YOUTH IN REVOLT

Swept up in the romantic aura of its tattered façade, I entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I wore my best suit that day. In fact, I knew what I would wear days before while packing in my Washington D.C. apartment. I handed my ID to the EPS agent and was directed to the top floor of the building. Even now, I can faintly recall the light tapping of my brand-new shoes on the green marble tile as I heard the unforgettable voice of Edward B. McClain, Jr., Chief of Staff to the President of the Republic of Liberia at the time, signaling to me with his hand to come with him. I had yet to figure out where I would be seated. As I strode the corridor with as much confidence as could be called upon, I turbulently rocked between excitement and absolute fucking terror. I entered the President’s Office; the cavernous space teased my spatial sense as I began to feel smaller and smaller…and before she could speak, a voice called out,

“So la you lay pekin dey send for to do dey Ministry work? Doc, where you takin pepo cheyren from? Da baby you seeing so o!”

They laughed. I did not. For the next six months, I would learn to tune out comments about my age and what horrific act I had participated in or in which I was currently participating in order to be hired and maintain my position, and, just work.

 

First of all, I was a grown ass man. I was every bit of 24. Truthfully, I’d been working hard in the right place, at the right time to be noticed by the right person. Even more true for you. I initially didn’t even want to move away from D.C., but when my boss at the time heard what I’d been offered, he fired me. Over my 5 years at the Ministry of State, I was routinely reminded that I was “small,” “lil boy,” “pekin.” It gave me the sense that somehow, because I hadn’t survived the 1980 Rice Riot, I was not adequate to serve my country, even if my credentials said otherwise.

We, young professionals in Liberia, find ourselves in an interesting place; our education and innovation are outpacing, in terms of growth, what our society is able to deliver. Most of us operate outside of “the matrix” that generations before us considered being the norm. In the upper levels of government and the private sector, there is no question that space is dominated by the “OPC”…THE OLD PEPO CLUB. Just between us, I have this notion that the “old pepo” recognize our prowess in the working environment, but are unwilling to relinquish their position.

But this is not to say that a delicate balance must not be met; on the contrary, I feel the balance needs to be embraced. We, as the youth, must be groomed for the tasks at hand while keeping in sight all that our predecessors dreamt of for us. It is then the full responsibility of us, the young professionals, to take this notion and mold it into the future we see for ourselves. This is where things get tricky.

We differ greatly from generations past. We are Musicians that are Ministers, Poets that are Engineers, and Generals that are Yoga Instructors. If all of these occupations are being monetized, which supersedes the other? *Enter a shrug here!*

The type of individuality that is being bred has never before been seen and must not be stymied. Conversely, we should take time to recognize that Liberia is pregnant with fresh thought and an even more fresh sense of hope, and the behleh she is carrying is one of a renaissance. How do we harness this energy? I’m glad you asked! We do this by continuing to run against the current and nourishing the young minds via support. I cringe every time I hear teachers encouraging children to regurgitate information as opposed to critically thinking about it and analytically applying the learned information.

It is no longer enough to say “Jesus Wept,” we must NEED to know why.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to the arts as it is an effective outlet that not only encourages discipline, focus, drive, innovation, creativity –all of which we are lacking– but also allows the synapses of the youthful brain to fire. To love painting is not to hate politics, to love accounting is not to hate reading leisurely. If that were the case, then explain to me why the Armed Forces of Liberia has a band. *Enter sarcastic shrug here*.

Young Liberians are currently being indoctrinated into a system that preys on youth in an effort to alleviate the general lack of preparation by generations of our compatriots that precede us. Understand that most, NOT ALL, of the previous generations are blinded by perceived privilege afforded, whether it be by birthright (last name) or by position and therefore will and should be upended by such a statement.

The great shame and irony in this notion is that the youth that is marginalized by a system that first requires our qualification and then our patience, will be the same youth that you, the old pepo, will one day become dependent on.

I get it ooooo….there is no pension that realistically can sustain you until your last breath, but those that can see their ends drawing near must consider their preparation for the eventuality. Allow us to be at your footsteps, plaiting the old mat with new rattan, rife with an idea and innovation…da ey yor born us for.

We cannot move forward if we are devoid of the generation that preceded us; their successes, as well as their failures. But we also cannot disconnect from ourselves.

My greatest urge for our generation is to know and take inventory of ourselves in order to be better humans. When we are grooming better humans, we are grooming a better Liberia. We need to hold the line as a unified front, take pride in who we are, and take even more pride in who we, as Liberians, could be.  My urge for the generation before us is most difficult of all: so long as there are positive outcomes, support the youth, even when you don’t necessarily understand. Hold us accountable NOW for our shortcomings so that you won’t have to when we are in positions of power.

It’s cliché to say your best investment is in youth, but when you can show me one better, I will allow you to juke peppeh finger in my eyeball. Youth, with all things positive that can be said, must begin to master our understanding of where we see our futures selves and the role we play in a larger picture and then begin executing that vision. This is not to say don’t enjoy…enjoyment is us, but let’s not let 4 for 5 and bluffin consume us.

 

Authored by Eugene Herring

Featured Picture by Kathryn Bullington 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Cyrene says:

    ‘The great shame and irony in this notion is that the youth that is marginalized by a system that first requires our qualification and then our patience, will be the same youth that you, the old pepo, will one day become dependent on.’

    So clearly he articulates the cause of hesitation we all feel when we have to make the decision of contributing to our country.
    I am close to completing my studies and because of the systematic sous éstimation of young professionals, I am hesitant about going home directly because if you are younger than normal, it is presumed that you are not up to the task.
    But deep down, older Liberian professionals are in fact afraid of us.
    I took an internship during my 2nd year of law school at the MOFA and no one was willing to teach or guide me. When I chose to be proactive and also exercise my independence to deliver outstanding performance regardless of assistance, some staffers all of a sudden saw me as a threat.

    The misconception is real, but like you rightly stated, we are in revolt. And we manifest so through our competence and inner fire for change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Book Stewart says:

    Eugene,

    This is so complicated and must be placed into historical context. In Helene Cooper’s House at Sugar Beach, she mentioned Dr. Joseph Saye Guannue being passed over for a position which he was super qualified for and given to an Americo-Liberian who had just earned an undergrad in the States but yet lacked practical experience. Never mind that Dr. Guannue had earned his grad and doctorate in America.

    There are many instances such as this.

    Working at AmeriCares, you sure did not want to come home but the others who came before you that were brought in by Madame President walked on moon whilst working with those who they met and with more practical experience. Some remain aloof which created a wall of resentment hence the silly but out of the heart comment which came as a joke. Liberians say fact comes through joke. The Bible says out od the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.

    If you noticed, nearly all of President Weah’s officials are home based, not diaspora based. I believe it’s that background.I believed it’s that because of the apparent resentment which has existed for 12 years.

    On the issue of the old people still holding unto the reins, I would say that for some people, they become marry to their job, so to speak. Some would be killed by boredom but that doesn’t mean they should not groom others who would be just as or more than capable to steer whatever ship there is to a safe and proper docking when the time come to step aside.

    Secondly, the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) should do all its can to assure would be beneficiaries of their social security benefits and should further encourage them to know that there’s life after retirement and it would do them well to probably invest their retire benefit into something worthwhile. Just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liberian Susu says:

    So I don’t even wanna start cus I’m very puzzled about this normative that having a young person in the office threatens the older person’s position and moreover, one person occupying a position for over 20 fucking years with no room for improvement!!

    When I interned at the City Court, the clerk had been there for close to 30 years. My first day at the court, I could tell he was already threatened by the mere sight of a young lady who’s interested in law. By then, all I was seeking was a mentorship from him, the clerk and the judge as it was my first time interning in the Liberian justice system.

    But whenever the judge would give him orders as per my job description, he would censor them and sideline my efforts a lot. He did out of fear for the stupid fact that I came from America to take his position or replace him. Like how are we supposed to move forward with the normalization of young threatens the old?

    Very appalled and interesting read Eugene Herring!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    sleeplessinmonrovia, thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.

    Liked by 1 person

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