Grand Bassa County - We've got problem

By: Jerome Z. Gayman

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 29, 2006


Grand Bassa County's problem is a subject matter that has been discussed many times over, at least in the realm of Liberia History and many may even relegate these discussions to "Old News." But yes, some, if not many of the Good people within whom a sense of decency exist know that there is a very larger then life elephant...So to speak, in our collective living rooms that no one wants to discuss. This elephant happens to encompass Prejudice and Segregation which are the products of a stout and pseudo creative subculture in Liberia and Bassa in particular.

To truly understand the ill of this subculture, which is chronic, but not unique to Bassa, we have to understand Symbolic Interactionism which challenges us to do some social role reversal. In essence, a wise person would envisage problems from the opposite end of a shared prism. That shared prism would seem to be our shared values and those things that are intangible, but yet critical to our survival. For instance, in the Bassa Culture, DISRESPECT is ranked second only to CONSPIRACY in the hierarchy of disdain and Bassa social norms.

With this being the point, I want to just briefly address with conviction the absolute disrespect shown Hon. Joseph M.N. Gbadyu and Mr. David Cassell at the honoring ceremonies held August 14, 2006, in Baltimore. The event was sponsored by the Bassa High School Students Association.

Yes, there is something intrinsically wrong with our socialization in Grand Bassa. I know that this could also be said about the entire Liberian Society, but for this piece, Grand Bassa is the point of reference.

The Bassa High School reunion this year had a special added flavor to it; it was meant and planned by well intentioned people with the intention of honoring special people in our county who had made contributions to our education system. Those that were invited included but not limited to: Mr. Joseph M.N. Gbadyu and Mr. David Cassell. Mr. Gbadyu served as Supervisor of schools, Superintendent of Grand Bassa County and he went on to serve as Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development. On the other hand, Mr. David Cassell, served as Principal of Bassa High School. In any case, Mr. Gbadyu was the highest ranking official at the occasion. In addition, Mr. David Cassell was the only former Principal at the occasion. In this case, if any one deserves any accolades, these two gentlemen should win with a "Slam Dunk".

When the plaques were awarded to the honorees, several people were given the opportunities to make a few minutes of remarks. Among those that were allowed to speak were: Mrs. Brumskine (the mother of Mr. Charles Brumskine), Ms. Pat Riley (a former Peace Corp Teacher at Bassa High School), Mr. Harris (son of former Principal, Phil Harris) who went on to speak lengthily and very graciously, I must add for the honor bestowed upon his late father.

When it came to the most significant honorees, at least according to ranking, Mr. Gbadyu and the former Principal were ignored. Those with sociological imagination began to see through the smoke screen. A message was passed from your utmost servant, the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Bassa High School to the Emcee, Mr. Nathaniel Brumskine. The message was to remind Mr. Brunskine that there was a protocol that was not being followed in the hall. I and few more people made another attempt to correct the wrong that was being intentionally perpetrated against these icons.

Again, the Emcee, Mr. Nat Brumskine deliberately refused to recognize these individuals. An explanation to me according to the Chairman of the Board was that Mr. Brumskine felt that Mr. Gbadyu is "long Windy" meaning that Mr. Gbadyu's remarks tend to be too long. On the other hand, there were no explanation given for ignoring Mr. David Cassell, the former Principal.

For this and many other reasons, many of us who grew up in Grand Bassa, and understand the injustices and dichotomy of the socializations there find these recurring tendencies to be offensive at best.

I am willing to work with any and all Liberian organizations and to make meaningful contributions in an effort as to not repeat our past. As in all behavior disciplines, there are Four steps that anyone with a problem must take to be rehabilitated. The steps are: (1). Admit that one has a problem (2). Identify the problem (3). Make a plan to deal with or alleviate the problem and (4). Put one's plan into action or in short, demonstrate your plan.

As it stands based on our conversation following the unfortunate incident, some members of our organization feel like there was nothing wrong with what happened; and even if anything did happen, it was not a big deal. Yes, it is a big deal to the Bassa people and the very culture of which they are a part. The Bassa culture is rich in symbolism.

To be and remain optimistic about Mother Liberia, one has to pay close attention to what is transpiring nationally in Liberia. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has begun to take the Four steps that represent the Four Golden Rules to true recovery. The President, in her quest for a true legacy put it very succinctly to the student body at Harvard University, during her September 18, 2006, address to her Alma mater. She said Liberia has had problems and the problems can be lumped into Two categories: "Marginalization and Subjugation" by a segment of our Liberian society that did not know any better.

And she continued along that track when she spoke at her Washington, DC, Freedom Award ceremonies; she reiterated to the World that Liberia's long history "Peace and Stability" had "Masked" the real underlying tensions. She admitted that Liberians are very good in using Prose, Camouflage and "Disguise" in addressing serious social issues.

The president has begun to truly admit that Liberia has real and serious problems, she has begun to identify them, she has made a plan and now, she has begun to put Liberia's plan into actions. Not just talk and the usual long speeches...

Bassa and every segment of our society has to adapt that approach. We have to address issues within our own homes, families and ultimately on the national level. We should desist from the same old tradition of "We cannot wash our dirty clothes in public" or "So say one so say all".

The Bassa High School Students Association publicly humiliated Hon. Gbadyu and Mr. David Cassell. Bassa High School Student Association should do what is prudent and civilized...Apologize in public, publish a letter of apology and that would be our first step in the right direction. Any thing less is unacceptable!

In accepting the President's explanations to our problems, she used the operative phrase, "a society that did not know any better." But we now know better.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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