By Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr.
This article is dedicated to the memory of the 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 a 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 it. But one of Old man Dempster’s quotes that I am fond of, for which I selected it as 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!”
Old man 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, “Africa’s Plea“:
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., a class, tribe of which the Americo-Liberian tribe championed until April 12, 1980. This goal has resurfaced in the Weah Administration. Since the previous history, the Doe government was removed and replaced with Charles Taylor’s government and look where he ended up. The same could be repeated for Weah.
“Preserving the country’s heritage means to save the story from being lost,” says Rudolf Janke. 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.
“Kendeja is the national resource center of culture. How did Johnson acquire the name, and 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 the only infrastructure that is needed but a building of the social and moral fabric of the society. 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 Tom Saar Kamara wrote:
“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 institutions fall within the President’s psyche of lawlessness and disorder, Taylor recently ordered all cabinet ministers to join these societies even if the ministers harbor 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”.
There are those in Liberia 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. In fact, they are ‘dishonest hypocrites!’ 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.
Be on the look-out for those whom all of a sudden take an interest in your affairs; one such person who readily comes to mind is 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 him, he seems not to be able to do without her, her children, family members, and her associates.
Wake up Liberian people; we are being used by these individuals to achieve their own interests, not ours! There is this question often posed to those of us who continue to present the truth and seek justice for our people – “why can’t we let a sleeping dog lie?” In Liberian terms, this 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 to the PRESENT.
Well, Liberian people, Truth as a universal principle which includes Honesty, and High Standards of Conduct. One thing about Truth remains the same today and tomorrow. 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 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 changes 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 country is “our Kpormeni” (business)!
Look, in less than two years of the CDC government have done so many unpleasant things which took previous governments many years. Just the other day, one church lady said to me, “Nyanseor, 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; poor who are helpless, and this includes religious leaders, too.”
There are some Liberians who believe that few leaders in high places are deeply involved in juju for protection and maintaining their positions. They believe the juju is used to make the Liberian people subservient to the wishes of these leaders. As a result, they rule the country as if it is their family estate. The legislature and judicial branches of the government are assisting the CDC governing 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 officials.
There seems to be no solution in sight! President Weah and his ruling CDC party are engaged in widespread corruption 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), the 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 knowledgeable of it. If it wasn’t for the pressure by protesters, and the intervention of two lawmakers, the police would have arrested in the hospital.
What kind of country has Liberia turned into? The Liberian people at home and in Diaspora need to get the religious community and leaders involve in ‘spiritual warfare’ to fight against these evil forces operating in our country.
These elders, 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. Having worked so hard to promote and safeguard the cultural image of our beloved country, the Weah government is damaging their legacies. The Weah administration must do something about it; if not, the recent demonstration at the United Nations is just the beginning. It is a child’s play compared to what is in store for the CDC (Children Displaying Corruptions) government. This is how the downfall of 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 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 its 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, Storyteller, Human, Civil and Constitutional Rights Activist