By K. Moses Nagbe
REFLECTING ON WHAT IN these past four months I’ve participated in on the Focus on Liberia platform, I’ve recognized the significance of conversation in meaningful ways that I hadn’t done in a long time. Purposeful conversations do carry seeds of development and progress. Why? Because such conversations are likely to generate ideas that drive dreams to be conquered, dreams to be attained. In the area of literacy and literature, that culture of purposeful conversations must rise to a high peak of intensity that is sustainable.
JUST AS MS. JACKIE Sayegh, the host of the FOL Literary Hour, and I, the co-host, called for short reflective essays on Liberians’ varied attitudes towards the homeland, I’ve found the need to suggest a somewhat national creed that might drive and sustain the spirit of literacy and literature in the country. Literacy is the simple capacity to recognize configured symbols or letters and words of a language, a configuration that produces information to be understood and applied to a plethora of daily activities. Literacy thus speaks to the human graduation from oral to written expression of human thoughts. Literacy is then the advanced level of meaning and therefore human communication. Literacy is the fossilization of human thoughts. What is said may fleet; what is written is etched forever.
CONVERSELY, LITERATURE IS A higher level of recognizing configured symbols or letters and words of a language. It demands more critical understanding and analysis of the configuration and its target to speak to all human hearts and minds. Literature provides regenerative energy directed at helping us develop and sustain our varied purposes of life. If literacy is like a tool, such as a knife or a cutlass (machete), then literature is like the carving which the knife or cutlass helps us produce. So, yes! Combining the concepts of literacy and literature, we are likely to recognize and consume the creative productivity of humanity. Literacy is like the mere listening to music, whereas literature is like the act of dancing immensely to a favorite song.
I SEE THE FOL Literary Hour making gradual gains, which in the first place sparked the current reflection. Anyone interested in ratings, as perhaps sponsors of varied media platforms, should, to determine the impact which programs are making, the FOL Literary Hour may not be producing ratings in multiple hundreds or thousands. A program at its nascent stage may not enjoy a huge following. Yet, the work must go on. Arrival is not possible without the journey of arriving. In other words, success comes only with hard work and persistence.
IN ANY CASE, THERE, there needs to be a national creed with the following objectives:
- to recognize in concrete ways, through citations and sundry awards, the spirit of reading and writing that is developing in Liberia;
- to periodically honor writers that continue to blaze the trail of Liberian literary culture, both in the homeland and in the diaspora. This should span key periods of Liberian history—pre-independence, independence, subsequent episodic periods [e.g., the Tubman years, the 1970s, the 1980s, the civil war years, the postwar years (1997-2005; 2005-2017; 2018), etc.];
- to establish a literary council that will annually review and publish the list of any 5-10 books on Liberia primarily by Liberians and secondarily by Liberianists (non-Liberians committed to most Liberian issues), looking at features such as a pioneering role, prolificness, the width and depth of painting the tapestry that is the Liberian nation, etc.; and
- to establish a policy of not only recognizing the national cultural value of books primarily by Liberians and secondarily by Liberianists, but also of requiring that these books take preference in all schools.
FINALLY, NATIONAL GROWTH AND development feed on multiple facets of critical and creative thinking of a people. The literate and literary culture of a people, when well supported and sustained, promises great inspiration for the growth of technology, the handling of epidemics and pandemics, the modest handling of human relations, etc. This call to duty should not be ignored.
Main Photo: L-R: K. Moses Nagbe and Jackie Sayegh, hosted of the ever essential Literary Hour