No words can describe how pain-stricken I am reading stories about the state of affairs within the United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc., a noble organization that was once a peacemaker amongst its peers. How we got here is the question that continues to occupy my mind since the genesis of this impasse.
Even more baffling for me is how is it that we who are known as peaceful could fail so miserably to resolve internal conflict that threatens to destroy the organization whose name depicts oneness or togetherness.
To suggest that United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc. has always been free of conflict will be far from the truth because the organization was once in embroiled in conflict 1999 but never at this magnitude.
The resolution of the conflict was managed swiftly, taking into consideration the immense sacrifices made in the past by members of our community in the interest of peace and unity.
While I cannot recall the details of every act of sacrifices rendered for our community association, there are few that will not easily disappear from my old brain.
First, let us look at an abridged history of what is today known as The United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc. The first meeting that gave birth to the organization was held in Providence, Rhode Island on August 11, 1990, when Mr. J. Bartee Tubah, Mr. Henry Kollie, Mr. Trinity Wamah, Mr. Timothy Kwenah and the late Dr. J. Mamadee Woahtee traveled from Maryland and New York with a mission to promote the idea of forming a united Bong community association in the United States of America.
The idea was quickly embraced by members of Bong Kukartonor Association of Rhode Island. A subsequent meeting was scheduled for August 25, 1990, which produced the organization called The United Bong County Associations in the Americas, Inc. Three meetings later, two in Staten Island, NY and one in Baltimore, Maryland the constitution of the organization was adopted and elections held on March 16, 1991.
The organization formally elected Mr. Tubah as National President, Dennis Garsinii as National Vice President, Ms. Mary Johnson as National Treasurer and Mr. Timothy Kwenah as National Secretary replacing the organization’s first interim leadership headed by Mr. Jonathan O. David. During our first installation ball in Staten Island, a gunman was found hiding in the ceiling of the hall and threatened to shoot in the hall.
Thankfully, the Lord defused that crisis without injuries to anyone.
Two administrations later, Mr. Victor Enders was elected National President in 1995 but died in office in 1996. His National Vice President, Ms. Ellen Brown ascended to the presidency to complete the term. In 1998, general elections were held in Baltimore, Maryland during which Mr. Sam Mohamed Kromah was declared winner.
The election plunged United Bong County Associations in the Americas in a crisis when some chapters that were not present at the elections protested the results due to the lack of quorum during the elections.
The looming crisis led to a scheduled emergency general meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on November 18, 2000. At the meeting, the participants unanimously agreed to set up an interim leadership during which I was named Interim National Chairman, Adana Paye as Interim National Vice Chairman, Elizabeth Bemah Interim National Secretary and Joe D. Norris as Interim National Treasurer. Soon thereafter, a leadership battle began.
On one side were Mr. Kromah and his team who had been declared winners of the 1998 general elections and on the other was the newly established Interim leadership.
Following several months of battling over the leadership of UBCAA, both sides agreed to participate in a reconciliatory meeting chaired by the late Bishop Ronald Diggs. The meeting was held in Philadelphia, PA on March 3rd, 2001. It was at this meeting that I witnessed the example of real sacrifice. Bishop Diggs had just lost his sister and her funeral was scheduled on the day of the meeting. Instead of attending his sister’s funeral, he opted to chair the reconciliatory meeting.
Bishop presided over the meeting and wept bitterly against what he called evasion of peace for selfishness and stonewalling. What a sacrifice that was. I wonder how many of us would have done what he did for the peace in our community?
On June 23, 2001, the United Bong County Associations in the Americas, Inc. held its first post interim elections during which I was elected National President, Adana Paye as National Vice President, Elizabeth Bemah as National Secretary and Joe Norris as National Treasurer. Our administration took over the helm of power with four active chapters (Maryland/Virginia, New Jersey/Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and North Carolina.
In November 2001, Bong Kwatekeh Association of Minnesota applied for chapter membership and was formally granted chapter membership at the UBCAA December 3rd, 2001, meeting in Salisbury, North Carolina, and selected to host the organization’s convention on May 24-26, 2002.
At the convention, the Amended Constitution of the United Bong County Associations in the Americas, Inc. was adopted which among other things changed the name of the organization to United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc., the term of office from two years to three and established an official seal of the organization to be used on all stationeries bearing communications of the United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc.
Following the 1998 conflict, United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc. made a strong comeback with remarkable expansion of new chapters.
The Iowa Chapter, Ohio Chapter, Georgia Chapter and California Chapter were founded and admitted into the Union. The Bong Kukartonor of Rhode Island, Bong County Association of Massachusetts and Bong County & Friends of New York listed as struggling chapters were all revived while efforts were ongoing at the time to establish the Texas Chapter based in Houston and the Chicago Chapter based in Illinois.
Thirty-one years after its birth, United Bong County Association in Americas is facing its first major crisis where there are talks of factionalizing the Association. How did a once vibrant organization that served as a peacemaker among other national county associations and beacon of unity get to this point where it too has become a subject of division? Well, the hard true is that we as members of the United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc. are to blame for this chaos.
We sowed the seed over a period of years and or now sadly reaping the fruits. We have constantly breached the constitution and amended it over time to suit our own comfort. We have chipped away so much from the Constitution and done away with fundamental provisions that once strengthen the organization that its foundation has become fragile. How could it survive under such hash conditions?
Is it all lost? Well, depends on what happens over the next six months. I have a strong conviction that the next administration will take a hard look at the need to reconcile and take steps to restore unity. Should this be the case, we might be able to rescue the organization from falling off the cliff. This I hope, will be our mission, to seek peace and unity within the United Bong County Association in the Americas, Inc. so that we are better able to serve our communities abroad and people at home.
B. Dennis Garsinii
Former National Vice President & Former National President- UBCAA