Photos courtesy of Robert Bernstein
The Council for Young African Leadership hosted event this Monday at the CUNY Graduate Center in an effort to gain funds for their trip to Cameroon in two weeks as well as their day-to-day operations.
Members of the organization were in attendance at the event along with their supporters, the latter who functioned as businessmen/women and semi-affiliates with the organization. These businessmen/women were also members of the CYAL, some having had high positions in the organization, which is why the term “semi-affiliate”. Kwaku Awuah, President of 54 Kingdoms, a Pan-African “fashion house”, has been with CYAL since his brand’s inception in 2009. He has characterized CYAL as “a good place to network…to support each others initiatives,” and that “the contribution of CYAL has been tremendous,” to their business success and in the African community.
Along with his partner, founder and CEO of the brand, Nana Poku, who agrees that CYAL is a pivotal movement in the community. “I look at it as an integral part of the young African mind.” The pair have been every symposium hosted by the organization and are even contributing one of their pieces to the auction. An orange top in a black box, representing the African countries that made it to the World Cup. Poku summed it up in that it, “represents African solidarity.”
Another supporter and member of the organization was Elizabeth Akua-Nyarko Patterson, founder of the Girls Education Initiative of Ghana (G.E.I.G., pronounced gig). Her nonprofit’s goal, she says, is “to provide academic support for girls,” especially those with special needs, beginning in secondary schools. She says that in Ghana, “there’s a hump to get over,” and that the child marriage rate is 25%, “a girl is more apt to get married because of the financial incentive for the family,” and admits that had she been in Ghana when she was in a car accident a few years ago her life “would’ve been cut short,” because of the social structure that attempts to hold women back in the country.
When she met CYAL at NYU back in 2011 she immediately asked how she could be of help and started from there with an internship and laughingly admitted that within two weeks she had been promoted to a more prominent position. As she began to think about forming her organization, members of CYAL proved a good sounding board for her ideas and a great support for her in realizing her dreams. Her being at their events 3 years later proves that the bond was not simply in the moment.
At the speech, Patterson and a new member, Loukman Lamany, gave a few words of support to their fellows at CYAL and praised where the organization was going with Lamany saying, “I feel very excited to go to work because of the mission, because of the people I work for.”
Tickets for the trip had already been purchased but the fundraiser that day was in an effort to secure more funds for the organization and as President Divine Muragijimana said, “We wanted to give face to the project.”
A team composed of CYAL members will be leaving in 3 weeks from when the event took place to go to Cameroon where they will be joined by 7 “Cameroonian professionals.” Other than Lamany, Muragijimana, and Patterson, there were members who were also going on the trip who were unable to attend the event for one reason or another. They are Awo Abdi and Adesuwa P. Enabulel.
CYAL was contacted the Cameroonian organization, Le Club de l’economie et de la Finance Africaine (Le Clefa). As Robert Agyemang, Vice Presidents of CYAL, said, one of their reasons for going to Cameroon was because “the youth in Cameroon need advocacy,” and that it is CYAL’s goal to, “affect the youth throughout the continent [of Africa].”
“The same issues affecting the youth here are affecting them there,” Agyemang said.