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Edmonton: Posthumous birthday celebration for Mariama Sillah

By  | 31 December 2016 at 11:05 | 2019 views

Mariama Sillah passed away about a month before her 14th birthday which should have been on Wednesday 28 December 2016. Yet, her family and friends threw a special party for her, anyway.

For good measure, there were two birthday cakes to mark this unique occasion. The event was held at the Clareview Recreation Centre in Edmonton, Canada, that very Wednesday.

There was food, music, dancing, and lots of cheer. Among the colourful decorations was a simple plaque displaying photos of a much younger Mariama. The pictures were surrounded by other memorabilia of the late girl, including posthumous poems and portraits sketched by loved ones.

Mariama was the 13-year-old girl who died in a road accident here, on Saturday 26 November 2016. She was hit by an Edmonton Transit System (ETS) bus as she crossed a street near her home.

Ballet performance in honour of the late Mariama by one of her dance crew mates.

Those who were closest to Mariama recall how she looked forward to this day (Wednesday December 28, 2016).

Mariama’s parents, Kadiatu and Sheku, with Mariama’s play mates.

The girl was a member of a newly formed social group that enjoyed dancing and other forms of physical exercise. This group was at the heart of Wednesday’s celebration; with its members featuring in the recital of original poems and choreographed dance performances, in memory of Mariama.

Mariama’s school mates at the post-humous birthday event.

Both Mariama’s parents Sheku and Kadiatu Sillah attended the party; as did some of Mariama’s classmates at Edmonton’s Victoria School of the Arts.

Group photograph of Mariama’s play mates and her parents Kadiatu and Sheku.

Maria Camus, Cassandra Robinson, Amanda Procter, Gabriela Roth, and Enya Meers, made a joint statement which they shared with The Patriotic Vanguard. “We feel like it’s become easier to stop focusing on what we lost and, instead, celebrate her life. We came (to the party) to remember her spirit, her smile, and her glow,” they said. The schoolgirls also had Gabriela’s grandparents, Lawrence and Barbara Roth, with them at the party.

Some of Mariama’s mates dancing in her honour.

"We want to set the mourning aside and celebrate Mariama’s beautiful life as a whole; and what better time to do so than on her very own birthday?" her uncle Alimamy Timbo told The Patriotic Vanguard.

Mariama’s mom, Kadiatu, with Mariama’s school mates.

Timbo shared a story he said had really fascinated Mariama. It was about a nice car that was all but written off. Then, someone asked that the engine be checked. When it was discovered that the engine was still in excellent condition, the same person asked that it be kept for later use. The moral, Timbo explained, is that the vehicle was like the late Mariama. “She may have passed away in body, but God has decided to keep her precious soul.” Timbo revealed that Mariama was so inspired she talked about writing a book based on the theme.

Mariama’s mates.

Friends and family members remember Mariama as an avid reader who would opt to read a book whenever she felt bored. One of her closest relatives, Fatmata Kamara, recalls how they would both “do stuff together; like watch movies, go ice skating, or pray. &#8220

"I remember how we had so much fun when we watched the movie ‘The Purge’ together," said Fatmata.

A couple of poems were shared in Mariama’s honour. One of them, titled “Her journey has just begun,” was recited by Abdul and Mohamed, both members of Mariama’s group. Mamako, another member, did a solo performance of the song ‘Someone like you’.

Attendees observing Mariama’s memorial display.

Another highlight was when both Mariama’s parents took the dance floor, surrounded by other dancers who cheered them on loudly as they moved to the rhythm of the music.

Parents of Mariama’s mates at the event.

Abdul Kareem Kamara, a previous president of the Sierra Leone community, led opening prayers to start the special celebration of Mariama Sillah’s life.

Exactly a week earlier, on Wednesday 21 December 2016, an Edmonton newspaper reported a development directly related to Mariama’s death. A front-page story indicated that the driver of the transit bus had been charged in connection with Mariama’s death. “Judith Jackson, 62, has been charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, under the Traffic Safety Act,” according to Edmonton Metro News. A source close to the family told The Patriotic Vanguard that the court hearing is scheduled to begin on Friday 27 January 2017.

One of Mariama’s mates reciting a poem in her honour.

Meanwhile, a fundraising effort in Mariama’s name has so far received donations that amount to $8,870; less than $200 short of the target of $10,000. The drive, spearhead by one of Mariama Sillah’s close relatives Zainab Kamara, is currently online via the crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com/donate).

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