few days ago, while going through my archives,
I came across an article from the defunct
Liberian Publication "West African
Journal". The article was written in
September of 1995.
heading was "Air Afrique donates tickets
to Liberian group in Los Angeles".
The tickets were made available to insure
that all the funds raised would be used
to purchase food and other essentials for
Ma Lucy Walker-Cole and her orphans rather
than air transportation. According to the
correspondent what started as a joint venture
by various Liberian groups in Los Angeles
ended up as a one-woman show sponsored by
Vera Oye? Yaa-Anna and the Palaver Hut.
The fundraiser benefiting Liberian orphans
raised $2,040 after expenses.
years later, I find myself again fund raising
for Liberian orphans - this time in my neighborhood
of 8 years, Capitol Hill in the nation's
capitol. A friend asked, "So what has
changed? "A lot" I replied. In
Los Angeles, "The Palaver Hut"
was successful; advertisement was "word
of mouth", bookings were about three
months in advance and a mailing list of
5,000 with generous patrons who supported
the Culinary Dinner Theatre monthly programs.
The African community was also very supportive.
Whatever country our program feature, the
nationals of that country turned out in
a grand way to support. The evening of July
29, 1995 was in observance of the 148th
anniversary of Liberia's independence. The
publication stated that 100 white Americans
and 10 Liberians were in attendance.
has changed is the level of support and
who the supporters are in this effort to
assist Liberian children. For example, last
weekend I visited Eastern Market to promote
the September 10 Benefit Evening for "Tajuo"
the Liberian children of war. My day began
at 9:30 a. m. and ended at 3:00 p.m. The
results were not very encouraging. I positioned
my card table near the door leading to the
farmer's market. My table had all the necessary
information including our tax-exempt status
documents, event tickets, flyers and background
information. For the entire day I raised
a grand total of $30.00 in contributions!
The contributions came from 4 black males
visiting from Georgia and 2 white females
from San Antonio and 1 from Connecticut.
I counted 730 persons who passed my table
- with the exception of the aforementioned
seven persons - I was invisible to all 730
people!!! None of the 723 persons stopped
to make inquiries, show interest, purchase
tickets, take flyers or make donations.
I prepare for this event I did not have
any illusions because I have gone down this
path before. Bettie Neal, my best friend
and sister who founded "Tajuo",
asked for my help in 2003, because she knew
I would assist because of my passion and
commitment to Africa.
have not done any in depth analysis as to
why Africa does not resonate with Americans
Black, White and Africans of this area,
in the same manner I observed and experienced
the way it resonated in Los Angeles.
sad observation is that Liberians are not
united and do not support each other. I
can only guess that the lack of interests
in African cultural arts is due mainly to
the lack of cultivation by the Liberian
political and social leadership. I do not
know how many Liberian artists there are
in the metropolitan Washington area. What
I do know is that I've never performed with
another Liberian artist, and I've only had
one Liberian artist attend a Palaver Hut
production (in 1998). In the eight years
I've performed in Washington, DC, three
Liberians have attended a paid Palaver Hut
event, a total of six Liberians attended
two performances in 2003 at the Smithsonian
African Museum and several received complimentary
invitations to attend my Washington premier,
in Georgetown in 1997. The only consistent
Liberian audience support has been my best
friend and sister Bettie L. Neal. She was
always there in the audience for me. Her
departure 14 months ago, to Liberia has
left me feeling like an orphan. It is embarrassing
when people inquire why Liberians don't
come out to support me? It is also, encouraging,
exciting and gratifying to see the large
number of Americans who have come to support
Africa and me. Recently I spoke with an
African Ambassador who shall remain nameless.
He informed me that he knew Liberians were
not supportive and he asked if he could
make me an honorary citizen. Why? I inquire.
He observed that I get a lot of press national
and local publications, television, radio
and the Internet. The stories are always
about the "Liberian-born artist".
Well, I remarked remember the adage. "A
Prophet is never welcome in his own home".
is a problem with how Africans view themselves.
If Africans believe that assimilation is
the only means to experience all there is,
than they are bankrupt culturally and intellectually.
Many adults are jaded and their inability
to separate fluff from real substance is
a problem. My hope for Africa's future is
the children. I've learned more from the
children than I have given. I meet many
African children who comment that they are
Americans and their parents are Africans.
However, this summer I had the unexpected
pleasure of meeting a wise seven year old.
She introduced herself to me as an East
African from Tanzania. I inquire were she
was born? She replied that she was a Tanzanian
born in America. My mouth was agape because
this would be a first with the large number
of African children I've met. Professionally,
my work with American children through my
early learners and after-school programs;
is cultivating a love for Africa by taking
the children on imaginary visits to Africa.
To demonstrate my connection to them is
to be wrapped in Liberia's pride "The
Lone Star". Affectionately, I am "Auntie
Oye?". Children and adults know that
I am Africa's best and I am accountable.
On behalf of my Creator and Ancestors I
say in my Grebo language besame' - thank
you. Do yourself a favor, work for Africa
and work on yourself because there is a
WINNER IN YOU! HAPPY FLAG DAY!