By Mwalimu-Koh M. Blonkanjay Jackson, Author, Scholar, Development Specialist
Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my thinking thoughts, I reflected that yesterday, March 10, 2021, was Decoration Day and Liberians had surged on various cemeteries and either “decorated” or “desecrated” the resting places of their departed loved ones. Considering the peculiar commotion which has overtaken the traditional solemnity of this day, the question I posed to all who attended is, “Was it Decoration Day or Desecration Day for you?” Before my human agency could ponder an answer, I soon came to a rude awakening that events which unfold at cemeteries during decoration days are typical of those unfolding frequently in this our common patrimony, Liberia.
Original Tradition of Observing Consecrated Decoration Day
As a young man growing up in Monrovia, Decoration Day was a solemn occasion where the dead were eulogized, revered and honored. As a tradition, people gathered, cleaned and painted the graves of their departed loved ones; they wept as they sang hymns and praise songs; they read scriptures and departed with burning hopes that the ‘RIPs’ engraved on those graves and tombstones were genuine and that the departed were truly resting in peace. Alas, was this the case on March 10, 2021?
Back in the days, one could feel the solemnity of Decoration Day in his or her body and soul by the activities that typified it. A brief retrospection of my experiences might help give clarity.
Each Decoration day, I accompanied the family of my best friends to the Palm Grove Cemetery in urban Monrovia, to decorate the grave of their mother. You see, at the time I did not have a loved one whose grave to decorate because when my poor father died, his body was disposed of by the “Liberian Government” (medical college) since there was nobody to defray the cost of burial and my illiterate mother was also poor. I was only 14 and my three older brothers (Mark, Koplah and Robert all now deceased) were 11, 17, and 21, and unemployed. And so as it was, I always wept along with my friends at the graveside of their mother. I actually wept wishing my father’s grave could be found and decorated too, while my friends wept because they missed their beloved mother. At times I suspected my friends wondered why I wept so much for their mother but they never asked me so I did not tell my story.
On every side of Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street were hundreds of other groups singing, weeping and praying. We would walk over to the other groups, sing along, hug one another and weep. Finally, having edified our souls by the weeping and reminiscence, we would depart the cemetery distraught but with renewed resolves to re-tailor our lives and live right or better so that we too would one rest in perfect peace. That was how solemn Decoration Day used to be.
New Peculiar Tradition of Observing desecrated Decoration Day
Unfortunately, few years ago, Decoration Day took upon itself a completely peculiar protocol wrought by commotion, unfettered debauchery, unprecedented pomp, and disdainful pageantry. Similar to yesterday, I remember vividly that on several Decoration Days, the Palm Grove cemetery was so jammed packed with drunks, addicts, and immoral people that the whole of Center, Broad and Gurley Streets were “no go” areas due to the commotion until City Mayor Mary T. Broh sent in the police.
During those few years, like yesterday at least 90% of the graves at the cemetery were trespassed or damaged before decorators arrived. The decorators usually arrived and found that a floating population in Liberia referred to as Zogoes had already defiled the dead. They had already displaced the dead from their resting places, disposed of the skeletons and used the graves as their apartments. Some of the Zogoes had already ground the bones of the dead into substances and consumed them to get high.
As if to exacerbate the desecration, yesterday those who went to cemeteries, like the Zogoes did not show any signs of edification nor respect for the few dead who still had graves intact. Friends who accompanied them did not go because of the solemnity of the event but rather to participate in the drinking, consumption of cocaine and weed, singing of mundane songs and doing satanic dances with buttocks and breasts almost totally naked and exposed. How can any sound soul play a song at his mother’s grave that says, “U na see woman u take off trousers”? Lord have mercy on those groups of drunken females who were shaking their behinds thinking they were modern day products.
Anecdotal Liberian Society Cemetery
You see, fellow Liberians, we should not be surprised over the decadence and immorality that prevailed yesterday at the various gravesites because it is typically anecdotal of present day Liberian society. This means, those very behaviors unfold every day in various communities in Liberia. The astronomical rate of breaches, non-compliance and unprecedented desecration of our sacred pledge of allegiance is extremely appalling if not apologetic. It is this same behavior which Liberian people carry over to our sacred graveyards and desecrate them.
If you drove from Rehab Community in Paynesville to Broad Street around 7:00 a.m., you would experience firsthand how Liberia is like a sacred cemetery that is being desecrated each day. For example, almost all and sundry conveyances including pen-pens have sirens and demand the third lane. Children who should be in school are selling directly in the streets heedless to oncoming vehicles; those in school make it a duty to skip class on Fridays to attend pink Friday beach parties where they get drunk, engage in obscure sexual activities, and consume illegal substances; Vamoma junction is packed every day with old ladies and disabled people begging for alms as government officials and convoys roll by in their convoys and expensive cars; there is no respect for traffic police anymore because of their regular solicitations from taxi drivers to survive.
Politicians and government officials are also desecrating sacred Mama Liberia by their dealings and wheeling. Political parties, including Liberty Party and Unity Party, are preferring businessmen and people with shady deals over proven politicians at the helm of their leaderships for obvious gains, with disregard to public outcries. A certain elected government official stole from government by being on double payrolls and is living with impunity while another elected official is being prosecuted for taking instructions from his Chief. The sacredness of the nation’s Supreme Court has been diluted by the National Elections Commission adhering to Justice Minister Dean’s instruction to halt the certification of a duly elected Senator. As rebel General turned Senator Prince Y. Johnson walks around with head and shoulder up high, meanwhile ex-ULIMO Rebel Kosiah is facing trial for similar war crime commission. Almost every rural and urban community in Liberia is overwhelmed by decadence and immorality. Zogoes are entrenched in enclaves of all communities referred to as “Bacca yards” where students, security officers, and other adults visit to sniff cocaine and consume illegal substances.
Based on the present shade of events, one would suggest our country has taken on stories or anecdotes typical of a graveyard that was once sacred but now desecrated by people drunk with power, dishonest to the teeth, possessing lopsided home training, and inundated with lawless traits, all of which require an apology to the motherland, Liberia.
The Apology and Benediction
Albeit my people, our country cannot be allowed to continue as a desecrated graveyard rather than a memorial park properly managed and fit for our departed loved ones. Our country should transcend from such an unpleasant anecdote to a higher level by proffering an apology for the situation. Our country would hear our cry, accept our apology and bless us abundantly. When that happens, our disappointments would be changed to appointments, our low places made high and our terrestrial abode would one day become celestial. May God bless Liberia as resting place void of blemishes. Mama Liberia, we officially hereby apologize.
Now would you please join me in William Freeman Lloyd’s 1721 hymn, My Times are in thine hand. Note the 3rd stanza.
1 My times are in thy hand;
my God, I wish them there;
my life, my friends, my soul, I leave
entirely to thy care.
2 My times are in thy hand,
whatever they may be;
pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
as best may seem to thee.
3 My times are in thy hand;
why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
his child a needless tear.
4 My times are in thy hand,
Jesus the Crucified;
those hands my cruel sins had pierced
are now my guard and guide.
I am simply thinking thoughts.
About the author:
The Rivercess man, CEO and founder of the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP), Mwalimu-koh M. Blonkanjay Jackson holds a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Master of Science in Mathematics Education from St. Joseph’s University; he is a Yale University Teachers Initiative Math Fellow, and UPENN Teacher Institute Physics Fellow. He is a part-time lecturer at the UL Graduate School of Education. Mr. Jackson served the government of Liberia diligently for four years and returned to private practice as Development Specialist and Education Engineer. The Mwalimu-koh can be reached at 0886 681 315 / 0770 206 645.