June 13, 2015 – The mood outside Lowell City Hall was electric on Saturday morning as the Cameroonians of Lowell Association (CAMOLA) joined City officials in an annual ritual that celebrates their African heritage, the City Hall flag raising. The highlight of the event was the introduction of a new organization called the Cameroonian American Youths of Lowell (CAYOL). Attendee and Cameroon immigrant Chris Tifah summed it up by saying, “Roots are important … the youth are important.”
Of course, City Councilor Rita Mercier loves all Lowellians and receives love at each event she attends. And she attends many events! The crowd came alive as she delivered another resounding speech of welcome, love, and support spiced by her usual sprinkling of self deprecating humor. Mayor Rodney Elliott too proved knowledgeable about highlights in Cameroon history, and read a city proclamation to honor the Cameroon culture, their positive impact on the city, and their youth.
I asked Mr. Tifah how things were going in the Cameroon homeland in Western Africa. He said that he was dismayed about the challenges impeding economic development in the country, with particular concerns about corruption and youth unemployment. Mr. Tifah noted that 80% of the people of Cameroon have a college education, but there are no jobs. Lacking a flourishing private sector economy, Cameroonian youth in West Africa have become prime targets for extremist groups. In Lowell, CAMOLA recognizes the importance of education and has initiated a youth group and a scholarship program for high school students.
Lowell Cameroonians have armed themselves with the knowledge that their children stand a better chance at succeeding in the workforce in the United States system of democracy. Mayor Elliott and City Councilor Mercier made it clear that their efforts are sincerely supported in Lowell. As the young people took part in the raising of the Cameroon flag, all sang resounding versions of the Cameroon National Anthem followed by the Star Spangled Banner.
Cameroon National Anthem
O Cameroon, Thou Cradle of our Fathers,
Holy Shrine where in our midst they now repose,
Their tears and blood and sweat thy soil did water,
On thy hills and valleys once their tillage rose.
Dear Fatherland, thy worth no tongue can tell!
How can we ever pay thy due?
Thy welfare we will win in toil and love and peace,
Will be to thy name ever true!
Land of Promise, land of Glory!
Thou, of life and joy, our only store!
Thine be honor, thine devotion,
And deep endearment, for evermore.
NOTE: The 2015 Lowell African Festival takes place on Saturday, June 27, 2015 at the Sampas Pavilion. The event is free and all are invited to attend.
by George DeLuca (writing and photos)
Lowell2020 (like us on Facebook!)