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Rise and shine Sierra Leone for a better tomorrow

Rise and shine Sierra Leone for a better tomorrow

The above caption is the theme which Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora deliberated on in observance of the 49th independence anniversary of Sierra Leone held on April 27, 2010 in the Montgomery County Executive Office (EOB) in Rockville, Maryland.  In his welcoming remarks, His Excellency Ambassador Bockarie K. Stevens reiterated the call of President Ernest B. Koroma  for a “change of attitude” of all Sierra Leoneans if  Sierra Leone is to rise and shine for a better tomorrow.  He called on all Sierra Leoneans irrespective of political affiliation to work together in order to enhance the development of the country. 

Furthermore, His Excellency Ambassador Bockarie K. Stevens stressed that “today’s world changes at an amazingly fast rate: today’s tendencies are tomorrow’s past fashions. Just as the world changes so does humanity and its views pertaining attitudes and the development of society. The way our society will change will not only be attributed to the change in people’s mindset, but the collective efforts of all to work for a common goal.

“Let us forget about politics and work for the common good of Sierra Leone” Ambassador Stevens reiterated.

The symposium the first of its kind organized by members of the Diaspora in Washington, DC metropolitan area spear headed by His Excellency, Ambassador Bockarie K. Stevens yielded unprecedented and remarkable results for both Sierra Leonean attendees and foreign nationals that grace the occasion.    Prior to the commencement of distinguished speakers from various disciplines, the Maryland County Executive, Mr. Isaiah Leggett made a proclamation congratulating the Sierra Leone Community on the occasion of their 49th Independence anniversary.   The representative from the office of Governor O’Malley in Maryland also made similar proclamation of behalf of the governor of Maryland. 

Following the proclamations, speakers took to the podium to address various issues ranging from the Historic Journey from Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone American Connection, Education in Sierra Leone, Community Colleges in Sierra Leone, Opportunities and Growth Areas in Sierra Leone, Health Challenges in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Leone Diaspora, Hopes and Aspirations.  The renowned Sierra Leone historian, Dr. Arthur Abraham, Chairman of the Department of History and Philosophy at Virginia State University was the first to go to the podium to the address the Historic Journey of Sierra Leone.  He enumerated many facts about ethnicity in Sierra Leone and revealed important facts about the various ethnic groups in Sierra Leone and their origin.  Such revelations by the renowned historian sent the audience spell bound and were filled with awe on the limitations we Sierra Leoneans know about our country.

Next to address the audience was Professor Joseph Opala an American historian who lived in the West African nation of Sierra Leone for 17 years.   Professor Opala is known for his research on the “Gullah Connection,” the long historical thread that links Africans in Sierra Leone and other countries on the “Rice Coast” of West Africa with the Gullah people of Coastal South Carolina and Georgia.   Professor Opala gave an historical account about the Gullah people of South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia to a village in Pugehun District in Sierra Leone.   He specifically stressed the importance of Bunce Island and urge Sierra Leoneans to preserve their historic and cultural heritage as other countries like Ghana which is attracting American blacks because of the preservation of the slave fortresses. 

Many speakers addressed the audience in the symposium on various issues, among them were Dr. E. Solo Collier who spoke on the constraints of “Education in Sierra Leone” and possible remedies, Dr. Gail Kettlewell, Director, Development of International Community College Town Center (ICCTC) System in Sierra Leone stressed on the urgent need of community colleges and has earmarked four towns like Lunsar, Makeni, Pugehun and Kono where the communities projects will be implemented.  Other speakers include Mr. Tejan Savage a civil society activist spoke on the theme “Opportunities and Growth Areas in Sierra Leone.  He urged Sierra Leoneans and investors about the favorable atmosphere existing for investment in Sierra Leone and Dr. Joe Nuni a Sierra Leonean medical doctor who is an emergency room physician at United Medical Center, Washington, DC.  Dr. Nuni spoke on the Health Challenges in Sierra Leone and the plight of patients especially those in the rural areas.   Climaxing the occasion was Mr. Kwame Fitzjohn; a communication expert based in Washington, DC emphasized the need for an office of the Diaspora in all Sierra Leone Embassies abroad so that issues affecting members of the Diasporas will be adequately addressed.

The occasion was climaxed by a vote of thanks by moderators of the symposium David Vandy and Mariama Turay who urged attendees to go to churches and mosques to offer thanks giving to God on the occasion of Sierra Leone’s 49th independence anniversary.

Joseph Sherman, Washington DC, USA

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