WSSA marks its second anniversary
The Winston-Salem Senegalese Association (WSSA) celebrated its second anniversary Sunday at the Sprague Street Community Recreation Center.
The daylong event included special guests, music, food and fellowship. The gathering, which also included an election for WSSA officers, attracted some of the more than 150 members of the organization.
Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal and other West African countries, was used for much of the program. When official business wasn’t being conducted, Senegalese music could be heard as guests dined on a Senegalese meal featuring lamb and chicken.
“Today is a special day for our organization as we celebrate our second anniversary and also gather together to demonstrate our culture through our food, our music, our language and culture,” said WSSA President Birame Ndiaye.
Over the past year, Ndiaye said the group has been focused on achieving non-profit 501(c)(3) status, which it finally obtained a few months ago. Among its first acts as an official non-profit was opening a Qur’an school on Waughtown Street to help teach children – especially those in the predominately Muslim Senegalese community – the basics of Islam.
On weekends, 27 children from ages 5-16 attend the school, but this past Sunday, many of the students joined in the festivities at the Sprague Street Rec. They laughed and played with one another in the hallway and gym as the adults gathered in the Rec’s meeting room. Their teacher, Serigne Saliou Bousso, interrupted their free time to gather them in front of attendees to recite some of what they have learned. Bousso then asked each child a question about their Quran lessons. Some of the children answered in English, while some spoke in Wolof, but all seemed to have learned a lot at the school in the past two months.
Bousso, who speaks Wolof and spoke to The Chronicle through a translator, said the children have been very engaged. He says along with learning about Islam, the school allows the students to make new friends and form closer bonds.
“My wish is for the kids in the Senegalese community to have … a real good reputation and be people who really do some good in Winston-Salem,” he said.
Dr. Walter Ezeigbo, a local family physcian and native of Nigeria, stopped by to talk to the group about health and wellness. Terri Bost of the Winston-Salem Human Relations Department was also a guest speaker. She answered questions about the organization’s new nonprofit status.
Ndiaye, who is also the owner of Gaimde African Hair Braiding, said that WSSA is interested in community outreach efforts that also help provide opportunities for the business-minded Senegalese community. He said there is talk of starting a daycare center and programs to help entrepreneurs start businesses.
The Senegalese are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. WSSA Vice President Lamine Diack started his latest business, KD Idol African Hair Braiding, in 2009. Diack, who’s lived in the United States for 12 years, said that while his Senegalese brothers and sisters have been able to accomplish much in this community on their own, he hopes the WSSA can bring them closer together so that they can, as a community, prosper even more.
“The purpose of this event is to be able to put the community as one, all the Senegalese community to be one person, one people, one voice,” he said.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Senegal “remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa and has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping and regional mediation.”
WSSA General Secretary Cheikhou Omar Ndiaye, no relation to Birame Ndiaye, said that most in the local Senegalese community came to the United States to further their education and careers. He said the WSSA hopes to make a difference in the country that they now call home.
“America is a land of opportunity. We all work hard, paying the bills, paying our taxes, doing the right thing,” he said. “That’s what the Senegalese organization is about: do(ing) the right thing.”