Below are excerpts from a recent conversation with former Lakers player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whom the State Department recently named as a cultural ambassador. He will travel to Brazil from Sunday through Jan. 28, with stops in Salvador and Rio de Janiero. There he will talk to young people about education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding and using sports as a means of empowerment. You can listen to the entire 23-minute interview in the video above.
On his trip to Brazil: "I'll do a couple of basketball clinics and also be involved in discussions with young people. The Brazilian government is trying to rearrange the educational system so it reaches more of the population. They think the population is underserved by the educational system and needs revamping. The U.S. government will try to help them with this. I'll talk to young people about the need for education."
On his book, "What Color is My World": "The book is about black inventors. It's targeted for kids 8-12 years old. My motivation in writing it had to do with my memories of ... when I was ... growing up. Black Americans were only mentioned in regards to the use of slavery and civil rights. There's so much more to that story. By focusing on black inventors, you can see where black Americans have contributed so much to world culture in the many inventions they have made."
On what interests him about history: "It started with the neighborhood I grew up in in Manhattan and New York City. It was a Revolutionary War battlefield ... As a kid, we'd find musket balls and old bottles in vacant lots and in the parks. Sometimes after it rains, we'd find arrowheads in Manhattan. I was always aware of the people that superceded us."