How the Bronx fire site became a haven for Gambians

Although Mr. Touray died in 2019 at the age of 81 from heart failure, around 50 immediate and extended family members were living in the building at the time of the fire, according to one of his sons. , Suleyman Touray, and Mariama Touray, who is married to one of his nephews. By the standards of his culture and religion, Mr. Touray had three wives under Islamic law who still lived in the apartment on the third floor. Two of his widows were placed in hotels; the third was visiting The Gambia at the time of the fire.

Born in Sotuma Sere, a village in eastern Gambia, Touray settled in the country through a “young democrats” program, his daughter Fatiah Touray, 38, said.

Mr. Touray had traveled extensively and spoke at least nine languages: English, French, Arabic, Soninke, Mandinka, Fulani, Wolof, Lingala and Sierra Leonean Creole. Upon arriving in the United States, he began a nonprofit called the Pan African Islamic Society out of his apartment and offered Islamic services to celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and Cicely Tyson, according to family members.

“He realized that there really wasn’t a place West Africans could get their proper funeral rites as Muslims, and he was really instrumental in starting this. for the Muslim community, “said Magundo Touray, 41, one of her daughters.

“If someone was arrested and they didn’t speak a language, the 46th arrondissement always used to knock on our door and say, ‘Hey, sir, we’ve got someone lost. Maybe you can help us.

Gita Sankano grew up in a neighboring building, but spent much of her childhood visiting or being looked after by relatives there. “We all knew about 3G,” she said in Mr. Touray’s apartment. “When my mother came to the United States, she stayed on 3G. My baptism ceremony was on 3G. It is our own village. That’s how deep it is. It’s our own community. It is a tragedy for the whole Gambian community.

At Twin Parks North West, neighbors and residents saw Mr. Touray in the yard handing out dollar bills to children. People walked in and out of his apartment, which was often filled with the scent of jollof rice, plantains, and okra stew. On Eid Day, crowds of people thronged the halls of the building. “They would come from the mosque down the block and then straight to the house,” Magundo Touray said.

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