Ivy Awino holds dual roles with the Dallas Mavericks as the Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sports Sound Strategist. To thousands of MFFLs though, she’s better known as Poizon Ivy the DJ, and right now she’s at the top of her game. Ivy is currently the official music and sound coordinator with the Basketball Africa League and is spinning the beats for the inaugural season from May 16-30 live from Kigali, Rwanda. The big stage is nothing new for Poizon Ivy; she’s spun at three NBA All-Star weekends and in 2018 became the first woman to DJ the NBA All-Star Game. Ivy has also been a part of the Dallas Mavericks family since she was a child, first becoming a Mavs Ball Kid, then landing a job as the team’s first female DJ in franchise history.
The BAL is a homecoming of sorts for Ivy, who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. This week, Ivy gave the Dallas Mavericks a sneak peak into her journey back to Africa. She also thanks BAL President Amadou Gallo Fall, “for being the living and breathing embodiment of the power that sport has to change the world and the continent of Africa.”
Here’s more from Ivy Awino, in her own words…
I am currently in Kigali, Rwanda curating musical and sonic vibes for the inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League.
Anyone who knows me knows that I obsess over the intersectionality of sport, entertainment, and lifestyle and their potential to function as a conduit for advancement not only on the continent of Africa but for the Afro diaspora.
My lived and learned experience is my proof of concept.
I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. I grew up an only child but was raised in the company of my large extended family, many of whom were fans of sports. My Uncle Shem especially loved basketball, the NBA, the Chicago Bulls, and Michael Jordan. There was a particular VHS highlight tape that we watched countless times, and immediately after, I would be summoned to serve as a rebounder for him as he attempted to recreate moves that he had seen several players execute in the video.
At the age of 9, my grandmother and I joined my mother in Dallas, Texas, where she had lived for roughly five years.
I remember watching the now-defunct UPN21 one day when I saw an advertisement about Dallas Mavericks Hoop Camp. All I recall was that at the end of the advert, the announcer mentioned that an incentive to attend hoop camp was that ball kids were chosen from the attendees.
I honestly couldn’t tell you that I knew what a ball kid was or did at that moment. All I knew was that I wanted to go to hoop camp and at least find out.
To keep a very long story short, I went to hoop camp, found out what ball kids did, became one, and ultimately was one for 6 years.
This is where I remember first seeing Amadou Gallo Fall. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know who he was, but all I remember is looking at the sidelines and seeing a very tall, dark-skinned man and immediately thinking … HE’S GOT TO BE AFRICAN. Even though we never spoke or interacted, seeing someone of my heritage in a role that I couldn’t even define at the time made me very proud. Say it with me; representation of all kinds matters.
So fast forward nearly 8 years later, after I’ve graduated college and made up my mind that pursuing a career in sports is what I want to do, I begin doing research on the NBA. This was before I joined the Mavericks as their vibe curator. It was then that I discovered that the NBA Africa entity was a thing, and guess what… Amadou Gallo Fall was the Vice President and Managing Director at the time.
Let me tell y’all how God works.
When I joined the Mavs in 2016, I set five goals.
In 2016, I did indeed make it through season one and ended up connecting with my new big brother Luca Desta. I shared with Luca my interest in working with NBA Africa/the Basketball Without Borders program one day. He promised to get me connected to the one who could make all that possible – Gallo. In 2017, I was invited to DJ NBA All-Star events but not any of the official ones. I was assigned a few NBA Cares events and some of the international activations.
It was after one of these parties that I serendipitously bumped into the man himself. I recall seeing Gallo walking out of the venue. After introducing myself and explaining that I was a member of the Mavericks staff, he was delighted to connect and gave me his business card. Guess what y’all? For some odd reason, I put the card in my checked luggage, which the airline lost. While I was shattered, Luca Desta, who had initially offered to make the introduction, ended up reconnecting us. Sometimes things are just meant to happen a certain way.
The following year, after becoming the first woman to DJ an All-Star game (All-Star Sunday in Los Angeles at Staples Center might I add), I was offered the opportunity to music and sound direct the NBA Africa Game. During my trip to South Africa, I had the chance to have a formal meeting with Gallo. It was there that I shared with him my interest in the intersectionality between sport and entertainment and how it could be used for the growth and advancement of not only basketball but many other sectors on the continent. And, of course, I programmed the game with all African music.
We had a wonderful conversation and solidified a mentor/mentee relationship. He always ensured that I was invited to all NBA Africa events, BWB events, and the All-Star weekend luncheons.
In 2019, I remembered running into him in Charlotte during ASW, and to this day, I remember his exact words.
“My sister, please make sure that you are at the luncheon. I have something for you. We are making an announcement that I think you will be interested in.”
Of course, because I was in rehearsals for All-Star Friday, I was a tad bit late to the luncheon and walked into murmurs of Michael Jordan had just exited the luncheon. Why was MJ himself there? Well, because this was the historic announcement of the launch of the Basketball Africa League.
It was really happening! The vision that I had wanted to be a part of and had shared with Gallo was really happening. There would be an African league fully backed by the NBA taking place on the continent, and I really had the opportunity to lend my expertise from the very jump!
Somewhere in between, I also got the opportunity to travel to Dakar, Senegal, as NBA Africa ambassador/influencer. I got to visit the very first NBA Academy in Saly. I also built excellent relationships with other African basketball legends, executives, coaches, players, etc. I have to say that these trips have been so impactful on a personal and professional level. Getting to meet and connect with others passionate about similar causes while on the continent is always supercharging.
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