http://www.pambazuka.org/images/articles/314/eva-acqui-2.jpgStanding at the apex of Ducor in central Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, one can see why the country used to be a beacon of light for the continent of Africa and its Diaspora. With lush green trees standing in stark contrast to an artist’s vision of modern chromed buildings, only loss and destruction spurned by...read more
http://www.pambazuka.org/images/articles/314/eva-acqui-2.jpgStanding at the apex of Ducor in central Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, one can see why the country used to be a beacon of light for the continent of Africa and its Diaspora. With lush green trees standing in stark contrast to an artist’s vision of modern chromed buildings, only loss and destruction spurned by a 15-year civil war now emanate from the country’s recovering edifice. Liberia’s collapse is said to be the product of an intersecting nexus of political, economic and social realities that have replicated themselves throughout time: the indigene vs. settler dichotomy; elite/non-elite fisticuffs for power, natural resource exploitation, an over-reliance on the U.S., and civil war and anarchy borne out of entrenched structural inequities.
Social justice in Liberia has most often been equated with political radicalism, and political radicalism is most often equated with anarchy, a threat to the status quo, the colonial authority, the elites, the proxy power structure. There has been a tradition of assault from the earliest founding of the republic against any impetus to inspire a mass social justice movement for progressive Africanist social change beginning with Edward Wilmot Blyden, who W. E. B. Dubois called "a prophet of the renaissance of the Negro race" and who was inarguably one of the most significant Pan-African thinkers of the nineteenth century.
For Liberia, it is not yet Uhuru. And so, the Liberian writers in this Special Issue dissect the country’s historical trajectory into disparate parts while constructing a future that is devoid of division and factionalism. Anthony Morgan, Jr. begins by highlighting the complexities and contradictions inherent in Liberia’s checkered past. Ezekiel Pajibo and Emira Woods express their concerns about the proposed U.S. Africa command military structure that could possibly be based in Liberia. Keith Best postulates about how individual Liberians can act as change agents and advocates on their own behalf. Thomas Jaye lays out the contexts of and challenges to Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Sengbe K. Khasu discusses what may only be considered the “Liberian Condition.” Eva Acqui illustrates Liberia’s little known, yet vibrant literary tradition. Elma Shaw discusses how refugees are being reintegrated into Liberia’s societal fabric. Wilton Sankawulo, Sr. argues that it is Liberian artists who substantiate progress, who make it palatable to the average person. And last, but certainly not least, Annaird Naxela and Omanza Eugene Shaw show that war and carnage can give birth to revolutionary and transformative poetry.
Found near Liberian villages and towns in large trees or perched on light pole wires in cities, the pepper bird is a symbolic representation of what contemporary Liberian activists should replicate. Covered in majestic yellow, blue and red plumes, the indigenous Liberian pepper bird eats small pods of pepper, which contributes to its melodious alarm clock calls from a distance, as pepper is known to clear the vocal passage and make one’s message fiery hot. The pepper bird is known for waking up the community early in the morning, and these writers manifest its message in an attempt to wake us up from our reveries about Liberia’s past, present and future. The writers in this Special Issue not only offer heartbreaking and sobering reflections on Liberia’s 160 years plus of existence, they also make bold suggestions about what needs to take place to move forward.
* Stephanie Horton is a writer, editor, consultant, and founder of the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings (http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/).
* Robtel Neajai Pailey is a former multi-media producer for Fahamu/Pambazuka News and a graduate of Howard and Oxford universities.
*In putting this Special Issue together, we are indebted to Dr. Eva Acqui, Doughba Carmo Caranda, CoCo Harris, and Dr. Thomas Jaye for helping to create a polished product.
* Please send comments to or comment online at www.pambazuka.org