The former Liberian Ambassador to the United States, Charles Minor recently described Kenneth Y. Best (KYB), former publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper as a staunch advocate for the poor, and one who has never given up in his fight for justice.
Examining Mr. Best’s struggle through his media work for the redemption of his country’s population from poverty, and the extreme infrastructural underdevelopment, Amb. Minor said his friend (Best) grew up with a heart for residents of West Point and those in other slump communities.
His remarks which were given at the 80th birth anniversary of KYB on Sunday, October 28, captured not only his friend’s courage for reporting on critical national issues, including injustice and poor governance, but openness to share his little resources with those who he found to be in desperate need.
“When the population increased in West Point where many lacked housing and other basic needs, Ken Best wanted to help but unfortunately he had no possibilities. He had no means to help. He was broken for other people,” Minor said.
Amb. Minor said KYB moved into journalism and he reported for the public sector for some time but later took on the courage to invest his earnings in the private sector by establishing the Daily Observer newspaper, which soon became a giant media entity in the country and is still the best.
According to Minor, in proving his love and care for the people of West Point, one of Mr. Best’s first banner headlines was about the people of the slum community who expressed their anger about the government’s negligence to protect them from imminent danger from the sea and other challenges.
Amb. Minor narrated a conversation from their school days at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) that seemed to underscore Best’s heart to help the poor. According to him, while at BWI, they used to press their clothes with an iron that was heated over a coal pot. “Charley,” Best said, “Putting your legs in a warm pair of trousers feels so good.”
“That was my first experience with Kenneth at BWI over 50 years ago,” Minor recalls. “He had only two pairs of trousers and each time he washed one, he waited not for it to get dry, but ironed it in order to wear it the next day while contemplating on washing the other,” he noted, reflecting on KYB’s personal struggle for education.
He said the warm trousers gave Best a warm heart and the warm heart gave him the courage to advocate for others from Kakata, Snapper Hill, and other communities.
“Five years ago Ken celebrated his 75th birthday,” Amb. Minor said. “He requested for no gifts but friends to join him in doing something for the people of West Point.”
According to him, Best’s request from his friends and loved ones on his 75th birth anniversary was to see to it that contributions were made for the construction of a hall for the youth and elders or leaders to have a regular meeting place to discuss their community issues that affect their lives.
“An architect has already designed a structure to be built for the young people in West Point and since then we have been trying to do something about the project,” he noted. He added that an account has been open at LBDI and hoped that people will contribute towards the realization of the dream that KYB has dedicated himself to.
The first and longest-serving president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), James C. Dennis, said he was impressed with KYB and, in as much he (Dennis) has retired from active journalism, he still reads newspapers, with the Daily Observer being the first on his list of papers every time he buys newspapers.
“My association with Kenneth is as far back as in the 1960s. He is a great man that I respect and I am glad he is 80 today, while I have already celebrated my 89th birth anniversary,” Dennis said.
He said KYB has been a steadfast journalist over the years and he continues to prove that he is still the firm fighter for justice. He said Best has pursued his dream through thick and thin and has battled the storm and has survived.
On behalf of the PUL, he extended warm greetings and wishes to KYB. “We owe you a lot and, on behalf of the PUL, we are all extremely happy and feel good about you and your endeavor. We wish you a long life. We wish that you remain strong,” he said.
The former managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), John T. Woods said he has known KYB since 1955 and their friendship is still strong.
“I became 80 on October 9 even though I don’t know when I was born. So this means that Best is my little brother for whom I built so much respect,” Woods said.
He said one of the reasons he has been and is still comfortable moving with KYB since 1955 is that both of them are friends who care about their families and others in need.