launched from the coast of Senegal on May 7, he was hoping to become
the first black American to make this trek. His goal was to raise
awareness for AIDS in Africa and to honor the route African slaves
made to the Americas. But the wooden boat he built in a Prospect
Heights garage sprang a leak after he left Goree Island and he was
rescued by the Senegalese navy after treading water for nearly half an
The 41-year-old returned to his wife and four children in Woodhaven on
Saturday. On Monday, he went to the doctor for a check-up — “I’m fine
physically and mentally,” he said. Yesterday, he was ready to speak
about his experience.
“I feel God has something else for me to do on land,” Mooney said,
back in his office at ASA: The College of Excellence, where he is a
public relations officer.
“The boat is resting off the land of our ancestors, so I was able to
memorialize them in this way,” he said. “In Africa, I had a chance to
see the population and my story brought hope to people. I was able to
keep my promise that I would row for our ancestors.”
When he radioed for help, it triggered a call to the government, which
contacted his wife. “It’s like when the military calls to say someone
is wounded or dead,” Mooney said. “It was scary for her. I was
prepared for the worst-case scenario, which was death.”
He planned to row all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Mooney said he won’t attempt the trip again, but he will continue to
be an activist for HIV/AIDS. One of his brothers died of AIDS and
another is HIV-positive.
“When the boat was submerged in the water, there was no anger or
sadness,” he said. “It was a sense of joy because I thought about our
ancestors and how for the first time they were being memorialized in
this way. People of Goree Island gave me beads before I left, put them
around my neck and now I’m a resident of Goree. It’s home to me, and I
plan to bring my family there.”