Ms Justine Bachu Mbianda is one of the Cameroonians speaking for a United African diaspora. Her desire to serve her compatriots caused her to be elected first Chairman of the All Cameroonian Cultural and Development Foundation (ACCDF), a powerful umbrella organization for all Cameroonian groups in the Washington Metropolitan and USA. She handed over the batten of command to a new chair at the end of her mandate in 2015.
|MS J. MBIANDA : WOMEN SHOULD NO LONGER DEPEND ON MEN|
Holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications (Broadcast Journalism) and a Master’s Degree in Instructional Systems Technology, she has worked for several U.S. Governmental Agencies, including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and currently the U.S. Department of Labor.
She is also a nurse in good standing. From her position as Chairman of ACCDF, Ms Mbianda, a Sakerette, who moved to the USA in 1981, explains that life is fast and stressful in the USA, so much so that one could easily be lost in the shuffle.
In this interview she makes an assessment of her mandateas Chairman, difficulties in bringing Cameroonians together and urges women not to anymore depend on men. Read on…
How did you get to the USA and was integration that easy in those days?
|MS MBIANDA @ AN ACCDF EVENT|
Ms Mbianda: While attending Saker Baptist College in Limbe, my late sister’s husband was appointed the Chief Financial Officer at the Cameroonian Embassy in Washington DC, U.S.A. Soon after graduating from Saker, my sister visited Cameroon and informed me that we would be leaving for the US together.
So, on August 12, 1981, I boarded the plane for the United States and have been here ever since.
The U.S. was not the bed of roses most people outside the US have in mind. The drastic change in culture, the food, the language, transportation…in short, live was very difficult. Bear in mind that, I was received by my family.
Imagine how hard it was for those who arrived with no family members. With time though, I gradually picked up. Life here is so fast and stressful that if one is not careful, they could get lost in the shuffle. I had to re-invent myself, so I returned to school.
I was very interested in broadcasting because when I left Cameroon there was no Television. I saw a TV set for the first time here in the United States of America. So, I wanted to be amongst the first TV reporters as soon as that was possible in Cameroon. Unfortunately, that dream never materialized and it was not easy breaking into the American media either.
I later took classes in Computer Science and have been in the Information Technology field for quite some time now. I am also a nurse in good standing. The beauty of this Great country called America is that the possibilities are endless, if you are hardworking, honest, and humble and focused.
You are the first lady, ‘Chairman’ of the All Cameroonian Cultural and Development Foundation (ACCDF) ACCDF. What is this ACCDF all about and how did you get there?
|L-R : FON LUCAS, LADY KATE & HUSBAND, MS MBIANDA|
The All Cameroonian Cultural and Development Foundation (ACCDF) is the powerful umbrella organization for all Cameroonian groups out here in the Washington Metropolitan area and by default the United States.
Created 15 years ago and named the All Cameroonian Cultural Festival Foundation (ACCFF) the mission is to use Cameroon’s rich and diverse culture to unite or bring Cameroonians in the US together.
The ACCFF began with annual Festival of Cameroonians from different regions showcasing their cultures some in traditions dance , others in poetry, fashion show and then with live music-Bikutsi or Makossa. As time went on, our population exploded and our cultural groups began taking on development projects in various regions of Cameroon. Some brought water to their villages; others constructed roads, while containers of medical supplies were shipped annually by yet others.
|SANGO ALLOTEY & EXCO DIRECTOR, R. MBAKOP|
Some groups even considered building Funeral Homes for their dearly departed. Some of these groups ran into difficulties with their projects and needed assistance. The ACCFF being the umbrella organization stepped in and facilitated these projects.
Today this great organization does not only use our culture to galvanize our people but facilitates a lot of Development projects by various cultural groups. Hence the names changed from ACCFF to ACCDF. The word “Festival” was replaced by “Development”.
What would you say ACCDF achieved throughout your entire mandate?
I was the Chairman for four years. People wonder why I am called Chairman and not Chairlady. Well, the title of “Chairman” is not designated for the person but the position. So, whoever holds that position is referred to as the Chairman. It feels good though to have been the first female
|ACCDF FESTIVE MOOD|
Chairman.One of the other great achievements of the ACCDF is the Community Calendar. Because our population has grown so much, there tend to be multiple events on the same day. The ACCDF came up with the “Community Calendar” to manage community events and minimize schedule conflicts. Associations inform us of their upcoming event.
The event is published on the Calendar for all to see. In this way other groups do not use this same date for their own event. Also, the ACCDF is doing great with information dissemination. We have a huge database of all these Cultural, Faith Based, Alumni and other associations.
These organizations are registered on our listserv. So with one click from the ACCDF, information reaches the entire community. You could visit our website by clicking http://www.accdf.org/home.php
Another big achievement of the ACCDF is the creation of Cancer Awareness in our community. In 2013 the ACCDF in partnership with two other organizations travelled to Cameroon for a medical mission. Four members of the ACCDF including myself were part of this mission. The delegation included several Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Pharmacists and a Surgeon. Dental procedures were performed on countless Cameroonians at the Limbe Regional Hospital, Cottage Hospital, Tiko and two other hospitals in Buea and Kumba.
Till this day, I feel emotional when talking of that trip. It feels good to give back to community!!! Every year, the ACCDF organizes some cancer related event, be it a round table discussion, Breast Cancer screening, or partners with other organizations for an event.
|PIONEER ACCDF CHAIR, SHEY CHRISTMAS EBINI|
The ACCDF ensures that Cameroonians are taken care of and are well represented in all facets of life. The ACCDF stepped in when Pius Njawe on a visit to the U.S. suddenly died in a car crash and organized the funeral for this great man. The ACCDF did the same for Mr. Soul Bams, Lapiro de Mbarga and recently, Jacob Nguni.
We actually rallied the community, rented a bus and travelled from Washington to Buffalo New York for Lapiro’s funeral. Upon our return the ACCDF organized a big “Cry Die” with the community here in Washington Metropolitan Area. ACCDF is Community Servant. Is it nice to know that Cameroonians here have a One Stop Shop for all Cultural and Development related issues. Some people even call on the ACCDF for family related matters. The ACCDF also plays a big role in conflict resolution.
|L-R: FORMER CHAIR TASONG, MS MBIANDA, OTHERS|
This is key, as legal fees run into thousands here, (thousands of Dollars). In short the ACCDF has been very instrumental in holding our community together. Thanks to the solid foundation laid by the Founding Members. The first Chairman of the Organization is Sessekou Shey Ebini Christmas then Mr. Ivo Tasong . Due to the success of ACCDF; tons of other organizations have sprung in the community. What can I say…God is good.
ACCDF must certainly have its own challenges?
It is very difficult to head an organization such as the ACCDF which caters for the entire Cameroonian community. Everyone’s problem is the ACCDF problem. Every organization’s problem is the ACCDF problem. Cameroonians are a great people. We are very lucky in a lot of ways. We have a very high literacy rate.
|PHILIP TAZI (CENTER): CURRENT ACCDF CHAIR|
We are big on community affairs, hence a plethora of social meeting groups, Alumni Associations, Faith Based Association such as CWA, CWF; Cultural groups, including leadership groups like the Ekpes and Sessekous from Manyu, the Mbekems from Lebialem and the North West Fons Council from the North West Region of Cameroon. The ACCDF has to stay current with all these groups.
You can only imagine how hectic the weekends are as members of the ACCDF have to go from one function to another to support these groups. The support is not just physical but financial as well. At times you did not get home until about 2:30 am. Sometimes members of ACCDF have to split up into groups to ensure that all community activities are covered. Believe me, it takes a toll!!! But it feels good serving the community.
How do you blend the activities of the ACCDF and family life?
I am a mother of two wonderful young men, Serge Tzeuton 22 and Jean-Claude Tzeuton 21. Serge graduated from the University of Maryland from the Pre-med program and Jean-Claude is looking forward to graduating. In addition to my sons, my Darling mother now 89 also lives with me and has done so for the last 22 years since Serge was born. One must be generous in spirit, genuinely a people lover, of kind mind and very considerate to be a member of this great organization, especially the Chairman.
You must truly care for the community. Especially that our efforts are all voluntary. No one is paid for their time or effort in this great organization. It helps that the organization has some diehard members who will do anything, sacrifice of themselves to ensure that the community is served.
|ACCDF PANAFRICAN FESTIVAL 2010|
Off course like with any project, most people, groups and associations are very grateful and acknowledge the ACCDF support anytime. But there are always those who would complain, which is expected as one cannot please everybody all the time. Our decision to serve makes us to always create and sacrifice the little time we have for our communities.
You must have faced challenges being a woman ‘chairman’ of ACCDF?
I truly cannot say if being a woman affected the way the organization was run. What I can say is that it helps to be surrounded by GREAT, SINCERE, CARING, HONEST, and LOVING and GOD FEARING people.
|ACCDF PANAFRICAN FESTIVAL 2010|
It has been an experience of a lifetime and I will always be grateful for it. Are there still women who depend on men? I think they should no longer depend on men.I believe this is on a very steep decline. With education and exposure women are realizing that they can do whatever men can. They can head board rooms like they can do in dining rooms. No profession is set aside for females anymore and I think this is wonderful.
Yes, there will always be those who grew up in the male dominant environments and who have a hard time transitioning with society. Culture also plays a big role in this. All I can say is, the train has left the station, these women either jump on it or they will be left behind. I think I did just what ACCDF asked me to, by virtue of the powers conferred to me as chair.
PHOTOS: ACCDF SITE/SANGO ALLOTEY EMMANUEL