Friday night I was at home crafting and decided to watch Bill Moyers Journal as I have been slipping on my podcasts since moving. The episode was featuring activist Leymay Gbowee, a remarkable woman who inspired and led other women to unite against a dictator and to restore the rule of law in Liberia [beginning at age 17!]. And as Moyers introduced her, “she is someone you will not soon forget.”
Here is the link to the episode information, and below are some outstanding quotes from the transcript.
- [Leymah Gbowee went to Boston recently to accept the prestigious Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library, given to the women of Liberia] If you’re hungry, keep walking. If you are thirsty, keep walking. If you want a taste of freedom, keep walking. For us, women of Liberia, this award is a call that we will keep walking until peace, justice and the rights of women is not a dream, but is a thing of the present.
- And there is no other description because when you read about hell, there is nothing explicit about the word “hell” that says joy. And that was the life we lived, no joy. You wake up in the morning and you’re just wondering what is going to be different today? Am I going to be shot as I walk the streets? Or is my younger brother going to be conscripted? Or am I going to be raped? You know, every day you wake up and there was one terrible thing after the other. Seeing people being taken off the line and being killed, and early morning someone comes to you and says, “Remember your classmate you graduated with three months ago? This morning the entire family was slaughtered.” Those were the kind of things we grew up with. There is no description, there is no way that you can call this life. Death, at one point, was better than life.
- From 17 up until 20-something, I went around with this big chip on my shoulder that I was a victim of war, until I started working as a kids’ worker with a group of women from Sierra Leone and Liberia, and these women have different forms of disability. They had stories that no one could understand. But every time I went to meet with that group of women, they were always like, “When the war is over, I’m going to do this. When the war ends” I had gotten to a point where I was saying, I’m not going to college. I’m not doing anything. I’m not going to invest any positive thing in my life because one bullet can take it all away. But then you hear these women. There was this one woman who had this very horrible story, but she still had that smile on her face and said, “When I get back to the community, I’m going to put the children together and I’m going to teach them how to dance.” And I went to them like, “Why are you people so optimistic about life?” And then they said, “Because we believe, as mothers, we are the ones who will change everything.” I went back home and said to myself, aren’t you a hypocrite? Yes, you went through some hell in this war but not as much as those women. You need to stop acting like a victim and get up and do something, not just for you but for those women.
- A lot of the things we did weren’t really, like, planned. But every day, what we did was, after we did one action, we sat down and analyzed how effective it was. So it wasn’t just protesting and going to sleep at night. So if we were there till 12 midnight, we would still find one hour to sit to evaluate the work that we did. That was one strategy that we used from the beginning. So every day the protests got better. All of the sluggish things we started with on the first day, we didn’t repeat on the second day and on the third day. So it just got from one stage of being strategic to the other. And then I had read different – and myself and some of the other women had read – different non-violent actions. I read King. I read Gandhi. I had read about the Nigerian women seizing the Shell Oil place in Nigeria, in the Niger Delta, different things. And people brought different ideas every day. And as we did these things, we came back and said, “Let’s look at this differently. Let’s look at this differently.”
- I think there is this how do I say it? Obsessive compulsiveness about the work that I do. And you would think that after the film and after people come up to say, “We want to do this,” then I’m like, “Okay, I can retire at an early age.” But then there is this renewed vigor in me that there’s more to be done. Because if you still have people in different communities in the world wanting to all, starting to do these things, it means that there are other things that we need to step up to. And there is a need for me to switch my focus not just from, like, I mean, on like – switch my focus from Liberia, West Africa to other parts of the world. Someone wrote me the other day and say, “You have a huge following in Sri Lanka.” And I smiled and said, “This is a huge responsibility, but this is something that I think I was put on this world, on this earth, to do, step up there.” And the film has shown me that I need to be that encouragement not going into any conflict area to say to my sisters, “I’ve come to teach you,” but to say to them that “I’ve come to walk the walk with you.” And the first thing that I’m going to do after this baby is to join a protest in Zimbabwe. I am going to be in the front of the line with my sisters. If we get arrested, fine. But just to say, “I feel your pain. I’ve been down this road. And I’ll walk this walk with you.” So if I’m able to go from Palestine to Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, to Iraq, and to be in every protest line, I feel that that is a fulfillment of me life, you know? If someone says, “How does it feel to be a star, a movie star?” I get upset because this is not a movie. It’s not stardom. It’s a quest for survival. And this is something that is happening in every community in the world.
I have already discussed with Daniel trying to get her into the next issue of vandal, with a review of the documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, included in vandal 1.1