Yesterday, March 11, was Decoration Day, the Day, according to the Liberian Legislature of 1886, when Liberians were called to honor and memorialize their departed Ancestors—their Great, Great, Great Grandparents, Grandparents, all our past leaders and relatives.
The Daily Observer tried to get the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send us the Presidential Proclamation for this Decoration Day, but without success.
But this cannot stop us from paying homage to our Honored Dead, which they most graciously and richly deserve.
Our Past Leaders begin with the Indigenous Ancestors who in search of a better home traveled by foot, donkey and horse all the way from the Great Sudan and landed on this spot called by the Portuguese the Grain Coast, where they, our Great Ancestors, made their home.
The Liberian tribes comprised 16 major Ethnic Groups. As listed by Kenneth Y. Best in his Cultural Policy in Liberia (UNESCO, 1974), the Liberian tribes are the Gbandi, Bassa, Belle, Dey, Gio, Gola, Grebo, Kissi, Kpelle, Krahn, Kru, Lorma, Mano, Mandingo, Mende and Vai.
On arrival on the Grain Coast after a long journey, they planted many crops to ensure their survival. These included malaguetta pepper, country spice— reddish in nature—fever leaf (called in Liberia “fever tea”)—used also in childbirth—coffee and cocoa. These and many other crops attracted many European traders, including the Portuguese, who bought them and took them back to Europe to consume and to use in the manufacture of medicines and other products.
The other group of Liberians are commonly called “the repatriated Africans” whose ancestors migrated to the Grain Coast from the United States, the West Indies and the Congo during the nineteenth century. The forerunners of this group, as described by Mr. Best in his book, Cultural Policy in Liberia, were known as the early pioneers. They landed at Providence Island, near Monrovia, on January 7, 1822, “and with the consent and assistance of their tribal brothers, launched the Liberian Republic a quarter of a century later.
“These two major ethnic groups, then—the indigenous tribes and the settler descendants,” said Mr. Best in his Cultural Policy book—“working peacefully and harmoniously together, have been able to surmount the numerous and varied difficulties, ranging from territorial aggrandizement on the part of imperialists to the right and left of the Liberian borders, to financial strangulation, to preserve until this day Africa’s first independent republic.”
It is this total collection of Liberian Ancestors and their descendants, who have also been called to the Great Beyond, at whose gravesites Liberians from all ethnic groups and from all walks of life gathered to celebrate yesterday, Decoration Day.
Let us recommit ourselves to honor our Dead not just on Decoration Day but throughout the year by doing three things: first, let us love the country they gave us—Liberia—and do everything in our power to move her forward, upward and onward toward pristine (new, faultless) development; second, let us strengthen our family ties and live in love with one another in the way that will make our Ancestors proud.
Thirdly, let us keep our graveyards clean and without bush throughout the year and let us plant beautiful flowers and shrubs in the graveyards and maintain them, so that others, seeing how we tend our graveyards, will emulate our example and do likewise.
These are the ways we think we can truly Honor our Dead.
We invite all our readers and people to write to us and contribute to this solemn cause and discussion—honoring our Dead in the best possible ways.