The Mandingo Tribe: A Divided Community
Speech Delivered by Mamadee Bangali Sesay
as Guest speaker at the inauguration of the
Texas Mandingo Association
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Gentlemen and Ladies, brothers and sisters, the young and beautiful children who are up so late to learn and follow into our foot-steps, the Matex membership, leaders of FELMAUSA and heads of organizations present, I greet you with pride and gratitude to be part of this wonderful program, thank you for your invitation. I greet you in the name of the Almighty Allah, and ask for his guidance and protection throughout this program.
I see a million dollar evaluation of this inaugural process, judging from the clothes, shoes, coats, and hats that sure look expensive. What about those African outfits? Seriously, there’s no line between the brothers and sisters when it comes to what to wear. However, you all look very nice, beautiful and elegant. Beyond the personal desires, we are here to finalize and be part of a progression in management of chapter organizations that will definitely make our community work better. It also provides an opportunity to talk about issues that are of importance to the Mandingo tribe within the confines of Liberian.
You all will agree that the story of the Mandingo tribe is unique, interesting and extensive-there are Mandingos in almost the entire west African region, where close to fourteen million people speaks the tribe. 30% in Guinea, 22% in Mali, 42% in Gambia, 20% in Ivory Coast, 15% in Burkina Faso, 13% Guinea Bissau, 10% in Mauritania, 8% in Sierra Leone, 7% in Liberia and 7% in Senegal. Besides, in recent past and now, many of these countries were or are being led by a Mandingo.
Notably, Sierra Leone was led by Ahmed Tejan Kaba, who died four or five days ago at the age of 82, all of the above countries have had a Mandingo as a President or in some leadership role.
In Liberia however, our story takes a leftward turn because of the perception that we, Mandingos are not Liberians. But, as awful as that perception of Mandingos sounds, an even greater risk to our tribe that will make it harder to fully achieve our potential and take our rightful place in Liberia is the way we relate to each other internally; we reject and label others as non-Mandingos, totally disregarding the fact that from intermarriages, which our Fore parents did, comes many different branches of who we are as a people.
We fight and disagree on issues that are so insignificant, spending hundreds of hours on peace talks that never hold because we are not sincere and our intents are not to fix the problem, but to perpetuate a sense of disunity, leaving the entire community to fall victim to selfishness. From our actions against each other, we are unable to benefit from the best that is within us.
We drive away the best thinkers, listeners, those who go all out to make things possible, the writers, the business men and women, those who make us laugh, and even those who argue and say no to everything. Remember? When we refused to reject the Mandingo gown, the jokes about (Monica-lama) that fell off the ward and did not turn us away from that yummy food, the investment we did in businesses small and large, regardless of how remote the location.
We stock to the good in us, our food and resourcefulness and cleverness in business, making it appealing to others. Guess what, that Mandingo gown is now called African gown, Monica-lama no more belongs to Mandingos alone, and Mandingos do not have the high percentage in business ownership in comparison to pre-civil war. So what has happened to our resiliency?
The above statement shows that what was true yesterday will not necessarily be true today. It means that we can argue and counter argue everything that was or is against Mandingos, unless and until we change our attitude towards each other, that argument goes to waste because our house is divided, our unity is taken for granted, when we know that without combined effort we can never succeed.
If we fail to make our future our responsibility, and continue to maintain that we are discriminated against and nothing is done to change that reality, means that our biggest opponent is ourselves.
So, my goal tonight is to inspire a new attitude and mindset that would allow us to shape our own destiny by working together as one, positioning ourselves to form and play a greater role in our country, Liberia.
I know we are decent and hardworking people, what I am asking of you tonight are to manifest that goodness, hard work and love for each other. Let’s agree to disagree without resulting to ripping the community apart as if we are incapable or weak in achieving anything.
If we are to make this community a respectable community, regardless of what has happened to us, we must hold together as one, understanding that Mandingos are no different from the people we see and interact with every day. We are a diverse group of people either through marriages, where we live and the way we speak. We therefore need to use our diversity as a gift and not a liability. If we divide ourselves to a point that there is no one who is a pure Mandingo, what are we going to do?
If we hold together, everything becomes possible, and we can care less about perception because an agenda will be developed and ideas will be discussed. We will be active participants in county organizations, bringing back the skills to help develop our own community. Holding together brings unity and effectiveness; we become a whole and not two or three.
We must hold together and stop finding all the excuses not to work for the benefit of our community. If we fail to listen and pretend as if this problem has no impact, we become weak because our weakness is determined by how united we are. Winston Churchill said that “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
We cannot afford to be our own enemy and hope that our meeting here tonight will be a continuation of the quest for lasting unity in our community.
Let me end by telling this story as was told to me by an acquaintance about a fellow who was in desperate need of releasing his container from Freeport. He asked for the boss and was told to go to the next room to meet the boss, which he did. He came back and said there was no one in the office besides one Mandingo man with a gown. The Mandingo man was indeed the boss; his perception of Mandingos blinded his thinking that your dress code is just a part of you and not the whole.
While that speaks volume, we can change that perception from our end by working together and understanding that our strength lies in us working together, and also understanding that no matter the perception of us, no one can determine from where we come. So, let unite and work together as one people.
Mr. Sidiby, you can rest assure that you have my support and the people of Minnesota; and you can count on us as our doors remain open to you at all times. Thank you for your time, and invitation. Related Story