, 2015 2 comments

AFRICA TALES
6 pm, Tuesday, Dec. 8 @ Church of the Resurrection
3004 Belvedere Blvd.
I will be presenting about the June reportng mission I made to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa that The Champ Terence Crawford was on and that his former teacher Jamie Fox Nollette led. I will share lots of pictures from the experience. All are welcome. Free.

 

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Leo Biga’s Journey in the Pipeline; Following The Champ, Terence “Bud” Crawford in Africa

October 14, 2015 1 comment

Leo Biga’s Journey in the Pipeline; Following The Champ, Terence “Bud” Crawford, in Africa

This is the first time i’ve posted the stories I wrote about my travels to Africa with boxing champ Terence “Bud’ Crawford just as they appeared in Metro Magazine (http://www.spiritofomaha.com/Metro-Magazine/The-Magazine/). The publisher and editor generously allotted several pages to this rather epic spread highlighting various facets of the two-week trip to Uganda and Rwanda.

NOTE: As originally presented for publication in metroMAGAZINE/mQUARTERLY August 2015 edition.

©by Leo Adam Biga

BTW: My blog features many other stories I’ve written about Crawford.

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Omaha couple unofficial ambassadors for Ghana, West Africa

October 13, 2015 1 comment

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sam and martine ghana independence 2015

Omaha couple unofficial ambassadors for Ghana, West Africa

©by Leo Adam Biga

Now appearing in the Omaha Star

Omaha couple Martine and Sam Quartey’s passion for Ghana finds them promoting aspects of that West African nation through various cultural, commercial and charitable activities. One of their activities is an every-other-year group trip they lead to Ghana, where Sam was born and raised. They organize the trip via their own S&M Tours. The next tour is scheduled December 20-31. Reservations are closed.

They call their tours Back to Our Roots – A Journey to the Motherland. This time around the couple will take a travel party of eight to see various sights in and around the capital city of Accra and the country’s next largest city Kumasi. Among the historical spots they will visit are some of Ghana’s coastal slave castles where thousands of Africans were detained against their will bound for slave trade ships making The Passage to the Americas and the Caribbean.

Sam Quartey, who works as an automotive mechanic, said it’s not unusual to see visitors cry upon touring the slave castles. “It’s a big story and very emotional,” he said.

Martine Quartey said she found herself “overwhelmed” by the experience.

With its southern border situated on the Atlantic Ocean, Ghana today is a tourist magnet with stunning beachside resorts and history-laden landscapes. Rich in mineral deposits and in cocoa production, the country is more developed than many first time visitors expect.

The December tour will be the fourth the couple’s led to Ghana. They enjoy introducing travelers to a continent and a nation they feel has much more to offer than many realize.

“There’s a lot to see – the beautiful scenery, the vivid colors and bold patterns of the clothing, the entrepreneurial spirit of the people, the bustling markets, the highly developed cities,” Martine said. “There’s also the painful history of slavery and colonization and the successful bid for independence.

“We invite people to take the journey with us, to cross those bridges and cultural boundaries to experience something they don’t expect to find.”

 
accra beach - sam and martine

Ghana, like all of Africa, is known for the warm hospitality of its people. Americans are well-received, Martine said, but for African-Americans it truly is a heritage homecoming with deep currents.

“Because we are of our ancestors, we are returning in a sense and Ghanians greets us by saying, ‘Welcome back my sister, welcome back my brother.’ It’s so beautiful to hear that because finally you feel like you’re at home.”

Ever since she met Sam she has been fascinated with his homeland and she has developed an appreciation for its food and fashion, among other things. She and Sam often dress in Ghana attire and he cooks many traditional dishes. He is president of the Ghana Friendship Association of Nebraska (http://www.ghanafan.org/). The organization holds events that keep alive traditional culture for Ghanians living here, it helps new arrivals from Ghana adjust to American life and it supports schools and clinics in Ghana.

Martine made her first trip to Ghana in 2011, a year after the couple married. Whenever the couple go they bring back authentic garments and accessories as well as natural bath and beauty products because they and Omaha’s resident African community crave such hard to find items here. There is also high demand by local African-Americans for Ghana-ware and incidentals.

Requests for these goods got so frequent the Quarteys saw a business opportunity. Thus, they opened their S&M African Boutique in August. The small store at 6058 Ames Ave. features a surprisingly large array of fashion, bags, jewelry, art, fragrances, oils and shea butter products.

“The boutique is kind of birthed out of feedback we were getting from friends and family” to have these things year-round,” Martine said.

S&M African Boutique is open only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit https://www.facebook.com/SandMAfricanBoutique.

The Quarteys have also formed the Pokuase Promise Project Initiative to support a school they adopted in the village of Pokuase. Sam’s grandfather settled the village. Sam’s father and uncle followed as village leaders. In a spirit of giving back, the couple collect donated supplies (books, computers, markers) they variously ship or personally deliver to the school serviing elementary through senior high students.

To consolidate their school assistance efforts, the couple are building an International Headquarters house in nearby Accra. It will have ground floor storage bays for supplies and a second story private residence. When in Ghana the Quarteys will stay and operate the Pokuase Project from there. They hope to have someone run the Project in country when they are back in the States.

The International House also represents Sam fulfilling a commitment he made to his late mother. The family owns the land the house is being constructed on and Sam’s mother made him promise to do something of substance on it.

“I told my wife about it and she said, ‘Yeah, let’s honor her wishes,’ so we started the project,” Sam said.
His dream is to build a library for the school and dedicate it to the man responsible for him coming to America, the late Bishop William Henry Foeman, who was a much revered and recognized foreign missionary. Sam and his oldest son lived for a time with Foeman, who came to Omaha to pastor Mount Calvary Community Church, where Sam is still a member today.

Working with the school is meaningful to Martine, an education professional. She is an administrative assistant in the Omaha Public Schools’ superintendent’s office and a part-time adult education instructor at Metropolitan Community College.

The Quarteys’ Ghana work is borne of a love that keeps expanding.

“It’s a beautiful thing because it’s blossomed,” Martine said, “and it’s all connected. We have our trips, we have our boutique and we have the school.”

There is also the blog she writes, “Follow My Braids, I Love Ghana, West Africa” at https://followmybraids.wordpress.com/.

The couple are available to speak about Ghana to media and groups.

They will soon be taking reservations for a late fall 2017 trip to Ghana.

For more information, call 402-972-0557.

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Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park & Mausoleum (1st president of Ghana)
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   Independence Square (contains monuments such as the arch, Black Star Gate, and the Liberation Day Monument)
047   Independence Arch (a part of the Independence Square – represents Ghana’s struggle for independence from Great Britain)

AFRICA TALES VIDEO SLIDESHOW

August 7, 2015 Leave a comment

AFRICA TALES VIDEO SLIDESHOW
Here is a video slideshow of the June trip I made to Uganda and Rwanda, Africa with The Champ, Terence Crawford, and Alindra I PersonJamie Fox NolletteScott KatskeeJoseph Sutter and Julia Brown. The visuals were edited, set to music, given movement and in some cases captioned by my friend Victoria White, an Omaha filmmaker.

NOTE: I am available to make public presentations about the trip and the video slideshow will be a part of the talk that I give. We will be updating the video slideshow with new images to keep it fresh and to represent different aspects of the experience we had in those developing nations.

My stories about the trip can be accessed at-

https://leoadambiga.com/?s=africa

All my stories about Terence Crawford can be found at-

https://leoadambiga.com/?s=crawford

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