April 27 marked 62 years since the African nation of Sierra Leone attained its independence from Great Britain.
The local community of Sierra Leoneans in Colorado did not want this important historical event to pass by silently. So, they sent out invitations, prepared dishes, ordered a variety of drinks, and gathered in the halls of Christ Vision Ministries International in Aurora to mark the day.
The event kicked off at 9:30 p.m., with prayer, led by James Ahmad Sesay, who spoke in English, Arabic, and Creole, languages that reflect the history, culture, and inheritance from Sierra Leone’s colonial past. Freetown, the country’s capital, is known as a tourist destination in West Africa, as well as a port city during the transatlantic slave trade.
Building Community Support
“The reason we are here is for the celebration of our 62nd anniversary,” Sama Sesay, who was born in Sierra Leone, but now lives in Aurora, told the audience made up of children and adults. Sesay said her team of organizers is trying to use the festivities to “come out as a group and move their community forward.”
In Colorado, the Sierra Leone Support Group existed many years ago and helped shape the community’s direction and activities. But a new task force led by Sesay and other Sierra Leoneans in Colorado wants to see their community continue with the culture and traditions they admire about their past.
Africans and Americans United By History
The community in Colorado includes people from Sierra Leone, and the neighboring nation of Liberia, with whom they share not just a common history, but also longstanding family ties and friendships. In their celebration, they took time to pay homage to one of their own and a pillar of the community, Michael Sheriff, who passed away recently.
Speakers included Coloradans— Dr.Tejan Kanu, a retiree from US Bank Corp., Samuel Effange, an IT engineer and Cameroonian native, and Ebenezer Norman, a humanitarian and the founder of a New Dimension of Hope.
In a keynote address, Kanu painted a stark history of Sierra Leone, recounting a time of instability and uncertainty it faced “Sierra Leone is unique because of its connection to the United States and to the emancipation movement,” he said.
Effange urged the community of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians, to continue to reach out to others that would help them build a strong and united African community in Colorado.
The celebrations were marked with music, and a time of dancing that continued late into the night.