A spirit of unity and support for the rapid emergence of Nigerian-American relations was alive at NAMC’s 1st Annual Fundraising Gala on Friday, June 8th, 2012. The inaugural event, held in Houston, TX at the Galleria-Sheraton Suites, proved to be a spectacular success for the growing organization that brought out major power players from all walks of life to reflect on building successful milestones between the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Isaiah Carey of Fox 26 News was the emcee for the evening.
The theme of the inaugural celebration, “A Night to Transform”, illustrated the initiative of NAMC (Nigerian-American Multicultural Center) to combine celebration with cultural, community and diplomatic awareness, while striving towards meeting the organization’s future goals, including a two million dollar campaign to open Houston’s official Nigerian-American Cultural Center.
An official proclamation issued by the City of Houston was presented to NAMC by Houston City Council Member, Jack Christie (sealed by Mayor Annise Parker). In the proclamation, Mayor Parker states, “Houston has been enriched by the presence and contributions its citizens of Nigerian descent, and recognizes their important role in the cultural, civic, economic and spiritual life of our community.”
Gala attendees were stimulated with a full, live ambiance of Nigerian culture all evening long with dinner, ethnic dance presentations, a high profile fashion showcase, and ladies’ headgear (Gele) tying tutorial.
NAMC President, Yemi Koyejo, recognized three major organizations (AFREN, Oriental Energy Resource Limited, Amni Interational Petroleum Development Company Limited) during the awards segment for their significant monetary and professional support of NAMC’s past and future initiatives. Proceeds from the gala will also contribute to signature NAMC projects, including young professional outreach for college graduates and young adults, executive roundtable seminars, and the Expanding Horizons’ Career Discovery forum for high school students.
The major highlight of the evening was two featured keynote addresses delivered by U.S. Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Professor Adebowale Adefuye.
In Jackson-Lee’s address, she recognized her own personal love and admiration for the nation of Nigeria, dating back to her days as a young woman studying in Lagos at the University of Nigeria-Lagos. The congresswoman stated that she “did not wait to go (to Nigeria) with status”, and now she considers herself “A daughter of Nigeria”. During her address, Jackson-Lee acknowledged some of the major highs and lows occurring in Africa’s fastest growing economy, including the recent tragedy with the Dana Air crash.
A moment of silence was paid in respect to the loss of Jennifer and Josephine Onita, two Houston-Area residents who perished in the flight crash that claimed the lives of more than 153 passengers and individuals on the ground on Sunday, June 3rd. Ambassador Adefuye maintained the tempo set by Congresswoman Lee in his address.
He recognized the progression of Nigerian to American relations, yet challenges that both societies must continue to support one another. Adefuye believes that the future of Nigeria rest in the future generations, especially within the extended of Nigeria-Americans. Ambassador Adefuye cited the young adults from the evening’s earlier dance presentation as key example. He jokingly expressed to the crowd that he bets a few of them have never set foot in Nigeria, but their desire “to know” and discover their heritage is what keeps them motivated to support their extension homeland.
Many of the evening’s guests were overall very pleased and moved by the segment of events for the ceremony, organized by professional planner, Doyin Fashakin, and brought together by 2012 gala committee members Goldie Erowele, Ama Love, Yemi Oyedeji and President Koyejo.
Gala Attendee, Sope Willoughby praised NAMC’s success and stated, “With all of the negative press about Nigeria, it was great to witness the positive aspects of (the) culture.” Attendee Deanna Tinnin also reflected that NAMC is “heading in the right direction” and “there is more than just a black and white America” when reflecting on the cultural influence of international relations in the United States.
Written by: Ivuoma Okoro