This article is dedicated to the memory of Roland Tombekai Dempster, Liberia's Poet Laureate, Bai Temia Moore and H. Carey Thomas, and numerous Culture and Literary Icons; who are no longer with us; yet, their contributions have left lasting impact on many of us, including this writer.
I grew up reading both Dempster and Bai Tiama Moore’s writings about Liberia’s rich culture and its people. However,
the elite and the leadership of our country were too ashamed to celebrate our culture. But one of Oldman Dempster’s quotes that I am fond of, so I made it the title of this article: “Let the press be free; the truth, however crushed to Earth, shall rise again. For us, we shall speak the truth, if bullets to our breasts!”
Oldman Roland Tombekai Dempster was a remarkable Liberian educator and writer. He was born in 1910 in Tosoh an area located on the banks of Lake Piso, Grand Cape Mount County, Republic of Liberia. Some of his writings include: "The Mystic Reformation of Gondolia", “A Song Out of Midnight: Souvenir of the Tubman-Tolbert Inauguration”, and "Africa's Plea".
Honorable Dempster died in 1965, but his great writings still remain. He and Bai Tiama Moore were true representatives of Pan-Africanism. They understood the Struggles and appreciated Africa’s Greatness!
Find below his poem:
I am not you
But you will not
Give me a chance,
Will not let me be me.
"If I were you"
But you know
I am not you,
Yet you will not
Let me be me.
You meddle, interfere
In my affairs
As if they were yours
And you were me.
You are unfair, unwise
Foolish to think
That I can be you,
And think like you
God made me, me
He made you, you
For God's sake
Let me be me
Unlike Roland Tombekai Dempster and Bai Tiama Moore, Liberian history is replete with individuals seeking government jobs for two main reasons; they are: 1) to advance their own agenda, and 2) to support their group agenda; i.e. class, tribe of which the Americo-Liberian tribe championed until April 12, 1980. This goal has resurfaced in the Weah Administration. The experience of Liberia’s recent history, governments headed by William Richard Tolbert, Jr., Samuel Kanyon Doe and Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor were replaced because they violate the Constitution and ran the country as if it was their personal property. George Manneh Weah is exhibiting the same behavior, and he could end up like his predecessors.
The culture these Liberian literary and cultural heritage icons worked tirelessly to promote is worth preserving; to which Mr. Rudolf Janke says, “Preserving the country's heritage means to save the story from being lost”. Mr. Janke revealed that plans are being made to start creating awareness on the importance of storytelling, to get Liberians involved and to have more people embrace their oral tradition.
This brings me to the issue of Kendeja. If Kendeja is the national resource center of Liberian culture, how come business man Robert Johnson acquired the center including the name? “Where is Kendeja now? Are we to assume that culture now lives at the Johnson resort?” wrote Elizabeth Vinton. She added, “There is no doubt that development is crucial to Liberia’s development. However, it is not only infrastructure that is needed but a building of the social and moral fabric of the society. A preservation of what made us a people lest we forget what holds us together, legacies forged in the creation of our nation to pass to our children. The Liberian government needs to have the foresight to merge development with what is morally good for the country. Or is that too nostalgic?”
Some time ago, the late legendary journalist Tom Saar Kamara warned:
“Cultural institutions such as the Porro and the Sande have been bastardized beyond recognition, robbed of their substance as once authority entities which brought cohesion and security for many peasants and rural dwellers. To ensure that these institution fall within the President's psyche of lawlessness and disorder, Taylor recently ordered all cabinet ministers to join these societies even if the ministers harbour no beliefs in them. But as all ministers failing to attend a prayer service were dismissed and later rehired, anyone refusing to obey such orders not only loses his/her job, but also must flee the country to avoid other charges, as was the case with leader of the Senate and member of the president's party who escaped to the US following disagreements with President Taylor”.
Today in Liberia, there are individuals who see no fault in the present leadership; instead, they shower praises on them; tell them what they want to hear, and care nothing about the poor citizens that cannot afford a cup of rice. These individuals are nothing but ‘dishonest hypocrites.’ Yet, they call themselves ADVISORS. You see, good friends are those who tell you the truth because they do not want to see you hurt now and in the long run. Remember, those who bring you lies also carry lies.
The President should be on the look-out for those who all of a sudden take interest in his affairs; one such person was former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In the past she described Weah as unfit to be President; yet, in 2017 she abandoned her own party (Unity Party) to tirelessly work to have Weah succeed her. Even her friend, former President Bill Clinton said Weah was only good for kicking round ball. With all this said about Weah, he seems not to be able to do without God ma Ellen, her children, family members and her associates ALL around him.
Wake up Liberian people; we are being used by these individuals who are using the resources of the country to achieve their own interests, and not ours! There is this question often posed to those of us who continue to present the truth and to seek justice for our people – “why can’t we let sleeping dog lie?” In Liberian terms, the question suggests that we join the chorus of ‘corrupt opportunists’ to STEAL from our ‘OWN SELVES.’ Our answer to them has been and will continue to be: it is not that we do not like those who run our country. We speak up because it is our patriotic obligation; and more importantly, the truth has to be told for the public to decide who really cares for our country. In addition, our purpose for presenting the other side of the “Liberian Palava” is to honor the past in order to shape the present for those who are willing to learn from it. Without knowing the truth about the past, one will not be in the position to make valuable contributions in the PRESENT.
Well, Liberian people, Truth as a universal principle; it includes Honesty, and High Standards of Conduct. One thing about Truth, it remains the same today, tomorrow and forever. But there will always be individuals who, by choice or influence, will tamper with Truth to advance their own individual interests or the interests of those they are loyal to. They fail; however, to realize that there is nothing abstract about truth. The truth is like night and day! Those who subscribe to corrupt practices have the audacity to persecute those who engaged in similar practices. They are like sophists. Certainly, in time, they will be caught and pay for their SINS. Since morality is a cardinal principle that governs a rational person's sense of RIGHT and WRONG, eventually, it will expose ALL of their evil practices.
Fellow Liberians, the direction in which our country is heading is a dangerous path. We should go to every length to see to it the Weah administration change the direction; but if they do not listen, we will take them on as we have done in the past. Our reason is plain and simple–the LIBERIA is “our Kpormeni” (business)!
You see, in less than two years what the CDC government has done to our MONEY. They are engage in too many unpleasant things which took previous governments many years. Just the other day, one church lady said to me, “Elder Siah, the way things are going on in our country appears as if Liberia and the Liberian people are possessed by ‘evil spirits.’ As it stands, the country is divided between wicked people; good people who are afraid to act, and the poor who are too helpless to do anything.”
According to Chi-chi-Polly Tom, there are some Liberian leaders who are deeply involved in juju for protection and maintaining their positions. The juju is used to make the Liberian people to become subservient to the wishes of these leaders. As the result, they rule the country as if it is their family estate. In addition, the legislature and judicial branches of the government are assisting the CDC government in exploiting the country with impunity. Now, the government officials feel they can operate the government like a Gestapo state; ruthlessly suppressing anyone who speaks against the President and any of the official.
There seems to be no solution in sight! President Weah and his ruling CDC party are engaged in widespread corruptions and lawlessness in the country. Instead of the Liberian National Police Liberian investigating to find the person or group responsible for the abduction, brutally beating and raping Ms. Jestina Taylor; the granddaughter of the late legendary Paramount Tamba Taylor (Tamba Lamie Korngor), they police went to arrest her at St. Joseph Catholic Hospital where she was being treated as the result of the injuries she sustained from the beastly rape. “Either President Weah ordered her arrest or is knowledgably of it,” says one observer. If it wasn’t for the pressure by protesters, and the intervention of two lawmakers, the police would have arrested her in the hospital.
What kind of country Liberia has turned into? The Liberian people at home and in Diaspora need to get the religious community and other leaders involve in ‘spiritual warfare’ to fight against these evil forces operating in our country.
Jestina Taylor, Granddaughter of Tamba Taylor Paramount Chief Tamba Lamie Korngor (*Taylor)
Photos culled from the LiberianObserver
Those elders who fought so hard to promote and preserve our culture of “Poor no Friend” (Roland Tombekai Dempster and Bai Tiama Moore) are uneasy in their eternal resting place because of the daily public display of violence and disrespect exhibited against older people, and especially women. Their legacy is being damaged by Weah and the Pro Poor CDC government. The Weah administration must do something about this; if not, the recent demonstration at the United Nations is just the beginning. It is child’s play compare to what is in store for the CDC (Children Displaying Corruptions) government. This is how the downfall a government starts!
I am not surprised, but at the same time I find it quite interesting that the same individuals, who condemned Doe, Taylor and Sirleaf for the abuse of power, are engaging in the same behavior once they acquired power.
Regrettably, these are rough times in Liberia. In order to honestly serve the interests of the general public, journalists will have to separate their financial interests from the public’s legitimate right to receive unbiased news. They must guard against using their privileged position for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement or obtaining political favors. To do so will compromise their responsibilities and obligation to seek and report the truth. We must continue to fight for free speech and expression because, “…Just laws, justly enforced and justly administered are a credit to any nation, and is the mortar by which it is kept together; and responsibility rests upon each citizen to insist that these conditions prevail at all times. …” (The prophetic words of the late Mr. Constitution, Albert Porte, November 1, 1945)
In short, justice must not be allowed to remain asleep or sleepwalk; it must be made to wake up – with it eyes wide-opened to the reality of OUR time. This we must demand unequivocally, without any compromise.
“For us, we shall speak the truth, if bullets to our breasts”.
Gwei feh kpeh!
The time of the people has come!
About The Author: Elder Siahyonkron Jglay Kpa-kay Nyanseor, Sr. is a life-long activist (*troublemaker) in researching the true history of Africa, the people of African origin in the Diaspora. He had dedicated his teaching of African culture; spent over 50 years advocating for human, civil and constitutional rights of all people, especially, the Liberian masses. He is a Griot, poet, journalist and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. To keep TEH’S legacy and memory ALIVE, in 2012, Mr. Nyanseor joined other writers and became BLOJU TARTY TEH’S SCHOLAR. BLOJU TEH is the late Liberian Literary Genius, Writer,