By James Kokulo Fasuekoi reporting from Crystal, Minnesota
He traces his family root to the famous Malian Empire in West Africa where the great ancient city of Timbuktu is located. While his ancestors may have done wonders, as great warriors in ancient time, they never dreamed of flying airplanes or cross the ferocious Atlantic Ocean to the United States someday. Now, it seems young Lassana Bamba, a son of Mandingoes (one of Africa’s largest ethnic groups), from Liberia is set to do even greater things.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, moments after being briefly introduced to a group of Crystal City Council members at the Crystal Community Center, City Mayor, Jim Adams was pleased to appoint Mr. Bamba, a career broadcast journalist, to his 10-member city commission which is charged with overseeing the development of the city’s parks and recreational activities.
Mr. Bamba, the first Liberian volunteer to join the city council, had earlier given a brief but impressive personal introduction of himself, something that appeared to have led to his acceptance unopposed by all seven council members present.
The functions of the 10-member volunteer committee entails giving advice to the city council concerning municipal functions as well as investigating “any subject of interest to the city, including the performance of “quasi-judicial functions” accordingly to the amended Ordinance No. 90-22, Feb. 1, 1991.
Mr. Lassana Bamba is among journalists that stayed in the battered war nation and covered the brutal conflicts that left an estimated 300,000 people dead. At the country’s national radio and television broadcast system, (LBS), Mr. Bamba’s main tasks included the weekly production of English and Mandingo Language radio programs.
He is a product of the International School of Journalism (ISJ) in the Republic of Liberia and a beneficiary of Radio France International’s training in Radio Program Production. He holds a Degree in Liberal Arts from North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Mr. Bamba, owner/manager of BAMBA 1.COM, (a Minnesota-African community web magazine), is currently studying for his second Degree in Technical Communications at the Metropolitan State University of St. Paul, Minnesota.
During his work, Mr. Bamba, with eight years of radio broadcast experience, also met and interviewed personalities BBC’s Robin White, known for his crafty interview style with African rebel leaders; Philip Turle of Radio France International and former Liberia’s vice Mr. Moses Blah, who served under indicted president Charles Taylor before becoming president after Liberian rebels forcefully removed Taylor from power in 2003.
Before moving to the US with his family in 2004, Mr. Bamba, now a US citizen told council members he had been involved with community service in his native Liberia. In Minnesota, Bamba said, he has played key roles in the Minnesota Mandingo Association (MMA), among them, Secretary General (for the last four years) and also webmaster for the organization’s official website. The MMA’s membership is close to a thousand and has link to FELMAUAS, the largest Mandingo organization worldwide, with branches in Australia, USA and Canada. It’s based on such background, he maintained, he was moved to join the Crystal City committee so that he could render his services to the city and community.
US democracy at work:
Mayor Adams convenes weekly council meetings between citizens and his council members where citizens have the opportunity to interact and hold exchanges with their local officials. During such meetings, citizens can be allowed to participate in the council’s deliberations, identify problems facing their communities and advance proposals on how they together with the council could remedy such problems.
About an hour into the ceremony leading to Bamba’s appointment, an incident involving some Crystal City’s residents occurred that had Mr. Bamba (one of two Africans at the program), shock. Representatives of the citizenry at the occasion who had gone to make presentation on behalf of their communities, with respect to the communities’ socio-political affairs, defied the city council’s guideline which bars citizens attending such meeting from what Mayor Jim Adams termed “taking shots” at council members.
In one particular incident, the council ordered a team of Police to remove or conceal the microphone in order to stop a female community activist from continuing her speech which seemed to violate the council’s protocols set forth. Even after Police officers masked the microphone, the woman, sandwiched by two Police officers, still continued her presentation without molestation from officers, insisting, like earlier speakers, that this was part of her inalienable rights under the US First Amendment, rights every citizen are entitled, rights that can neither be curtailed by the state nor Federal.
Disappointed at the lady’s refusal to cease, City Mayor Jim Adams signaled his fellow council members to leave and at once, they awoke from their seats, walked through the auditorium’s north entrance and headed down to the basement where they settled for a while before sending an officer to get Mr. Bamba and this writer who had accompanied him. Just in time, some of the community leaders council members has tried to avoid, followed Bamba and his team into the basement conference room where council members were waiting. The citizens were never stopped.
But the police’s maturity in handling the situation even in the face of what appeared like a tension is something that caught the attention of Mr. Bamba, who is originally from an African nation that has some of the worse human rights abused record. In November 2011, during the second-round of presidential elections, police shot and killed at least two demonstrators (with a third unconfirmed) from the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change in the presence of United Nations troops in the capital.
Following the incident, the country’s incumbent and first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf briefly appeared on national radio and expressed regret for the “death” but also blamed demonstrators and the opposition party for whatever happened. The presidential hopeful insisted anyhow elections would go ahead as planned. She was declared “winner” but a US States Department website afterward, expressed doubt regarding “fairness” in the entire election process that ushered Sirleaf-Johnson into her second term.
Moved by what transpired, Mr. Bamba was unable to conceal his emotions. “Had this been Liberia, where I come from, the story would have been different,” the youth told the stunned gathering.
He promised to work with the city council and find a way in the future so that members of the Liberia National Police Force can benefit from trainings abroad, especially the United States that relate to the protection of human rights in the country.
While young Bamba’s Tuesday appointment was accepted by all seven-member Americans with no opposition, ironically, Liberia, the country where Bamba originally hailed, still maintains racial “discriminatory” clauses in its constitution which bar none Negros from owning land-property rights, something many of the citizens are now protesting. At the same time, some believe changes will come through Diaspora Liberian-Americans, like Bamba, who serves as a bridge, in spite failure by the current government led by Harvard University graduate, Johnson-Sirleaf, to provide basic social services for citizens.
Liberia holds close tie with the US, dating back to the re-settlement of repatriated Black American slaves who founded this Negro Republic on the West coast of Africa. Liberia is the only nation in Africa that was never colonized by Europeans or foreign invaders. The country declared its independence July 1847, and adopted a constitution replica to that of the Great United States.
“Nu na Kiliyli, nu na gaba le biga a wulozi kenii Gala!” (One’s cleverness, one’s strength couldn’t save him…only God)… a resident Guinean palm wine tapper who survived the Liberian Civil War–Rape, Loot & Murder, LIBERIAN CIVIL WAR: A Journalist’s Photo Diary