Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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MJoTA Celebrates Black History
Son of Sierra Leone, Sidique Wai, advocates for all in New York SJ Dodgson MJoTA v6n1 p0201

In late Mar 2009, on a wet, cold Sunday morning filled with the smell of spring that had started that week when we were in Atlanta for the Muslim wedding of a Nigerian Yoruba princess, Lookman Sulaimon drove me in my car from his East New York apartment to the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Harlem!!! I had never been to Harlem, and was instantly bitten by its magic.

Nothing I like better than strolling down Malcolm X Boulevard at sunset, absorbing the energy from the streets, from the air, from the defiance and demands of sons of Africa who have passed on: leaving us with a flag that has been used as the model for flags of independent nations in Africa, and for the badge of the Bed Stuy Vollies; and hope and prayers, and a president who is a son of Kenya. Amen!

But that day, that first day in Harlem when the air held the promise of new life and put smiles on me and my soul, we parked the car and walked into the Apollo Theater where a Christian church service was in progress.

Lookman, who has been blessed with extraordinary good looks and lack of aging, has an uncanny knack of showing up late, beautifully dressed in immaculately pressed business suits or Nigerian clothes he designed himself, and looking like he owned the place.

This day was no exception. We missed the awards ceremony for Mr Sidique Wai, liaison to the police department and African communities.

In the throng after the final prayers, I was introduced to many people, and photographed them, and in the months and years that followed, was able to put names to those faces, and find out how extraordinary is their hard work.  They toil away from the United Nations and aid agencies, away from the limelight and accolades. Simply working hard because they love America and they love the country they came from.

Today is the beginning of Black History Month, and I can tell you, Black History is being made every day by sons and daughters of Africa going to school and working hard in communities in the United States of America, in the Caribbean, in Europe, in the continent of Africa. Most of these high achievers are quiet and do not want to be named, and I only give names when the person on whom I shine a light gives permission.

Sidique Wai embodies the hard-working immigrant who went to school, and rose  in the police force to be the highest ranking African. He comes from a country which was racked with war for 11 years: yes, he lost relatives during the war. More than anyone can bear. His life in the United States has also been unbearably harsh, and I am not at liberty to disclose details, but if I did, you would weep.

Sidique Wai lost his mother before he started school: she died with her child during childbirth which is even now endemic in Sierra Leone. This fact brought me into contact with his niece, Zainab Wai, the daughter of his surviving sibling, the late journalist Usman Wai. I spent 6 weeks in Sierra Leone in 2010 as the guest of Zainab, who adopted me into her family; articles I wrote about that trip are on the page for Sierra Leone. After that trip, Sidique Wai became my Uncle Sidique, and that is how I address him.

A lot of New Yorkers are Jews, immigrants from Russia, Poland. And Muslims, immigrants from West and North and East African countries. And Christians. A lot of New Yorkers are not immigrants. Sidique has long helped all, collectively and individually.

I walked behind him down Eastern Parkway - he was walking next to the police commissioner and they had serious police protection around them - during the 2012 West Indian Day Parade and beside him, watched the police commissioner play drums; I walked with him down Empire Boulevard during the 2009 J'ouvet Parade when he was a grand marshal; I listened to him talk about Haiti during the 2013 Brooklyn Borough Hall Haiti Memorial.

I have been to small high level meetings in his home; and they always start with a Muslim prayer, a Christian prayer, and a Jewish prayer. Uncle Sidique is a man for all New Yorkers.

I witnessed the 3 days of mourning for his close friend and cousin Alfred Fawundu, who died when I was in Sierra Leone, and was given a state funeral complete with United Nations helicopter.

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A personal story: when I had a problem in New York, I asked Sidique for help, and he listened and counseled me, and I followed his advice. He is good at listening, he knows the laws of New York City and New York State.

I know Uncle Sidique. He is a good man. he has enormous energy, he loves America, he loves New York, he loves African communities everywhere and he loves the rule of law.

I enthusiastically endorse Sidique Wai for Public Advocate of New York. Because he advocates for all.

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