Abdul Rashid Thomas & Pauline Pratt: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 September 2020:
The arrival of the first freed slaves to Sierra Leone in 1787 after the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade which led to the creation of what became known as Freetown – the capital city of Sierra Leone, is an historic event that shaped the country’s political, social and economic landscape, if not West Africa’s rise to a new cultural heritage. (Photo above: Canon Mrs Cassandra Garber – President of the Krio Descendants Yunion, addressing delegates at the Thanksgiving Service).
And on Sunday, 31 August 2020, the Krio Descendants Yunion – Freetown, representing Krios across Sierra Leone and the diaspora – the descendants of those freed slaves, hosted its first virtual international inter-faith Thanksgiving Service to celebrate 233 years of a rich and vibrant heritage.
The event was a joint effort organised by KDY Freetown and its regional branches in Nigeria, United Kingdom and Ireland and the United States of America.
Chaired by Ms. Iyamide Thomas in London, the thanksgiving service commenced with prayers led by both Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters – sharing the same belief and hope in One God / Allah, who prayed for good health and blessings for the world in general, the people of Sierra Leone and Krio communities across the globe, facing a COVID-19 pandemic.
The Thanksgiving also celebrated the virtual launching of the regional branches of KDY, as the parent body – KDY Fritong embarks on a new direction aimed at raising funds to invest in establishing vital development projects in Sierra Leone, including the construction of a museum and cultural heritage centre of excellence in Freetown.
The theme for the Thanksgiving was “Repairer of Broken Walls”, taken from Isaiah 58:12, delivered by the Reverend Christian Parker who is based in the United Kingdom. He gave a riveting sermon about strengthening institutions that are in disarray, left desolate and without structure.
‘Those among us will rise and lead the charge to build a foundation that will outlast many generations to come,’ was his key message.
‘Groups that have been separated without a vision will transform to share the same purpose of rebuilding and strengthening Krio communities across the world. Unity among groups will be cemented and walk in the same path of duty.’ Reverend Parker highlighted that KDY has been called to become “repairers of broken walls”. KDY will remain steadfast in ensuring that this vision is realized.
The Muslim reading was delivered by Alhaji Hassani Karim (Photo), who is also the Imam of Jamiul – Atiq Mosque in Fourah Bay, Freetown.
Speaking on the theme “Repairers of Broken Walls”, he said that the Krios were a powerful group in the field of Education and Tradition, and spoke about the need for Krio communities all over the world to work together, as he appealed for unity and strength.
KDY’s new vision was highlighted in a presentation of its 2021-2024 Strategic Development Plan delivered by Pauline Pamela Pratt, aimed at promoting tourism, creating jobs, improving health, welfare and social care in communities, and boost the country’s economy.
To achieve these strategic outcomes, KDY has laid down six overarching pillars: education, welfare, health, heritage, business and economic development, and social care. Plans to operationalize the strategic plan will be rolled out soon.
Ms. Waltona Cummings spoke about the annual health outreach project which has been the flagship charitable activity of KDY in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Freetown. The project benefits between 300-500 people each year in several villages around the Freetown peninsula, with medical professionals from Sierra Leone, UK and America volunteering their expertise.
The health outreach project provides medication, health education, counselling and essential items such as toothpaste and toiletries to promote better health.
Ms. Doris Webber who is the focal point for the health outreach team in Waterloo, spoke about the achievements of the 2019 health outreach project, with 400 people benefitting from the service.
The health outreach team also saved the life of a 12-year-old girl who needed urgent medical care. Additional healthcare services were provided to the maternity ward in support of pregnant women. The district health manager and other government representatives were very appreciative of the services provided by the KDY’s health outreach team.
One of the largest projects to be implemented by KDY Fritong is the construction of its flagship Headquarters in Murray Town, Freetown, which will house the Krio heritage museum, as well as community and business centre.
Speaking about the construction of the heritage museum complex and centre of excellence, Canon Mrs. Cassandra Garber who is the founder and president of KDY (Photo above), spoke passionately about God’s blessings and timing in successfully negotiating with the former Mayor of Freetown – Honourable Bode Gibson and the Freetown City Council to donate land to KDY after ten years of trying to realize this vision.
Mrs Garber challenged all members of Krio community across the world to generously support the building project, so it can be completed by 2022, marking the 235th anniversary of the establishment of Freetown as the Province of Freedom.
Focusing on the theme “Repairers of Broken Walls,” is KDY’s fervent ambition to end hundreds of years of discrimination against the Krios, created by the British government through the separation of the protectorate and the provinces, and enforced by successive governments of Sierra Leone, using the Provinces Land Act of 1960.
Both Mrs. Cassandra Garber and lawyer Franklyn Campbell, spoke about the discrimination and injustice that Krios are facing in Sierra Leone as they are denied the right to own land and property in the provinces, whilst those from the provinces are free to purchase land anywhere in the country including Freetown.
Lawyer Campbell was pleased to announce that KDY Fritong along with other plaintiffs, have filed a class action lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, challenging the validity of the 1960 Provinces Land Act.
The aim of the Supreme Court lawsuit is to repeal the Act and obtain reparation though compensation, which includes the setting aside of hundreds of hectares of land across the country for economic development activities by Krios that could benefit the whole country.
KDY is also focused on rebuilding links with African Americans and Caribbeans that were dislocated by 400 years of Atlantic slave trade.
A key highlight of the event was the contribution from Friends of Krios, speaking on the theme of “Repairers of Broken Walls”. Anita Singleton Prather also known as Aunt Pearlie Sue who is an educator, storyteller and historian of the Gullah culture, praised God for bringing people together from Sierra Leone and the Diaspora to offer thanksgiving and celebrate Krio heritage.
She was delighted about the growing connection between African Americans in South Carolina, Canada, the Caribbean and Sierra Leone. She urged everyone to work together and embrace unity.
Victoria Small who was appointed to serve South Carolina as a Commissioner of the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, also spoke about togetherness, pride in her African roots and her pilgrimage to Sierra Leone which was filled with incredible joy. She expressed how life-changing the pilgrimage was, after experiencing with her own eyes the connection between the Gullah people of America and Sierra Leone.
It is her heartfelt prayer that every Gullah should experience the origin of their culture – Sierra Leone. Victoria also played an instrumental role at the Penn Center which President Obama declared as a National Monument, recognizing its pivotal role during Reconstruction.
Michael B. Moore who is a founding President and CEO of the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina recalled how powerful and profound it was for him to stand on Bunce Island in Sierra Leone, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the other side. “I no longer imagine but know the other side is the continued legacy of those enslaved Africans,” he said.
Summing up the thanksgiving, KDY’s head of communications – Dr Francis Dove-Edwin mapped out the way forward and the challenges ahead for KDY’s strategic vision and timelines.
The thanksgiving was closed with enthusiasm and hope for a brighter and better future for Krio communities across the world, and in Sierra Leone in particular – with a homecoming event scheduled to take place in Freetown in 2021.
About the authors
Abdul Rashid Thomas is editor and publisher of the Sierra Leone Telegraph; and Pauline Pratt is the head of communications for KDY USA.