26th Annual Convention of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI); 8th Annual Fundraising Gala for Plant a Seed for a Child, Inc
On Saturday, October 15th, we drove to the Holiday Inn on Royalton Road in Strongsville to attend the morning session of the 26th Annual Convention of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI).
The mission statement of this organization reads that AFMI "strives to improve the socio-economic status of the underprivileged Indian Muslim minorities through education. Since it was founded (i.e. in 1989) AFMI has remained steadfast in its mission to achieve 100% literacy amongst Indian Muslims."
Its vision is to "improve literacy and economic status of Muslims in India; help Muslims to contribute towards social, political and economic development of India; strive to advance the cause of underprivileged masses in India in general, and Muslim masses in particular; promote exchange of technology and other resources to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills; encourage excellence in Muslim youth in North America and India to strengthen their Muslim identity."
The theme of this year's convention was "nurturing youth leadership" and it covered very similar ground that the two events on Friday did. We were impressed when we met AFMI members who came from as far away as Albuquerque, New Mexico and Tampa, Florida to be there.
That morning we attended two excellent sessions dealing with "How to Prepare Educationally Empowered Youth" and "Nurturing Youth for Community Leadership." Each session consisted of four speakers and a moderator making constructive observations after each speaker finished.
We particularly liked the presentations of Mr. Sulaiman Paika, a young high school student who has formed several charitable organizations amongst his peers including one that seeks to offer assistance to young Muslim women, and that of Mr. Al-Haroon B. Husain, an attorney who presented a realistic formula for success in this country that could be of tremendous benefit to immigrants. Among Mr. Husain's suggestions were to study hard, be punctual, use your college degree as a platform for success, join a trade organization and hold a prominent position within it, and, if possible, start your own business.
We got to visit with Mr. Husain for a few minutes and learned that he was born in Illinois and is first generation Indian-American. His late father was Dr. Asad Husain, Ph.D. who was a founding member of AFMI and in 1996 was awarded the Cross of Merit by the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, a recognition bestowed directly from the Vatican.
Even though our time was limited, we really enjoyed our morning and all of the people that we met really appreciated it that Ms. Margaret W. Wong cared about what they were doing and sent a representative.
Among the people that we talked to Dr. Razia A. Ahmed, M.D., AFMI's President elect; Dr. Sanuallah Khan, Chairman of the Convention; and Mr. Siraj Hussain, IAS, Visiting Senior Fellow from the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations who would be giving the "banquet speech" on Saturday night.
Indeed the evening banquet seemed very promising because U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown would be speaking and special guests of honor would be Mr. Khizr Khan and Ms. Ghazala Khan, the Goldstar Parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who spoke at last summer's DNC and were unjustly maligned by Mr. Donald Trump, an act which really harmed his standing in the U.S. Presidential polling.
While we were there, several people came up to us and wondered how the results of the November election would affect immigration to the United States.
One person there wore a Hillary Clinton button and encouraged us to wear one also but we replied that we didn't want to be political at this time. Nevertheless, the Clinton advocate persisted and since few or any people there seemed to like Clinton's opponent, we smiled and clipped the button onto our lapel and, predictably, there was no controversy.
We didn't attend the AFMI banquet on Saturday night because we had a date to go to the 8th annual fundraising banquet/gala for Plant a Seed for a Child, Inc. held at the Church of the Good Shepard on Cedar Road in Lyndhurst.
We were there because we had met Ms. Janjay S. Davis-Bass, its President and CEO at an event earlier this year and she thus invited us to take part.
Ms. Davis-Bass immigrated to the United States from Liberia in 1978. She prospered in the United States but never forgot the land of her birth. Thus she started Plant a Seed for a Child, Inc. in 2004 whose mission is "to enable Liberian children to obtain an education so that they may experience the joys of literacy, learn to use modern technology, and play their part in rebuilding a society."
The immediate goal is to build a school in Bong County, Kokoyah District. We were shown slides of the progress made so far which has been slow but telling. We were amazed to learn that the builders must make the structure's bricks one-at-a-time using a very primitive mold. Nevertheless, a foundation has been laid and money is being raised to continue the construction. Ms. Davis-Bass recently visited Liberia in June, 2016 and plans to return with more resources in 2018.
A slide showing children working at a Liberian marketplace helped to explain why Ms. Davis-Bass is so motivated; if these youngsters are working in stands at ages 5, 6, and 7 chances are they will be doing this for the rest of their lives and she is determined to put an end to that.
As he gave the invocation, Father Paul Collins, the Rector of the Church of the Good Shepard, said that "seeds were meant to be planted or they never multiply." He contended that this was all about empowering people, particularly children.
Ms. Evelin Epple (who immigrated here 46 years ago from Liberia) sang the Lord's Prayer and did a lovely job. We talked to her for a moment and learned that several years ago she was chosen to lead the prayer at the naturalization ceremony at One World Day after the pastor who was scheduled to do so failed to appear.
The keynote speaker was Ms. Linda N. Reid, Superintendent of the South Euclid Lyndhurst School District. In terms of her own inspiration, Ms. Reid said that 100 many years from now it won't matter how much material wealth she acquired in her lifetime but it will make a difference if she could positively affect the life of a child.
Stunning musical entertainment was provided by "Djapo Cultural Arts" whose director, Ms. Talisa Campbell said that her organization's mission was to preserve the African culture and heritage. Ms. Campbell said that "djapo" means "together" and it was her goal to bring together people of all ethnicities through a dialogue that fostered love and self-respect.
It was neat when that section of the evening closed with all of us chanting, "Peace! Love! Respect for Everybody!"
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC