By Jacob Sax Conteh, Cocorioko Editor-in-Chief :
On New Year’s Eve, as hundreds of Sierra Leoneans in the Washington, DC metropolitan area clogged area churches, executives of the Fullah Progressive Union (FPU) converged at the Days Inn on New York Avenue in Washington, DC to set up for their annual fundraiser. After the New Year was ushered in with special Sierra Leonean music, the huge hall punctuated with neon lights, immaculate evening dresses, miniskirts and suits pulsated with life as more people arrived. Imam Cole opened the ceremony with prayer after Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, a medical and symbolic anthropologist and Executive Director, of MSLDC Inc. and her co-MC made brief remarks. Following prayers, Mr. Mohamed Bah, President of FPU took the mike. He called all his members to the podium, and thanked them for a superb job. He later presented awards to various people who have helped the organization over the years.
TWO AFRICAN BEAUTY QUEENS
One of the highlights of the evening was a speech by Mr. Ben Jalloh, a veteran Fullah leader from New Jersey. In his speech, he reiterated that after a recent trip to Nigeria where he attended a meeting with Fullahs from around the world, he has come to find out that there are over 70 million Fullahs around the world, living in different countries. He explained that the Fullah organization started way back in Sierra Leone during the dark days when they used to round up Fullahs (many of them Sierra Leoneans) and lock them up. Mr. Jalloh and others organized the Fullah Union to help free up Fullahs. Today, the organization has grown exponentially both in the US and around the world.
FPU PRESIDENT MR. MOHAMED BAH ( LEFT ) AND SOME MEMBERS
In his speech, FPU President Mr. Mohamed Bah explained the main goal of the fundraiser this year. Unlike most Sierra Leonean organizations in the United States that send all their funds to Sierra Leone, FPU believes in the development of Sierra Leonean children born here in the United States. A few years ago, they launched a program to teach their children the Fullah culture and religion. Recently, they bought a building in Maryland and they need the funds to refurbish and equip the building for the school.
MR. AND MRS. BEN JALLOH
Following the speeches, veteran DJ, Songo Train, took over, playing successive songs for minutes as men and women took to the floor. The atmosphere was festive. After taking several pictures on both my iPad and iPhone, and as the lights were dimed for the dancers, I left for my drive home to Virginia, knowing full well that Sierra Leoneans will continue to be tolerant of each other. As for the Fullah Progressive Union, one of the oldest Sierra Leonean organizations in the Washington, DC metropolis, their superb organization, dynamic leadership, and ability to organize will keep them intact for many more years to come.