In our latest edition of LIB Life special coverage to women in the creative sector, we chat with singer and songwriter Emma Smith, whose love of humanity led her to establish a foundation.
As we kick started the discussion, Emma explained that growing up as a child with a single parent was very challenging.
However, with extended relatives’ support, Emma’s mother managed to overcome her fears and limitations in raising her child.
“It was not easy,” the singer told LIB Life. “We cannot explain everything here; but [success was] based upon my challenges and the discipline in handling those, controlling my thoughts and not limiting my vision, and adding to it persistence and perseverance…”
After relocating to Monrovia from her place of birth in Bomi County, young Emma began singing at the tender age of ten in the Faith Baptist Church choir. From that day she developed a strong passion for music and always hoped to explore and expose her true talent to the world even though her mother was not in favor of it. She wanted Emma to pursue more academics than musical skills or talents.
“Nevertheless, I was always focused,” Emma recalled. “Although it discouraged me for a while, I overcame and built up my self-confidence till the day I sang in front of a huge crowd in school at the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU).”
“From that day I performed in front of my school mates comes Emma Smith,” the young songstress beamed. “I began exploring talents and innovating new ideas through writing songs and being inspirational, business oriented, compassionate for humanity and fearless against any obstacle to my success,” Ms. Smith asserted.
It was against this background that Emma fully began the pursuit of her dream of becoming a musical star. She started making music with stars from neighboring countries. One of her first collaborations was with Liberia’s own colloquia hit maker DenG on the song “I Wanna Go,” recorded years back before the Ebola crisis.
During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, she released the first awareness song called ‘Protect Us From Ebola,’ which put her in the spotlight at a time when many Liberians were living in denial of the virus .The song was well received; but it was the scale of the human disaster that inspired her to establish the non-profit Emma Smith Life Recovery Foundation to place emphasis on helping Ebola affected people that survived the virus.
“After the foundation was established, I and my team visited many hospitals and Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), providing assistance to Ebola patients and following up on persons that survived the disease,” Ms Smith told LIB Life.
On September 11, when Ebola was still raging in Liberia, she was able to donate US$1,000 in cash and several assorted items including 100 pairs or rubber slippers and five cartons of Lucozade energy drink to Ebola patients at the ELWA ETU.
“We are here in solidarity with this government, because we cannot watch and allow government alone to suffer without doing anything to help. We must give helping hands to your people in this time of problem. There is still a possibility for these people to survive and we must all come together and work to buttress the government’s effort to stop the spread of the virus and save patients with the virus,” Ms. Smith said at the time of the donation.
Emma quest to see the Mano River Union (MRU) sub-region Ebola free took her to Sierra Leone and Guinea where she joined ranks with other musical stars including the legendary Aicha Kone (Mama Africa), to take the Ebola awareness campaign to communities in those countries. Together they produce the song “Hope for Africa” for MRU.
While doing this, many including the Gender International Magazine were watching the young Liberian artist with a humanitarian heart. To her utter amazement, in the space of six days she received two awards for her tremendous contributions to the fight against the Ebola virus in Liberia and the MRU basin, and for humanitarian works carried out for non-Ebola affected people.
The first honor came from the Ebola Orphans and Survival Project, and the second from Gender International Magazine, which named her Humanitarian Artist of the Year. Both awards were given in 2014.
“I felt surprised at the honor at that moment,” Smith recalled. “But it energized me to do more for less fortunate people as well as Ebola survivors. My foundation was determined to put smiles on the faces of many more Liberians, including students.”
True to her promise, she has been able to foster many children, 10 in all, many of whom are orphans. Four are currently living with her.
“With our little resources, we have done a lot to save lives in Liberia; but we seem poised to do much better if funding is provided the group,” Ms. Smith stated.
“We also provide psychosocial counseling, targeted treatment and emergency response mainly to women and children affected by disaster. A volunteer board also governs the foundation, which is responsible for providing strategic direction to the organization’s work and shepherding its resources.”
The song writer, most of whose songs (including ‘’Hero’’) channel appealing and motivational messages and give hope for the hopeless, noted that she makes music to inspire people to do the right thing.
She added, “I did the song Hero to commend all those who stood firm during the fight against Ebola, and dedicated the song to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai.”
Emma is a graduate of the University of Liberia with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and holds a B.Sc. from African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU).