In the summer of 1993, a group of Fako elements led by Mola Ngale Efange and Mola Makuna Tande began a series of in-depth discussions about the state of Fako division in general, and of the Fako Diaspora community in the United State in particular. They lamented the fact that unlike other Cameroonian communities in the US, Fako elements had never come together to discuss their collective problems or to celebrate their individual successes. It was also noted that the said community had never had a national organization in North America.
The general consensus was that creating a national Fako association in the US would be the best method for mobilizing the resources of the Fako Diaspora community for developmental and networking purposes. Unlike hundreds of similar discussions that had taken place within different segments of the Fako community over the years, the individuals behind the Summer 93 talks were determined to go beyond the rhetoric of despair and inaction of the past.
The immediate challenge was how to: (1) identify and track down Fako elements scattered across North America (2), get their contact information (3)and adequately inform and mobilize them around the idea of an all Fako reunion.
FECA Minnesota and BCA Washington take the lead
Back then there were only two Fako associations in the Unite States; FECA (Fako Elements Cultural Association) Minnesota which was created in August 1990 and BCA (Bakweri Cultural Association) Washington, DC. It was then agreed that these two associations would be contacted to play the leading role in organizing the Fako meeting. Mola Efange approached his local chapter, FECA Minnesota, and proposed that the chapter host the convention. In October 1993, the chapter members unanimously agreed to host the first ever gathering of Fako elements in the USA. From then on, FECA MN set up a formidable organizational machinery that would create an environment that laid the foundations for one of the most successful conventions in FA history.
The BCA was also contacted and informed of plans for an all-Fako summit. BCA members enthusiastically endorsed the idea and promised to support the convention planners with all the resources that they could muster. BCA members also promised to host a second all-Fako gathering in Washington DC in 1995.
Fako Chicago is Born
In the meantime, back in Chicago, Makuna Tande teamed up with Martin Lifanda to mobilize the large Fako community in Chicago in view of creating a third Fako association. On October 16, 1993 the inaugural meeting of what would become known as Fako Chicago was held at the North Kenmore residence of the Lifandas. The new association would ultimately play a fundamental role not only in the organization of the convention but also in convention deliberations. It would also play host to the FA 1996 convention.
Fako International Joins the Fray
During this same period there was another development that would be pivotal to the success of the convention. It was the creation by Makuna Tande of Fako International (Mendi me Fako); a quarterly Fako cultural newspaper whose goal was to serve as a mass forum for dialogue among the Fako Diaspora in Europe and America on the one hand, and between this Diaspora and the Fako Community back home on the other hand.
On the Road to Minnesota
With Fako America not yet born and the newly established FA94 Organizing Committee not having any communications tools at its disposal, FI became the de facto spokesperson for the convention and its editorial board the unofficial Communications Department of the Fako America ’94. For example, its maiden issue of January 1994 gave prime of place to the press release announcing FA94. The second issue of April 1994, carried among other things, the convention call for proposals, the list of organizing committee members, along with Mola Efange’s historic clarion call mobilization. These publications were interspersed with regular FI convention updates mailed to the community. Also, the FI mailing list that was meticulously put together with the aid of scores of people who had combed through their personal address and phone books became the de facto mailing list of the organizing committee. It would later develop into the first ever Fako America address database set up by Mola Makuna
Fako America ‘94
Between January 1994 and July 1994, one of the most intense mobilization campaigns ever carried out within the Cameroonian community took place. Initially set for July 23rd, that is, the weekend after the end of the 1994 World Cup, Fako America ’94 finally took place between July 29-31, 1994 – two memorable days of passionate, heated and in-depth deliberations covering as diverse as the possibilities of indigenous entrepreneurial initiatives in Fako to effective means of promoting Fako languages, all crowned with the birth of a new organization called Fako America. These deliberations were spiced up with a very successful cultural evening on Friday July 29 and an equally successful gala on Saturday, July 30 that saw the participation of the entire Cameroonian Community in the twin cities of St. Paul and Minnesota.
“A New Unity, a New Vision”
Fako America ’94 was without doubt, the most significant event in the history of the Fako community in North America. Not only did it create a hitherto inexistent unity within that Fako Community, it also served as a catalyst for the creation of numerous Fako organizations across the States, most notably, Fako Michigan, the first by-product of the convention born in 1995, which hosted the convention in 1997, and FECA NY/NJ, which hosted the convention in 1998.
A Historical Turning Point
Today, the original three associations that were the brains behind FA94 have been joined by an impressive number of regional /local Fako associations, the most recent being Fako Dallas which incidentally will host FA’s 10th Anniversary convention from July 2 to 4, 2004.
Some may argue that Fako America promised more than it delivered since its creation. That may be the case, but FA did succeed against all odds in creating a new sense of communion within the Fako Diaspora in the USA. Most significantly, it generated a new-found pride in Fako’s rich culture and history that was hitherto occulted by the numerous socio-economic ills that afflicted the Fako Community back home. This newfound confidence in facing the challenges of the future was best captured by that phrase coined by the venerated Mola Efange, and on which the new organization’s motto was ultimately based: The New FakoCentricity.