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Bridge Builder 2

“These are your brothers.” The man says to me.

“Those boys are Liberian.” His cool, calm nature gives way to an irresistible urge to smile; a smile that can only occur when in the company of one’s countrymen after who knows how long; a smile full of nostalgia and inner excitement. The man and I met in the maze of confusion that was Brussels International Airport, both trying to make sure our bags would be in Monrovia when we arrived, as promised.

Of course I could tell that those boys were Liberian, but perhaps my ultra thin Liberian accent led him to believe that I had been away for so long that I could no longer recognize my people when I saw them. Being who I am, I saw no reason to spoil such a poignant moment with an argument. Besides, he was very pleasant company.

He turned out to be a senator, of which county, I never found out. His name, I no longer recall, but the excitement he felt was also within me and as the little shuttle depot we stood in became crowded with features and mannerisms that were unmistakably Liberian, that excitement grew within all of us.

By the time we all reached our departure gate, everyone looked as if they would launch into hugs, cheers, and exclamations of,

“Eee, my people, oh!” But we subdued all of that because we were “civilized” and deep down were probably thinking,

“I don’t really know these people.” But as the hours agonizingly hammered away, so did those superficialities. Human beings became human beings once again. We helped each other, were tender toward each other, and from the moment we began notifying each other of first sightings of land beyond the clouds, our collective excitement peaked and that moment was centered around one happy truth; we were going home!

As we stood on the tarmac next to the freezing cold jumbo jet, I felt something ease through my back and warm me to my soul. I looked behind me and saw a setting sun in an orange sky. What a beautiful feeling to accompany such beautiful faces. They were the ground staff there to greet us and keep us somewhat organized. Once on the buses that would take us to the confusion within, all conversations switched to what palm butter or cassava everyone was having when we reached our destinations. I did not expect Mama to hand me a drum, nor did I expect to have the energy to play it as well as I did.

My energy was so high, I barely noticed the three hour bumpy ride to Shabuta. My eyes were glued to the scenery around me and my ears to the conversation before me. I wanted to jump out and embrace the grass, the trees, the huts, the unsuspecting people, the food aromas, the soil, and the orange sky that had now become indigo.

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At our ages we do many things to stay healthy. Living in the U.S. a few years ago, as soon as the weather was warm enough, we began walking. We walked early each morning and late in the afternoon before and after the heavy traffic. Not long after we began walking, the weather alert said, “Don’t go outdoors! The air is unbreathable” (or something to that effect). And sure enough, when we went out, despite the warning, we began to choke up and had to rush back inside. We never used the air conditioner, except for guests, until we were forced to keep our windows shut to block the bad air. What’s the sense in life if you can’t go outside the house?

This is our second year living “in the bush”. We spend most of our time outside. We even designed the building with an interior that feels like you’re outside or that outside is inside with you.

Life makes sense to us.

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Every family I’ve known has a spoken or unspoken family philosophy. In our family we, the parents, worked hard at instilling our philosophy in the hearts, minds and spirits of our children. We felt it to be a critical issue of survival. Baba and I came together in the revolutionary fervor of the Black Consciousness Movement. Basic tenets of our family creed included developing a healthy regimen for living: vegetarianism; regular exercises for physical, mental, and spiritual development; artistic development; self-defense awareness; natural hair and clothing along with diet; no smoking, drinking, or drugs; and the avoidance of white people. It was demanding indeed.

As the children grew up, especially when we were living back in the U.S., they were strongly influenced by the society to reject their upbringing. Most of them did – at least for a period of their lives. Some left our teachings and later returned. Others left most of our teachings, but retained a smattering. And, surprisingly, some held on to them.

Now it is their time to develop their own life philosophies. Will the changes they adopt engender survival? From our aging parental perspectives it is very hard to say. Perhaps that’s because we don’t see enough real change in the governance of the world to warrant changing our survival guidelines. Yet we find ourselves looking to them for explanations of little ripples of sanity we infrequently glimpse hidden, as it seems, under the mainstream of life. Will these tiny signs of hope be enough to effect change? We ask ourselves.

And so it still makes us feel good when our children return to “sit at our feet” seeking guidance.

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Elders’ Gathering

 

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ImageThis amazing African woman is an amazing dancer. She has nine children beginning when she was a young dancer with the national cultural troupe. Cultural dance was her life. The war ended all that, but because she is innovative, she survived with her children. Then, 22 years later, she found herself, once again, without a means for support. The railroad was being rebuilt so she created a business providing cold drinking water for the railway workers. At the same time she began training the youth of the nearby village in cultural dance. Now she is established as the town’s cultural artist with her own young cultural troupe. She has garnered support from the town and several other county resources. And, once again, cultural dance is her life.Image

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The “Amazing African Woman” is beautiful!

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She has five daughters and just gave birth to a son – at last. The 5th daughter’s name roughly translates to mean, “God has blessed us with our last daughter.” The new son’s name roughly translates to mean, “God has blessed us with our first and last son.”

The amazing African woman is an artist. She weaves with the natural fibers growing on the farm like reeds, bamboo, and palm. She promised to weave a fan for us with some guinea fowl feathers. And then, she opened a cook shop! We knew she’d never have time to weave the fan. See below the beautiful fan she sent today!

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BRIDGE  BUILDING

Second Bridge Builders will arrive!

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Kpawo, The Bridge: Finding Your Ancestral Connection in Africa

 

CULTURAL CENTER

Baba’s Painting and Textile Exhibition at the National Museum in Monrovia:

“New Water from the Ancient Well”

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FARMING

Harvesting, late dry season planting, and seed saving

 

WHAT  WE  NEED – Donations of $5 to $500 to support the opening reception for Baba’s exhibition

Please send your contribution to, the Magic of African Rhythm, P.O. Box 25096, Durham, NC 27702, to the attention of Teli Shabu, Director.

 

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FARMING

1. Preparing to replant last year’s successful crops

2. Adding New Crops

3. Orchard maintenance (cashew harvesting begins)

4. Expanding Chicken breeding (free-ranging will be limited as planting begins)

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CULTURAL  ARTS

1. Cultural Sundays and other programs continue

2. Preparing for Cultural Arts Season

3. Trainings for apprentices

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WHAT  WE  NEED – A short-term farm manager or $300 to $600 to hire one!!


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