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Tribute To Rev. Joseph Munter Nana Gbadyu, A Veteran Bassa Historian

Tribute To Rev. Joseph Munter Nana Gbadyu, A Veteran Bassa Historian

It was with a sense of profound loss that the Liberian History, Education and Development (LIHEDE) has learned of the passing of Rev. Joseph Munter Nana Gbadyu, a Member of its Board of Trustees in Indiana, USA. 

OUR BASSA BODO (WORLD) REV. JOSEPH MUNTER NANA GBADYU (JULY 10, 1933- MAY 14, 2017) VETERAN BASSA HISTORIAN, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF GRAND COUNTY, JOURNALIST AND EDUCATOR HAS CROSSED THE RIVER 

Rev. Gbadyu was a veteran Bassa Historian, former Radio News Reporter, former Deputy Minister of Local Government and former Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, Republic of Liberia. He was 84. 

Synopsis

Born on July 10, 1933, at the Baptist midtown mission near Zondo Town, Gianda Clan, District No.4, Grand Bassa County to Gaye and Nanna Gbadyu, he was educated at the Nimba Mission (Tapata), the Gaye Peter Mission (World Evangelical Church), the Zondo Mission School (eight grade diploma), the University of Liberia (BS., secondary education, 1964), and Indiana University (MS, education and communication, 1966) respectively.

Gbadyu taught and served as principal at the Zondo Mission (1950-57); worked in Christian broadcasting at the Sudan Interior Mission’s ELWA in Monrovia (1957-67); served as director of broadcasting at the government’s Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (1965-72); was supervisor of schools for Grand Bassa County (1972-1976); superintendent of Grand Bassa County (1976-80); and Deputy Minister for Operation, Production and Coordination at the Ministry of Internal Affairs (1981-82). 

Early Years 

But it was when Rev. Joseph Munter Nana took to the radio waves for the first time, and honed his skills that his greatest legacy was placed on the summit of human conscious.

But it was at his position as the radio news reporter that Rev. Joseph Munter Nana Gbadyu curved his greatest legacy on the summit of human conscious. This is where it all began in 1958, while employed at ELWA Radio Station.

Mr. Samuel Adcucker was impressed with Gbadyu‘s broadcasting skills and related it to Mr. J. Richard Reeves. Reeves then informed Gbadyu that his skills – knowledge base, ethical compass, and ability to process new information was the best newscast management had heard.

As a result, Gbadyu was moved by the praise of breaking news. He embarked upon and asked all Bassa to voice their opinions and to argue their points on the quality of his broadcasting. The response to his call generated more than 400 letters, many written in the Bassa Script.

Faced with the Bassa Script letters and the limited reading knowledge he had of it, Gbadyu was compelled to call James W.M. Nyanakpe and Abba Grogro Karnga, who knew the Ehni Ka Se Fa to help him with the letter translation.

The volume of letters caused them to seek additional help from known Bassa such as Elder Diggs, Bassa Governor Thomas Bestman Neoh, Teatea Gedepoh, Bishop Samuel B.G. Stepeney, Attorney William Cisco, and Richardson Gargar to help with the translation and to provide additional names for the translation. The coming together of Bassa people for the Bassa Script provided the name BASSA VAH ASSOCIATION (BVA).

The Literary Movement’s first meeting was held July of 1959 in Monrovia at Burning Bush Tabernacle Pentecost Church. It brought together progressive Bassa leaders as Mr. Joseph M.N. Gbadyu, radio personality/ president-elect; Chauncey Karnga—member; Henry Goeh—member; Philip Gaye Gbadyu—member; Andrew F. Gbadyu—member; Abba Karnga—Recording Secretary. 

Later Life and Legacy 

While in the United States, Rev. Gbadyu, the scion of Bassa history, met three Americans who became his friends: Mrs. Rachel Curtis, Monica Whitfield, Mr. Samuel Hawkins, and two Liberians, Mrs. Alma K-Harris Smith and her son Varnie N’jola Karmo, who was born of Bassa and Gola heritage, yet was taught English rather than his own people’s language. Through the guidance of God, Karmo found his own African identity and approached his mother about the desire to learn how to speak and write in Bassa.

Although she herself could speak Bassa, she did not know how to write it, so she decided to introduce him to her longtime friend, Rev. Gbadyu. During a conversation between the iconic radio host Gbadyu and Karmo, the idea of creating a Bassa font based on the Bassa Script was born.  

On June 14, 2003, Gbadyu served as the Keynote Speaker for the “African Governance, Philosophical Thought & Rule of Law” Symposium held in Greensboro, NC on April 26, 2003.

Gbadyu's speech was on Traditional Bassa Education and Leadership which coincided with my independent research on the Bassa origin and launching of Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History and Migration of the Bassa I authored. This is how I met Rev. Gbadyu when I was at NC A&T State University, Greensboro, NC. though his fame preceded my meeting him.  

As a Bassa historian and my mentor who believed that education should be brought to those who want it, he came to North Carolina to visit my family countless times to learn from him. I, too, did the same--visited him in Baltimore, Maryland on numerous weekends and holidays.

Rev. Gbadyu will be remembered as a person who valued his culture, a person who would not be shy to wear his traditional garb and lead his fellow Bassa in traditional dances.

To many in the sanctum, he symbolized its grand history of which he kept a meticulous record as an accomplished historian and author of “The Bassaman and the Expansion of the Liberian State, 1847-1912.” He was a man of culture and politics; of great political courage, cultural dignity and traditional responsibility.

The family believes such ethos stems from his humble beginnings. He lived his life never forgetting where he came from. I’m not sure there was a smarter Bassa speaker who ever loved his people and language. His life inspires us in ways that give us hope and light the way forward. 

To his widow Elizabeth, children, and his entire family, we extend our heartfelt condolences. He was as much yours as he was ours, probably his dedication to LIHEDE organization robbed you of a father.

We will, from this moment on, as always, walk this journey with you to the end. Memory will never draw curtail over his good work. May the heavenly angelic host guard him, through his journey, walk beside him all along the way, to direct each footstep to the Ancestral Kingdom.

Reeves then noted to Gbadyu that his voice was the best newscast management had heard. Gbadyu was moved by the praise of management and embarked upon asking all Bassa to rate the quality of his broadcasting. The response to his call generated more than 400 letters, many written in the Bassa Script.

Faced with the Bassa Script letters and the limited reading knowledge he had of it, Gbadyu was compelled to call James W.M. Nyanakpe and Abba Grogro Karnga, who knew the Ehni Ka Se Fa to help him with the letter translation.

The volume of letters caused them to seek additional help from known Bassa such as Elder Diggs, Bassa Governor Thomas Bestman Neoh, Teatea Gedepoh, Bishop Samuel B.G. Stepeney, Attorney William Cisco, and Richardson Gargar to help with the translation and to provide additional names for the translation.

The coming together of Bassa people for the Bassa Script provided the name BASSA VAH ASSOCIATION (BVA).

The Literary Movement’s first meeting was held July of 1959 in Monrovia at Burning Bush Tabernacle Pentecost Church. It brought together progressive Bassa leaders as Mr. Joseph M.N. Gbadyu, radio personality/ president-elect; Chauncey Karnga—member; Henry Goeh—member; Philip Gaye Gbadyu—member; Andrew F. Gbadyu—member; Abba Karnga—Recording Secretary. 

Later Life and Legacy 

While in the United States, Rev. Gbadyu, the scion of Bassa history, met three Americans who became his friends: Mrs. Rachel Curtis, Monica Whitfield, Mr. Samuel Hawkins, and two Liberians, Mrs. Alma K-Harris Smith and her son Varnie N’jola Karmo, who was born of Bassa and Gola heritage, yet was taught English rather than his own people’s language.

Through the guidance of God, Karmo found his own African identity and approached his mother about the desire to learn how to speak and write in Bassa.

Although she herself could speak Bassa, she did not know how to write it, so she decided to introduce him to her longtime friend, Rev. Gbadyu. During a conversation between the iconic radio host Gbadyu and Karmo, the idea of creating a Bassa font based on the Bassa Script was born.  

On June 14, 2003, Gbadyu served as the Keynote Speaker for the “African Governance, Philosophical Thought & Rule of Law” Symposium held in Greensboro, NC on April 26, 2003.

Gbadyu's speech was on Traditional Bassa Education and Leadership which coincided with my independent research on the Bassa origin and launching of Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History and Migration of the Bassa I authored. This is how I met Rev. Gbadyu when I was at NC A&T State University, Greensboro, NC. though his fame preceded my meeting him.  

As a Bassa historian and my mentor who believed that education should be brought to those who want it, he came to North Carolina to visit my family countless times to learn from him. I, too, did the same--visited him in Baltimore, Maryland on numerous weekends and holidays.

Rev. Gbadyu will be remembered as a person who valued his culture, a person who would not be shy to wear his traditional garb and lead his fellow Bassa in traditional dances.

To many in the sanctum, he symbolized its grand history of which he kept a meticulous record as an accomplished historian and author of “The Bassaman and the Expansion of the Liberian State, 1847-1912.”

He was a man of culture and politics; of great political courage, cultural dignity and traditional responsibility. The family believes such ethos stems from his humble beginnings.

He lived his life never forgetting where he came from. I’m not sure there was a smarter Bassa speaker who ever loved his people and language. His life inspires us in ways that give us hope and light the way forward. 

To his widow Elizabeth, children, and his entire family, we extend our heartfelt condolences.

He was as much yours as he was ours, probably his dedication to LIHEDE organization robbed you of a father. We will, from this moment on, as always, walk this journey with you to the end. Memory will never draw curtail over his good work.

May the heavenly angelic host guard him, through his journey, walk beside him all along the way, to direct each footstep to the Ancestral Kingdom.

Syrulwa Somah, Contributing Writer

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