Ramon, Badu Sports and the “We” thing.

Ramon, Badu Sports and the “We” thing.

Badu Sports is a grass-roots sports organisation based in East London. At B+A we’ve had the pleasure of working with them, learning from them, and getting to know their people. Over the past few months they have continued to inspire us to raise our game by simply showing us that they’ve got their priorities right: Community & Humanity first. Always. Here, Nicola catches up with Ramon, one of the coaches at Badu, to reflect on the power of sport to heal and nourish communities in even the most testing of social circumstance.

So, Ramon, what’s your backstory?

I moved to this country when I was seven with my Mum and Brother. I was the older brother, but not “older”, and the Dad but not really the Dad. English wasn’t my first language, so going to school, where I learnt English and brought it home, was truly a blessing. I think that the main thing in life is adapting to your surroundings and that was our only focus. When I look back it’s only then I realise the pressure I was going through, but’s it’s made me the person I am.

Besides school, what else helped you adapt?

My Mum’s mentality. She never gives up. I’ve seen the resolve in her to do everything for her kids. She’s sacrificed everything for us. So, I know where I’ve come from and I know what I can do. I just have it in my mind, “never give up, never give up…”. When I do make it, my Mum has to be first in line to reap the benefits.

What’s Hackney like, where you live? 

Hackney has changed. For the better I should say. It’s always been an amazing place to live in, but now it’s better. There’s less crime and it’s safer for kids to go out. When I moved there it wasn’t paradise. It was rough. There was a lot of theft, robbery, shooting. The chance of something bad happening was high. But the community was amazing. I grew up in flats, where your neighbour goes to the same school as you, you see that neighbour after school, you see their Mum cooking, you smell the food from downstairs, you hear someone playing music. A lot of people were Africans from similar cultures to me. There was diversity but it was so friendly. That was good – I didn’t feel like an alien. It was a new surrounding, but it felt homely.

How has Covid-19 affected Hackney?

Everyone has felt it hard. People in Hackney are working class families, you have to understand, we’re not in Chelsea or Fulham. But then at the end of the day we are one community. If the government won’t help, you have to do it yourselves.

Can you tell us more about the work Badu Sports is doing to help the community?

Badu helps the community. People come in and volunteer, local businesses have donated, even police officers are coming in and delivering to the community and chipping in their time.

Last week we finished Badu’s food banks initiative which we’ve been doing for the past few months, because we’re shifting our focus to our Summer Camp, which we do in school breaks. We run a camp for kids to try sports that they might not have played before, sports that they’d enjoy doing. It gives them time away from home, it gets them off the streets, gets them doing something they love, trying new things, teaching them life skills.

What life skills do you support young people with?

Being a better person, helping the neighbours, you know that sort of thing. You learn different ways of thinking and doing things, you learn a lot about yourself. You see some kids, they come to the camp, they are reserved and by the end of it they’ve made a billion friends. They’ve won the hearts of a lot of people. It’s a safe environment where you meet a lot of new friends. You know when you have a story to tell? it’s nice isn’t it?

How has preparing for camp been this year with restrictions?

We’re going to go ahead with it normally, so we’re excited. It’s the holiday at the end of the day, we’re under quarantine but kids need a place to go. We’re ‘one community’ so we need a place to come to. For us it’s a no brainer as long as we keep it safe.

How would you describe 2020 to future generations?

End of the world? Nah, I’m joking! I’d tell them that it was the first time that a lot of us got tested in terms of morale and human nature. It’s not about me or you no more. It’s a we thing. Clearly, for there to be a change, and for us to get through this, this is the way it has to be. No one person can do it alone. So it shouldn’t just be a we thing for now, it has to be that way from now on.

It’s like with the Black Lives Matter movement – that’s a we thing too. A lot of people are starting to understand the situation that people of colour are going through. So, that’s a thing I will take out of 2020. We are a collective. We are the human race.

Has Badu Sports taken this “we thing” approach?

1000%. There is no way we could have done the food-banks without a team. If people didn’t come from the outside then it wouldn’t have happened. If people didn’t think about the world as a ‘we’ it wouldn’t have happened. There were some people not leaving their houses because they had elderly at home so they needed to trust that Badu would look after them. I go to a house and they see the Badu shirt and they know who we are. The parents know us, the kids know us. There is trust there.

Let’s talk about sport. Do you think sport has the power to change the world?

Definitely. Sport is a lifeline. It’s a massive thing in life. It teaches you so much about yourself, and how you perceive things. Look at football: it’s a team sport. Football gets someone from “me me me…” to “we we we…” If one person doesn’t do what they practiced it breaks down. But in every sport there is a team, even in individual sports like tennis, there’s a huge team behind you. Sport teaches you life skills, how to communicate and how get the best out of the yourself.  Sports is a way of reflecting on yourself – keep doing it and you’ll get better. Sport is a trial, it gets you involved, seeing things differently. Playing sports can be therapy, chasing your goal and getting away from your stress. There are so many ways sports can have an impact on someone’s life.

That’s about the individual though, right? How does that translate into changing the world for everyone?

Ah okay, I get you. Well I think….Sports can carry so many big messages. It has a huge platform. Look at the World Cup, Wimbledon or Super Bowl. Take the Black Lives Matter movement. Every single professional football team is now supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. “BLM” on teams shirts, players kneeling before the game, you see it on your TV screen right next to where you see the scores and time of the game. It shows awareness of things that are going on. That alone shows there can be a positive impact through sport. Sports can help create awareness. Sport is a beacon of light. Yeah, it’s a beacon of light.

Great, my final question is : are you excited about the future?

Yes, yes I am. I just turned 22, I see it as another journey, another year. I’m taking steps towards things I want to do in life in terms of achieving my goals. I want to tackle big issues like poverty, to be in a position where I can help the many people who are suffering in war torn countries, countries in poverty or with corrupted governments. That won’t happen if I don’t lift a finger in my own community to make something better. So my main goal starts with the community – what can we do to make the community better to tackle the issues ahead of us?