By Innocent Chia
Summer time in North America is Convention Season for most every immigrant group - ethnic, alma maters and professional organizations alike. Indeed, because of these conventions there is an inordinate number of immigrants who plan their annual vacation time to coincide with these events that typically alternate from State to State, depending on the ability and willingness of the local chapters to host. And so it is that former students of the all female secondary school located in Cameroon's Northwest Regional city of Bamenda, Our Lady of Lourdes College, are meeting in the midwest brewing Capital of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to celebrate and refocus following a year of serious hot flashes... Meantime, proud sons and daughters of Kom - village of the renown Afoakom - will not only be showing off juju styles in Minneapolis-Minnesota...
Early birds to the LESA-USA Convention in Milwaukee are making plans to storm the erstwhile German bastion by Thursday night, although serious business begins Friday evening - 6/17/2011. If they were a bunch of guys from my alma-mater, CPC Bali, I would have a good guess where they will spend the first night doing what favorite activity Germans are known for, except building some reliable and prestigious automobiles. But LESANS are ladies on a mission that is bigger than individual egos that have suffered ocasional bruising.
The 2011 LESA-USA Convention in Milwaukee will continue in its mission of raising funds for a signature scholarship program that has been supporting financially deserving students back in the school in Bamenda. This on-going program has been sustained over the years and into the future by dedicated former students who accept the challenge of campaigning and soliciting funds all year round from generous donors and sponsors whose donations are tax deductible under Internal Revenue Services (IRS) regulations regarding 501(c)3 non-profit organizations like LESA-USA.
Beyond granting scholarships to the financially deserving students at the lone female secondary school in the grassfields region of Cameroon, LESA-USA is steeply involved in the day to day wellbeing of their younger sisters and children. The US ex-students of Our Lady Of Lourdes have been supporting the over 1000 students constructing an efficient and sustainable water system as well as a new sanitation facility. How can one even begin to explain the importance of modern and well sanitized toilets when the World Health Organization (WHO) has attributed senseless deaths to poor sanitation and ceaselessly campaigns for clean and properly ventilated systems that have faucets with running water for hand washing.
But these dames meeting in Milwaukee to put all of these together will have more on their plates to work with. The Association is also currently factionalized over questions of leadership and governance. Some of the older LESANS think power and leadership is their potion for life. This is resulting in a push and pull situation against younger LESANS who are equally accused by older sisters of disrespect and haughtiness. Whether or not Milwaukee addresses these concerns at all may or may not impact the self-proclaimed mission of supporting and providing a "healthy environment for young African Women...to excel".
What is sure is that I will pay the modest $50.00 to support the gals that I was never ever able to hang out with from my rogue headquarters of CPC Bali. Their choice of location - the Voyager Ballroom at the Milwaukee Airport Crowne Plaza, 6401 13th St, Milwaukee, WI 53221 - is as cozy as it gets.
The week following - from June 23-26, 2011 - Komrades will be meeting in Minnesota. Unlike their Convention last year in Atlanta, the AFOAKOM Convention that Bobe Terrence Komtaghi and fellow Minnesotans will be hosting this year is supposed to be non-toxic. For one reason, there are no elections this year as the two year mandate of the current National Executive expires in 2012. A principal focus of the Convention this year, therefore, is going to be figuring out how to implement some health and education projects that were endorsed in 2009 in Houston and further outlined in Atlanta last year.
Throughout the year, however, the National Executive has been plagued with any number of challenges, including funds that were withheld from it, thus tardying the execution of projects designated by the General Assembly. Minnesota will, for Komrades, be like Milwaukee for LESANS. The Convention at the Miracle Empowerment Center, 5801 John Martin Drive in Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 will have to be more than the cultural showcase that has highlighted Afoakom Conventions in recent memory.
Sons and daughters of AFOAKOM USA will have their work cut out for them. Deliberations will, among other things, I suspect, focus on how to effectively undertake the construction of good toilets in select schools that have expressed need, and supplying desks and chairs to others. There are tasty issues to be discussed as well, especially the ability or willingness of the General Assembly to prioritize the raising of funds towards the shipment of medical supplies - including medication - to some area hospitals. If brought to the floor for discussion, the MEDSHARE project is sure to evoke a lot of passion from those in favor and against it. Through it all, it is the passion to save lives and improve living conditions in the homeland that is, and must be, nurtured.
Whatever the various passions and positions, there is need to respect one another. Participants could be anywhere other than at these Conventions. But people sacrifice of their time and money to make it. We can make it worth the while for each other just by acknowledging our differences and focusing on the goal(s) of the organization(s) rather than personal agendas. Others must also learn to wait for their time to shine, they must learn to be persistent in convincing others of their plans and or vision. It takes time to bring about change, even in small organizations.
But whether we are BOBA (who, by the way, are having their 19th Annual Convention this year in Greenbelt, MD from July 1st-4th), LESA or KOM, do not let anyone spoil your fun at the Convention. The organization and what it seeks to achieve is way bigger than you. If you cannot visualize the child who will benefit from your contribution, think about a friend who will make you laugh while you are at the Convention. Put on your dancing shoes and party away!