By Alieu Bah (Immortal X)
We all return to the fullness of the earth forever to tarry in the eternal loneliness of one’s beginnings. Today I paid farewell to one such soul who had just begun one such journey. Abdou ‘Kendo’Jatta was a dear friend I met in 2005 and would thereafter spun a lifetime of friendship with, albeit an unusual one.
Our brotherhood was one of those that would sometimes fall apart, sometimes drift somewhere but forever bounded by some unknown, almost divine force. He stayed with us for a while and during the brief time he did, he was passionate, gave up, returned, got lost, was found then lost only to knock on heaven’s door and be gone. A lost one from a lost generation given to all such things that beguiled and confused us as we spend our short but profound moments on this scorching earth.
Abdou and I met as equals who were both enamoured by some sort of activism and the written word. In the summer of 2005, we would cross paths at the now defunct Daily Observer. I was there just entering my teens and curious about the world and also trying to find my place in it. I would frequent the Observeroffices and all the folks there would tell me it would do me well to link up with Abdou. That was so because together with Haja Kebbeh, he was running the Young Observer column. It was published every Friday dedicated to children and young people. And since I was a young myself and all roads led to Abdou, so he could include me into the column’s writers and that he did. I remember vivdly when we met at Observer, we were mutually delighted since we have heard of each other.
That very day he invited me to his house and offered me lunch, super kanja. I very much needed that meal then because a brother was starving. He introduced me to his family, who as time passed, became my family. They loved me and I loved them back. My heart goes to them, I and all the others we met along the way.
It was a great and profound friendship that was both productive and joyful.
We would go on to transition the Young Observer into an independent organisation called Young People in the Media (YPM). Abdou had a vision to create something. I would never be able to tell what intentions drove it but suffice to say, it came out beautifully and endured. We hatched the YPM at Fanta Sidibeh’s house in Bakau which he and I would frequent for the ebbeh and good company. We discussed at length and started the process. That organisation is alive and thriving. Mentoring and bringing together diverse and hip young people. Peace to those who passed through the organisation and those who are still in it.
Abdou and I would at some point go our separate ways due to ideological differences. But suffice to say, even with our differences at how we saw power and privilege, it was still all love. He offered me shelter when I needed it the most and support with basic needs when many would not even look at me with a kind eye.
I want to recount an anecdote.
We would sleep over at Mrs Adelaide Sosseh’s Worldview Foundation office when we were preparing for the National Child Friendly Award —which is Abdou’s brainchild. I would use all of the printer’s ink to print pan-Africanist materials and A4 size black and white pictures of Garvey, Nkrumah and others. (Aunty Adelaide sorry for using all your cartridge!).
I remember when I first joined the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, I went to Abdou to recruit him. He was then working at FiBank. I was wearing a dashiki and some Cabral type of hat. On the hat I had a pin lapel of Nkrumah’s image. I walked into that bank with full confidence but the security guard thought I was mad. Abdou came to pick me and we discussed at length and never agreed. I left but we still remained close friends.
I remember the good times we spent together building and finding ways to make something of the decadence we lived in. He was solid and joyful, filled with the promise of a life to be well spent. But alas, I did meet him later on in the years and he was lost. All to himself. Walking these streets. One of those days he asked me for a smoke and I said no! I said, “You are the big brother who told us not to smoke and watched us grow, now I can’t watch you do that to yourself.” It was a lost cause. Even though we drifted apart over the years I still worried about him and did what little I could. He didn’t make it. Didn’t have a second chance. No second shot at destiny’s cruel hand. Today we laid him in the earth and turned away with tears in our eyes each contemplating what bitter realities lay ahead in the morrow.
So much to say, so little space, so little time.
Rest my dear old friend. The one who stunted for a little while on this earth and is now an ancestor. Thank you for all you did and didn’t do. So long!