West Sydney is known for a lot of things: Australian drill, hectic lads, flares, and football codes. But deep in the westward sprawl, in the suburb of Blacktown, you’ll also find Savannah Pride – a community basketball initiative that was started as a means of creating social engagement, and is now responsible for sending ballers to the US and sending young men to private school on scholarships. Savannah Pride founder Mayor Chagai tells Complex AU the story of how he used basketball to create, and enrich, a community.
"These kids really became outstanding,” Savannah Pride founder Mayor Chagai tells me, with more than just a tinge of pride in his voice. “They embraced basketball for the greater benefit.”
From the outside, Savannah Pride is a basketball program. Kids show up, play some ball, go home and continue their lives, then show up again the following week to do it again. But through basketball, Savannah Pride has saved lives, created opportunity, and connected the community in ways nobody could have expected.
The program was founded in the mid-00s, when Mayor Chagai migrated to Australia from a Kenyan refugee camp. Suddenly finding himself a long way – culturally, literally, and figuratively – from Nairobi, Chagai was struck by a dearth of options for not only himself, but the many other African migrants that had joined him in searching for a new beginning in West Sydney.
“We all met here as people in a new country,” explains Chagai. “There was no engagement, we had nothing to do. There was no knowledge about activities in the community, or how to get involved. No one was there to help to connect you.”
Seeking social engagement, Chagai looked to build a community with basketball.