Bari Musawwir, Monster Jam’s First African-American Driver, Aims to Inspire
Bari Musawwir isn’t like most monster truck drivers. Rather than having a background in motorsports, Bari was discovered due to his advanced skills at driving remote controlled (RC) cars. In addition, he is the first African-American driver in the history of Monster Jam.
“It took me four years from being discovered to being hired professionally, so it didn’t happen overnight for me,” explained Bari in his exclusive interview with The News Wheel. “But, as far as being a minority, it comes back to Monster Jam being able to broaden your horizons. There are several people in the sport now that speak more than one language. It’s pretty cool that we have people from all over the world that are doing this. That makes it relatable for so many different people.”
Bari, who grew up in Cleveland, was quick to give credit to his parents when we asked him about the most influential people in his life.
“(My parents) had the forethought to expose me to so many different things in life at a young age. I got well-rounded and wasn’t focused on just one thing,” he said. “I had so many exposures as a child; I played the violin as a kid. I had so many things I was exposed to that helped mold me into thinking what I might want to do later in life.”
This effort to foster a range of opportunities is an effort Bari is continuing for his own son. “You’ve got to expose them to as much as you can because they’re like sponges and soak up everything. You want to broaden their horizons so they’re not one-track-minded when they grow older.”
Although it wasn’t easy for Bari to break into the industry at first, his RC car skills earned him meetings with Monster Jam representatives like Bill Easterly. Beginning in 2006, Bari worked hard to build connections in the industry until his competitive debut finally occurred on Memorial Day weekend of 2010 driving Backwards Bob. After driving the Spider-Man truck for a couple years, he took over Zombie, which he is currently piloting in Monster Jam’s East Coast Tour.
Thinking back on his efforts to break into the monster truck industry, Bari observed, “There are so many different avenues people can take to break into Monster Jam these days. It used to be that you just go volunteer your time with a local Monster Jam team; they would show you the ropes, and eventually you would make your way up the ladder. But now, with the advent of Monster Jam University, they take people from all walks of life. You don’t have to have any background in motorsports. You just need to be approachable, likable, and willing to work.”
In the five years since he was discovered, Bari picked up the 2011 Rookie of the Year, won the inaugural Young Guns Shootout, and has driven in shows in Dubai, Europe, Mexico, and Abu Dhabi. Bari has also met famous celebrities such as Shaquille O’Neal, Rob Dyrdek, and Keith Urban, but there is one person in particular who he would like to meet next.
“I would really enjoy meeting Steve Harvey,” he told us. “If I could ever be fortunate enough to [be] on his TV show, I think it would inspire a lot of people. It’s one of those things where I hear people say, ‘I don’t know too many people that get to live out their childhood dreams,’ and I get paid to do mine and have fun at it, and I’m excelling at it at a high level. So it’s definitely something I would like to share with more people on a broader scale. Hopefully it’s something I get to do one day.”