OPPONG’S OLD TRICKS… ECHOES FROM THE RICE RIOTS (APRIL 14, 1979)
By Attorney Keith Neville Asumuyaya Best
(Brought back to life in a poem that the great activist, sportsman, humanist, performing artist’, Paul Robeson, made famous in a tribute to the martyr, Joe Hill, about whom this poem had been written. Some of the words used here by me were borrowed from that literary piece and revised to suit the way Albert Porte lost his life — from an attack in Christ Church, Crozierville, by killer bees. Our gratitude to the writer of the Joe Hill poem, the renown singer, Paul Robeson and the Martyr, a humanist, unionist and activist: Joe Hill)
Albert Porte stopped by the house one night, Looking fit as you and me. I asked him: “Porte is it forty-years since?” “I never died said he;” “I never died said he!”
“In Crozierville, just as you were entering the church, the killer bees they stung you, Porte,”
Said Porte, “But not too much;” Said Porte, “But not too much!”
“They hurt you, Porte, the killer bees, They killed you, Porte,” said I;
“Takes more than bees to kill a man,” Said Porte, “I didn’t die;” Said Porte, I didn’t die
And standing there, as big as life, And smiling with his eyes; Said Porte, “What bees can never kill Went on to organize, Went on to organize From West Point up to Crozierville, In every town and ville, Where students bind To speak their minds, Is where you’ll find me still, Is where you’ll find me still.”
Albert Porte stopped by the house one night, Looking fit as you and me. I asked him: “Porte is it forty-years since?” “I never died said he;” “I never died said he!” (end)
A DREAM REALIZED
You are right; that happened in a dream I had the other night. But given Wednesdays’s speech by President Weah, the dream worked, so it is all good as I see it; and I dare say, it is good for everybody, especially since the President stood up that day and said some things in connection with June 7, that brought tears to the eyes of many Liberians.
We also should be thankful to the late, celebrated political activist and writer, Albert Porte, for his reminder: it has helped. We can now hope that this step away from the precipice (abyss, cliff) serves this nation and people well.
HOW DID WE GET TO THAT POINT, THOUGH?
But just how did this nation reach this tricky point, has to be asked. From the day the June 7 protest was announced, Liberians had been receiving — almost daily, a REMINDER — from people all over the world — through their representatives stationed near here — a reminder from those well-meaning societies that the word “CONSTITUTION” imports: (introduces, brings in) calls for some serious thinking.
The word “Constitution” itself, came across as pulling out all of the stops in an effort of its own, to capture and regurgitate (bring back up, vomit) itself, as a principle (rule, belief). The word attempts to almost define itself, and ends up explaining to the world what it professes (says) and what it asserts (does) prompting compliance with an agenda based on those two acts.
Someone had to have been inspired from above, for coming up with so extraordinary a Latin construct: constituere (the composition of something made from a number of parts; makeup). It literally bleeds the “…logical coherence among things or parts,” that the word ‘consistency’ “identifies or defines as well.” (Courtesy of Reader’s Digest Dictionary.
Here is a feeble attempt to paint the above: It comes across as a standard, (attitude) — that seems to represent (embody, stand for) and therefore, relate to and shape the world’s peoples, keeping them unified locally, by a political, (collective agenda).
That agenda tends to conjure up, a structure that brings back memories of a polis (a city). That is how that tradition has been sustained over the centuries — the tradition that keeps past, present and future generations of a distinct people and nation, what they always have been — and, under normal circumstances, what they always will remain socially, while they continue their sojourn, (stopover) here on earth!
A RECENT REMINDER TO THE TWO JUNE 7 SIDES
One of those recent reminders to the two opposing groups in the June 7, 2019 Monrovia/Liberia event — one that goes to the heart of the Liberian Constitution — was carried in Tuesday’s May 28, 2019 edition of the Analyst.
The Carter-Center article featured one of its directors, James Dorbor Jallah, who pointed out that “…both the government of Liberia and organizers of said protest have the responsibility to ensure the peace and tranquility in the country, consistent with the Constitution of Liberia.”
Mr. Jallah underscored the need for the Liberian government to accord the necessary protection to the June 7 protestors as their right to protest is guaranteed by the Liberian Constitution.”
WAS IT NECESSARY?
But just why was this development necessary? Were so many voices needed to be heard telling President Weah that he had many jobs and should have been busy doing them, instead of playing to the music from all around the world?
What was the whole point of that rigmarole, as though he had no clue what the Constitution was — and what his responsibility was. Shouldn’t he have stopped playing “nyehnkahn”, pretending that the Constitution was written in Greek with no one willing to point out the difference?
That is why, all along, the pivotal question had been: “Which part of the Constitution does Dr. Weah not get? And we answered the question: “No part,” understanding, as he also did, that he had been taught everything he needed to know about the Constitution.
JUST OPPONG’S STYLE; UP TO HIS OLD FOOTBALL TRICKS
It seemed clear that Oppong had his way of getting things done, and was doing what he usually does, understanding that nobody knows him that well enough to know any better. The man was on his way to becoming the number one soccer player in the world, and he was taking like forever to start playing like a serious professional. That is the same game he intends to go on playing. What kind of business is that? Same game, same strategy!
HOW ALBERT PORTE FACTORS IN
Something lay behind the lessons that “Life” had drilled into Albert Porte over the years. And those who had followed Porte’s activities had to concur (agree) that if Porte could lay claim to any single thing about himself, it had to be that he had remained constant (unvarying, unchanging) all his life, when it came to the school, the community, the nation and mankind at large! That was what he did best; as those who knew him well, understood!
“Life” had prepared and equipped the young Liberian through a number of challenges it had planted along his path, beginning from when he and Reverend J. I. A. Weeks — also of Crozierville — along with Hilary L. P. Porte and C. Henry A. Scott, began collaborating on the Crozierville Observer newspaper. Professor George Stanfield Best of B. W. I., Kakata — who would become Porte’s brother-in-law after marrying his sister, Lilian — was a regular contributor to the Observer.
THE RICE RIOTS & ALBERT PORTE
From the start, Old Man Porte had guessed that the government and the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), were headed down a collision course (two hard-heads on their way to crashing into each other). Each side felt that it was on the right track, moving in the same direction, with the good of the nation and people at heart. They were both wrong and were headed for each other from opposite sides. Their clash would take their conflict to a point of no return!
Mr. Porte must have felt a special connection to the Rice Riots in the making — and for a number of reasons: His latest public-service project, the critical booklet, “Liberianization or Gobbling Business?”, had gotten top billings (rave reviews, praises). Had his booklet helped to get him pressed into action to contend (wrestle) with this “surprise” that had been dropped on him — this shocker of such magnitude (scale, size) — and so late in his life? Why had this operation taken so long to catch his attention? What a J ‘curve,’ (a bolt out of lightning right out of the blue; a twist) — a veritable boomerang — this April 14, 1979 workout for a long-retired public school-teacher and political commentator, who still answered to the name of Albert Porte?
AGAIN, STAY WITH US FOR THE COUNTDOWN TO JUNE 7.