Artist and activist Putugah Takpaw Phenom (Courtesy photo)
Artist and activist Putugah Takpaw Phenom (Courtesy photo)

As Liberians on the continent and abroad spend much of the year celebrating the bicentennial of their founders’ West African repatriation, some remain set on exposing the role of the U.S. in the Liberian Civil War and other catastrophes Liberians have experienced over the last several decades. 

An upcoming film screening and discussion promises not only to highlight how the U.S. government has maintained control of Liberia and other African countries during the post-colonial era but issues a call for Liberia to fulfill its destiny as a truly Pan-African nation. 

Grassroots artist and activist Putugah Takpaw Phenom said people attending the “LIB TRUcentennial” event on the evening of July 2 at Everlasting Life Vegan Cafe in Capitol Heights, Maryland will have an opportunity to view Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Del Walters’ “Apocalypse Africa” documentary and brainstorm on ways to counteract what he called the U.S. government’s co-optation of Liberian bicentennial events and various aspects of Liberian life. 

“The origins of the Liberian Civil War and Ebola crisis can be traced to the enemies of Liberia’s progress and are two of the many instances and attempts to completely destroy the country along with its great potential and purpose,” Putugah said. 

In 2012, Putugah and others founded the Liberia Heals Initiative as part of an effort to help Liberians overcome the trauma of the first and second Liberian Civil Wars that claimed at least 150,000 lives and displaced several thousands more. Events in Liberia and the U.S. in August of that year marked the initiative’s launch and signified an attempt to unite the Liberian diaspora. 

Putugah, who’s routinely found sporting Liberian and the Pan-African flags over his shoulders, often uses his platform as a musician to draw connections between Liberia’s origins and Marcus Garvey’s vision of a homeland to which people of African descent would return and self-govern. He said with an accurate knowledge of Liberia’s origins, Liberians and other Africans across the globe, can create a reality in which they are truly self-determined.  

“There’s a natural resilient spirit of survival and ‘love of liberty’ that has managed to be passed on throughout the generations among Liberians,” Putugah said in reference to Liberia’s motto. “Once more Liberians have a better understanding of their unique place in history, they will be able to rise to their truest potential and the world will take notice.” 

In 1822, during a period of slave insurrections in the Western hemisphere, Black repatriates arrived in the part of West Africa that would later become Liberia. The American Colonization Society financed the excursion, as its white founders said, to not only remove the threat posed by freed African Americans living in the U.S., but to further Christianize the African continent. 

By 1847, Liberia declared its independence and would continue to practice self-governance for more than 200 years.

The degree to which it has been able to do so has often been called into question. In “Apocalypse Africa,” Walters combines snippets of interviews, audio recordings and historic images to show how the U.S. government destabilized Liberia, Ghana and the Congo to control their natural resources and further subjugate a people eager to espouse their post-colonial independence. 

Walters, a journalist and filmmaker of nearly 50 years, said he executive produced the 2014 film at the behest of Liberians who demanded answers about America’s perceived inability to help the African nation they had a hand in creating. At the time he encountered these Liberians, Walters was on a mission trip during which he and others distributed hundreds of books. 

In speaking about the main takeaway from “Apocalypse: Africa,” Walters said Blacks must continue to educate themselves and take in information beyond what they see on mainstream media to get a holistic understanding of what caused the Liberian Civil Wars and how the U.S. continues to benefit from a divided and corrupt Liberian nation. 

“The same thing that happened in Africa happened in inner-city communities,” Walters said. “They flooded communities with weapons and watched us kill each other. From 1944 to the present, more than 27 million people [on the African continent] have been killed through war and conflict. Everyone focuses on Liberia, Ghana or the Congo but they don’t realize that the aggregate amount of death is staggering.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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