... Famous American Actor John Amos and Liberian-born U.S. Representative Naquetta Ricks touch ‘home’ with nostalgia and hope
He lived in Liberia during the 1980s and cherishes fond memories of friends made here. But the first image that comes to the mind of American actor John Allen Amos Jr., at the mention of the name ‘Liberia’ is “the Cassava Leaf”, he says, with a saliving smile.
Amos says he was last in Liberia about six years ago. Now he’s here with his son K.C. and daughter Shannon, for Liberia’s bicentennial celebration.
“I don’t know if I can accurately describe exactly what it means,” he told journalists upon his arrival at the Roberts International Airport on December 17, “to come home after being deprived of your history, after being deprived of everything that you love and that you know in your heart belongs to you, having been told all your life you have no country, you have no roots.”
Famous for his roles in the movie ‘Coming to America’ and the 1977 miniseries ‘Roots’, John Amos and his love for Liberia goes beyond his taste buds. Even his filmography factors into his “Liberianness”, if you will. He narrates how he used his Liberian experience, love for Liberian food, people and everything that happened to him here to build the character (the adult Kunta Kinte) which he played in ‘Roots’.
“The director, who was an American, who did not know anything about Liberia, told me that I was using the wrong accent. I asked him, how would you know when this accent was passable to indigenous Liberians when I was in the country?
Born December 27, 1939 and a father of two, Amos is a native of New Jersey and the son of a mechanic.
“I am looking forward to spending as much time here as I can,” Amos says, adding that he has roots in Liberia. According to him, he brought his children to Liberia during their childhood days and even they have Liberian friends.
“My son, who is also a filmmaker, came with me along with his sister and they have friends here. I am the first of my family to make it back to Africa and I intend to come back time and time and bring my children and grandchildren so they will know that they have a country where they have roots and connections and the people love them,” Mr. Amos said.
Mr. Amos is also known for his role played as James Evans, Sr., on the CBS television series “Good Times”. He received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the adult Kunta Kinte in the miniseries ‘Roots’.
His other television works include “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, a recurring role as Admiral Percy Fitzwallance on “The West Wing” and the role of Washington DC Mayor Ethan Baker in the series “The District” and has appeared on Broadway and in numerous films in his five-decade career.
Mr. Amos has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and an NAACP Image Award, while on film, he has played numerous supporting roles in movies such as “The Beastmaster” (1982), “Coming to America” (1988), “Die Hard (1990) and “Coming 2 America” (2021).
Also arrived on December 17 was Representative Naquetta Ricks of the U.S. State of Colorado, a Liberian-American and a businesswoman, who said she is also grateful to be part of the bicentennial celebration.
Representative Ricks, who was elected in November 2020 and inaugurated January 13, 2021 said celebrating Liberia’s bicentennial is amazing and knew she had to be a part of it.
“This moment in history cannot go by. As we look at 200 years behind us, we also dream and imagine what 200 years will be, going forward, for Liberia. And so, as a lawmaker, as a Liberian native, as a part of African-American culture and a U.S. Citizen, I think this is a moment that we all must commemorate, must celebrate, and must look at what the history tells us and make sure that this nation, as Liberia, lives up to what the founding fathers thought it should be,” Rep. Ricks said.
Representative Ricks, who is visiting with her fellow lawmaker from Colorado, Rep. Jennifer Bacon, expressed hope that more black U.S. lawmakers will form part of the bicentennial celebration over the course of the year 2022.
According to her, there is an investment conference planned, during which discussions will be held about all the opportunities available in Liberia. There will also be a Heritage Ball, where people will dress up in costumes dating all the way back to the 1800s.
“We have a women’s celebration that is planned and will host former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, who is a former AU Ambassador – she will be speaking as well. So we have so many things that are planned. Junda Morris is going to be doing Runway Liberia and the “Strongest Man” competition is going to be this week. So get ready Liberia,” said Rep. Ricks, who arrived on December 17 via Brussels Airlines.
She said despite the lack of development, there are still a lot of opportunities and promises that Liberia holds.
“It’s a great land blessed with natural resources; it’s got so many opportunities, and we just need to figure out how we can draw people to come, and also invest. But in the meantime, we also need to celebrate our history because Liberia is just famous. We were the ones who were here when nobody else was there… We were here before all of the other countries around us, who seemingly have developed beyond where we are. But it’s up to us the Liberian people to take control of our nation and bring it back to where we want it to be. So yes, we need to think about how we can make things better in the future, but we also need to celebrate where we’ve come from.”