Oh the power of virgin poetry (we mean that in a clean way)! Many underestimate that, even from the unadulterated styluses of young, female high school students, a lyrical sketch can move mountains and perhaps dry up the ocean. So it was with a group of five young ladies who reached the final round of the Sexy Like A Book poetry competition organized by creative entrepreneur and former Miss Liberia (2006), Patrice D. Juah, and showcased at the We Care Library, located at a loft in downtown Monrovia.
The poetry competition, held under the auspices of the Martha N. Juah Foundation, aimed to not only explore the poetic prowess of the young maidens, but also celebrate the inspiration and courage of the girl child to manifest destiny, so to speak. Martha Juah is Patrice’s living mother, a retired classroom teacher of 47 years. Sexy Like A Book is an academic initiative designed to inspire
young women and girls to improve their perspective on reading, literacy and education.
Each girl had to compose a poem based on what it means to be “sexy like a book”, and then use the phrase (among other required elements) in the poem. This was a cardinal rule which, among others, if not adhered to, cost the poet points, no matter how otherwise profound the poem still was. According to Patrice, 20 entries were received in all and the judges finally arrived at a shortlist of about six. Juah has partnered with Village Tales Publishing (USA), to have the poems of all the finalists to be published in an anthology.
Finalists also received books; training and mentorship opportunities with Martha Juah Educational Foundation and Vital Woman Magazine based in the UK, and will also serve a contributors for the Sexy Like A Book website to be launched soon.
The event at the Library, dubbed “Books, Cupcakes and Conversations” by Juah herself, was her way of “bringing out” the finalists of the poetry contest before an audience of fellow students, parents and friends, as well as other poets who were a combination of aspiring, experienced or published. Of course, there were cupcakes, beautifully arranged on a pyramid platter.
The finalists include, in order of placement: Lisa Harris, Victoria Daye, Faith Gray, Marshad Beyslow, Maxita George, and Odell Garkpah.
After the reading of poems by their respective poets, a panel of young professionals took the floor to converse about pertinent issues in Liberia’s education system. Topics included: the role of electives in education; (and what else?) 1. The role of electives in primary & secondary education 2. Education then and now; what went wrong? 1. The role of electives in primary & secondary education 2. Education then and now; what went wrong? 3. Where does Liberia’s education system sit in this digital age relative to comparable nations? 4. Education and gender, do gaps still exist?
Panelists included: Ama Harris, Bai Best, Lekpele Nyamalon, Binta Massaquoi and Vivian Innis and was moderated by Cornelia Kruah-Togba, Special Assistant /Chief of Staff, office of the Minister of Education.
Henry Mamulu who was an excellent emcee, filled the event with pertinent historical nuances of Liberian society. In addition to being a comedian some of the time, he kept the program going smoothly.
Other speakers included Michael Weah, executive director of the We Care Library; and Lloyd Aidoo, President of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW), who commended and admonished the young women in their writing pursuits.
The event at the We Care Library took every bit of about five hours, a time that passed more quickly than expected. It was noticed, however, that the overwhelming presence of women in the room put some pressure on the few young men who were present. Nevertheless, one of them, Maxwell George, Jr., made his presence felt by asking a very intelligent question to the panel about the role
of agriculture in his personal development. The young man was actually there in support of his sister, Maxita, who was one of the finalists in the Sexy Like a Book poetry competition.
Juah has come a long way from pageantry and, through her own journey of poetry, creative design and entrepreneurship and communications, has cooked up a smorgasbord of projects and causes which, when matured, could no doubt be a tapestry masterpiece. She has funded this and other projects of hers from her own resources so far, but hopes to attract suitable partnerships to accelerate the impact of these the projects.
In 2014 she participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. Since then, she continues to grow her brand and has also honored a number of speaking engagements in Liberia and abroad.