Liberia: A ‘Cultural Farewell’ To A Fallen ‘Cultural Lawmaker’
MONROVIA – Majority of the guests, from different parts of Liberia, were united into “cultural groups”. Most of them had first converged at the ‘Vamoma House’ (at the Traffic Light), 25th Street, Sinkor, for a “group march” to her private residence in Lakpazee Community, in her Legislative Constituency—District #9 of Montserrado County.
Report by Samuel G. Dweh, Freelance Journalist, President, Liberia Association of Writers
At her house, the guests filed into the compound, hands still pounding on wooden drums, various ‘cultural songs’ still being soulfully delivered, while other people continued with uttering of different incantations in reverence to the deceased Lawmaker.
A man was stationed in an 11 feet-plus Security Surveillance Tower, built inside the compound, keenly monitoring each person’s movement near the fence (outside) and inside the compound. Four other security officers were on the ground, assigned to the only entrance/exit gate under the ‘Watch Tower’. One was in black uniform, with “LDEA”—standing for Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency—on the right-hand side of the black vest over his shirt.
Her image, on a plastic banner (with obituary information), nailed to a 10 feet-plus cement wall, was continuously ‘smiling’ at each entering guest. The banner was facing the entry point of the main house. But the “Painful Exit”, part of the obituary (death information) on the banner, appeared like a ‘stain’ on the ‘living face’ of the dead District #9’s Representative.
The deceased’s mother, Elizabeth Sakpah Broh Pelham, in an all-black bereavement suit, sat in a chair positioned few meters off the house’s entrance, her facial expression ‘explaining’ to all guests her current emotional status. Her face was covered by a transparent plastic Face Mask—showing her adherence to the National Government’s anti-Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission ‘policy’. Two men (each with a face mask) stood at her both sides—one to prevent unnecessary ‘contact’ from any of the guests dancing or loitering; the other capturing activities on his Smart Phone’s video camera.
The cultural jamboree officially began around 11am.
The National Cultural Troupe of Liberia, led by Madam Maima Kiazolu, opened the homage-paying ‘cultural performance’ stage with a song, titled “A Strong Woman”, and drumming to the fallen Lawmaker.
When the National Cultural Troupe’s drum’s sound subsided, a tribal (Krahn) song (sung in Krahn)—“You Can’t See In front of You”— spontaneously shot up from a group named “Friends of Munah All Stars Cultural Troupe”. A lady, Louise Sampson, came out of the group to speak.
“We are here to pay homage to our sister, Munah Pelham, a cultural woman and an extremely generous woman,” announced the lady, named, leader of the Friends of Munah All Stars Cultural Troupe. “She was so generous that zogoes (street-inhabiting miscreants) knew her name. And whenever she gives you money, she would tell you, ‘please don’t tell other people’.” She began a cultural dance (swaying and gyrating her waist)
Lady Louise was given a rhythmic support by drummer T. Max Pyne, a member of another cultural group named “Traditional Youth Ballet & Friends of Munah Youngblood” He caught most people’s attention with his outstanding drumming and soulful songs (in Krahn)
Another Cultural Troupe, Porcupine Brigade of Montserrado County, paid its respect with dancing to a tribal (Krahn) song titled “What’s your child’s name?” (English translation), with a response (by the singers and dancers) “My name is Munah.”
Two representative bodies (of adults and kids) of the School of Liberian Arts and Dance (SLAD) replaced the Porcupine Brigade. SLAD was founded by Emmanuel B. Lavela on Ghana’s refugee camp in the 1990s.
The performance of SLAD’s ‘feeder unit’, in the age bracket of 5 and 12, generated more applause from other members of the general body of sympathizers with their acrobatic renditions.
The first acrobatic performances were done by Roosevelt Doe (age 14) and Ellias Willie (age 15) The two connected their foreheads, with one lying flat on the ground, face skyward; the other’s entire body balancing on his colleague’s head and legs.
The second acrobatic performance, body bent, head touching the feet, was done by Dede Williams, age 5. Still in the ‘folded posture’, she was lifted off the floor by Joseph G. Tapson, her adoptive father, General Team Leader of the SLAD’s representative bodies at the event.
The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs (MICAT) inked it ‘cultural presence’ through the through a cultural dance by Assistant Minister of Culture, Mrs. Margaret Cooper Frank, wife of international Liberian movie icon and current Liberia’s Movie Ambassador—Gregory Artus Frank, aided by dancers and drum sounds from the National Cultural Troupe.
“So, you want for a whole Assistant Minister of Culture to perform, without first culturally energizing her to dance?” Mr. Gweh joked.
“We energized the honorable Minister with four hundred Liberian Dollars!” declared a female member of a private cultural troupe, and dropped four bills of ‘100’ on the floor before the Minister.
The song and drumming resumed, and Minister Frank, a one-time professional cultural dancer, showed her ‘cultural juice’.
The homage-paying event climaxed with personal condolence-payment to the deceased’s mother inside her house.
Mr. Gregory Artus Frank, current president of the Liberia Movie Union, spoke for the National Collective Societies of Liberia (COSLIB) he serves as Chairman.
“Your daughter was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Movie Union, which I serve as the current president,” Mr. Frank told Mrs. Elizabeth Pelham.
On COSLIB, he told the mother of the deceased Lawmaker that he was also representing another national group, named “National Collective Societies of Liberia, which comprises of eight unions including a cultural union,” he explained. COSLIB comprises of the following Organizations: Liberia National Culture Union, Liberia Association of Writers (LAW), Liberia Movie Union, Musicians Union of Liberia, Union of Liberian Artists, National Photographers Union of Liberia, Liberia Professional Chefs Association, and Liberia National Tailors, Textile, Garment & Allied Workers Union..
Electoral District #9’s Representative Munah Pelham-Younglood, a member of the Krahn ethnic group of Grand Gedeh County, in South-Eastern Liberia, died of a mysterious protracted illness that started in Liberia and defied modern medicine in hospitals in India and the United States of America. Later, she was relocated to another treatment center in an African Country, Ghana, where she gave up the ghost in July.
The Lawmaker’s mortal remains were flown back to her Homeland on Sunday.
Born in 1983, Munah Pelham will be always fondly remembered for her several positive charismatic and inspiring natural attributes. One of them is her clarity of pronunciation of English words—during debates at the National Legislature (when she was Representative) or at various non-Legislative public functions in and out of her District.
On her distinctive pronunciations of English words, a nonprofit Liberian non-political, education-promotion NGO, Free Knowledge Foundation (F.K.F), gave her its 2013’s “Diction Recognition Award” for the National Legislature. The Award is to create role models (for young people) of those in leadership position—in Government or the private sector—to pronounce (English) words with clarity, which is a major challenge to majority of Liberian leaders in present-time. English is the only medium of communication for 99.9% of Liberians, based in Liberia, beside their individual vernaculars.
“The Diction Recognition Award Certificate is still in the Honorable Woman’s office at the Capitol Building; she cherishes it so much,” Mr. Peal Nyenkan, Chief of Office Staff in Hon. Munah Pelham-Youngblood’s Legislative Office, told this writer (CEO of F.K.F) during discussion on an education movie project, based on a 16-chapter education novel (of problems and solution methods) written by the Chief Executive Officer of F.K.F. The discussion, five months to Rep. Youngblood’s death, centered on how to reach Representative Youngblood to financially contribute to the production of the movie. But the cold hand of death couldn’t allow her to support the project.
This written story is on the Humanitarian Gesture (free of monetary charge) by the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW) However, LAW was in no way “politically connected” to Mrs. Munah Pelham Youngblood throughout her lifetime nor to the political party she belonged. The publication of this story in this newspaper is also “free”—being the Publisher’s and Editorial Team’s “Humanitarian Gesture” (free of charge) to ‘financially handicapped’ LAW on payment of homage to the Late top Government official and sympathizing with the bereaved family.
The Liberia Association of Writers (LAW), founded on July 17, 1982, will do same to any other Government’s official from any branch of Government and from any political bloc as part of its impartial general Nation-Building service.