In a speech in 1973 President William R. Tolbert, Jr. proposed to the nation that the country’s symbols (Flag, Coat of Arms, National Anthem and Motto) be reviewed to reflect – more accurately – Liberia’s ethnic, social, religious and political diversity. Tolbert’s efforts were stymied by a congressionally constituted Commission which, four years later, returned a near unanimous opinion that there was NO NEED to change and/or modify these symbols. Today, in the aftermath of Coups and Civil Wars, a National Symbols Review Committee has taken up President Tolbert’s challenge to find the words and images which accurately represent ALL of the people. Is there a need for this? Yes, I wager that there is! Urgent even…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Maya Angelou, Poet and Activist passed away a few days ago. I have been told (unverified) that her great masterpiece, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ was written in Liberia. But more poignantly, her death is a reminder of her great Crusade on the Power of Words… the power of words to both create and destroy. But Maya’s life and crusade was centered around the intrinsic spiritual ability of words to unite and uplift, to heal and to reconcile. And that is why the decisions which are ultimately reached by the Review Committee will mean absolutely nothing to the extent that we, as Liberians, do not NOW begin to eliminate from our thinking and banish from our vocabulary the words and descriptions we use to denigrate, to deny, to humiliate, to isolate and to impugn our brothers and sisters as ‘OTHER’ or ‘NOT A PART OF…’. This is a hugely destructive and dangerously effective exercise which cuts in every direction and defeats us all! Have we not already and too much endured the bitter consequences of this behavior?
It is only we, Liberians, who singularly determine the success of the Review Committee. The Committee in its revisionist wisdom might opt to change everything! But the effects of distrust, hatred, ignorance, envy, disunity and suspicion will only be exacerbated if we continue to use the spiritual and verbal tools which shackle, suppress and imprison our happiness, success and development as ONE NATION AND PEOPLE indivisible under GOD. Remember Maya Angelou’s caution on the Power of Words! How we use (or do not use) language or descriptions between, with, for or against each other underpins any and all efforts to find the common mystic bonds of nationhood. There can be no more option for failure in this exercise because it will ultimately augur the dissolution of the place we all know and love.
What is the meaning of ‘indigenous’ if it is not someone or something native to a specific or legal geography? Is there anyone born today in Liberia who can claim that they are not indigenous to Liberia, or who do not love the country because they were born there? Can ‘Americo-Liberians or Congau’ demonstrate love or prove an affinity for places in the Congo, the Bight of Benin, the Carribean Islands or in any of the Dixie States? If ‘Country’ people are inherently inferior or undeserving of consideration and humanity simply because they were born in Liberia THEN SO ARE WE ALL.
Let US now turn OUR minds and hearts towards creating and using the new vocabulary and descriptions which will bind and unite US, which will heal OUR wounds and enshrine OUR special and sacred humanity as Liberians. This exercise will not instantly solve all of our problems, but it will give us the strength, the patience and compassion, the vision, mercy and love to succeed and create those things and entities which we have so far failed to do. Let us ALL and TOGETHER face the world as indefatigable and triumphant Liberians in a forward march of Greatness and Destiny.
WE ARE ALL INDIGENOUS!