By KABS KANU :
Indeed, all roads led to the Martin Crosswinds, 7400 Greenway Center Drive, Greenbelt, Maryland on Saturday May 28 where the first part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations in the United States ended with a flourish with a well-attended and regal Banquet and Awards Program organized by the Sierra Leone Embassy to the U.S. and the Jubilee Celebrations Organizing Committee. About 20 individuals and organizations received awards for their magnificent contribution to the society.
The occasion was attended by a galaxy of distinguished personalities and Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone from all walks of life. There was also a show of political tolerance as the All People’s Congress ( APC), the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) were fully represented.
The colorful and prestigious program commenced with words of appreciation and introduction of the MCs–Mr. Kwame Clement of Liberia and Ms. Linord Moudou by the Chairman of the 50th Independence Planning Committee, Mr.David B. Vandy. This was followed by the opening prayers by the Rev. Gloria Cline-Smythe and Sheik Alusine Kamara. Then the national anthems of Sierra Leone and the U.S. were sung by the young award-winning standout, Janet B. Lagah-Bona.
The night was punctuated by dazzling musical shows by leading artists .There were thrilling performances from Freddy Shabaka Cole , Manzu and little Janet Laga-Bona. Three performances shook the hall . Female gospel singing sensation , Mrs.Giileh Kebbie Sholz rocked the hall with the lead song in her recently released album, Jesus is the way. The bold and confident beauty demonstrated a lot of growth, experience and poise in the many months since she was outdoored in an Arc of Hope Fundraiser in Washington DC last November. Gilleh is a multi-talented young woman who will also be playing the lead role of Madam Yoko in the reproduction of the late John Kolossa Kargbo’s LET ME DIE ALONE on Friday June 3 at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Handicapped Singer Jay Arr, an extraordinarily talented youth , showed that there is no barrier in this world for a person who wants to succeed , irrespective of handicap , with a stunning performance that brought the hall to its feet in response to his invitation to everybody to stand and dance to his sizzling record about a woman who belongs to him. Then came the Cameroonian group , Josephine Attanga and the Lista Dancers who also sent the hall wild with fascination.
USLO Members with their award. Holding the prize are Rugi Bahr (Left ) and Zainabu Sesay-Harrel. The only male in the photo is the President of the organization ,Mr. Ahmed Kargbo.
AMBASSADOR BOCKARIE STEVENS ( IN WHITE GOWN) AND PRESIDENT KOROMA’S SPECIAL ASSISTANT, MR.SHEKA KAMARA STANDING ON HIS LEFT. FAR RIGHT AMBASSADOR CONTEH AND ON THE RIGHT OF AMBASSADOR STEVENS IS KWAME CLEMENT
The main feature of the night was the presentation of the Jubilee awards to recepients by Ambassador Bockarie Stevens , Mrs. Rasie Kargbo, the Deputy Permanent Representative to the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations , Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the African Union, Mr. Andrew Bangali , the Deputy Ambassador to USA, Mr. I.M.Conteh and Parliamentarian Mr.Ibrahim Bundu.
After the awards , it was time for dance, dance and dance . The hall exploded with the foot-thomping music of the latest breed of Sierra Leone's musicians whose work is far more preferred these days in Sierra Leone occasions than western music , a reversal of what obtained in the past.
It was a memorable event that will be talked about for decades to come and it fittingly climaxed this segment of the jubilee celebrations until November when the Embassy is planning a bus excursion to South Carolina to visit the Gullah people , farmers who were brought to the South by the Atlantic Slave Trade and have traced their origins to Sierra Leone.
Awardees were :
Mr. Donald K. Stephens, President and Founder, Mercy Ships – Sierra Leone@50 Diamond Award for humanitarian endeavors: In recognition of his contribution to the development of Sierra Leone, particularly in the area of health.
U.S citizen and former peace corps, Dr. Susan Shepler , rocked the hall by speaking in perfect Krio when she went for her award. She was a peace corps at Gbendembu in Bombali District . She poses here with a son of Gbendembu , Rev. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, Publisher of COCORIOKO
The Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL) – Sierra Leone @ 50 Humanitarian Award: In recognition of Friends of Sierra Leone’s instrumental role in rendering humanitarian and development assistance particularly in the provision of artificial limbs and other medical care for amputees who came to the United States at the height of the war as well as funding agricultural and education projects in Sierra Leone over the years.
Ms. Janet Baindu Lagah-Bona (Left ) displays her award
HEAD OF CHANCERY SHEKU MISALI , ONE OF THE ORGANIZERS OF THE CELEBRATIONS, WITH HIS WIFE
SENSATIONAL GOSPEL SINGER GIILEH KEBBIE SHOLZ WHO ROCKED THE HALL
STAFF OF THE SIERRA LEONE EMBASSY AT THEIR ASSIGNED TABLE: SOME OF THEM WERE GIVEN SPECIAL AWARDS FOR LONG AND DEDICATED SERVICE : SEE STORY LATER
A SECTION OF THE GUESTS AT THE PROGRAM
ANOTHER PHOTO OF THE GUESTS
Friends of Sierra Leone is also known for its advocacy role on behalf of Sierra Leone to United States policy makers, particularly towards obtaining the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over ten thousand Sierra Leoneans that came to the United States of America as refugees during the rebel war and not least, the eventual return of the Peace Corps volunteers.
Mrs. Bernadette B. Kamara-Bangura, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sierra Leone Relief Development Outreach (SLRDO) – Sierra Leone@50 Humanitarian Award: In recognition of her dedicated commitment to meeting the needs of Sierra Leoneans back home particularly in the area of health care service.
Rev. Leeroy W. Kabs-Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary, Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations New York – Sierra Leone@50 Diaspora Leadership Award: For his leading role in keeping the Sierra Leone community in North America and other parts of the world informed about day-to-day events in Sierra Leone through the electronic media, particularly through his online newspaper “Cocorioko”.
Mr. Richard Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officer, First Step Economic Opportunity Zone Inc – Sierra Leone@50 Economic Development Award: His organization, First Step Economic Opportunity, has established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Sierra Leone which will attract labor-intensive globally competitive enterprises to the country.
Mr. Madieu Williams, Founder, Madieu Williams Foundation – Sierra Leone@50 Award for sports: In recognition of the role his sportsmanship has played in projecting a positive image of Sierra Leone in the United States of America.
Mr. Idris Elba – Sierra Leone@50 Entertainment Award: In recognition of his role in the field of entertainment.
DAVID VANDY AND TWO WOMEN
Mr. David B. Vandy and the Sierra Theatre Production – Sierra Leone@50 Culture Award: In recognition of his efforts in keeping alive the culture of Sierra Leone through performing arts that portray Sierra Leone culture.
Professor Richmond Stanley Garrick, Middlesex County College, Edison, NJ – Sierra Leone@50 Culture Award: For his role in promoting the culture of Sierra Leone in the United States of America through his artistic work, particularly in the area of Fine Art.
Sierra Leone Council of Representative (SALCORE) – Sierra Leone@50 Community Empowerment Award: In recognition of its role in coordinating the activities of Sierra Leone community organizations.
Sierra Leone Clubs of Columbus, Ohio (SLOCO) – Sierra Leone@50 Community Empowerment Award: For coordinating the efforts of Sierra Leoneans in Ohio State, particularly in the Columbus metropolis.
Union of Sierra Leone Organizations in New York (USLO) – Sierra Leone@50 Community Empowerment Award: For coordinating the activities of Sierra Leone Community organizations in New York State.
Mrs. Patricia Omo Thorpe- Finney and the Save Sierra Leone Foundation – Sierra Leone@50 Community Empowerment Award: For her hard work in the Sierra Leone community and beyond. Due to her strong commitment in empowering community groups and individuals, her organization, the Save Sierra Leone Foundation, has participated in fund raising activities of Sierra Leone community groups in the United States of America
Sierra Leone Community Association (SLCA) Ottawa, Canada – Sierra Leone@50 Education Award: For contributing to the development of Sierra Leone, particularly in the educational sector. Since its establishment in May 2007, the Sierra Leone Community Association (SLCA) has been very supportive to some elementary school pupils in Sierra Leone.
Rev. Canon Julius Grey-Coker, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church , Maryland -Sierra Leone @50 Long Term Achievement Award: In recognition of his service to Sierra Leone as journalist, broadcaster and TV newscaster in the early days of Independence and his outstanding services to the Sierra Leone Community in the United States of America, particularly in the field of religion.
Ms. Janet Baindu Lagah-Bona, Founder, Children Empowerment Foundation – Sierra Leone @50 Leaders of Tomorrow Award: For her selfless service to the Sierra Leone community and beyond. Through her organization “The Children Empowerment Foundation”, she has donated school materials and toys to other children in her community. Through her initiative and instrumentality, she got a proclamation from President Obama which declared November 20 as National Child’s Day in America.
Dr. Susan Shepler, Associate Professor, School of International Service, American University- Certificate of Recognition: For her active support to the Sierra Leone community in the Washington, D.C. metropolis particularly in facilitating the hosting of Sierra Leone country events at the American University.
The Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the 50th Independence Anniversary Steering Committee extend hearty congratulations to all Awardees.