The SOBA AMERICA VIRTUAL National Convention Held on May 29, 2021 is one for the records. It was attended by approximately 70 members from across all 13 chapters in the USA and Canada
The convention started around 11am with Mass conducted by Father Valentine Suum, who delivered a beautiful homily on brotherhood and love. This mass service was punctuated by good catholic and Latin song and prayer.
The convention was moderated by Soba Leo Arrey Obenson, Soban of the 1982 class – a global Icon, community organizer and transformational leader. Right after Mass, we sang the Sasse Anthem. It was a collage of chapter representatives singing the anthem in an excellent symphony which made for a goose-bump moment filled with nostalgia as we echoed the rhythms of “Near the Buea Mountain, High above the sea, stands St. Joseph’s college a place for you and me”.
The Anthem was preceded by a welcome speech from the Present of SOBA America, Dr. Bertrand Fote in which he thanked all SOBANS for participating in this year’s Convention. The theme of the convention was “SOBA AMERICA— Tenacity in the face of COVID-19”. He acknowledged the troubles of the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic which upended much of the year 2019/2020.
The Roll Call for all chapters was then conducted with pre-recorded videos of each chapter highlighting the uniqueness of the chapter and state/region. It was a theatrical journey across SOBA America Nation. Some outstanding moments came from SOBA California, SOBA Dallas and SOBA Carolinas which showcased some of the beauty scenery /beautiful sceneries of their states and milestones achieved by the chapter in recent memory. SOBA Dallas, poised to host the next in-person convention after 2 years since our last physical convention promised to deliver a convention like never seen before because, as they say, in Dallas, everything is bigger and better.
Right before we delved into the crux of the day which was debating the bylaws, we had a powerful word of service, brotherhood, faith, and family from Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory, The first and only African American Cardinal. Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory (born December 7, 1947) is a prelate of the Catholic Church who is the archbishop of Washington, USA. Pope Francis elevated him to his present rank on November 28, 2020. He was the Archbishop of Atlanta, from 2005 to 2019; the Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, from 1994 to 2004; and auxiliary Bishop of Chicago from 1983 to 1994. He was the first Black president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2001 to 2004, when the USCCB issued the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in response to Roman Catholic sex abuse cases.
Debate on By-laws along with voting on all motions began at 11a.m. until 5pm. This process was largely smooth with focus on two controversial issues:
1) A motion to grant a one-time exemption and to award the current administration an additional two-year term due to the Force Majeure situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic;
2) A motion to suspend the former treasurer of SOBA America for failure to give up ownership rights of SOBA America property and official chart forum – Telegram.
However, the process was smooth and voting ended at 5pm EST.
After a small break, we had a wonderful presentation from the Keynote Speaker -Tina Slinker. As a coach, author, and speaker, Slinker made it her mission to touch people’s lives in an affirmatively positive way, either through one-on-one contact in a coaching environment, or reading her book, For the Love of Mom. Slinker truly cares about people. She inspires, motivates, and challenges people to get the very best out of themselves and others, and to be engaged in learning life lessons along the way. The topic of conversation was “Tenacity and Determination: How to stay connected and purposeful”
The keynote presentation was closely followed by a Panel Discussion on Health and Wellness led by Dr. Christian Bime and Dr. Nagella Nukuna. Dr. Christian Bime is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical Translational Sciences at the University of Arizona – Tucson – with tenure. He is a Pulmonary and Clinical Physician and Medical Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Banner University Medical Center – Tucson. In addition to his leadership role and bedside care for critically ill patients, including COVID-19 patients in the ICU, he has an active basic and translational research laboratory funded by the NIH and industry to study Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which happens to be the most severe complication of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Dr. Nagella Nukuna, is a wife and mother of three, Technical Manager and Analytical Chemistry Leader for Electronic materials in DuPont. Nagella’s unparalleled passion for wellness at any age, is a lifelong devotion she has championed for the past decade. Consequently, she has pioneered building up the knowledge base of nutritional and caloric contents for African food in the diaspora by authoring a recent book called “A taste of Africa; fusion of food family and fitness”. Nagella, equipped with an ISSA Personal Training and Nutrition certification is an ardent advocate for smart native eating. She serves as a coach/mentor to numerous women and their families to lose weight and attain healthy lifestyles. The topic was “The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health and wellness”.
At around 3:00pm, the business meeting started with elections. In the absence of challengers, the Seven-man Executive team was re-elected to a 2nd term. SOBA Arizona was selected over SOBA Tri-state to host the 2024/2025 SOBA America National Convention. There was a brief review of chapter reports from Chapter presidents, financial reports and lend-a-hand initiative by the Chief Accounting Officer. Brief summaries of the SAGI report and the Pa Ngando project report were then presented by Dr. Kevin Njabo and Mr. Edwin Masango respectively. The results of all votes – elections, bylaws, and floor motions were then presented by the moderator, Mr, Arrey Obenson.
The business meeting ended around 6:00pm EST with other matters and actionable items discussed. The Gala started at around 7pm EST with introductions of the MC – Mr. Bendrix Tabu and DJ – the popular DJ Skeeper. The SOBA America Service Awards to Sobans with exceptional records of service to SOBA America was presented to nominees selected from across different chapters. This was closely followed by the pinning ceremony of new members who joined the President’s club. To join this club, each member pays $1,000 from which $500 goes towards their dues for 5 years and the balance supports the SOBA Alumni association. The president of SOBA America – Dr. Bertrand Fote then delivered his address which highlighted the SOBA AMERICA theme – Tenacity in the face of COVID-19 and a reminder that our union is bigger and stronger. The highlight of the night was presentation of the Spotlight Award earned by President Emeritus Federick Itoe, for his exceptional services to SOBA America during his term of office, and his work post-presidency commitment and engagement especially in the project resulting in donation of a band by SOBA America to St. Joseph’s College Sasse, and also his involvement in the newly created SOBA America TV. The Award presentation was followed by appropriate music and entertainment. The production and delivery of these segments was simply breathtaking. The virtual gala was a hit as SOBANS stayed engaged in front of their computers late into the night, having a good time.
At 11:00 pm, closing remarks and official closing of 2021 SOBA America National Convention by President of SOBA America.
It is worth noting that this virtual convention was managed by Transformunity founded and owned by Soban Arrey Obeson in partnership with Zonetak Studios owned and managed by Soban Emmanuel Takusi. They were two partners who made it possible to realize the aspirations of the Fote Administration to deliver a remarkable and innovative virtual convention.