Personal Chronicles // 04.30.2011

NS Gambia Dinner with Lt. Gov. Mayann E. Francis

Article by Abena A-T

Two nights ago, I was invited to attend a major fundraising dinner for the Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA).  The NSGA is an NGO based on partnership between the Canadian province of  Nova Scotia and the tiny west African country of Gambia and more recently, Sierra Leone.   Through educational and health promotion initiatives they promote, leadership, civil involvement and skills development.  Unfortunately, like so many other NGOs in Canada, they struggle with insufficient and inconsistent funding  which threatens the sustainability of their work.  Several individuals were featured for their work  to fundraise for the NSGA.  Among them were a young woman from the Gambian team who was a drama team educator, a young Nova Scotian woman who swam for 17 days to cross the English Channel, another Nova Scotian woman planning to run for 17 days across the entire country of the Gambia, and a 10-year old boy who raised $3000 for the organization by selling valentine cards.

I participated in my first live and silent auctions that evening.  My fiancé and I bid on a sleek set of six Italian champagne flutes in the silent auction, and for a two-night stay at a beachfront cottage in the live auction.  We were outbid on both but it was fun trying to raise money for the cause.  The food was a quaint union of West African inspiration and eastern Canadian familiarity: French bread and chapattis, groundnut soup, chicken with steamed eggplant and cabbage, and for dessert: chocolate pate with raspberry coulis.

And guess who was in our presence as we dined that evening? Lieutenant Governer of Nova Scotia, the Honorable Mayann E. Francis. A lieutenant governor is a representative of the Queen, so her Honor Mayann Francis is the Queen’s representative for Nova Scotia.  She is the first African-Nova Scotian to hold her post in over 400 years and is also only the second woman to do so.  About five years ago, she came to speak at my undergraduate university and I got to cover the story.  I remember being impressed by her carriage and confidence.  She had placed emphasis on getting an education, even if the system wasn’t always balanced in favor of minorities. She said to never forget your manners; your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’-they go a long way.  She is a woman of faith and studied theology at the Atlantic School of Theology.  I remember she said she knew she’d be great. She didn’t know exactly how, but she knew it. We were asked to stand as she entered with her official guard. She had on the most fabulous raspberry suit-dress that had just enough pop for an enjoyable evening, yet maintained a formal and sophisticated image.

Here we are in the lobby just after she made her exit from the dining room.  Don’t we look like old friends?

Me and The Honorable Mayann E. Francis

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