Elevating Black Leaders in Sport

Elevating Black Leaders in Sport is an initiative designed by Laureus USA and launched in partnership with Gatorade to meet the specific needs of grassroot, Black-led organizations (or Black-led programs) with the dual goals of holistically supporting Black leaders in youth sports and increasing access to sports-based youth development programming for Black youth. 

Laureus USA will leverage support from funders specially interested in supporting Black youth and Black leaders to make targeted grants and build a co-hort of leaders from those organizations to support their development and help lead our work in this area.

Laureus USA and Gatorade identified eight organizations across four cities – New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Minneapolis – for the pilot program and hope to expand to include more organizations and build out additional co-hort programming.

Meet the

Inaugural Cohort

Mohamed Magassa, President of H.O.O.D Organization.

Mohamed values helping others and solving detrimental issues. He is a senior who is currently enrolled in courses at CUNY Herbert H. Lehman College. Pursing a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, Mohamed dreams to become a Neurological Surgeon someday. He is currently a Jeannette K. Watson Fellow and a Teach for America Ambassador.

Madimakan Magassa, CEO of H.O.O.D Organization.

Madimakan has always been the type of hard worker that cared for those in need. As the man of the house, he ensures that his family is safe and secured.  Knowing what it feels like to take the wrong turn, Madimakan sets out to warn the youth about the negative outcomes of being on the street. He pushed to motivate the future generation as they will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Travis Seka, CFO of H.O.O.D Organization.

Travis has a history of giving back to people when he is given the opportunity to so. He fits well within Hood Productions due to his desire of impacting lives all over low-income communities. With interest in creative writing, Travis seeks to publish his own pieces of literature, portraying significant experiences in his life.

McKinley Nelson, Founder and Executive Director, Project sWish

Chicago native and Xavier University in Cincinnati graduate, McKinley Nelson combined activism and basketball. He founded and runs Project Swish, a nonprofit organization that hosts a basketball league and pickup games in Chicago neighborhoods known to have the highest crime rates. Project sWish Chicago was developed to use basketball as a vehicle to push an anti-violence and mental health initiative in urban neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland Area. In a short span of 2 years, sWish has reached over 1,500 participants throughout the city of Chicago aging from 6-25.

Sally Nnamani, U.S. Director of Programs & Partnerships of PeacePlayers

For nearly a decade, Sally has helped build grassroots sports programs, led strategic partnerships, and supported fundraising efforts for some of the top organizations in the sport for social change space. She brings her knack for collaborative problem solving and leadership style to her work at PeacePlayers. In her role, she leads the strengthening and scaling of PeacePlayers programs across five markets. She also co-leads key institutional partnership engagement with stakeholders such as Nike, NBPA, and NBA teams. Sally prides herself on being a lifelong athlete, after moving to the US from Nigeria in middle school, sport became her anchor and connector in her new community.

LaTeef Pyles, Founder and Executive Director, Hoopz U

A barber by profession, LaTeef lives and operates his business in downtown Atlanta. LaTeef moved to Vine City, Atlanta 15 years ago, as it reminded him of the South Side of Chicago area where he grew up. He started HoopZ University Mentorship Program to teach local kids to play basketball, while working in lessons about healthy living. He aims to mentor the youth with the aim of providing a cycle that might lead to stronger families.

Tony Sanneh, Founder and CEO of The Sanneh Foundation

Among the most successful American soccer players of his generation, Tony Sanneh enjoyed a 17-year professional soccer career. At the height of his playing career, he created The Sanneh Foundation (Sanneh) to leverage the unique power of positive developmental relationships to create opportunities and social change for under-served youth from low-income families and communities of color. To this day, Tony continues to serve the United States as a Sports Envoy on behalf of the Sports Diplomacy Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He also continues to contribute directly to the sport of soccer in the United States as a member of MLS’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Michael (Mike) A. Shelton, Founder and Executive Director, Heritage Youth Sports Foundation

Michael A. Shelton is a long-time resident of North Minneapolis, father of 3. He is passionate about his community and supports youth initiatives. Mike works with a wide variety of families that come from all walks of life. He uses his skills to devise and implement a wide range of strategies to help empower and encourage families in North Minneapolis. Mike has a love for sports such as soccer, baseball, and basketball, which he competed in all. Even though Mike attended college where he studied Hotel Restaurant Management he still wanted to do something sports related in his community. He started a nonprofit called Heritage Youth Sports Foundation, where the mission is “Changing lives and community through sport”.

Kelli Stewart, Founder of L.E.A.D.

Today, Kelli, and her husband, C.J. Stewart, oversee two business ventures that they started together. Through L.E.A.D., they train and develop some of Atlanta’s hidden treasures in Atlanta Public Schools. L.E.A.D. provides inner city boys with the same opportunities to excel in life through baseball as the Stewarts’ Diamond Directors clients with the focus being accessing higher education and community leadership. To date, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have achieved a 100% high school graduation rate, 90% college enrollment rate, 93% scholarship rate (academic and athletic). Through Diamond Directors, they train and develop some of the country’s top amateur and professional baseball athletes: Jason Heyward (Cardinals), Dexter Fowler (Cubs) and Tyler Flowers (White Sox) are a

LaVonte Stewart, Executive Director of Lost Boyz Inc.

LaVont’e earned his Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Chicago State University, and his Master’s in Public Administration at DePaul University. He enjoyed a 9-year career in government working for the Illinois Legislature and State Treasurer’s Office. LaVont’e started working closely with troubled youth through the intersection of baseball and public administration, and founded Lost Boyz Inc., a Sports Based Youth Development not for profit organization. LaVont’e currently serves as Executive Director and resides in his childhood community of South Shore in Chicago Illinois.

Thank you to our

founding partner

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