Feature/Friends of Basse
For a Global Group, an Enduring Commitment to Make a Difference
Squatting from left to right:Valentine Kabby Banjakey, Alhagie Sey, Sanna Sanyang, Sulayman Jallow, Yaya Sowe, Cherno Baba Jallow. Standing from left to right: Fatou Baldeh, MB Krubally, Pa Joof, Lamin Bah, Star Sanyang, Bakary Jallow, Alpha Omar Jallow, Hassan Touray, Bass Jeng, Samba Johm, Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, Ousman Kamara, Ous Bah and Hamidou Sey
By Momodou Billo Krubally (MB)
They came from near and far: Maryland, Arizona, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Kansas, Texas, California, and the State of Washington. At the naming ceremony of our webmaster and first president of Friends of Basse, Pa M. L. Joof in Washington, DC, USA, it was the climax of anticipation. It was never lost on anyone that a gathering of this magnitude would offer a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for old, lost friends to meet again and rekindle old ties, share in the memories of the past and catch glimpses of each other’s going-ons. Indeed, at the naming ceremony and its offshoot, a Basse reunion, folks could hardly contain their excitement at what turned out to be a marquee reunion of old friends, some of whom had not seen each other for over 25 years.
The former Gambia international Sainey Sanyang, commonly known as “Star Sanyang,” couldn't have described it better when he stated that the occasion had made him "feel younger inside again." Star wasn't alone and nothing could describe the excitement on that Saturday evening when Basserians, young and old, convened in Washington, DC, for the first time as a collective body, thanks to Mr. Joof's naming ceremony.
Former Gambia International Star Sanyang and his family
You just had to be there to see how old friends, hugging and high-fiving each other, mingled and exchanged pleasantries, never wanting to let go. They were overtaken by the joys of rediscovered friendship and youth. Some friends had to retreat way back into the past to be able to summon who was it that they were talking to, standing in front of their eyes. Time and distance had created huge partitions between once-upon-a-time close, childhood buddies and acquaintances. Friends hugged for minutes-long, staring intently at and sitting next to, each other, as if they were refusing to let go for fear that they might lose contact again.
The gathering had a we-are-one-big-family feel to it. The energy was electrifying. A sense of belonging or wanting to, filled the air and captured the imagination of everyone on sight.
The naming ceremony
The day began with prayers led by Imam Baba Leigh for the three babies. Our webmaster, also co-founder and first President of FoB, Pa Joof and his wife Fatou Sowe-Joof were blessed with triplets a while back and the naming ceremony for the babies would christen the first annual FoB reunion.
From Left to Right, Fatou Sowe-Joof, Pa Joof and their children
The prayers were immediately followed by music from some of New York’s top griots. Kankaba Kanuteh, a well-known griot, also a Basse native, gave a nice traditional show. She and her band put up a show bringing back some good old memories of Basse and how the the late nurse and "Gawlo" Oumouyell Secka and the Basse griots would do at naming ceremonies.
The reunion, town-hall style, was held in Pa Joof's basement. Filled to capacity, the meeting was opened with a prayer and a welcome message from our senior member Mr. Yorro (Wuyeh) Sanyang. What was supposed to be a fifteen minute self-introduction turned into an hour- long introductory with members sharing how FoB had already impacted their lives.
At the meeting, left picture. l-r: Samba Johm, Cherno Baba Jallow, Pa Joof, Hassan Touray, Fatoumatta Trawalley, Aja Sey, Haddy Gomez, Lamin Bah, Bass Jeng, Alpha Omar Jallow and Yaya Sowe
Opposite Photo: r-l: Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, MC Loppy, Buba Colley, Kawsu Trawalley, Alhagie Sey and Alhagie Trawalley
Picture on the Left - l-r: Sainey Sanyang, MB Krubally taking meeting minutes, Pa Gaye., Ousman Kamara, Yusupha Kamara and Sanna Sanyang
Opposite Photo - r-l: Samba Johm, Sanna Sanyang, Yusupha Kamara, Ousman Kamara, MB Krubally, Star Sanyang, Sulayman Jallow, Mustapha Jallow
An emotional moment that almost brought all attendees to tears was when long-term member Mr. Hassan Touray, The Gambia-based Pristine Consulting's Chief Technology Officer shared how FoB supported him during his incarceration at Mile II in Banjul. (FoB had written a public testimony touting Mr. Touray’s standing as a model citizen, who was only trying to contribute towards the national development of his country.) Mr. Touray revealed that he showed this testimonial to the visiting Banjul US embassy officials during their meeting with him at the Mile Two prisons and that this letter would spruce the officials into action on his behalf. He would be thereafter released from custody.
Mr. Bakary Jallow also shared how another member, Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, had helped him renew his Gambian passport when he had to suddenly travel to The Gambia to attend his late father Mr. Musa Jallow's funeral. Bakary would fly into Philadelphia and meet with up with Wuyeh, who was eagerly waiting at the airport. And they would travel to New York together to help Bakary secure a new passport. Wuyeh had already made arrangements for them to meet up with the Gambian official in charge of passport renewals. This was the first time Bakary and Wuyeh had met. They had only talked on the phone and known each other through FoB meetings. Bakary, at times holding backing emotions, underscored the very indispensable role FoB was playing in bridging generational gaps and building new personal ties within its membership.
Former FoB president and one of the founding members of the organization, Pa Joof, gave an overview on how the organization was founded. He said he and a relative Alhagie Trawlley had travelled to the city of Deventer (The Netherlands) and Colonge (Germany), to visit friends, Mamadou Sellou Jallow and Ousainou Krubally. The idea of forming a global Basse organization would first be discussed. And then they ramped up on the idea when they met other fellow Basse natives in Cologne, Germany. It was here that the organization was founded in 2009. The four of them fulfilled downpayent pledges of 100 euros each. They launched what was then called the Basse Association and, subsequently, a website called My Basse. Mr. Joof said the idea of a Basse organization came out of well-intentioned plans and dreams for Basse. He said he and his friends didn't like how things were and had vowed to make some difference, however small, in their community. At the time, they thought this was only going to be a small-scale commitment from within their own circle, nothing more. But now their ideas and dreams have caught on, turning this private endeavor into a global commitment to bring volunteerism to bear on community development.
Cherno Baba Jallow told the crowd that he had always wanted to give back to his community, but he said he wondered where to find the like-minded and partner efforts with since doing it collectively was the right and more effective way of bringing meaningful change. He implored that some of us who are better off and more successful than the others, should draw from our inner altruisitc selves to help and contribute in anyway we can. He said we are not wealthy people and can only do so much, but we could still help in some fashion. He argued that it is the efforts and seeing to it that those efforts are making some difference are what really count. Mr. Jallow said he would always have Basse at heart for it is here he was born and raised and that he would be forever gratfeul to the Basse community for his superb upringing and for all the opporunities that the community offered him during his formative years there. He said such memores run deep in him and it was only right that he gave back to his community.
Closing the introductory session current FoB President, Mr Momodou Krubally, thanked and challenged the members to continue this wonderful idea of meeting on an annual basis. He emphasized that the goal for the gathering was to "listen to the members", to hear from them directly about the good, the challenges and what more the association could do to advance its goals. Mr. Krubally also said that the association wanted to know what was holding back some people from coming onboard.
Members did not shy away; they met Mr. Krubally’s challenge head-on. Speaker after speaker asked questions, gave suggestions on the way forward and non-member attendees registered and some extended ways that they could help the association. A top executive of the Washington, DC, Gambian Association, Buba Colley, suggested that FoB should partner with his organization to launch next year’s African Liberation Day (ALD) activities in Washington DC. (The ALD, a popular Gambian gathering, is an annual event held in Washington DC every May; the events include a symposium, a soccer tournament and a family barbeque.) This executive even suggested that there could be a Basse team participating in the soccer tournament. To which, and to hearty laughter, M. C. Loppy retorted whether the Washington DC Gambian team would then be left with any since several of its players come from Basse.
One of the main highlights and important suggestions at the meeting was the need for FoB to strongly establish itself on the ground and start owning properties. The executive have been tasked to look into acquiring a piece of land to build the proposed library rather than investing heavily on properties that the association has no control over. Another challenge for FoB is the lack of our sister-folk participation. Although some were in attendance, they were however too busy cooking for the guests and running errands for the naming ceremony party to make a noticeable showing at the meeting.
During the meeting, the association's new logo and t-shirts emblazoned with the logo were launched. On the back of the t-shirts read: “Friends of Basse Reunion, Washington, DC, USA, April 4-6, 2014.” Sales on the t-shirts took immediate effect. Members bought them galore, each one wanting a piece of remembrance out of this auspicious gathering.
After a three-hour long meeting, the attendees did what Basse folks do best - engage in jovial banter infused with humor and remembrances of days long gone. The crowd gathered outside for a photo session.
Left Picture. l-r: Alhagie Sey and his childhood friend Sulayman Jallow. Right Picture: l-r: Pa Joof, Hassan Touray, Hamidou Sey, Alhagie Sey, Sulayman Jallow, Valentine Kabby Banjakey, X and Bakary Jallow
During the meeting: left photo: l-r: Samba Johm (Sitting), Pa Joof (standing), Lamin Bah, Mutarr Jallow, Alpha Omar Jallow, Alhagie Sey and his daughter.
Right photo: l-r, Sanna Sanyang, Star Sanyang, X, Alhagie Sey,Valentine Kabby Bajankey (in brown) and Bass Jeng (in white)
Like the picture album below shows, the naming ceremony was in grand style and fun. And: the first annual FoB reunion was a resounding success.
At the end, members agreed to continue the reunion program and plans are already underway for the second annual reunion in DC during the first weekend of April 2015.
FoB is grateful to its members and continues to reach out to all Basserians and friends of Basse to join it on this ambitious drive to harness efforts to make a difference in the community.
***With additional reporting by Cherno Baba Jallow
About the Authors: Momodou Billo Krubally is the President of Friends of Basse. Also Mr. Krubally, and Cherno Baba Jallow are respectively Associate and Contributing Editors of this website. They reside respectively in Los Angeles, California and Southfield, Michigan - USA.
.... And now the naming ceremony and reunion Photo Album
Squatting from left to right:Valentine Kabby Bajankey, Alhagie Sey, Sanna Sanyang, Sulayman Jallow, Yaya Sowe, Cherno Baba Jallow
Standing from left to right: Fatou Baldeh, MB Krubally, Pa Joof, Lamin Bah, Star Sanyang, Bakary Jallow, Alpha Omar Jallow, Hassan Touray, Bass Jeng, Samba Johm, Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, Ousman Kamara, Ous Bah and Hamidou Sey
Sitting, l-r: Fatou Sey, Wuyeh Yorro Sanyang, Haddy Gomez, Mutarr Jallow, Astou Faye
Standing, l-r: Aja Sailey Sey, Bass Jeng, Ousman Kamara, Yusupha Kamara, Samba Johm, Cherno Baba Jallow, Alpha Omar Jallow, Mariama Jallow, Mariam Sey. Inset: Halimatou Jallow
Squatting: Bass Jeng
Standing left to right, Sanna Sanyang, Star Sanyang, Samba Johm, MB Krubally and MC Loppy
Sitting - Left to Right, Haddy Gomez, Astou Faye
Standing - Left to Right, Ousman Kamara, Yusupha Kamara, Samba Johm, Cherno Baba Jallow, Alpha Omar Jallow and Halimatou Jallow
Ousman Kamara of Michigan and Fatou Baldeh and her daughter Aisha of Maryland
Former Basse Manneh Kunda's Kuteh Jungbulu FC star Sanna Sanyang showing his other skills, playing checkers
Left Picture - From Right to Left: Samba Johm, Sanna Sanyang, making a point at the meeting and MB Krubally
Right Picture - From Right to Left, Samba Johm, Sanna Sanyang, Yusupha Kamara, Ousman Kamara, MB Krubally, Star Sanyang, Sulayman Jallow and Mustapha J.
At the party from Left to Right, Kawsu Trawalley, FaBakary Kinteh, Baby Omar, Sulayman Jallow, Alhagie Trawalley and Fatoumatta Trawalley-Kinteh. The Trawalley & Kinteh family came all the way from Worcester, MD to attend the program.
Right picture, l-r: childhood pals Alhagie Sey and Sulayman Jallow, just like the good old days in Basse
Squatting l-r: Yaya Sowe, Lamin Bah, Bakary Jallow
Standing l-r: Astou Faye, Fams Sanyang, Mariama Jallow, Fatou Sowe-Joof, Haja Awa Jallow, Fatou Jallow, Halimatou Jallow, Pa Joof and Mariama J.
Picture on the Left - From Left to Right, Aisha Sey, Sulayman Jallow and Fatou Baldeh
Picture on the Right: Alhagie Sey and his daughter
At the naming ceremony party, the crowd having a good time
Sighthseeing Tour, The White House. L-R: Sulayman Jallow, Bakary Jallow, Alhagie Sey, MB Krubally, Hassan Touray, Alhagie Sey, Bakary Jallow and Sulayman Jallow
Left to Right: Hamidou Sey, Pa Joof, Sulayman Jallow and Modou Lamin D., Bakary Jallow, and Sister Salimatou Jallow sitting behind Hamidou Sey
Time to eat. When Basse folks meet, we eat "Findi". Thanks to sister Fatou Baldeh for the delicous meal
From left to right, cousins and My Basse Editorial Board Members Bakary Jallow and Pa Joof
Left Photo. L-R: Mariama Jallow and Kadijatou Barry-Sey; Opposite Photo, L-R: Haja Gundo Conteh and Jarry Sey
The Couple, Standing: Fatou Sowe-Joof and Pa M. L. Joof
Bakary M. Jallow and aunty Haja Awa Jallow
Pa M. L. Joof and family friend, Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely.