New Jersey hit the spotlight once again last Saturday as Sierra Leoneans staged a spectacular parade and a grand dance to commemorate the 52nd Independence Anniversary of their country. With celebrants travelling from other parts of the United States to take part in the festivities , it was yet another day when thousands of citizens and friends of the country celebrated Sierra Leonean pride and nationhood in a state where Sierra Leoneans have such a telling presence that a U.S. official suggested publicly during a speech at the picnic that they should now start aspiring for public office in New Jersey.
Organized by the Sierra Leone Community of New Jersey ( SLCNJ ) , which has now established itself as the premier Sierra Leonean organization in New Jersey , the third annual Independence parade brought Franklin Township to a complete standstill on Saturday. Traffic in the Township was disrupted for better part of the morning and afternoon with many routes detoured to enable the huge float , draped in green , white and blue and procession composed of a teenage brass band, masked devils, revellers and celebrants ,also in the national colors, and their attendant traffic to move freely from the Pine Grove Elementary School on Hyland Avenue to the Naaman Williams Park, where the parade metamorphosed into a picnic and thrilling performances by various artists.
THE SIERRA LEONE CULTURE SOCIETY IN ACTION DURING THE PARADE
MR. ALIRU BAKARR ( RIGHT ) AND DR. ABDUL RAHMAN KAMARA DURING THE PARADE
EXCITED SIERRA LEONEAN GESTURING TO THE CAMERA MAN : CREDIT-DR.ANSU KAIKAI
The Mayor of Franklin, Mr. Brian Levine and Councilman for the 5th Ward of the Township of Franklin, Mr. James Vassanella joined the celebrations at Hamilton Street , the business district of Franklin , and then rode the float with this year’s Marshall of the parade , Dr. Mohamed Nurhussein ( An Ethiopian and Chairman of the United African Congress in New York ) and Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations, Leeroy Wilfred Kabs -Kanu, all the way to the park.
THE MARSHALL FOR THIS YEAR’S PARADE , DR. MOHAMED NURHUSSEIN
NEW YORK ACTIVIST MRS. ZAINABU SESY-HARREL TRAVELLED TO NEW JERSEY TO ATTEND THE PARADE AND DANCE
ONBOARD THE FLOAT : THE MAYOR OF FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MR. BRIAN LEVINE ( LEFT ) RIDING THE FLOAT WITH HIS COUNCILMAN MR. VASSANELLA ; MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY LEEROY WILFRED KABS-KANU AND THE MARSHALL, DR. NURHUSSEIN
THE M.C OF THE PARK EVENT, MRS. ADMIRE GBAPI-THOMAS SEATED ON THE HIGH STAGE WITH OFFICIALS
TWO OF THE MEN WHO MADE THE ACTIVITIES POSSIBLE : FROM RIGHT- THE CHAIRMAN OF SLCNJ, MR. LAMIN ALHARAZIM AND THE SECRETARY GENERAL MR. HARDI GABISI
DR.ABDUL RAHMAN KAMARA MAKING A STATEMENT
MR. JERRY GEORGE , THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SLPP NORTH AMERICAN BRANCH SAID HE WAS AT THE OCCASION FIRST AS A SIERRA LEONEAN BECAUSE HE LOVES HIS COUNTRY. IT WAS A NATIONAL EVENT AND ALL SIERRA LEONEANS WERE PROUD TO PARTICIPATE, IRRESPECTIVE OF POLITICAL LEANING .
PART OF THE CROWD AT THE PARK
DANCING A MENDE FOLK SONG AT THE PARK
A HUNTING SOCIETY MASQUERADE
During the ceremony at the park, the national anthem of the U.S. was sung by an American-born Sierra Leonean teenager, Millicent Moseray , while a beautiful rendition of the Sierra Leone National Anthem in Krio was sung by dramatist and community activist, Mr. Busairi Savage, after muslim and christian prayers by Alhaji Abdulai Savage and Mr. Bishop Manages respectively. The Secretary General of SLCNJ, Mr. Hady Gabisi then introduced the MC for the program, Madam Admire Gbapi-Thomas , a holder of two Masters degrees in the Health field.
The Chairman of the SLCNJ, Mr. Lamin Alharazim, who made welcome remarks, was introduced by Mr. Suliman Kargbo . In his remarks, Mr. Alharazim said that the occasion was a celebration of “our freedom ” and thus there was need for everybody to appreciate it. He said Sierra Leone has much to be proud of , especially the peace she is now enjoying and he congratulated the two main political parties –The ruling All People’s Congress (APC ) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) -for the free and fair elections last year in Sierra Leone .
Dr. Abdul Rahman Kamara , the Chairman of the New Jersey-based Sarbeh organization and a pharmacist by profession, also gave a brief address in which he praised Sierra Leoneans for uniting to celebrate their country’s 52nd Independence Anniversary.
SIERRA LEONEANS TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW HOW VERY CREATIVE THEY CAN BE IN THEIR COMBINATION OF THE GREEN, WHITE AND BLUE COLOURS : KHADIJA JALLOH ( KJ ) –GREEN SHOES, WHITE TROUSERS AND BLUE TOP
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF CREATIVE COLOR-BLENDING : MRS. PATRICIA MANSARAY ( LEFT ) , WIFE OF COCORIOKO’S FODAY MANSARAY -PRESENTLY IN FREETOWN -AND HER SISTER . PATRICIA IS VERY SUPPORTIVE IN PROMOTING SIERRA LEONEAN ISSUES AND ACTIVITIES
Councilman Vassanella said his familiarity with Sierra Leone went far back to the early 1990s when his family reached out to the Sierra Leone community for help and Sierra Leonean -born nurses and home health aides helped to provide care for his then ailing father. He said that it was a pleasure to see young kids demonstrating enthusiasm to celebrate the Independence Anniversary with their parents. He urged that because Sierra Leoneans now wield tremendous influence in the state they should give thought to the idea of running for public office in New Jersey , a suggestion he had first echoed in the float to the Minister Plenipotentiary and a goal that the MC, Madam Gbapi-Thomas had also earlier asked Sierra Leoneans to consider , during her brief remark after being introduced.
MS. MADINA RAHMAN IN GOWN AND KHADI SACCOH (BACK TURNED )
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF CREATIVITY WITH COLORS
Mrs. Gbapi-Thomas, an eloquent speaker , who was also one of the organizers of last week’s Interfaith Prayer Service as part of this year’s Independence Anniversary , asked the audience to observe a minute’s silence in honor of the community activists, some of who who took part in last year’s celebrations but died recently. During the last six months , New Jersey lost Messrs Ahmad Mustapha, Dauda Shekou Bangura , Mohamed Aziz Nabe , Augustine Komeh , Festus Koroma and Ms. Catherine Coker and Fatu Dumbuya.
Mr. Gabisi introduced the Grand Marshall, who is also a medical doctor. In his statement, Dr. Hussein also echoed the need for Sierra Leoneans to participate in the political process. He noted that We came here to seek freedom and this society has given us the opportunity to participate .As a matter of fact, the Doctor emphasized, a Sierra Leonean, Mr. Sidique Wai, is running for the second highest office in New York–Public Advocate. He lauded the founding fathers of Africa’s Independence, praising them that they had a vision and a dream, through which the Organization of African Unity ( OAU ) was born.
Predicting that this century will be a century of African renaissance , he called on Africans to unite . The charge that Africans must unite used to be a slogan, he stated but now it is an economic imperative . Africa, he philosophized, must be able to master her own destiny to be able to participate in the economic transformation of the continent.
COUNCILMAN, THE MARSHALL AND MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY HAVING A DISCUSSION ABOUT SIERRA LEONE DURING A BRIEF INTERVAL IN THE PARADE
AMERICAN-BORN SIERRA LEONEAN KIDS DO AN EXCITING SONG AND STAGE DANCE AT THE PARK
Minister Plenipotentiary Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, in his statement, commended Sierra Leoneans for coming together to enjoy the 52nd Independence Anniversary. He said he knew that they were encouraged by the new hope that had been breathed into them by the magnificent changes taking place in Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. Mr. Kanu encouraged them to do more than just celebrate, by helping to rebrand the country abroad so that investments and tourism will go into the country, thereby boosting the economic revival and providing jobs and other opportunities for the people. He lauded the last free and fair elections in Sierra Leone and assured attendees that Sierra Leone now has a formula for peace consolidation, which is democracy and political tolerance, and he predicted that there will be no more war in the country as people were now more interested in peace and national development. . He lauded President Koroma for enhancing political tolerance and the opposition for cooperating with him by interfacing with each other during the handing out of awards and insignia at State House when newspapers published photos of President Koroma and SLPP Chairman, Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin shaking hands and sharing and enjoying a joke. He said that the picture shows that despite our political differences, our leaders are prepared to work together for peace in the country. He called on all Sierra Leoneans to emulate their leaders by promoting and consolidating peace.
SLCNJ Secretary General ,Mr. Hardy Gabisi appealed to Sierra Leoneans to be united and to become members of the organization. He praised Sierra Leoneans for loving their country ,which was demonstrated by their participation at the parade and picnic.
The vote of thanks was given by Mr. Hindolo Barnet, the Youth Leader in New Jersey, who introduced the very first performers , a group of young girls, who rendered a nice song and danced on the stage.
The Shooting Stars soccer team was then invited to the stage , led by their coach, Mr. Mohamed Tunis , and they displayed all the trophies they have won in many competitions in which they had represented Sierra Leone in the U.S.
The impressive crowd was then entertained by various artists , including the captivating tap dancer , Papa O who got the crowd on its feet dancing with him. He was followed by a singer, Ray and then popular musician Daddy Rahmanu, who thrilled the crowd with his latest release, MAKOLO . A young poet, Mr. David Bombolai Mansaray , also rocked the house with a poem he had specially written for the 52nd Independence Anniversary.
The occasion ended with a performance by two hunting masked devils belonging to the Sierra Leone Cultural Society (USA). Three leaders of the Society, Messrs Sekou Lamin, Abdul Salam and Cyril Macauley told COCORIOKO that they cover the whole of America and have members in different states. They outdoor not only the hunting masquerade but the fairie and the Jerefay. This year, they decided to come out with hunting masked devils. Their aim is to promote Sierra Leone’s rich culture. They said that they also contributed in no small way to stage the parade and its allied activities.
WE WILL BRING YOU A REPORT ON THE ANNIVERSARY DANCE LATER