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Finding her path: NFL referee Maia Chaka speaks in Niagara Falls

She is an NFL official and history-maker in the league.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Maia Chaka spent Saturday afternoon in Niagara Falls talking about life and sports.

She is the first Black woman hired by the NFL as an on-field official.

"What is even better than breaking that barrier is being able to have the love and support of your community and the people who look like you because that is more important than any other brand that you could possibly have," she told a hyped crowd.

Chaka was in town speaking at the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers Spring Fest. The focus was on uplifting community and observing mental health awareness.

The community wellness festival for youth and families attracted many young people.

Chaka took the audience on a brief journey about her life by incorporating music into her presentation. The 41-year-old Rochester native talked about her tough times growing up in Rochester.

"I wasn't able to reach my full potential when I was in high school. I didn't graduated on time. I had to go to summer school. I think my GPA was a 1.74," she said.

"Whenever you're trying to get anywhere in life, you need to have somebody who is going to be your ride or die, literally, somebody who is always going to advocate for you and put you in a good position. My advocate came from someone who looks nothing like me."

Chaka is an advocate of taking care of your mental health.

To entertain the crowd, she intertwined her love of hip-hop with her presentation. 

"I thought I could be a rapper, but I had no bars. so it didn't really work out for me," she said.

However, she did discover something she was good at.

"I found out I could throw flags really well, and because I could throw flags really well, and tell men what to do all the time, and force them to listen to me, I thought, 'That officiating would be like a better path,' " she said.


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