I Bring You Greetings From Liberia: A Country of Survivors- Liberia, Land of Liberty, Where the Sun Still Rises Each Morning- Aye-Yah, My People!

Meeting the President

This is part I, which is really a pictorial reflection of my trip to Liberia. Some of you have asked for photos of my misdoings out there in my home country, so here are a cross section of photos. During my trip, I was privileged to be in the presence of many important people, and thought of myself as extremely blessed. Many of those I call important are the ordinary Liberian women who gave me the opportunity to tape record their war stories, which of course are beyond human imagination. The cruelty of Liberia’s war that was fought for fourteen years has no comparison, and the stories will break your heart. Those photos are not for this blog. I also met many government officials that were my former students from the University of Liberia, college day friends, etc. I also spent a lot of time with press people, including Mr. Kenneth Best and his staff at the Daily Observer (Liberia’s leading newspaper), giving many interviews, etc. I was privileged to visit with Dr. Amos Sawyer at his office, still the excited and vibrant scholar, my college day mentor and friend.  Most of what I am today is because Amos inspired in me the desire to be a college professor and to excel. But my visit would not have been complete had I not had time to see the Liberian President, Her Excellency Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I was privileged to be on a panel with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf just one day before my departure. I got a call two days before, and was asked if I wanted to speak at the Liberian Government Forum on “Engaging Diaspora Liberians in the Reconstruction of Liberia,” and since I had no printer or anything to work with out there, I was given the choice of speaking from my perspective as a poet and researcher out there. To my delight, I was placed next to the President during the panel, and when I said something she liked, she would turn to me and encourage me with a touch or a nod. I felt validated because as a woman, I believe in what women can do and have done over the years in world history. I know that there are problems in her government, but I believe in what she is doing to bring our nation back on track.

Arriving in Liberia, here is my little sister, Margretta Eee-ee Jabbeh meeting me here at Roberts International Airport.

My brother, Norris Tweah poses for a quick shot before letting me into the city.

ARRIVING HOME IN LIBERIA-

I arrived in Liberia on July 14 after a ten day intensive poetry writing teaching experience in Accra, Ghana, where I was a poetry faculty with the Pan African Literary Forum’s Study Abroad program. Ghana was hot, but Liberia was a welcome relief as I braced for what I knew would be a hot and rainy stay. My brother, Norris Tweah, who is a Scott Family Scholar with the Ministry of Information was at the Roberts International Airport with my little sister, Margretta Jabbeh to meet me. We sped to drop off my luggage at Norris’ home, and then we were off to my father’s compound where my siblings and other family awaited my arrival for the Kola Nut greetings at the Jabbeh house. Below is the official Kola Nut greetings, the normal Grebo traditional kola nut ceremony after my long stay in the United States.

HERE IS A BRIEF OUTLINE OF MY VISIT TO LIBERIA:

Arrival Photos

The Kola Nut Welcome At My Father’s

Monrovia In Photos

Brief Photos of My Book Donation Project

A Moment at the Grebo Church

Brief Photos of the Diaspora Forum With President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Farewell and the Kola Nut Ceremony Send Off

Here I am with my family, holding my sister, Kwadi Jabbeh’s baby.  My sister, Margretta and others were cut out of the photo.

Here is my 83 year-old father, laughing, happy to see me after eight years, and happy to have us gathered as a family after nearly twenty years during which most of the family were dispersed by the fifteen year old civil war. After the kola nut and spiced pepper Grebo greeting, then comes the drinks and speeches. Family members are cut out of this photo.

Here Is Monrovia, a city still on the edge between the meandering Mesurrado River and the Rolling Atlantic Ocean, the rocky hills between Crown Hill and Mamba Point. Up above are the ramnants of the E. J. Roye Building where we used to gather for the National Flag Day Oration when we were in grade school, and on the left above is the Centennial Memorial Pavalion after many years of bombings and shelling of the city. Below on Johnson Street, near the Johnson Street Bridge (not in the photo) where I stood to take the photo is Lbieria recovering. Life goes on in this triving city where the scars of war are not always visible, but the people remain strong as the government seeks to restore life to what it used to be.

“Monrovia, Revisited”

by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

This is the city that killed my mother;
its crooked legs bent
from standing too long,
waiting so angry people can kill
themselves too.

No grass along street corners—
so many potholes from years of war.
Immigrants from all
over the globe used to come here
on tender feet,

in search of themselves.
Abandoned city—
a place that learned
how to cry out loud even though
nobody heard.

This is the city where I first learned
how to lose myself.
Windy city, blue ocean city.
They say a city on the hill
cannot be hid.

The city of salty winds, salty tears,
where stubborn people still hold
us hostage after Charles Taylor.
You should come here if you want
to know how sacred
pain can be.

My 20 day stay in Monrovia came with the usual July rainfall of heavy raindrops. Sunday, July 19, 2008 was such a rainy day, we had to wait just to get to church, and when we arrived at the church through puddles of flooding, no one was there. More than a thousand people were made homeless when their homes were destroyed by the flooding and the rain.

Dancing in Church at Bethel Temple Church of God in Christ on Sunday, July 27, 2008

Presentation at the University of Liberia- July 23, 2008

Presentation of five books to Cuttington University College at their downtown Monrovia office: From L-R are Dr. Alfred Armah, Visiting Professor and Vice President of Administration, Dr. Charles Mulbah, along with an administrator.

My 20 day visit to Liberia was filled with a pact schedule of rising at dawn for a trip to town to donate copies of my three poetry books to the various colleges and universities, visit with college administrators, press meetings, and research interviews with Liberian women. I conducted dozens of interviews with Liberian women in my on-going research on Liberian women’s trauma stories from the war. I returned home each evening, tired from the heat of the sun, from climbing up long stairways, interviewing, listening to, and weeping with women whose stories were too traumatizing for the ordinary mind. Here above is a photo where I was presenting thirteen books total of my three titles to Dr. Al Hasen Conteh, outgoing President of the University of Liberia. This was the first of many presentation to colleges and libraries. My gratitude goes to the following supporters of my dream to donate my books to Liberia: Autumn House Press, the publisher of “The River is Rising,” my third book in Pittsburgh, PA,  and my publisher, Mr. Michael Simms who and his press raised 67 copies of “The River is Rising” and paid the excess charge to transport the books to Liberia; my thanks also goes to Penn State University’s Altoona campus, my employer that provided the monetary support for my trip to Liberia. I also contributed 75 copies of my first two books to make up the contribution from Autumn House Press. Below are a few photos from the project in Liberia.

Presentation of four books to the College of West Africa(CWA, a high school) my alma mata : Here is the Rev. Yatta Young, President of CWA receiving the books for use in the school’s library.

Presentation of books to the United Methodist University in Monrovia. Here Dr. Karblee receives the books while other adminstrators look on.

Posing for a photo after a wonderful meeting with top adminstrators of a university that sprang to life out of my alma mata.

Presentation of books to the Liberian Association of Writers (LAW) Library. LAW President, Mr. Michael Weah receives books for use in the library.

Signing of books to donate to AME Zion University in Monrovia

Presentation of books to A M E Zion University Officials in Monroivia, Liberia

Pictures from the Liberian Government Diaspora Engagement Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum

Friday, August 1, 2008, PA’s Ribhouse, Larkpazee, Sinkor

The President of Liberia, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was part of the forum

Speaking at the Government forum

Robtel Pailey, Scott Family Fellow and organizer of the forum

Here is Liberia’s President, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sierleaf asking for her copy of “The River is Rising” after I had read the title poem during my presentation. She had already got the previous two books, she said, so I was signing a copy for her.

We pose for a last panelist photo- some members of the panel are left out of this shot. Here are from L-R, Me, President Sirleaf, Saa N Tow, and the Foreign Minister of Liberia, Olubanke King-Akerele in the far right.

Finally, the Kola Nut Farewell at my father’s house below: I depart the next day after this farewell ceremony and blessings. Family gathered at my father’s compound for the blessing.

Advertisements

16 Responses to “I Bring You Greetings From Liberia: A Country of Survivors- Liberia, Land of Liberty, Where the Sun Still Rises Each Morning- Aye-Yah, My People!”

  1. laudu Says:

    Oh, Patricia…It was so wonderful to read your blog posts and see the pictures of your trip back home and to Ghana. What a powerful witness to the ongoing grace of God to restore and renew even through such incredible trauma. I know your visit was a real testimony and encouragement. Your family looks well, especially Papa…Praise God.

  2. Althea Romeo-Mark Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    I see that tradition (The kola nut ceremony) is still holding strong in your family. It is a miracle that your father survived that brutal war. I am always amazed at the people who lived through it and survived. They are the strength of the nation. It is great that you an an opportunity to share your thoughts with such a prestigious audience. I am very sure that President Ellen Johnson is very proud of her sister.

    Althea Romeo-Mark

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  3. poetryforpeace Says:

    Thanks, Althea. Remember that whatever I am if it is anything at all in this life is because of mentors like you who were my college day professors. I am glad you were part of my life when you were. Thanks for all you continue to do, and as for the kola nut, it continues to be the center of Grebo tradition and culture for hundreds of years.
    Take care,

    Patricia

  4. Gbawu Flomo Woiwor Says:

    Now, I can see that your visit to Liberia was a very rich one, with all the good contacts you have established with academia in Liberia. Though, I did not see you during your visit, my visit on your blog today, Sunday, February 1, 2009, is a very good repository fo that memorable visit back home.

    You have made your literary mark and are still doing so; it only tells some of we the procrastinators to buckle up, because the future is fast approaching and as Bai T. Moore would write, what we do here will remain.
    Have a pleasant time there and do continue to come to this our only home that Providence has provided us/
    Good day from your student, who wrote: Ma where’s my pa?
    Gbawu

    • poetryforpeace Says:

      Hi Gbawu,

      What a surprise to read these kind words from you. I do recall you, especially, your “Ma, Where’s My Pa?” I had wished to see all of you when I was there, but unfortunately, it was not possible. But hey, when I return again in the future, I should know how to contact you. Please do send me your e-mail through my blog, and I will be in touch. Patricia

  5. Gbawu Flomo Woiwor Says:

    Thanks a great deal for responding but I only discovered your response today, April 3, 2009.
    Let’s keep in touch.
    Gbawu

  6. Gbawu Flomo Woiwor Says:

    Your site is indeed uniting us, the old members of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW). I never ever dreamed about Mrs. Althea Romeo Mark discovering it. Well, if it continues this way, there will be a virtual need to rebrand the site as “The Liberian Village”. But that done or not “Poetry for Peace’ is a very powerful description that would be hard to part with since this is what it presents in lighting up such lively discussions.
    You are drawing your people and the world to a little African village that reassures everyone about the strength and power of great ideas managed in this fascinating technological space. Thanks again for the intellectual oasis of exchange that is connecting a multiplicity of cultures.
    With greetings from Monrovia, Africa’s warmest heart.
    Gbawu

  7. Kathy Stinson Says:

    Greetings Patricia. I came upon your blog postings when wordpress suggested the link from my own blog posting today. (I’ve made several postings following a recent visit to Liberia and following a visit there last February too.)

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences returning to Liberia in 2008. In the “small world” way of things, I recognized Mike Weah in one of your photos. I have been working with him through a program called Reading Liberia.

    And what a thrill it would have been to meet Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. What an inspiration she has been to Liberians and many outside the country who know of her dedication to getting Liberia back on its feet. It is a country of so many remarkable people.

    I’d love for you to read about the program that has given me the opportunity to visit your home country. I think as a writer you would find it interesting. I wish I had read some of your poetry when I was there. Here’s the link to all my postings about Liberia (there are 2 pages of them), if you’d care to check it out. http://kathystinson.wordpress.com/category/liberia/

    All best with your current writing project and best to your family too.
    Kathy

  8. Kathy Stinson Says:

    PS I would also be interested in reading more of what came of your interviews with Liberian women. I will do some more looking around your blog and see what I can find out about that. Again, all best.

  9. poetryforpeace Says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Sorry, it took long to respond. I have been swamped. What an experience it must have been for you to visit Liberia. I do not intend to post the women’s stories that I collected here in the US and in Africa because they are for a narrative I will put together. I might have other plans for a documentary in the future when my other writing projects are out of the way. They are very powerful and sad stories of our lives, and I know that my blog audience is not ready for such stories. Besides, I have too much respect for the women, including myself who also experienced the war, to post them in the public like that. But one day, let us keep praying, I will get a collection out with the women’s names as their own narrators. I will visit your blog or have already done so. Lets keep in touch. I will find time to link up to your blog. My story that came out of my visit to Liberia can be read in the following online publications: http://www.african-writing.com/six/patriciawesley.htm
    or: http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/archives/1479

  10. Kathy Stinson Says:

    Thank you for your reply, Patricia, especially with my message coming at a very busy time.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about the women’s stories being too powerful and personal to have a place on your blog. I hope some day that a collection as you describe it will be published. It is important that the stories of Liberian woman are told, that their voices are heard.

    I expect you have many contacts in the publishing world, but I’d like to suggest, if I may, a Canadian publisher who might well be receptive to your project. http://www.secondstorypress.ca/

    I have read your moving account of your visit, and will post a comment to it on the seabreeze site.

    Please do let’s try to keep in touch.

  11. poetryforpeace Says:

    You are so precious. I visited the site, and will keep them in mind for this and other projects. Please feel free to stay connected. I will send you my e-mail from the poetryforpeace e-mail so we may someday collaborate. Thanks a lot.
    Patricia

  12. Liberia Lingers « Turning the Pages: Kathy Stinson’s Blog Says:

    […] with a Liberian poet, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. We met, electronically speaking, through a blog post of hers that was suggested by WordPress as “possibly related” to one of mine. […]

  13. Kathy Stinson Says:

    Patricia, I have been reading your poetry. It’s very effecting. I hope that doesn’t sound trite. I notice you have a book “Becoming Ebony”, published in 2003. I had a book published in 2003 called “Becoming Ruby”. I think we are connected in one of those mysterious ways that no one can explain (least of all me) and maybe we were even before wordpress made me aware of you.
    All best,
    Kathy

  14. poetryforpeace Says:

    WOW! I checked it out already. I am in Ohio with a series of talks, poetry readings, radio and tv interviews as a guest of Ohio State, so I am swamped with work. Will contact you when I get back. Let’s e-mail. Send me a note at Jlajeh@gmail.com

  15. Liberia Lingers :: Kathy Stinson ~ Turning the Pages Says:

    […] with a Liberian poet, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. We met, electronically speaking, through a blog post of hers that was suggested by WordPress as “possibly related” to one of mine. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: