Young People Of Maryland Write Legislative Caucus Requesting The Endorsement Of Dr. Gbaba As Culture Ambassador Of Liberia
In their letter of Recommendation to members of the 55th National Legislature of Maryland County Legislative Caucus for the endorsement of Dr. Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba as Culture Ambassador of Liberia, the group noted below:
Greetings from the youths of Maryland County. We are writing to request your endorsement and to recommend a renowned Liberian playwright, theatre director, and educator, Dr. Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, as our preferred candidate to serve as Cultural Ambassador of the Republic of Liberia. Our recommendation is based on a preponderance of evidence and artifacts to prove his competence and the impact Dr. Gbaba’s artistic and pedagogical contributions have made with respect to the preservation, institutionalization, and promotion of Liberian arts and culture and education for the past fifty years in Liberia and on the global cultural stage.
In terms of academic competence in the realms of education and culture, our referee holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Liberia College in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Liberian government scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Drama at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Theatre, where he obtained the Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing and Acting in 1983. Under the auspices of the United States government, our learned scholar/artist holds a Master of Science degree in Elementary and Special Education and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from St. Joseph’s University, a Jesuit Catholic institution of higher learning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2002 and 2009, respectively.
Our nominee is a seasoned educator and cultural researcher who has taught at various institutions of learning in Liberia, including, St. Patrick’s High School, A.M.E. Zion Academy, St. Teresa’s Convent, College of West Africa, Cuttington University, University of Liberia, and Principal of Zwedru Multilateral High School. He was trained in the areas of English Literature, Theatre (Directing and Acting), Special Education, and Educational Leadership, with focus on Afrocentric Curriculum Design and Textbook production. He is a self-published author of three books: Ah-zeo, Ma Garh, The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville, and Conflict Resolution and the Concept of Change. Rabbi Gbaba has also produced and directed numerous plays in Liberia and the United States. One of his groundbreaking productions being “Chains of Apartheid” that was staged in honor of several West African presidents, and diplomat’s accredited near Monrovia and Freetown, respectively.
Artistically, Dr. Gbaba began his vocation as a playwright and cultural icon in 1974 when he was a senior student at Carroll High School in Grassfield, Yekepa, Nimba County, Northern Liberia. He wrote, directed and produced his first play ever entitled, “Life Story of Kekula.” The central theme of the play was “National Integration and Unification,” in support of President William V.S. Tubman’s National Integration and Unification Policy. Since then, Rabbi Gbaba has held the cultural baton of Liberia for half a century, by using the performing and visual arts as conduits to promote peace, reconciliation and national unity, and with the aim to create cultural awareness and national consciousness among Liberians at home and abroad.
Dr. Gbaba is an entrepreneur and a cultural visionary. After he graduated from Carroll High School, he established Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) in 1977 at the University of Liberia, forty-seven years ago, to institutionalize Liberian culture through the performing and visual arts. His Dehkontee Artists Theatre has held presidential and diplomatic performances for African Heads of State, world class diplomats at the Executive Mansion Theatre in Monrovia, and in the State House in Freetown, Sierra Leone. DATI has also performed at some prestigious performing art centers in the United States of America, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., Bowie Center for the Performing Arts in Maryland, the Ibrahim Theatre, and the African Cultural Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, among others.
Today, DATI is the longest surviving collegiate theatre organization that has three active chapters in Maryland and Montserrado Counties in the Republic of Liberia, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. DATI is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit African-centered cultural and educational organization in the United States and in Liberia. Accordingly, this is a testimony, that Dr. Gbaba possesses the expertise to assist the Boikai-Koung administration to establish viable cultural and tourist industries to put Liberia on the global map of culture and tourism if he is provided the requisite support from the government of Liberia to perform his professional duty as Cultural Ambassador of Liberia.
Further, as youths of Maryland County and Liberia, we would like to express grave concerns about the lack of cultural institutions across Liberia. We would like to emphatically request the government of Liberia to construct cultural institutions across Liberia and that the culture of Liberia must be taught in all Liberian schools from kindergarten through college levels. We would like to read about our history and culture through books, plays, poems, essays, and literature written by Liberian authors and artists. We would like to watch Liberian plays, movies, and to actively participate in our traditional cultural activities as Africans and not be subjected to western culture as our only alternative. In addition, it is very concerning that Liberia’s only cultural shrine and national cultural center located in Kendeja was demolished in 2008, thus stripping all Liberians, including us the youths, of access to self-knowledge and knowledge about our shared cultural hegemony.
Today, Liberia has no cultural institutions to showcase our history and culture and to enlighten the citizens and the world about the cultural heritage of Africa’s oldest democratic Republic. As a result, as future leaders of Liberia, we are clueless about the history and culture of our homeland that we might lead someday. Most of us the youths of Liberia, were born during a period of war and self-destruction. Consequently, we are survivors of a bloody civil war that has left us traumatized and our homeland devastated and all of our cultural infrastructures broken down. In addition and due to the large influx of western culture and the infiltration of other West African cultures since the start of the Liberian civil war, Liberia’s traditional culture and languages are at the brink of extinction if this administration does not rapidly intervene to appoint an enlightened cultural technocrat and researcher to help rescue our culture from slow death!
Further, our recommendation of this bright Liberian scholar/artist and patriot stems from our personal experience we have had and the cultural knowledge we have gained thus far since the Dehkontee Artists Theatre Kukatonon Peace Project and the DATI Gbenelue Chapter were launched in Maryland County under the direction of Dr. Gbaba in 2019. The DATI Gbenelue Chapter consists of college youths and graduates of Tubman University. Being a part of this great cultural institution has empowered us to gain self-awareness and national consciousness through the various cultural projects we have undertaken within the span of five years in Maryland County, with no subsidy from the government of Liberia. The funding for our projects were solely financed by Dr. Gbaba, members of the Board of Directors and supporters of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc., in the United States of America. Thanks to Mrs. D. Sheba Brown who has served as Chair of DATI-Liberia’s Board of Directors for the past five years. She has been a pillar of our peacebuilding initiatives and success in Liberia. Below are some salient points why we believe the peace and cultural model presented by Dr. Gbaba will be beneficial to all Liberians:
Firstly, Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) provides learning opportunities for its volunteers and employees to learn about the history and culture of Liberia and how we can use our culture to promote peace, national unity, reconciliation, cultural awareness and national consciousness through music, dance, storytelling, roleplay, etc. DATI applicants and trainees receive a three-month training in the areas of peace education, conflict resolution, cultural research, and behavior modification. After the completion of our intensive three-month training, DATI recruits take oath to serve as Peace Advocates in Liberia. Part of their peacebuilding functions include traveling to various regions of Liberia to promote peace and national unity and to provide civic education for Liberian citizens in the hinterland, so that they may be knowledgeable about their civic responsibilities.
Secondly, DATI peace education and cultural awareness programs provide opportunities for Liberian youths to conduct cultural research about their cultural roots and to collaborate with traditional elders in villages and rural settings with the aim to connect the youths with their ancestry. For an example, during the formal launch of the DATI Kukatonon Peace Project in Maryland County, we invited our Grebo chiefs and elders to be an integral part of our cultural awareness programs so that they may teach us the cultural norms and values of our society. We performed our traditional Grebo war dance along with the traditional elders from Big Town that collaborated with DATI Peace Advocates to show the public a glance of our Grebo and Kwa culture. We also performed a play entitled “Bah Noh Deh Doh” (Grebo expression meaning, “Let us be one”), written by Alfred J.K Nugba, a student playwright mentored by Dr. Joe Gbaba. Students from various high schools, youth leaders from various communities, University student leaders and County officials, were all invited to grace and actively participate in the launching program and to be an integral part of our cultural revolution.
Thirdly, DATI’s cultural programs are designed to inspire Liberian citizens to be patriotic and nationally conscious. DATI’s programs also actively engage Liberian youths to seek cultural knowledge about their homeland, families, and to join in the struggle to preserve, promote, and teach Liberian culture throughout Liberia. For an example, in 2022, Maryland youths under the banner of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc., held the Rabbi Joe Gbaba Peace and Cultural Festival from April 15-17, 2022. During that program, thousands of Maryland youths, including students from various High schools in Harper District paraded in their traditional attire through the principal streets of Harper and benefited from the three-day cultural festivities. Six high schools in the Harper District competed in the Timothy Gardiner Soccer Tournament, with Jared High winning the Timothy Gardiner Soccer Trophy, named in honor of DATI-USA first African American Board Chair. In the evening, an indoor program was also held at the Harper City Hall to provide an opportunity for local artists in Maryland to exhibit their artistic talents and to compete for the envied Rabbi Joe Gbaba Performing Arts Trophy. Several local artists vied and the Mariam Cultural Troupe emerged victorious.
Fourthly, being a part of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. has made us to understand and appreciate who we are as Liberian youths. The cultural activities we have engaged in have improved our people skills to interact better with our local chiefs and elders. Further, our immersion into cultural activities has also broadened our minds and given us a sense of direction and national consciousness, thus empowering us to embrace our culture and tradition with pride and dignity. Therefore, we look forward to work with a professional Liberian artist/scholar to actively engage Liberian youths in the preservation, institutionalization, and promotion of Liberian culture in our institutions of learning across the fifteen counties of the Republic of Liberia.
Fifthly, with respect to his cultural background and heritage, Dr. Joseph T. Gbaba is a son of Grand Gedeh County and descendant of the Royal Household of the Nien Dynasty of the Krahn ethnic group of Liberia. He is one of the chief custodians of Liberian culture and traditions in the Republic of Liberia for the past fifty years. He is the current “Bai T. Moore” of Liberia. Presently, Rabbi Gbaba has mobilized some patriotic Liberians and citizens of other nations, to support his concept to construct the first school of the performing and visual arts and center for peace and cultural studies in Liberia. The principal goal of this project is to preserve, promote, and institutionalize Liberian culture and foster research and cultural exchange programs and tourism in Liberia.
At this juncture of our history, and with Liberian culture at the brink of extinction, we, the youths of Maryland County, can think of no one better than Rabbi Gbaba to lead us in the national endeavor to rescue Liberia’s dying culture from extinction. Indeed, the Boikai-Koung administration will be doing the Liberian people, and the youths of Liberia, a great favor if we have Rabbi Gbaba as Cultural Ambassador of Liberia. It would also indicate from the onset the Boikai-Koung administration’s resolve to promote the MERITOUS System in Liberia. In view of the foregoing, we unreservedly recommend Dr. Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., as the Cultural Ambassador of Liberia.
The statement signed by Melvin T. Weah, President of the Maryland Youth Association, and Meshach Sieh Elliott, Director, DATI Gbenelue Chapter, notred