"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake”.
Dr. Solomon Agbor Pioneer President
Those were the words of the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw.
In no remote measure would I begin to compare myself or my meager community services to this great man. However, his words in no small way inspired me when I was considering taking the challenge of leading the Upper Bayang Cultural and Development Association in Washington D.C. The challenges were daunting; a nascent organization, being developed in a rather challenging and oftentimes acrimonious environment – the DC metropolis, with several similar organizations tending to the same population as well as demanding their time and finances, commodities that are highly scarce, to say the least. Nonetheless, when I received the call from the association’s founding father, sessekou Elias Akwo, requesting that I lead the organization, I obliged. This was 2002 and I became the first president of the association.
My ascension to the leadership was accepted by acclamation at the general meeting that followed our discussion with Pa Akwo. I would sustain that position for two years, after which, through an election that I won by 100% of the votes, I was mandated to lead for another 2 years.
My executive and I set out to address the several challenges we faced. Our first order of business was to develop an encompassing, appealing, if tentative, set of by-laws to guide the activities of the organization, with the understanding that with increased membership, those by-laws would require revision. This work was started during my first term and was finalized in the second term.
While we were developing this governing document, we were also busy employing our resources to increase membership. We mobilized and sensitized our fellow brothers and sisters from the subdivision leaving in the DC metro area through personal phone calls and word-of-mouth approaches and visited family groups meetings to talk about the need and the advantages of belonging to this larger group. By the end of my second term, our enrollment was close to 100 members from just a handful at the beginning.
We then directed our focus on incorporating the organization as a not-for-profit 501 © 3 organization. Mindful of the complexities involved in incorporation, we were certain that the incorporation was never going to be finalized under my administration. That notwithstanding, we began the process, filing the necessary documentations and obtaining the IRS employer identification number.
I was not to complete my term, for three months to its end, elated to join an army of health professionals to provide my little contribution in the fight against, arguably the greatest epidemic of our times – the Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), I headed to the epicenter of the epidemic in East Africa. I handed the baton of leadership to my vice president who, like a willing soldier, continued to shape and direct the affairs of the organization.
I would return to the United States six years later to find, much to my expectation and excitement, a stronger and more grounded organization, albeit one now faced with other forms of challenges. I immediately encored in. I joined the discussions on deciding a development project for the subdivision. My contributions were in no small way pivotal in the decision to equip the Government High School Tinto with an ultra-modern science laboratory. Suffice to state that this project was completed with aplomb. My experiences in this project will be the subject of another reading.
Gratitude, described by the three times Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Edward Arlington Robinson, is of two kinds: “the sudden kind we feel for what we receive, and the larger kind we feel for what we give or contribute to society”. As I look back over the years, as far as this organization is concern, I have a sheer sense of pride to have and continue to be a part of this great organization and community. I feel a sense of gratitude (both parts of the description above) to the organization and its members because through my association, I am able to build a great social support structure, and also had the privilege to share my God-given talents to make a difference in the community. For these, I shall forever be grateful.
Dr. Solomon Agbor