Whether it’s athletes or community all-stars, he honors the underdog. This week’s Jefferson Award winner believes there are some people, famous or not, who are not getting the recognition or encouragement they deserve. So he does it himself.

13-year-old Lavonn Beal received an award for working hard at school. But the eighth grader strives for more.

“How can I be a young black man and do good and do better?” he asked rhetorically.

He’s getting a mentor to guide him, thanks to Arif Khatib, who helped organize the awards ceremony to encourage young African Americans to reach for the stars.

“They’re good boys,” Khatib said. “They just need mentoring because they don’t have a male figure in their lives.”

The mentor program is not just for boys and young men. Khatib also mentors a young woman law student who is the first in her family to go to college.

And besides the mentor program, Khatib also honors unsung heroes in sports and the community.

“I wanted them to know that they played hard, and they did it the right way,” he explained.

Khatib felt many excellent athletes were overlooked, so in 2000, he started his own Hall of Fame, to recognize standouts far and wide. At first, he inducted only African Americans, then several years later, he recognized winners of all races. His Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, MESHOF for short, has inducted more than 350 sports figures, including WNBA star Ruthie Bolton, Oakland Raiders’ Fred Biletnikoff, and the Golden State Warriors’ Joe Roberts.

“A few tears choked me up for a moment,” Roberts said.

Roberts, assistant coach for the 1975 NBA champs, says the Multi Ethnic Hall of Fame award is very special.

“It means to me I’ve done something right in the Bay Area with other great athletes.”

And MESHOF is not just for Bay Area sports figures. It has honored people from all over the country, and even all over the world. Representatives try to go to where the winners are to save money by not bringing them to the Bay Area for the induction.

Through MESHOF, Khatib has also honored nearly 300 community leaders, like retired Oakland Tribune writer Dave Newhouse.

MESHOF assistant Michelle Hall says by recognizing their contributions, Khatib seeks to affirm and inspire others.

“He brings to light the hidden treasures in people,” Hall said.

So for encouraging young African Americans to succeed, and for honoring people who have, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Arif Khatib.


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