Buried Under the Wretched Debris of War: Outcast War-affected Liberian Youths Plea for A Chance to Forge Better Lives for Themselves
By Moco McCaulay
When most people hear of West Point, the first place that probably comes to mind is the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, which, over its 200 year history, has been churning out elite military cadets for the United States Military, some of whom have gone on to become US presidents, renowned generals in the US Army, and senators and statesmen whose patriotic service to their nation remains unparalleled.
But that’s not the same story in Liberia. In that small West African nation, with its freakishly barbaric recent war past where marauding wig-adorned rebel fighters used human entrails to set up checkpoints, when one thinks of the underworld abode for the most violent and despised criminal elements in society, almost without fail, the first place that is conjured up in the minds of Liberians is West Point.
Described as the worst slum in the world in an unflattering documentary called Vice Guide to Liberia, West Point is a precariously densely populated, poverty-gangrened and crime-afflicted township burrowed under the condescending hill where the capital city of Monrovia is proudly perched. But, notwithstanding it being so intimately coupled with the capital city, you would think it was some faraway place when you hear the city dwellers, many of whom have never dared to enter the township, turn their sneering noses in the air as they talk about West Point as if it were a place where even angels fear to tread.
And truth be told, for someone who has no business there, West Point does appear to be just such a place. With only one narrow paved road audaciously slithering its way into West Point, whose entry point seems not unlike a hidden driveway clandestinely cutting through the Waterside Market, Liberia’s most populous marketplace, where vendors have invaded the sidewalks to set up their market stalls, forcing shoppers to spill out onto the streets, the drive into West Point is a slow and deliberate one, requiring one’s undivided attention.
From Refugee Boy to Rising Star: Mr. Smith Battles Against the Odds To Take Liberian Hip Hop To the World Stage and Use His Music to Heal The Wounds of Youths in His War-ravaged Nation
By Moco McCaulay
When the scrawny country lad from the village of Nine Mile and his friends formed their band which they called The Wailers, no one could have envisioned that they would spark a global musical revolution with their patois-laced music from their small island country of Jamaica. But as the saying goes, the rest is history. That scrawny lad, Bob Marley, would become one of the world’s most renowned superstars, transforming reggae music and Jamaican culture into a global phenomenon.
Mr. Smith too is scrawny, and his music too is laced with a kind of patois locally referred to as “Liberian English”; and he too is driven to take his country’s music to the world stage, but it seems that’s where the similarities end. Born Rokenzy G. Smith on March 28, 1978 in the small West African nation of Liberia, a country where the smoldering embers of war are yet to be completely extinguished, it is hard not to feel that Mr. Smith faces an even greater uphill challenge as he struggles to ply his musical skills in his poverty-stricken nation with a fledgling music industry which is only beginning to claw out of its morass of extinction, after experiencing a debilitating dormancy during the country’s 14 year civil war.