Legendary actor Obba Babatundé on sports and his December 6th concerts in New York
An internationally-recognized actor, dancer, director, producer and singer, Obba Babatundé has been seen in dozens of major movies. Babatundé has also appeared in episodes of plenty of key television shows. In turn, it is not particularly surprising to long-time followers of the multi-hyphenate that he is an Academy Award Winner.
Obba Babatundé also remains active off-screen with a variety of causes. For starters, he is the leader of the Get Empowered! Unity Arts Tour, a major supporter of arts education. Beyond working with Get Empowered!, he has also done notable work with Habitat For Humanity and The KIS Foundation.
Babatundé will be performing at New York's Dizzy's Club in Lincoln Center on December 6th. You can follow him on Twitter via @ObbaBabatunde.
You are notably a triple-threat, a well-regarded singer, dancer and actor. I've read that you've also worked as a ring announcer. When did you try ring announcing for the first time?
Obba Babatundé: The ring announcing duties started years ago when my friend Marvin Columbus started a program named K.O. High. It was introducing high school students to the sport of boxing. Through this program, we helped redirect the youth into ways of channeling aggression, better communication skills as well as getting in shape in a way only boxing can. Mr. Columbus now has his pro-boxing license and is a promoter here in Los Angeles. I am always his ring announcer.
Are you a big fan of boxing beyond working as a ring announcer?
Obba Babatundé: I have been a boxing fan for many years. I was a friend of the great Muhammad Ali.
Who is your favorite boxer these days?
Obba Babatundé: There are lots of boxers I like in different weight classes, but I will be ringside December 1st, for the big heavyweight bout between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. I was at the weigh-in and I'm sure it will be a war, but I like Deontay.
Are you also interested in MMA or wrestling? Or is boxing the main ring-based sport that you are interested in?
Obba Babatundé: I respect the hard work and commitment of all sports warriors.
Your grandson Tarik Cohen is on the Chicago Bears. Have the Bears always been your favorite team in the NFL?
Obba Babatundé: I have followed the various teams of the NFL over the years, but when your Grandson is Tarik "The Human Joystick" Cohen, you root for the Bears like you have never rooted before.
Were you yourself a competitive athlete at any point?
Obba Babatundé: My personal sport lives in the world of equestrian. I am a Horse Whisperer and have been a Rodeo Competitor. I am an active participant and supporter of the Bill Pickett Rodeo; the love for horses and live-stock is where my heart is.
Notably you were mentored by Sammy Davis Jr., was he a big sports fan?
Obba Babatundé: My friend and entertainment mentor was Mr. Sammy Davis Jr. Sammy, as I remember, was a big sports fan as well.
Back to you, you will be performing two shows at New York City's Dizzy's Club in December. For someone who hasn't seen you live before, what should be expected?
Obba Babatundé: This December 6th I will be in concert at the world-renowned Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York City, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center, for two shows -- 7:30 PM and 9:30 OM -- with a red-hot band and some amazing special guests. My show has something for everyone. My style of entertaining will bring back the years when the entertainer gave their all - singing, dancing, impersonating, and, above all, pure heart.
You seem to be working on more than a handful of projects at any given time. One of them is with the Get Empowered! team doing outreach. Who was it that first inspired you to do so much volunteer work?
Obba Babatundé: My passion doesn't just live in my artistic profession because we live in a world where people need people. I love aligning myself with groups and organizations that are committed to inclusion, health and wellness, education, and social responsibility.
One such organization is Get Empowered! This multicultural team of socially conscious artists and educators reach out to children and people of all ages in New York, California and diverse communities around the country of all backgrounds, cultures and social economic backgrounds to empower, enlighten, educate and inspire to be their best selves.
They use Multicultural Arts and Mindfulness to bring people together in empowering, positive ways and encourage learning, growth and connection. It is always inspiring to be a part of outreach to children at schools, after schools, camps and community centers with Get Empowered!, including my own childhood YMCA in Jamaica, Queens. Their Unity & Inclusion programs really make a difference in children’s lives.
I've also committed time to Habitat For Humanity and the KIS Foundation who raise awareness about Sickle Cell Disease.
Finally, Obba, any last words for the kids?
Obba Babatundé: Lastly my words to the youth: "Remember, it's not how long you have been living, but how long you have been paying attention." Stay awake and believe in yourself as I believe in you.