Writing as A Tool in Healing: Poetryforpeace Celebrates More than 100,000 Hits, Hundreds of Comments & A Loyal Group of International Readers: Here’s to You, My Poetry from Around the Web


                  —Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

The calabash
now shattered

her contents
like palm wine

across the regions
of the world.

                     I began blogging Poetryforpeace in late July of 2007 as an outlet for my overwhelming excitement after visiting Medellin, Colombia, a guest of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia, South America, where I was one of 75 international world poets featured in that celebration of poetry. There, in Colombia, I saw a confirmation of my belief in writing as a source of healing all of the traumas we can experience as people. The Colombian people who by that year had seen 40 years of brutal fighting and disintegration of its people were confirming my belief that no matter how bitter the trauma, the pen is more powerful than the bullet and that writing can heal. This is because throughout my life, even as a child, I wrote to get rid of whatever bad feelings I had during those childhood and adolescent years, so now, this was another stage for me in the writing process.


——— Patiricia Jabbeh Wesley (Copyright: Where the Road Turns, Autumn House Press, 2010)

On the side walk, patches of people
linger late.

In the day, they are like rice grains
along the roadways,

and at night,
they wallpaper lame bodies
in the draft darkness
of the broken city.

Crowds of war returnees,
waiting for nothing,
day after day,

waiting for nothing
after refugee camp,
after their former cities
of refuge

spewed them out like dirt,
after wandering the globe.
After death’s passing,
they have returned

looking like returnees
from the dead.

The city is hot, burning like steel
with hunger.

The air used to belong to us here
one woman said,
there used to be a road
to take us back home.

Today, the road homeward is now lost
The road to Cape Palmas, filled
with dry bones.

But on the street,
a motorcade is coming.
Someone is living.
Someone is living on these bones.

     I was in the middle of the Liberian civil war when I began to use my talent in writing Poetry and prose to search for healing from the traumatic experience of the bloody Liberian civil war I was in. After my husband, children and I survived those first two years and moved to the US, I was so devastated, I needed something more than prayer to help me. I was so emotionally traumatized by the killing of numerous people we had witnessed, the torture my family and I had experienced, the ugliness of war revealed in the starvation many of us war refugees experienced,  the pain from watching children and the elderly die in the war, the bombs and the burning buildings, and all that war can bring upon any people, I could not stop crying. During my first years out of the war, even as a mother of then three little children, a wife and a professional person, I broke down every time anyone wanted me to say something about my experience of the then on-going Liberian civil war.

This was when I returned to writing. I decided in that first year of my arrival in the US, in 1991, to write down my memories of the war, to tell it all, first in a narrative of five hundred pages, writing that entire year. Later on, I found the strength to begin writing poetry again, my favorite genre in the writing process. I wrote endlessly, writing first about the war that had happened to Liberia, to its people, people other than myself. I was too hurt to bring images of the war close to myself in the poetry I wrote in those early years, poetry, that became part of my first book, Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa.   


                     —–Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

At night, it is like fire
spreading beneath us.
This vast city
aflame, and the plane groaning.

The city is more beautiful
from the sky at night.
At noon, it looks like
a worn-out garage,
a thing in the middle
of swamp country.

All the buildings are worn-out,
rusted to the bone
of steel, twisted
to make way so life
can go on.

Everything is bent and broken
along the hilltops.
I touch air to see if air
is still there.
The touchdown,

and we appear all worn-out,
too, like the city, broken.
All the birds
moved out long ago.
The trees too.

      It was then I discovered that the more I wrote down my hurt feelings, my sorrow, and bitterness from the torture I’d experienced, the less I cried, the less angry I was, and the more I could reason and accept my and my country’s situation for what was happening to us. I was becoming healed even though the war still raged. I know that healing for me also involved prayer and spiritual healing, but writing down my feelings meant that I was admitting that indeed, these things had happened to me and to my people, and yes, indeed, it was okay to feel hurt, and yes, I could indeed be healed. 

    Writing poetry set me free from all of the anger from watching the devastation of my beloved Liberia, dulled the pain of losing so many relatives and all I had worked so hard for, including losing my mother and stepmother, and even as more family members and friends were killed in that prolonged war, I would turn to my computer and write, using powerful images as they came to me to express my feelings. I wrote about everything, my anger, my fears, my hope, my prophesies about the end of the war and hopes of a day when we would no longer be at war. 


     So, again when I found another means of writing to find healing in blogging, I added this form of creativity to my poetry. Here, today, I celebrate Poetryforpeace, an international blog and its high traffic of my faithful readers and those seeking for something, many stumbling upon this site accidentally. I don’t feel deserving of your words of encouragement or your time taken out for this blog, but I feel a kind of connection to you. I feel like you are part of my life, and you do know where I am and where you are. It is for you that I write. When I write, I often think of people across the world who will read every word, even if those are few, even if those will find my accidentally. You and I are going to change the world.  My hope is that despite my slow posting in the past couple years, you will find something within the past of my blogging to hold on to until I find the time to revisit you with a few new words.

I want the site to bring everything to everyone. Some will find poetry; others will find politics; others have found mundane stories, news, etc. All have been welcome. Here, today I celebrate with a small sample of my poems, all, published poems in my four books of poetry. These were already scattered around the web, but are gathered for your pleasure. Enjoy and let’s live. Life is short and beautiful. Let’s keep our hopes for all the women around the world as we celebrate International Women’s Day and as we celebrate Women’s History Month. Happy Women’s History Month even if you’re a man. Remember, without a woman, there is no man.


          — Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (copyright: The River is Rising Autumn House Press, 2007)

Closure is such a final thing- the needle in the arm,
one last word or no last word at all, a death chamber

where the supposed convict lies waiting so the poison
will descend or ascend to the heart, a final beat,

and then sleep, that eternal thing none of us living
has ever seen. In California, today, a man is being

put to death, but outside, his supporters wait; candles,
flames, anger- the cold chill of death and life,

and a country that waits for all the arguments to die
or live on. The victim’s mother will see closure today,

they say, and move on after the murderer or the supposed
murderer is laid to rest with her son, side by side.

Death is such an ironic thing to know. To know death
is to know rot, hush, the lack of pain. It is 3 am

in Pennsylvania. Time, so deceptive, and arbitrary
and imperfect. Around the world, we all wait, for

the executioner’s poke into vein, blood meeting poison.
We are such civilized people, I’d say, dishing out death

in small poking needles. The newsmen tell us they
cannot find his vein. The awkwardness of asking the one

awaiting death to find his own vein so they can murder
him too- the executioner’s awkward fingers, the knowing

fingers- afraid of both the man and the art of killing the man.
I hate death. I hate the dying, the ugly process of dying,

the ritual of murder. So I too, keep vigil on my carpet.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell my eleven year-old daughter how

we have all murdered another human being. An eye
for an eye, so far away from my bedroom of dim lights,

a comforter or two, the surrounding hills in close view.
There is always a mountain here in Pennsylvania,

always that looming presence of life and death and the
far away feeling of the valley below, of being so far away

from home. There is no closure, I see, after the poison
has reached the heart, and the accused, stretched out, finally.

The victim’s mother begins to weep all over again-
as if this was just the beginning of the dying.


I NOW WANDER    (Copyright: Becoming Ebony, SIU Press, 2003

                                                    Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

I raised ducks, pigs, dogs, barking watchdogs.
Wild chickens loose, dancing, flapping old wings.

Red and white American roosters, meant to be sheltered
and fed with vitamins until they grow dumb;

in our yard I set them loose among African breeds
that pecked at them until they, too, grew wild and free.

I planted papayas, fat belly papayas, elongated papayas,
tiny papayas, hanging. I planted pineapples, mangoes,

long juicy sugar canes, wild coco-yams. From our bedroom
window I saw plantain and bananas bloom, again and again,

take on flesh and ripeness. And then the war came, and the rebels
slaughtered my pigs, my strong roosters, my hens,

my heavy, squawking ducks. Now I wander among strangers,
looking for new ducks, new hens, new coco-yams, new wars.



                                        Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

The women in my family were supposed
to be men. Heavy body men, brawny
arms and legs, thick muscular chests and the heart,
smaller than a speck of dirt.

They come ready with muscled arms and legs,
big feet, big hands, big bones,

a temper that’s hot enough to start World War Three.
We pride our scattered strings
of beards under left chins

as if we had anything to do with creating ourselves.
The women outnumber the men
in my father’s family, leaving our fathers roaming

wild nights in search of baby-spitting concubines
to save the family name.
It is an abomination when there are no boy children.

At the birth of each one of us girls, a father sat prostrate
in the earth, in sackcloth and ash, wailing.

It is abomination when there are no men
in the family, when mothers can’t bring forth
boy children in my clan.



                Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (1998, Before the Palm Could Blook

When I get to heaven
I’m going to shout hallelujah all over the place.
Dancing the Dorklor, the Wahyee,
the Ballet, the Rock and Roll.
I’ll dance the Brake, the Rap, Hip-Hop.
All the dances only sinners have danced.
I’ll sing Opera, the African way,
dance the Ballet the African way.

When I get to heaven
I’ll pray so loud, shaking hands the White way,
the Black way; greeting with kola nuts
as the Grebos do.
I’ll lie prostrate, to greet
the Yoruba way. Snap fingers to greet
as Liberians do.
There will be no boundaries, law laws, no rules.

When I get to heaven
I’ll sing the blues and dance the Sumu.
I’ll paint my face with white chalk and red rock,
sit with missionaries so all can see
I’ll pound my drums, shaking my Sahsah.
Blowing my trumpet the African way
Dancing to Jesus the African way



                              –Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

So what shall I use to wipe my brow?
To bring back a life
snatched away in its prime?
What shall I say, and what shall I lay hands
so helpless upon to wipe the sorrow
from my brow?

What shall I wear to mourn a life
whose end has dealt us this blow?
Shall I wear black, so when our townswomen,
hearing the drums, come wailing, wailing
they shall see the sorrow
of my heart on my dark lappa?

Shall I tie a string around my forehead?
Shall I lie prostrate on The Mat?
Shall I cry tears for those you’ve left us to feed
when we ourselves cannot feed ourselves
in a land where the hungry, forever hungry,
keep the faith?

What dirge shall I sing?
Shall I recount the battles fought at Nganlun?
Shall I sing of blood shed at the cracking of a gun
when I myself am so afraid of the gun?
What shall I say when the women,
hearing my song, come wailing
and knocking at my door?



                            Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

“Good friend, please help me.
Did you happen to see
two boys when you lived in Kataka?
One dark, chubby?
The other, light with dark eyes?
Good friend,
did you see them while you lived in Ganta?
One would have been ten
and the other this tall.
My big boy, Nyema, the small one, Doeteh.
Good friend, can you tell me
if they went to Tapeta?
Were they given weapons, did they kill?
Good friend, can you say
if they walked to Bassa?
Did they starve to death?
Good friend, can you say
if there was a mother walking by their side?
Was she healthy? was she treated well?
Oh, good friend, so this is where
they took them out of line?
Good friend, were they hungry
when they met their end?
Oh, good friend, I will follow
to wrap up their bones.
Thank you, good friend.
But how will I know their bones?





               —-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
to God, I wish I could take out my heart for you,
but how will I sing this song to you without a heart?
You, with so much heart for love and poetry,
for hope in the eyes of the little girl
who with a scrap of white paper, wants me to say a word
to her, to autograph my name for her, to write it in her
name. She tells me with that unusual smile how
she loves my poems, but she is only eight years old.
She and Carlos, the five year old brother who have
pushed through the thousands to get to me.

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
where we go down from the mountain
into the bowl of a city, into the deep heart of a city,
so warm, a city where people still smile
and clap to a poem, and cry for the war, a city
where concrete houses hold up the hills with muscles
of steel, muscles of pain, and somewhere along the roads
as the bus descends from the airport, the poor have
erected their own lives so sadly, waiting,
and yet, they overlook the city with hope.
From the edge of sharp cliffs and the side roads,
the burning lights and flames of the city, hard
and indistinguishable from anger.
But theirs is of the pain from the years gone.

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
Waiting can be so hard, Medellin.
And I love you from my heart. I love your laughter,
your warm hugs and kisses, your Spanish, so simply
plain and warm. I love even your tears that
you have shared with me, when a poem I’m reading
touches you in that place where only a poem can go.
At the International Poetry Festival, you sit there,
along your hill arena, clapping, thousands of people,
sitting and thinking and listening and hoping,
Medellin, I have never seen anything like this before.
Thousands of people sitting for long hours
at a poetry reading, Medellin…
we wait for that day, Medellin, we wait.
Trust me, I know how to wait, and I know you do too.

Announcing My Fourth Book of Poems: “Where the Road Turns” is Now Available in Stores

A new book is like a new baby. You plan, you write, you edit, nurturing the poems, then you find a publisher, and wait, and then the book is published. When the book is published, like a new born, it must be well-received, welcome, and shown around the harsh world it was born into. If it finds good footing, it thrives and finds its own hearts to conquer, its own eyes to drain tears from, its own lovers to make laugh. If it does this well enough, the author and publisher are happy, and the book grows as reviewers study it, examine it, and test it. The author on the other hand, has delivered the book, and is empty of everything for a while, like a new mother.

Biography When the Wanderers Come Home

—Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

This is where we were born
in these corrugated rugged places,
where boys chasing girls chasing
boys chasing other girls chasing bellies
chasing babies chasing other babies
chasing poverty, chased death.
Of potholed streets and bars and sex
and other girls getting drowned
forever and ever in loveless love.
And then the fires of our lives
lit other fires of other lives
with lust and then
there was no longer us.
So then the war came with its bullets
chasing people chasing the bombs,
and ghost towns sprang up
with carcasses of the dying
and the dead. And like mushrooms,
the dead rose up to claim the land
and we were no more.
But the fires still burned in the wombs
and in the eyes of the city streets
below which the dead lovers and
love lie. And there was life again
out of so much pain,
and life took on its own life again
and the girls returned on the backs
of surreal horses in search
of that old fire. But these were no longer
the same girls or boys or men or women.
But this is where we grew up on these
sidewalk streets, in these rugged places.
This is where the streets come in.
This is where we belong.
This is where life begins.


When people ask me which of the few books I have written is my favorite, I say, “All of them. They are each like a child, unique and beautiful in themselves, and there’s none that is better than the other.” That is the writer’s perspective. The literary reviewer/critic says something entirely different. They are the gate keepers. So, here comes another book for the gate keepers to examine. Enjoy.

I am pleased to announce to my readers, my supporters, fans, friends, fellow poets that my fourth book of poems,  Where the Road Turns has been released by (Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 20, 2010)

The book, which has 110 poetry pages or 126 pages in total was published by the publisher of my third book, The River is Rising, and is already enjoying its first week on the market. I was fortunate to have two very important writers in my life write blurbs for the book. Frank Chipasula, poet, editor and publisher reviewed the book and wrote a very beautiful blurb for me. Another blurb was taken from a review by Robert H. Brown in the Liberian Studies Journal. Chipasula is the editor of Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poems, e Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry and books of poetry by himself wrote a blurb that I have yet to live up to. I am only the fortunate one to have so many great poets, publishers, poetry friends and well wishers in my corner. I would not be here writing books of poetry without all of this network of good people. I take this moment to express my thanks and gratitude to these friends, my family, including my wonderful children who have always been there for me.

A Very Busy Few Weeks Leading to the Book’s Arrival:

Where the Road Turns was slated to come out on Sept. 1, 2010, but I was again blessed when my publisher, Michael Simms decided to bring the book out as early as possible. So, it arrived at my door on Tuesday, July 20, a day after I arrived from the 20th International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia. In another post, I will take the time to highlight my adventure, the great festival of 100 world poets, the great audiences and the Colombian people. At this point, I will post a few poems from the book to help you take a glance into the book. Michael Simms, my publisher really believes in the book, and let me confess, he helped even me believe in the book. I know that you will love the difference between this fourth book and the third, and you will see how far the book is from the first two.

This is my last reading from Where the Road Turns as a manuscript. A new book is like a new child. It comes into a very harsh world, but if the book is fortunate and is promoted, it is well-received, and finds its place into the hearts of the people.

This reading is part of the nine readings within ten days that I had scheduled for me in Colombia’s 20th International Poetry Festival of Medellin. The auditorium was packed with about 300 or more from the region of the city of Villavicencio, Colombia. To get to the town from Medellin, we were driven about an hour or more to Medellin Airport, flown for about an hour or less to Bogota Airport, from there, a driver drove us from Bogota Airport to the city of Villacicencio, where a packed room of the beautiful poetry lovers of Medellin awaited my team member, Erling, a poet from Norway and I. This is only a sneak peak into the Festival posting that is to come within the end of the week.


We Departed Our Homelands and We Came . . .
Grebo Saying

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

We departed our homelands and we came,
so the Grebo say, we came with our hands
and we came with our machetes

so we too, could carve up the new land.

When we left home, we crossed streams
and we climbed up hills; we set out through
wet brushes, and the rivers parted
so we could cross.

We know that if the leopard should leap,
it is because it sees an antelope passing.

We came, not so we could sit and watch
a wrestling match, not so we could watch
the land on which our feet walk,
rise beyond our reach.

We journeyed from our homelands,
and we came
, so, let it be known that we left
our homelands, and we came.

When we arrived, we dug up the earth,
and in this new earth, we laid down
our umbilical cords, forever.

So let it be known among the people– we left
all the beauty of our homelands

not so we would sit out on The Mat to wail.

Ghosts Don’t Go Away Just Like That
By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Sometimes they lurk in hallways where they have lost
the other side of them. They may hover over new wars,

like the wars that carried them away from their bodies,
causing them to lose their world and us in the rush.

Ghosts don’t go away just like that, you know;
they may come in that same huge crowd that was

massacred together with them, and since that massacre
may have happened at school, in a bar or at church, they

may be found, kneeling at the pulpit, singing and taking
communion again and again, with everyone else.

They gather on a Saturday evening, as the sun sets over
the hills and a small flash of yesterday’s lightning lingers

from that old storm as the new storm rides in, and then,
there they are, ghosts! You can see them only if you have

eyes to see them as ghosts of humans, and yet not ghosts.
They’re looking to see if we will recall that they were here.

To see if we will build a stone to honor the fact that they
were here, with us, walking and talking, like us, to see

if we will remember that they lost so much blood
in the shooting, that they broke a leg or two, and that

so many of them were not counted in that sad number.
They want to know if we will put up a stone or keep

the fire burning to put out the fires, to stop all the killing
in the city streets, around the world,

to stop all the killing in the eyes of the city streets.


All poetry in this post was taken from Where the Road Turns (copyright Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh)

(“Biography When the Wanderers Come Home” was previously published in The Literary Review, Winter 2009 Issue.  Copyright: Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, PA)



Amazon.com, Autumn House Press, your neighborhood bookstore (if not available, you can ask them to carry the book, most institutional libraries, etc.)

Again, thanks for giving me the inspiration and support to continue to write. None of this would be possible without you.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Dear President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Please Do Not Grant Former Warlords, War “Vigilantes,” War Criminals and Former Killers Any State Funerals


The death news of and the request for a State Funeral for former Military leader, Charles Julu, militant of the Samuel Doe era and the leader of many military raids in which tens of thousands of Liberians were killed and massacred and our nation destroyed, should spark new controversies about warlords, war criminals and former killers. Liberians and peace loving people around the world should be outraged.

Sirleaf-Charles-JuluPresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a photo, shaking hands in 2008 with Julu

I was reading an article in a Liberian newspaper in which citizens of Grand Gedeh are calling on the Liberian leader, Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to grant the former military leader/warlord, General Charles Julu a State Funeral. I do not have anything against the good people of Grand Gedeh or the family who earnestly believe in the good deeds of Charles Julu. They want the best for their son, one that carried out their war with expert precision, but as a peace loving Liberian, I am disturbed when Liberians cannot understand that those who have in the past massacred our people should never be rewarded whether in death or in life. Were I from Grand Gedeh County, of course, I would not want to lead this mission of calling on our nation to grant Mr. Julu the highest honor of our nation by giving him a State Funeral.

The legacy of the Liberian warThe price we paid in the Liberian civil war (fellowsblog.kiva.org/…/)

After all, all of us who lived in Liberia in the William R. Tolbert era, the Samuel Doe administration, and finally, during the bloody Liberian civil war know how much of the war was attributed to Mr. Julu and his inhuman militant spirit and to his militants. We know that many of us trembled when his name was mentioned because his name meant massacre and mass destruction.

Yes, he was serving “his country” in a way that he thought “best,” fighting to help his ethnic people win the war that destroyed hundreds of thousands of our people and our nation. We know that he personally massacred people, and there’s no history that can erase that blood, whether he is dead or not. He is the equivalence of Charles Taylor or Samuel Doe or any other warlord of the times. Yes, he was doing what they wanted, but in the business of executing this duty, he became known as one of the horrible criminals of those terrible civil wars that spanned fourteen years. Like any good person with a forgiving heart, I am sad that he died too, like many of those he killed. That no matter what we do, we all die and go to that same unknown. I am saddened that he could have done better for his nation, and I wish he’d lived differently. Maybe, he too, was a victim of the Samuel Doe craz, but hey, he did not bring peace to our land, and was not even a Liberian Statesman.

What is important and what I am glad about is that his death should not only throw light on his death; it must stir up other questions of war criminals who are still enjoying honor and respect from our nation simply because they have power. President Sirleaf will be judged by how she takes seriously all of the recommendations of the Truth Commission, which includes allowing those who destroyed out nation to face the consequences of their action. President Sirleaf, do not forget that the very people who are pleading with you today will be the ones to criticize you tomorrow about the very requests they are making. Do not heed them. Ironically, the very Liberians who believe in the TRC report that you should not run for a second term are the same ones who want to honor those who actually carried arms and orchestrated many massacres and killings throughout that bloody war. What in the name of God is going on here?

I am shocked and continue to be disturbed by those who want us to bury the past without allowing justice, without allowing those who caused the wanton destruction of the lives of so many to pay for their crimes. How can we build a nation over the bones and blood of so many innocent victims without giving them their proper respect and expect to still have a peaceful future? How can we continue to honor those who have not been cleared by this unbelievable Human Rights abuses and expect to build a peace-loving nation? When will we learn that tribalism and false honor does not bring fruitful rewards?

I lived in Monrovia most of the first two years of the civil war that began in 1989, and I was in Congo Town when the terror of the first months of the destruction of Monrovia took place in 1990. I watched as Liberian/Krahn military men roamed Monrovia, including my neighborhood of Congo Town, killing my neighbors and indiscriminately setting up barriers. And don’t get me wrong, I am not even from Nimba, and I saw what went on.

I saw them kill innocent Liberians who were fleeing the desperate city of Monrovia in the Exodus from Monrovia between June and August. I too, over and over, nearly was executed by these crazy men and women. I visited and prayed with the citizens of Nimba who took refuge in the St. Peter’s Lutheran and in the Methodist Church, brought contributions to them, provided my pigs to the Catholic Relief priests to feed the refugees, and shockingly, I wept when it was alleged that Charles Julu and his militants had led the the mostly Krahn army of Samuel Doe to massacre hundreds of those very people in the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on July 29, 1990.

I saw the burning flames of Monrovia, and was in Congo Town when that massacre took place. I listened to the radio that July morning as the massacre was attributed to the vigilance of Charles Julu. All historical records show that he led the massacre, and today, he is dead.  So what shall we do- honor him now?

There should never be a State Funeral for him not because we do not acknowledge his “greatness”as a warrior, but because we do not think it is fair to honor people who kill innocent people anywhere on our globe.

Any Liberian with a conscience, whether that person is from the family of the late military leader or not should understand this common law of nature. I will not be surprised when others start calling for Liberia to provide lawyers for Charles Taylor’s trial for Human Rights abuses. I will not be surprised when Liberians begin to march in the streets in protest against Charles Taylor’s trial, and I will not be surprised when Liberians call on our government years from now to pay for a State Funeral for Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson and all the others who are war criminals and are today, enjoying the fruit of their killings.

The world should pay attention to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) because if we continue to ignore the facts that war criminals should be brought to some kind of justice, we are only postponing our problems. The laws of nature are clear and simple, and the laws of God are also clear and simple: one cannot be expected to kill masses of people and expect to be treated with well wishes throughout their life. One day, that person should be held accountable to the world for such atrocities.

I am certain that there are countless people who will go on the limb again and say, “leave this alone.” Liberians have always been cowards, not standing up for truth, and maybe this is why we never saw the most bloody war in West Africa coming for us. When will we stop believing that someone else will solve our problems? When will we stop being tribalistic, and fight more for justice and peace than for tribal affiliation?

I am from the Kwa family group that the Krahn people are also part of, so I am in a way more connected to the Krahn people than others who come from another family of ethnicity. I understand the warring nature of my people, but I know lies from truth, injustice from justice, and I know that today it is Charles Julu that people want to give a State Burial. Tomorrow, another tribal group or family group will call on the government to honor another warlord, another killer and destroyer of our nation, and then those who are calling on the government today to bury their son will be screaming against that call.

Let justice be done to all men and women. Do not honor anyone who died with the blood of our sons and daughters and with the blood of Liberian on their hands. We do not see the Rwandans or the Jews granting State Funerals to their former warlords and killers. Everyone who lived  in Liberia during the war or who can read any news from Liberia about the war knows that we cannot continue to pretend that what happened did not happen, and we cannot continue to be tribalistic and expect Liberia to change. Please, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the world is watching you. Do not grant anyone whose name was so feared a State Funeral. This is against Human Rights. This is not good for the future of our nation. This is not good for the world. Let’s wash the blood of our people from our nation by practicing true justice. With Love to all peace loving Liberians, I say, do not let the world continue to laugh at us.

The River Is Rising

————————Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

a song for Liberian women

The river is rising, and this is not a flood.
After years of drought, the ground, hardened

and caked in blood, in dry places, here we are, today.

River banks are swelling with the incoming tide,
coming in from the Atlantic just beyond the ridge

of rolling hills and rocks in Monrovia.

Finally, here we stand at the banks!
Finally, here we are, see how swiftly

the tide rushes in to fill the land with salt.

Fish and crabs and the huge clams and shrimps-
all the river’s creatures are coming in with the tide.

The river is rising, but this is not a flood.

Do not let your eye wander away from this scene.
Yes, all the bones below the Mesurado or the St. Paul

or Sinoe or the Loffa River will be brought up
to land so all the overwhelming questions
can once more overwhelm us.

But they are bringing in our lost sister
on a high stool, and there she stands, waving at those

who in refusing to die, simply refused to die.

This is not a song just for Ellen. This is a song for Mapue
and Tenneh and all the Ellens there are.

This is a song for Kema and Musu and Massa.

This is for Nyeneplue and Nyenoweh, for Kou and Glayee
and Korto, for the once solitary woman of war.

This is a song so Wani will also dance.

This is a song for that small girl child who came out
just this morning. They are still seeking a name

to call her- a river name, a name from the water
and from the fire too. That solitary mother in flight

will no longer birth her child by the roadside
where shells were her baby’s first bed.

Let the womb quiver!
Let church bells jingle!
Let hundreds of drums pound, Klan-klan-teh!
Let men bring out old trumpets
so the wind will take flight!

Let that small pepper bird on the tree branch cry
and sing no more the solitary song.

Let the Mesurado behind my home or what was my home
or still is or maybe, maybe, who cares?

The river is rising, but this is not a flood.

Let no man stand between us
and the river again!

(Title poem of The River is Rising by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, 2007)

For more Information, visit the following links on the Liberian war and warlords:




This is what the leading newspaper in Liberia, Tthe Liberian Observer had to say about the dead General:


Charles Julu Is Dead

Updated: September 28, 2009 – 7:13pm
News Section:

Gen Julu.jpg
The late Gen. Charles Julu

Observer Staff

MONROVIA — A retired Liberian army general, widely known both as “the Rock” and “The Devil,” is dead.

Charles Julu died over the weekend in Monrovia after a brief illness, family sources said.

Prior to his death, the general’s admirers called him “the Rock” for his courage and bravery to remain firm in the face of uncertainty, while others viewed him as the “Devil” for his alleged ruthlessness.

Julu first came to public limelight in 1973 when Liberia’s 19th President, Rev. Dr. William Richard Tolbert Jr., accused him and others of plotting at the time to overthrow his government.

On account of those claims by President Tolbert, who was also a Baptist Minister and Preacher, Julu was disrobed as a military man.

It remains unclear whether he was ever prosecuted by Tolbert, who was later killed in a bloody coup on April, 12, 1980. The murder took place at the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, and Tolbert’s True Whig Party (TWP), which formed a one-party oligarchy, was dethroned by 17 non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, a kinsman of Julu’s, became the new Head of State.

Doe became leader of the new military junta, the People’s Redemption Council (PRC), after the bloody coup, during which 13 former officials of Tolbert’s regime were placed on electrical poles and shot dead by the junta. Julu was appointed by Doe as Commander of the Plant Protection Department of the Liberian-American Swedish Mining Company (LAMCO) in Nimba County, Northern Liberia.

In that part of the country, the name Charles Julu became a household word as his controversial methods of operation continued in 1983 during the villainous Nimba Raid, which he led.

It was widely reported that followers of Quiwonkpah, a Gio, attacked the home of Julu in Nimba County. At that time, the finger of one of Julu’s children was reportedly cut off by the attackers as Julu was fleeing his residence.

But, in retaliation, Julu, an ethnic Krahn, is said to have gone on the rampage, rounding up and subsequently killing many persons, especially those he suspected of being involved in the attack on his residence and of being loyal to Quiwonkpah.

Indeed, Charles Julu was feared and controversial.

In an article published by Runningafrica.com entitled “Profiling A General Accused of Second Coup Attempt,” Thomas Kai Toteh, a leading author, writes:

“Though ex-Army General Charles Julu is innocent until found guilty according to the due process of law clause of the Liberian Constitution, many Liberians at home and abroad see him like an old thief who becomes the first suspect or even found guilty before he faces the law….

“Charles Julu was appointed chief of security for LAMCO in Nimba County by the late Samuel Doe. Charles Julu first came in the spotlight as a ruthless individual when he intimidated players of first division soccer teams who went to play LAMCO Enforcers, a team he served as a chief patron. On numerous occasions, he allegedly flogged some players of LAMCO Enforcers accused of being responsible for lost matches…

“During the 1985 aborted invasion, spearheaded by late Thomas G. Quiwonkpa, Charles Julu became a household name throughout Liberia when he allegedly dumped [an] unspecified number of Nimbaian children into wells in a vicious retaliation, eye witnesses said, against Nimba County, where Quiwonkpa hailed from.

“His reputation and that of [the] late Samuel Doe were marred by what was later dubbed the “Nimba Raid.” Consequently, the late Samuel Doe, in order to save face, transferred the ex-general at the Executive Mansion as a commander for the Executive Mansion Guard.

“Julu survived the [1990] rebel incursion after he fled to a neighboring country, where he resided until 1994. He mysteriously appeared in Monrovia during a power sharing government headed by Prof. David Kpormakpor. Charles Julu mobilized a handful of AFL remnants that happened to be members of his Krahn tribe.

“Despite the presence of West African Peace Monitoring Group in Monrovia and at the Executive Mansion, providing security for the transitional government, Charles Julu stole the show in the morning hours when he forced his way on the fourth floor at the Executive Mansion in an attempt to seize power.

“When news of Charles Julu’s presence at the Executive Mansion as a coup maker broke out in Liberia, especially in Monrovia, dark cloud[s] formed. Speculations fill the air and suspicious eyebrows were raised at ECOMOG….

“But ECOMOG gave him an ultimatum to step down or be forcibly brought down (dead or alive). The ex-general still insisted that he wanted to play his tape, even though some of his men had fled.

“Late in the evening, ECOMOG-trained Black Berets, along with ECOMOG Executive Mansion Guards moved on him while ECOMOG Delta Company launched artillery around the Mansion to scare him away. People ran helter-skelter around Monrovia.

“Charles Julu fled the Executive Mansion at around 6:00 p.m. and sought [refuge] near the Barclay Training Center, a military barracks near the Executive Mansion. Security was put on the alert for his capture and arrest.

“Charles Julu was on foot heading toward the Mamba Point area near United States Embassy when a group of National Security agents arrested him and turned him over to ECOMOG.

“He was locked up at the Post Stockade at the Barclay Training Center. No charges were brought against him as the Constitution of Liberia was unofficially suspended due to the civil conflict.

“Charles Julu became a free man by force on April 6, 1996 when fighting broke out amongst four of the warring factions in Liberia. [The] National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor and United Liberation Movement of Ahlaji Kromah (ULIMO-K) moved to arrest the late Roosevelt Johnson of ULIMO-J backed by Liberia’s Peace Council (LPC) of George Boley at the Barclay Training Center (BTC).

“It was not confirmed whether Charles Julu took part in the fight, but unreliable sources said he gave orders to defunct Liberian Peace Council (LPC) and ULIMO-J militias to defend the barracks, his only rescue at the time, with their blood…”

Julu was also Commander of the Executive Mansion Guard Battalion in 1984. He remained in that position until 1985 when Gen. Thomas G. Quiwonkpah launched his abortive November 15, 1985 invasion in which Quiwonkpah was killed by loyalists of Head of State Doe.

Julu was also accused of involvement in other acts of atrocity in the Liberian civil war; but a few months ago, he appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), where he outlined his experiences and/or role in the country’s armed conflict.

In his public testimony before the Commission, the retired general categorically refuted claims of his involvement in mass killings.

He was accused of burying hundreds of children from Nimba County in a mass grave, a claim he also denied. At one point, he pointed fingers at Prince Y. Johnson, now Nimba County Senator, of being behind such lies.

Julu again came to public attention during the invasion of Charles Taylor’s then armed rebel group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) military onslaught against the government of Samuel Doe, when he (Julu) commanded government troops into several battles in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Grand Bassa and Bong Counties.

It was during the 1990 war in Nimba that Julu was accused of bundling scores of children into a truck from Nimba, killing them and burying them in a mass grave.

Under the command of a valiant Nigerian Army General, Adetunji Olurin, ECOMOG, the West Africa Peace Monitoring Group, then stationed in Liberia, opened fired on the Mansion and Julu and his loyalists, who took over the Mansion under the umbrella of New Horizon for New Direction, were all booted out of the Mansion.

Giving his testimony before the TRC a few months ago, Julu said he came to Monrovia on September 14, 1994; and the next day he moved into the Mansion which he captured with ease.

Before the TRC, Julu defended his takeover of the Executive Mansion. He said the move was intended to prevent then NPFL leader Charles Taylor from taking over the government by force of arms.

Julu, who was also former Chief of Staff of the AFL, further told the Commission that his action was aimed at filling a vacuum which, he said, was created as a result of the expiration of the tenure of then transitional government.

Early in the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, Julu was again charged with an attempted coup plot, but was acquitted due to ‘lack of evidence.’

The people of Grand Gedeh are said to be mourning his loss.

0Copyright Liberian Observer – All Rights Reserved. This article cannot be re-published without the expressed, written consent of the Liberian Observer. Please contact us for more information or to request publishing permission.

Michael Jackson, the World’s Most Influential Musical Icon Died Today, June 25, 2009- Poo-poo-Wlee-OH: A TRIBUTE for a Life Well Spent

Photo for possible web

MICHAEL JACKSON–He Sang for the World His Entire Short Life-

Michael images Michael Jackson, the Child Star—

(From Wikipedia Files)-Michael Joseph Jackson was born on August 29, 1958, and died today on June 25, 2009. He was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene at the age of 11 as a member of The Jackson 5 and began a solo career in 1971 while still a member of the group. Referred to as the “King of Pop” in subsequent years, five of his solo studio albums are among the world’s best-selling records: Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995).


I was driving home from State College when my daughter called my cell to tell me that Michael Jackson had died. It was about 6:20 pm, today, June 25, and all I could do was to weep while driving. I called my older children to tell them the news, and at my son’s home, the entire room exclaimed, sighed, and shouted with shock. Unbelievable that such a hero should die so young, we agreed, unbelievable, the news is today.

Michael in concert

In my home village, the sacred drummer  would have climbed to the high drum before the village square, and he would have pounded “Klan-Klan-Teh,” which means (Grave-grave news) in the Grebo Language. The horn blower would have also been authorized to accompany the drums with the “Poo-le-peh-leh-Wlee,”the sound of the horn that announces the grave news of such a warrior, and the townswomen, both renowned and lowly, would have begun the official wail of the town, “Poo-poo-Wlee-Oh,” all of which are symbolic of the grave news in the town. This would signal to the world that today, a hero and a great man of the world has just died. Michael was a great man of the world, unarguably, a great man of the world. Today, both great and small people in the greatest and the least countries, the great and lowly will all celebrate, mourn, and just stand in awe of the great things Michael has taught us both in music and about life. I was in high school when I listened to a child singer who alone touched the hearts of every generation. After decades, he continues to touch the world.


Today, despite all the controversies, the media fights, the things many did not like about Michael, he remains for us the greatest musical icon ever to walk this earth. He may not be remembered for what he really was and is, but he has left us much to ponder. When someone can be real to himself no matter what even while influencing the world, that is a good thing. For those of us who are artists, Michael was and continues to be an inspiration to what is possible when a little talent is nurtured. To Michael’s family and fans, we say, it’s okay, don’t weep, just celebrate. To Michael, I say thank you for a short life well spent. You gave to the world all that you had; sometimes they hated you, but most of the time, the world loved you. May your soul rest in peace.


Michael Jackson may be dead today, but he is forever. He lives in the world. As an African woman, I know that he left us Africans with the knowledge that anyone can be anything they want to be if they can work hard enough for it. Among the most influential black people in the world, Micheal will forever stand at the top of that list. He changed the world like no other person could, teaching us to accept and to care no matter what. Michal Jackson is forever. May his soul rest in perfect peace!


MUSIC, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

———- by: Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)



—– Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Everybody dies. Everything dies.
Everything we know will die someday.
The flowers and the trees also die.
Michael Jackson is dead, so the air says.
Even the leaves along the roadside
as we drove by, sighed deep
just to know that Michael is dead.
For me, it is only tears, only tears,
that the child-singer we grew up
loving is now no more.
It does not matter what the world says
or does or writes and questions, Michael
we love you. You have changed the world
in ways no other has ever or will ever
change the world.
Rest from your labor, Michael, rest in peace.

WORLD REFUGEE DAY- JUNE 20, 2009: How Many Refugees Does the World Still Need? You Tell Me…

Photo for possible web

Here comes another World Refugee Day to be celebrated or commemorated around the world, most particularly, in the West, where there are less refugees than in the so-called third world and developing countries. With more violence springing up and more people pumping up dictators and war lovers, the question is: “how many refugees does the world need?”

The UNHCR or the United Nations Refugee Agency claims that this day, June 20, 2009 is set aside each year to commemorate the heroic endurance of refugees who have been victimized by violence around the world. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie appeared alongside UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres “to call on the world to recognize millions of victims of conflict around the world not as a burden but as a potential gift.” This is a good thing.

As a former refugee myself, I appreciate this kind of effort by Angelina Jolie. I only wish there were many more rich, caring celebrities, world renowned people, Presidents of powerful countries, dictators or former dictators out there who care like Angelina. Despite her many efforts, her passion, she alone cannot accomplish what each of us working together can do to end world violence that causes refugee crisis. We cannot cry about the plight of the Iranian people without connecting what that new violence will do to create more refugees.

Photos For Mom 248

This shot was taken during my 2008 visit to the Liberian Buduburam Refugee camp that was home to more than 45,000 Liberians for nearly 20 years.

We cannot love the war in the Middle East without understanding how any war there will cause more commemoration of refugee days. There is a correlation between dictatorship, poor governments, big powers not doing anything to curtail injustice around the world and refugee crisis. When I fled the war in Liberia nearly twenty years ago, I was not declared a refugee nor were any Liberians. But by the time we’d fled in 1991, there were, according to news reports, 250,000 Liberians dead from the bloody civil war and wanton destruction. Ten years later and fifteen years later, the UN has not raised the figure of dead. Today, there are tens of thousands of Liberians still in refugee camps at the end of a fourteen year civil war. Are we celebrating those too? Are we celebrating their courage, their endurance, and if we are, why can’t we pressure the UN to give to Liberians who want to go home the minimum resettlement they need to return? Why give them a hundred dollars to return to devastation, thereby keeping them in refugee camps for another decade. Why?


March 23, 2009 by abluteau:There are millions of refugees around the world. Some of them are in camps, like these children in Chad, but many are not. Often, families get separated as they flee violence or natural disaster

A video of America’s Angelina Jolie, whom we all adore, including myself on her one woman efforts is being watched, but who’s really listening?

There are 45 million official UN confirmed refugees in our world today, not counting the millions of displaced, dislocated, unregistered, real people, mostly women and children who have had to abandon everything to flee death in their homelands. We need to not commemorate this sort of pain; instead, we need to STOP this sort of pain, stop it, stop dictators from being created, stop them from staying in power, stop pumping them up until it is too late, stop rebels from attacking innocent women and children, stop big and powerful countries from profiting on the blood of innocent people, stop Africa from being destroyed, stop the violence currently in Iran, in Iraq, in North Korea, everywhere. We need to stop talking and celebrating what we think we have done. We need to stop sleeping unless we can stop the carnage that is destroying our world. There is no need for us to have a “World Refugee Day” year after year. There should be no refugee if we can remember the horrible violence that is destroying our world.

CHAD REFUGEESblogs.mirror.co.uk/developing-world-stories/c.

This World Refugee Day like in previous years, everyone will congratulate one another again on the achievements the world has made, and the UN, of course, will give reports about their needs and the plight of refugees. The UN will also separate the goats from the sheep, the “refugees” from the “not so refugees,” and will reduce the number just so we don’t look bad, so we don’t appear to be so evil as to sit while other human beings in Dafur and other parts of the world die.

Pakistani-refugees  More than 45m Refugees in the World!

These pictured above are not called “Refugees,” but displaced, get it?

According to National Geographic, in 2003, there were 35 million refugees in the world, most of them women and children. These often talented, very educated, innocent people around our globe were forced to flee their homes, towns, cities, villages simply because some politicians around the globe in connection with the powers that be caused them to be caught up in wars and other violence. Today, according to the United Nations Agency, UNHCR, there are 45 million refugees around the world. But let’s just imagine that this is the figure that fits the United Nation’s description of the word, “REFUGEES.” Remember, the word refugee or the status of a refugee depends on the United Nations willingness to declare a nation’s real people, “Refugee.” The UN does not play around with this word. They can decide that two hundred thousand people who fled Liberia into neighboring countries when the Liberian civil war first erupted “were not refugees” because the UN did not yet see them as refugees, but “DISPLACED PERSONS,” get it?


Select another year-range:
Weekday     Date     Year     Name    Holiday type    Where it is observed
Wed    Jun 20    2001    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Thu    Jun 20    2002    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Fri    Jun 20    2003    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Sun    Jun 20    2004    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Mon    Jun 20    2005    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Tue    Jun 20    2006    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Wed    Jun 20    2007    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Fri    Jun 20    2008    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Sat    Jun 20    2009    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Sun    Jun 20    2010    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Mon    Jun 20    2011    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Wed    Jun 20    2012    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Thu    Jun 20    2013    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Fri    Jun 20    2014    World Refugee Day    United Nation day
Sat    Jun 20    2015    World Refugee Day    United Nation day

Photos For Mom 258

These are refugees I met in the Buduburam camp outside of Accra, Ghana. Many still need to return home.

How many countries will fall into refugee crisis before the world pays attention to real people’s needs instead of to politically charged stories? How many millions around the world will die in refugee camps around the globe before we make refugee issues a priority like we make the needs of richer countries?
Today, the UNHCR’s number of refugee stands at 45 million, but the real number will never be known. You must remember with me and account for the millions who are displaced across the borders of their countries, displaced for years in other countries, people who have no country anymore, who cannot return home even if they wanted to. And as you remember, realize also that there are dictators, warlords, like Liberia’s Charles Taylor who are making fun of peace and justice by evading the truth of their war crimes. We need to set aside time to bring them to justice. Remember that there are millions in the Dafur region, in Chad, in Iran, in Iraq, and all over the world who continue to suffer as a result of violence.

Photos For Mom 257

As we slow down our pace in the free world and reflect on refugees around the world, I am reminded of one refugee who waited nearly fifteen years to return home, and on the brink of her return, died.

My young sister-in-law, Ora Sansan Wesley Dixon, who was a vibrant, industrious young woman died just two weeks after she and I stood together in Buduburam, talking about the need to return home to Liberia. Sansan, as we affectionately called her was a hardworker who despite years of the war, having lost her mother and many family, made a small life for herself in the infamous Buduburam camp in Ghana.

Photos For Mom 260

The things that refugees acquired over nearly two decades can fit in a small space of a truck if they survive or acquire anything at all.

Photos For Mom 255 My late sister-in-law, Oral Wesley Dixon in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Accra, Ghana. May her soul rest in peace as we commemorate World Refugee Day.

The lack of medical facilities caused her to suddenly become ill, and died of conditions not quite explained just a couple weeks after the photos below. As you may observe in the photos, I am standing before the truck that was supposed to take the few possessions of dozens of refugees back to Liberia in the UNHCR’s attempt to repatriate Liberians. Liberian women had gone on strike early that year, but never got what they needed to survive their return to the devastated Liberia.

Many had decided it was no use staying in a country where they were not wanted, and were leaving. On the trucks were old beds, chairs, pots and the few belongings refugees could for over a decade. Sansan had also paid for her own few possessions to be placed on the truck. There was no money to take them, so family members had pitched in to fly her back home in August after her things were sent to Liberia. Family had made room for her. She was among the lucky who still had family that cared about her or that had survived fourteen years of warfare.

She offered me food that afternoon, my aid, Enock, refusing to eat from someone who had so little, he said. But Ora insisted to no avail. Enock, a Ghanaian was so saddened, tears welled his eyes to see the sort of condition refugees lived in. There was one small stool, the entire little shack, empty of all of Sansan’s possessions. She was her happy jubilant self, but deep down, she was hurting and she told me so very easily. She’d lost everyone, including her mother whom we wept for as I tried to stay focused on the purpose of my visit to the camp: to be a consolation to her and to her friends. The life of a refugee is more uncertain than anything any of us knows. I knew that for months as I fled in the bushes in Liberia. But when that war fled from in 1990 was supposed to be over, and after all these years, people have to pay for their own repatriation, then why are we celebrating their strength? I am not saying that the UN is doing nothing; I am saying that the UN and the world can do more.

Photos For Mom 254 Ora Sansan Wesley Dixon who died July 2008, nearly a year ago at Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra, Ghana. May Her Soul Rest in Peace and the Almighty Shine His Eternal light upon her.

For me, Ora Wesley Dixon represents the face of the refugee crisis. In her last days in the Buduburam Refugee camp in Ghana, she had learned to survive, to make a life, got married, found a job helping other Liberians, putting herself through school as a preparation to return home. But her life was cut short by lack of medical care. She may not seem like the poster child of war refugees in tents in the dessert, but she’d already been there after more than ten years of refugee life. She had seen it, but she never lived to return home. She had packed, but never returned.

Today, according to Liberian journalist, Ekena Wesley, there are about 10,000 Liberian refugees still in Ghana alone, with others scattered around the world.

As I conclude this post, I know that there is much more that the world can do to end world violence and bring peace to most of the world’s refugees. There must be more than one Angelina Jolie in the world. All of us in our own small ways can bring the refugee crisis to the world’s attention. There are many more refugees whose plight is much worse than the Liberian, the Sierra Leonean, the Chadian or even the Middle Eastern Crisis. There are worse wars that have lasted decades, like the Colombian war that is more than forty years old. We need to cry out until there are no more refugees or displaced people around the world. We can do it if we are united. Thank you.

The Blessings of Being A Mother: I Could Not Help Being Tickled As My 15 Year Old Daughter Critically Examined Some of President Obama’s Policies from the Perspective of a 15 Year Old


President Barack Obama continues to inspire me with everything he’s doing and planning for this country. So when he is scheduled to speak, I am all ears. Tonight, March 24th is no different. I  spent most of my day working on my memoir, editing some poems, editing students’ poems, planning for classes, and finding time to eat. Of course, I surprised my daughter and took her to her favorite grocery store where she purchased food to fix any meal she wants. She is only fifteen, but like me, she loves to cook. Since we’re only three at home these days, I can decide not to cook, fix up some left overs, and let Ade-Juah cook something for herself. She is the only American-meal eating creature in our home. But this very personal story, unlike all my other blog posts is not about Ade cooking herself dinner. The story is about something that is very close to her heart: the Television.

And “Mom, your President, the one President that you adore, Barack Obama, will eliminate American Idol again tonight,” she told me as soon as she arrived from school. “He’s making one of his speeches again tonight, and I cannot understand why he has to make a speech every night, especially, when we have to watch American Idol. This is not fair.” Ade said.

Ade photographing herself through the mirror:

The President Gets Everyone’s Attention When He Speaks—

Ade-Juah is our youngest among the four. She is the baby, the one who all the children claim did not have the luxury of enjoying the hard time of being destitute after our family fled the civil war.

Today, Ade was complaining that the President’s timing of his speech would not allow her to watch American Idol; in fact, American Idol would have to be postponed again because there was this big speech that everyone had to listen to. She could not see why it was more important to give a speech than to watch one of her favorite shows. But Mommy didn’t understand, she said, since Mommy’s favorite show was the news anyway.

I did not pay much attention to her until she began to discuss what she called, “a major problem policy” that the President had passed.

I stopped whatever I was doing at the kitchen sink to listen to my daughter. After all, she’d had a long day at school, got home and had to run over to the grocery store with me, and now that she was fixing up something for herself, it was important to listen to her complaints about “our” President. This was not just another “teenage” roller-coaster talk, so I wanted to hear what it was this lovely child of mine had to say.
I stood in the middle of the kitchen, facing her. She’s almost my height already at fifteen, and she is so proud of that. “Do you know what President Barack Obama says?” Ade said, her brown eyes, wide?

How many times does a fifteen year old girl who was now so sure of her image, that she spends a half of her day at the mirror, comes home with a question about the President’s policy on her mind? How many times does this happen?  She is at that stage in life when girls begin to take care of themselves, when everyone compliments them about their looks. She’sd taken dozens of digital images of herself, twisting and turning  at one of the bathroom mirrors. No one has the ability of photographing her as much as she wants, so she’d already learned how to position my camera to take her the way she wants to look. She’d face the camera at the mirror and from her mirror reflection, take a good shot, whether at home or on vacation. She has her favorite TV shows, her favorite stars, has the best of grades, and of course, a few good friends in our small town. But to listen to the policies of a President, common, this was too interesting to be true.

“He has put an end to dropping out of school, Mom,” my daughter said with disapproval. “Does he know how important it is for some kids to drop out of school, and he says no one is allowed to drop out of school now?” Ade said, frowning.

First, I chuckled, and of course, she didn’t like that. So I had to be serious. This President’s policy about young people she could know was too important to ignore, and of course, all of this unhappy undertone was coming to light for me just when the President was scheduled to speak to the American people. It was bad enough that American Idol was cancelled tonight, but all the policies of preventing dropout was now annoying to her.
“Did you by any chance have future plans to drop out of school?” I asked, and of course, she laughed.
“Why would I want to do that?” Ade again frowned.

It was one of those “duh” moments, so I quickly put on my educated face so she wouldn’t think I was stupid.

“I was just asking since you’re so annoyed the President has declared support to keep kids in school. Do you think that’s a bad policy? Is it wrong to say to kids, ‘you can’t just drop out and become useless’ to society?” I added.
“Well, Mom, in case you didn’t know,” Ade said in argument. “There are kids who HAVE to drop out of school. They have to. They can’t help it, so there must be a provision in the President’s policy that allows kids to drop out when they need to.”
“Really?” I wanted to laugh out loud, but you cannot laugh when a teenager is serious about something like that. You can get into a big fight just by making fun of a situation that should be serious according to them. I had come a long way with three other past teenagers not to be an expert, so I just listened.

“There are kids out there who have to drop out to work to support their parents. Some have to because they’re pregnant, and cannot continue. They need a break. The President cannot prevent kids from dropping out. And by the way, he can’t just take up our TV time all the time. Someone has to tell him. American Idol is important too.”

When one can have a conversation like that at the end of the day, this is a blessing. But to know that Barack Obama has reached my teenage daughter, the only one of my children any President has ever reached at that age the many years I have lived in this country, is wonderful.

I praised her for being opinionated, for being able to argue her points well the way she felt, but mostly, because she was listening even if it meant listening when she’d rather watch American Idol. Yes, American Idol is important just as it is important for kids to drop out. But the most important of all is that the President of the United States has got the ears of his people who are listening.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009- A New Year Prayer for All My Wonderful Readers/Viewers-


Happy New Year From Me to You
————————–Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Happy New Year, I say, Happy New Year.
Let your days ahead be sprinkled with laughter
and with laughter,  peace.
May all you touch spring forth with freshness.
Find time to giggle and dance and jump
and watch the setting of the sun.
When you wake up, wonder out loud
about the sun’s rays, about the darkening
of the morning, about the fog over the hills,
about your babies down the hall,
about the neighbor and her dog. Wonder
at the stars, wonder and wonder why
you are so blessed and why is it you are
among those of the earth who have
more than their allotted air for breathing.
Wonder why the cat meows and why
the dog wags its tail.
Wonder and wonder why dew falls
at night and about the squirrel’s fleeting stare.
Make laughter come alive in your home.
And when you touch someone, let that touch
be real, and I mean, real, my sister.
Walk gently on soft ground, and when
you walk on a bare rock, step hard, this
life is precious. May your year follow only
through a clear path, and please, when you walk
Let it be with God, my love, let it be with God.


My Iyeeh used to say to me, “May you always walk in the light and all those who come upon you love you. May you know peace, my child, and may your days be filled with laughter. Let no darkness come upon you when you walk. Let the days ahead dance before you, and may you never know tears. Remember who you are no matter what, may God bring you so much blessing, you are forced to share it.”

Hope is the thing with feathers (254)   by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

From the inspired poem ‘ If ‘ – by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools

good times
by Lucille Clifton

my daddy has paid the rent
and the insurance man is gone
and the lights is back on
and my uncle brud has hit
for one dollar straight
and they is good times
good times
good times

my mama has made bread
and grampaw has come
and everybody is drunk
and dancing in the kitchen
and singing in the kitchen
of these is good times
good times
good times

oh children think about the
good times

Share Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” Please

7 Liberians Killed in Philadelphia House Fire That Was Preventable-What a Sad Day!


How Each of Us Can Help Keep Our Sisters, Brothers, Neighbors, and Friends in The Liberian Immigrant Community from Experiencing these Preventable Tragedies–

liberian-housefireThe home where 7 Liberians, including a one year old, were killed by a house fire

When 7 Liberians can die in one House Fire so early into the night, I Wonder: “How Can Each of Us Prevent this from happening again?”

Liberians across the United States and elsewhere are today mourning the death of seven Liberians who were killed in a December 27 house fire in Philadelphia. According to the news, the house fire began from a woman pouring kerosene in a kerosene heater, and when it was overheating, tried to move the overheating unit out through the basement door. The fuel spilled on the carpet, news media claims, and the carpet began to catch on fire. Then the Kerosene heater exploded, but before then, one victim who survived, Murphy, a 35 year old ran with others into the basement bathroom where they opened the water tap to stay wet until the firefighters arrived. After the smoke engulfed the house, Murphy decided to get away through the only door to the exterior from the basement, leaving the rest of those in the tub in the burning house.

According to the medical examiner, three of the children died of smoke inhalation. An adult died of smoke inhalation and burns. Some of the victims included Henry W. Gbokoloi,  a 54 year old man,  8-year-old Ramere Markese Wright-Dosso, 6-year-old Mariam Iyanya Dosso, and 1-year-old Zyhire Xzavier Wright-Teah. All lived in the home.

Murphy, one of the four survivors, who lives down the street was watching a movie with others at the home when the flames erupted. He was able to escape to tell the story.

It must be a difficult day not only for the four survivors, but for the rest of the Liberian community in Philadelphia . It is also a sad day for many of us immigrants, for those who were brought over to the US and settled in the poverty of American cities without adequate heating, cooling, or housing. You only have to visit one of these neighborhoods to know.

Looking at the burnt home, it may not appear to be one of those homes because of its brick structure, but it certainly must have been. You may ask how could this have happened to a building that appears to be a regular well-to-do home? Or are there questions about landladies and landlords? Is it a question of landlords and home owners refusing to provide the proper alarms and exits in homes that were originally one family owned, turned into multifamily units, floors split up to create more apartment space without the proper exits of escape? Are there more questions to be answered?

ba-fatal_house_f_0499596645Firefighters carry a body of one of the victims of Liberians in the Philly house fire.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims, and as a Liberian myself, let me focus my blog on how we as a community all over this great country can prevent our relatives from such horrible deaths.

All of us, whether we are middle income or not have relatives from our homeland who cannot afford our lifestyles, who do not have the means, who have either lost everything in Liberia or had nothing to begin with before they were brought here during the fourteen year war. Many of us live among Liberians who live in homes that are unfit for dwelling or in homes where safety is compromised either by bad landlords or our relatives and friends themselves. How many exits does  your home have, how many ways of escape are there in your home in your Philadelphia, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota or your Staten Island home? Where will the small children pass to run from a fire in case of fire in the middle of the night? These are the questions that haunt me each time I visit a heavily populated Liberian community like Philadelphia’s Woodland area or Brooklyn Park or Staten Island?


It is not enough to weep for the dead. It is not enough to blame the dead or those who survive. One must do something about this sort of dying. Remember, most of those who are dying in US cities today escaped death to be here.


Two years ago, I went to visit my sister who lives in that sort of community in Staten Island, and was shock to discover that  she had moved to what she thinks is a larger home. I discovered first that she had one exit out of her home. The first thing I told her was that she had to move out of there. She had signed a stupid lease for two years, so I have been hounding her to move out as soon as the lease expires. Then I noticed on that first visit that she had no smoke detectors. I am her oldest sibling, so I can push her around a bit.

She had none, and did not even know too much about smoke alarms. We called her landldady who did not take any interest in installing smoke detectors. I also wanted to know about carbon monoxide detectors for the two storied floors. She had no money since my sister does not have the means and she is a new immigrant. I gave her a hundred dollars to purchase the detectors. When I arrived home back in PA, I called the next day to ask where she had installed the detector. It took several calls before she bought them. I visited a couple months after that and walked through the home, checking out each detector for myself.

I also noticed how her furniture blocks her doorway; I noticed the space heater, and began to speak to her and her husband about how to escape in case of emergency. I told her that in case of a house fire, one does not try to hide in the building. One needs to get all of the kids out the door, get to the nearest doorway and leave the building. Don’t worry about the things in the house, I asserted. I spoke to her about insurance for the things in the house. Today, when I read the news of the fire, I called my sister, and rehearsed how she needed to change the smoke detector batteries.

Now with all of this back and forth with my lovely sister, you might think she is stupid, but she is not. She is a very intelligent, well meaning mother of two young toddlers, one who often watches her toddler grandchild also, whose home is often visited by other Liberians. I need to to this because my sister has only lived in the US five years, did not live in homes made of plywood and paper before immigrating, and never grew up on gas furnaces, snowfalls, and zero degree temperatures.

WE MUST BE THE KEEPERS OF OUR RELATIVES: This is a new reality for all of us

liberiansLiberians are mourning today all over the US.

A couple years ago, another immigrant family, this time from Mali, were killed in a New York City, Bronx fire. That time, 8, including one mother and eight children were killed. Today, that immigrant family is Liberian. The victims included six who were huddled together near the basement door, apparently, the only door from the house. One of the adults was cradling a one year old baby. A seventh victim was found at the mouth of the basement door. They were trying to escape after taking much of their time in the home, not knowing what to do apparently.

But these deaths were a preventable tragedy. This sort of tragedy should not have happened if everyone coming in and out of that home had taken notice of the condition. But the saddest part is not only this tragedy; it is that across this country, tens of thousands of Liberians live in similar conditions. They have no adequate heating, and therefore turn to cheap kerosene heaters, dangerous space heaters, have no smoke detectors or carbon monoxide monitors, have small spaces with huge furniture, have too many babies cramped in small spaces or live in dangerous housing units.

In Staten Island’s Park Hill apartments, Liberian immigrants are crowded in small apartments in the sky-rise units. Many have lived in that housing complex for the past ten, nine, five or three years without even stopping to think of what could happen in case of a fire. They come and go every day, going about their good business, trying to survive the difficult immigrant life. It is not an easy thing to lose everything in one country and try to rebuild your life from scratch in a strange one. Many are great survivors, people who have beaten all odds.

Two years ago, I was visiting the Park Hill, Staten Island housing complex to interview Liberian refugee women. I had my video camera ready to record, my paper in hand, the audio tape on the table as I prepared to speak with a group of Kru and Bassa women from Liberia. All was right, my usual professional suit, all right for the occasion. “Can you tell me about your life during the Liberian civil war? Can you tell me what happened to you?” I asked a woman in her seventies or older.

She took one look at me, this resident of Park Hill, a woman who had had so much in the better days in Liberia, a woman who had come here with nothing, not even her grown children that would have helped to provide for her. “Look at me, my daughter,” this Kru woman who still command the air about her even in her great loss,  said, looking at my pathetic “academic” air about me. “You want me to tell you about my life?” She said very sternly. If I didn’t understand my own culture, I would have felt insulted, but Idid not feel insulted in any way. I stood there and watched her body language, the things she did not say and could not have said if she wanted to.

“You want me, me, the woman that I am, to tell you how the war took everything from me, how the rebels killed my two sons, my grandchildren, burned down my home, took all my money, and now that I am so old, I come to live in this building with small windows, no way to go?” She looked at me with pity. “I can’t tell you,  my daughter,” she said. “Just look at where I live and write you book. Look at where I live!”

“Just look at where I live and write you book…”

If each of us can just look at where our people live, and do what we can to help them change in whichever way we can, maybe we can be spared the sort of tragedy that has befallen us.

I tell my sister from time to time that what is important is that she and her children survive the immigrant experience and live a better life than they lost in Liberia. That better life does not have to be beautiful clothing and TVs, nice cars or a mansion. If she can live in a decent and safe home where her children can get some education, maybe she can be consoled one day for losing two children in the war.  But this will come with some sacrifice, not settling for the worst housing, cutting here, cutting there, allowing a safe passage room in case of a need to escape. We live in America now, and we must learn to live in America, I will say.

Congratulations to Our Son Mlen-Too Wesley II: I was humbled to tears when MT graduated from college

Those of my friends who knew MT as a five year old kid when we arrived here in the US, well, he is not a kid anymore. Here he is posing with my husband, Mlen-Too.


The life of an immigrant is quite an interesting one. For some of us, there are no long line of family members, no sisters and brothers, no cousins, grandparents for our children, and often, no friends to help us celebrate when good things happen to us, and certainly no family to weep with us when there is a loss. Holidays are especially difficult for many of us first generation immigrants. Many of us will again celebrate July 4th with only our immediate families.

I was talking to my friend from college days, and like many of my friends, she lives across the United States. Her first child and son also graduated from high school. She and I celebrated over the phone, and were tearful of course, over the phone. She said something that is common to those of us who do not have many to celebrate with: “You know, Pat, even if my in-laws felt all the passion about coming to Brian’s graduation, they do not have the means to travel across the US.”

We are pioneers, I often think, pioneers venturing into the unknown, and if we are lucky, we may help bring over a sister or brother to help us form that long extended family that was lost in the long move across the ocean. When our son, MT graduated from the University of Rochester in May, my husband and kids drove with me to Rochester to make MT’s big day.

Ashanti, Me, and MT posing after the Awards night.

MT and Ashanti, a friend of MT’s

Ashanti, MT, and Paulina, the sweet girls I call daughters.

Gee, MT, and Ade Wesley, the three children snuggling in the rainy and cold Rochester day. The rain came down only after the outdoor ceremony because someone kept the rain away until that time. After the awards, the graduation, then came the party time for both grads and parents.

Party Time: