The 33rd annual SOBA America convention was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, famously known as the Queen City. Aside from being home to the renowned NASCAR competition, Charlotte boasts a rich culture, delightful cuisine, exciting entertainment, thrilling adventures, and some of the friendliest people in the country.
Similar to last year, the convention adopted a cashless approach, meaning that no cash transactions were accepted throughout the entire process, starting from pre-convention registration to on-site purchases. Various electronic payment methods were made available to SOBANS and attendees. This cashless system not only provided a safer environment and also facilitated a smoother payment process. Furthermore, it enhanced transparency and accountability. Thanks to these measures, the financial team is well-positioned to deliver a timely financial report, with only a few pending items such as the final hotel bill and some vendor invoices.
The convention commenced on Thursday, May 25th, with delegates flying into Charlotte from various locations across North America, Europe and Africa. The day began with the Early bird “Washmop” Cocktail at the Safari Lounge, where delegates gathered for dinner, music, and entertainment. The highlight of the evening came when a fellow SOBAN offered twenty bottles of champagne to all present, creating a jubilant atmosphere of celebration and enjoyment. It was a fantastic welcome to the Queen City.
Friday, May 26th, witnessed a wide array of activities taking place simultaneously. The Renaissance Park hosted the Golf and Table Tennis Tournament, while the Community Service Event unfolded at the 2nd Food Harvest. Both events started at 9 am. In the afternoon, the soccer tournament kicked off at 2 pm, accompanied by live grilling and BBQ at the Mallard Creek Soccer Fields. Though the Golf and Table Tennis tournaments saw fewer participants, they were highly competitive, featuring skilled players.
The Community Service Event on Friday was a remarkable occasion. SOBANS from SOBA America Nation volunteered at the 2nd Food Harvest Food Bank, assisting in packing boxes with assorted stationery and household supplies for the underprivileged in the community. The mission of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina is to alleviate hunger by collecting and distributing food and household items through partner agencies. Additionally, Second Harvest works to raise awareness about the issue of hunger and its potential solutions within the community. Covering a 24-county region across North and South Carolina, Second Harvest supplies food to over 950 emergency pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and programs serving low-income children and seniors. The volunteering experience left a profound impact on the SOBANS, as their actions made a tangible difference in the lives of those in need.
The soccer tournament, accompanied by live grilling and BBQ, drew a substantial crowd of more than eighty SOBANS and guests. SOBA America’s team faced off against the Charlotte Veterans FC in an intense match. The sixteen-man SOBAN team displayed remarkable skill, surprising the Charlotte Veterans by scoring three goals within 90 minutes. Although the Charlotte Veterans emerged victorious with a four-goal lead over the formidable SOBAN squad, the game brought smiles, reconnections, and a shared bond of friendship and brotherhood among the SOBANS and their friends, who enjoyed playing, eating, drinking, and celebrating together.
Later that night, SOBA America organized a welcome dinner with a cultural theme, a first in the history of the convention. This special event featured traditional rituals, fanfare, cultural displays, a fashion parade showcasing traditional regalia, cultural dances, and more. The evening commenced with SOBAN Fidelis Nkeze aka MC Faro as the Master of Ceremony and DJ Big Mola setting the stage. Soban General President, Mr. Ayuk, graced the occasion as the guest of honor and received recognition. The traditional entrance was led by the Host Chapter Members, the Carolinas, followed by the transfer of the Ceremonial Touch from Convention Chairman SOBAN Ngwa Nico to the President of SOBA America, Dr. Fote. Other highlights included the breaking of Kolanuts by Dr. Nick Enow, the invocation and blessing of the food by Rev. Father Desmond Ndikum, a fashion parade, cultural dances, and a reflection by SOBA America President, Dr. Fote Betrand. It was an evening filled with grandeur and celebration of culture.
Saturday: Annual General Assembly Meeting
As anticipated, the Carolinas surpassed all expectations in hosting a professionally organized Annual General Assembly Meeting (AGM). Delegates were delighted to find their convention materials already packaged in personalized tote bags. The meeting commenced promptly at 8:00 a.m. under the guidance of moderator SOBAN Arrey Obenson. The agenda was efficiently managed, ensuring punctuality and adherence to the schedule. Deliberations concluded at 1:00 p.m., followed by a well-attended lunch and mass. The general assembly made several significant decisions, including an amendment to the by-laws addressing the probationary period for new members to be eligible for death benefits. SOBA Houston successfully won the bid to host the 2026 SOBA America Convention. The intellectual enrichment session featured an engaging discussion on the importance of regular medical check-ups and preventive care, led by Dr Fongong Achu Mofor. SOBA General President Ayuk Iyok also addressed the General Assembly.
The gala event drew a large crowd, and SOBANS, along with their patrons, were treated to a memorable evening by DJ Big Mola and Fidelis Nkeze (MC Faro), both talented SOBANS. The Carolinas team ensured a VIP experience throughout the gala and the entire weekend for VIP patrons. The evening included the customary awards ceremony and President’s Club pinning ceremony. It was an exceptional night of celebration.
The Sunday BBQ and award ceremony provided a unique and fulfilling end to the weekend, despite the unfortunate weather conditions that prevented the scheduled games. Nonetheless, this allowed for additional bonding time among the SOBANS, SOBANESE, and present friends. The highlight of the day was the trophy presentation to the winners of the Table Tennis, Long Tennis, Golf, and Soccer Tournaments. The trophies themselves were unique and exquisitely designed. Abundant food was provided, thanks to the skilled grill masters and their team.
Overall, the 2023 SOBA America National Convention was a resounding success, showcasing the camaraderie, cultural richness, and community spirit of the SOBAN community. Attendees enjoyed a weekend filled with engaging activities, heartfelt service to the community, meaningful discussions, cultural celebrations, and memorable connections.