The organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) held a customary
inaugural dinner and ball this past Saturday at Cedar’s Hall in
Minneapolis. The ball which started with guests arriving at 5:30pm was
in honor of now OLM President Kerper A. Dwanyen. Dressed in beautiful
gowns, suits and traditional wear, OLM Board members, the Vice
President Andrew G. Tehmeh, Tribal Elders and President Kerper Dwanyen
walked the red carpet into the hall where those gathered applauded in
The soft light hall had round tables surrounding a huge wood tiled dance floor. A long table at the head of the room held the members of the OLM and guest speaker Congressman, Minnesota 5th District, Keith Ellison. The evening begun with a word of prayer by Rev. Geraldine Freeman, before a dinner that consisted of salad, chicken with stir-fried rice and drinks. Traditional Liberian music playing in the background as people enjoyed dinner and small talk.
OLM was formed over thirty years ago by the Liberian community in Minnesota, with the intention of assisting families intergrrate into the American lifestyle, as well as build networks to maintain relations and livelihood amongst each other.
A vibrant voice suddenly burst through the speakers, as a young woman, Tarloh Quiwonkpa accompanied by Cross Atlantic Crew, took to the floor performing dances to Liberian songs. Tarloh danced with vigor and purpose as her soulful voice drew the audience into the music. Though not Liberian, I could easily sense the bond of togetherness among those gathered at Cedar Hall. Congressman Ellison who was the guest speaker of the evening, took to the podium after the exciting musical performance. Congressman Ellison has been very involved in the Liberian Community over the years and helped push for the extension of the temporary permanent status, when Liberians had been asked to go back to their home country.
His speech was received with great applause, especially when he joked that he was Liberian and commended the OLM President on his qualities as a good listener and communicator. He urged Liberians to ‘get on the bus’ and support Dwanyen in his work to lead them to the future.
David Dwanyen and Renee Mompremier had the honor of introducing their father, OLM President, to present his speech. Kerper Dwanyen begun his speech by recognizing members of board, distinguished guests and his fiance’ Ms. Re Cooper. Humble and articulate in his speech, Dwanyen listed key changes that the OLM needs to undertake to better the committee and the Liberian community as a whole. This changes included structural reform to attain a unitary chain of command with board of directors, political involvement with the aid of Liberian Community Action (LCA) so as to represent political aspirations of the Liberian community and participation in the reconstruction of the education and health care centers in Liberia. He urged Liberians to invest in their home country to aid in the rebuilding and economic advancement of Liberia. Dwanyen concluded his speech quoting JFK Junior, with a little twist of his own saying, “Ask not what OLM can do for you, but what you can do for OLM.”
Right before the ball was about to commence, four young girls presented a beautiful poem, “Dare to Dream”. Each in her own character and absorbing personality, the girls individually presented a poem on wisdom, responsibility, good investment, love and sound judgment. The performance called on the youth and elderly to raise children with the above mentioned qualities to ensure a good purposeful future for both the young and the old. The audience proudly applauded the presentation while nodding their heads and murmuring their approval of the spoken words.
Thereafter, people gathered on the dance floor to the beat of Liberian music. It was a mesh of beautiful evening gowns and elaborate traditional wear that included big hats strategically placed on womens heads. From where I was seated, I could take it all in and deeply appreciate the beauty of it. The evening was definetely one that will be memorable for days to come.