Literary Zone

Edmonton Society honours Salone Poet

24 March 2007 at 10:45 | 619 views

By Our Correspondent

Abayomi Charles Roberts stayed at the University of Alberta hospital for several days in 2005. It was on November 11, Remembrance Day in Canada, when he almost fainted at his Edmonton home, with breathing problems.

Roberts(photo) went to a nearby clinic where, fearing SARS or similar illness, the doctor had him isolated and quickly moved to the University hospital. It was a false alarm as Roberts left the hospital some six days later, with a clean bill of health.

That was a tough time for him but Roberts is an optimist; often looking for the brighter side - ‘the Up Side’ - of the bleakest of situations. While undergoing a battery of scans/tests and getting treatment, he concedes he was “nervous, anxious and bored.” Then he discovered the hospital’s well-stocked library. He was so excited that he wrote a poem about it, titled ‘Books to Glow.’

Some fifteen months later, on Sunday March 18, Roberts was in the spotlight reciting the same poem in the heart of Edmonton. It was at Three Bananas Café on Churchill Square, during a celebration of original poetry by newcomers in Canada. The event was a culmination of a contest held by The Edmonton Immigrant Men Support Network Society (EIMSNS).

Rita Espeschit Braga took the first prize. She is from Brazil and her poem vividly expressed her challenges with the English language when she first arrived about five years ago. A Children’s author, Braga’s first language is Portuguese. Yi Li (from China), winner of the second prize, wrote about her heartrending separation from her husband and daughter while studying for a doctorate degree in Edmonton. The third prize went to Marijan Megla (from Croatia) who captured in verse, his yearning for a grandson.

Roberts was a teacher/journalist in his country of origin, Sierra Leone. He wrote the poem as a tribute to patients, staff and volunteers of the University hospital but entered it when the contest came up. Though his poem did not win, the judges were quite impressed. ‘Books to Glow’ received an honorary mention and Roberts agreed to recite it at the Churchill Square event.

He holds an honours degree in sociology/economics from the University of Sierra Leone (USL) and has published several articles and poems on The Patriotic Vanguard’s web site, as one of the editors.

Edmonton journalist and author, Satya Das, hosted the recitals, which also featured music by the talented guitarist, Sia Amimi, and Edgar Gualoto, a pan flute player.

Sponsors of the contest were Valery Mayes of the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO); The Community Networks Group; Alberta Views Magazine; The John Humphrey Centre; The Multi-Cultural Health Brokers Co-operative; and Los Comales Restaurant. The judges were Shirley Serviss, Gail Sobat and Mark Kozub, notable art/literary personalities in Alberta.

EIMSNS is a body of Edmonton residents who work together to help each other adjust to life and ultimately succeed in Canada. The head is Leo Campos Aldunez, who himself moved to Canada from Chile.

Over the past year, the group has held seminars for members and invitees, on issues that are relevant to their needs and aspirations. One of the keynote speakers was provincial lawmaker (Alberta MLA), Raj Pannu. An Immigrant from India himself and a renowned academic, Pannu shared his experiences in Canada as he spoke on Public Policy Advocacy. Darwitt Isaac, a young cleric who migrated from Eritrea, also spoke on Leadership Qualities during that same session last year.

Other speakers/resource persons have been ECVO’s Valery Mayes (Setting up a Non-Profit Society); Dr. Laroche (Meaningful Employment for Newcomers); Nicholas Ameyaw (Human Rights and Gender Issues at Work); and Bill More-Kilganon (Effective Lobby and Shaping Public Policy).

In addition, the two levels of government have been ably represented. Earlier this year, Giovanna Arrendondo of Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry gave members an insight into ‘Employment/Labour Market Trends in Alberta,’ from the provincial government’s perspective. Then, more recently, on March 17, Sheila Butt of Human Resources/Social Development Canada discussed the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and other federal policies/schemes on old age financial security.