Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) To Launch National Peace and Reconciliation Radio and Television Recorded Productions in Collaboration with Liberian Artists in Liberia as Its 2018-2019 Performing and Visual Arts Programs
On July 28th, 2018, Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) will celebrate forty-one years of its existence and continued contribution toward the preservation and restoration of African/Liberian arts and culture on the continent of Africa and in the United States of America and France. The event will take place at the International Conference Center, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA from 8-10 p.m. Some of the funds raised from the program will be used to launch DATI’s National Peace and Reconciliation and Cultural Awareness Campaign in Liberia. Therefore, the public is asked to donate generously toward our fundraising program so that traumatized Liberian war victims may be educated and entertained about their rich cultural heritage. At the same time, the campaign will provide Liberians some healing and bring closure to their traumatic wartime experiences. Admissions to the program are as follows: Grand Patron: $100; Patron: $50; and Adult: $25. Tickets can be purchased online: https://www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com and click on the “Donate” button to purchase a ticket of your choice. READ MORE
Dehkontee Artists Theatrre Rocks the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art!
The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art will always cherish two historic dates on its calendar of events this year: Thursday, July 13th, and Friday, July 14th, 2017. During those notable days last week, the world renowned African-focused Dehkontee Artists Theatre, and its Executive Director, Dr. Joe Gbaba, put on display a series of compact, impactful, and insightful Afrocentric lectures and performances. The topic for the gathering was “The Art of the Masquerade from the African Perspective”; and its purpose was to educate museum goers and supporters about how masquerades function and their spiritual and cultural roles in invoking the presence of the spirits of our African forebears at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art—a place officially and specifically established to facilitate the performance of such tasks. READ MORE
Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) Presents:
“The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville”
In Celebration of DATI’s 39th Anniversary of Its Founding &
42ND ANNIVERSARY OF RABBI PRINCE JOSEPH TOMOONH-GARLODEY GBABA, SR., ED.D.
AS PLAYWRIGHT, POET, THEATRE DIRECTOR, ACTOR & PRODUCER
Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, 15200 Annapolis Road, Bowie, MD 20715
January 9, 2016 @ 7:30 p.m.
Brief History of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI)
Original mamebers of Dehkontee Artists Theatre at the University of Liberia in 1977 (Back roll: L-R) Kathy Lokko, Eric Goll, Joshua Howard, Christopher Diggs, Herbert Elliott, Melvin Smith, Claude Langley, Dr. Maude Major, Dr. Henrique Zobon Scott, Sonia Tubman, Joseph Kappia, Comfort Innis, Festus Russell; (Front roll: L-R: Bill N. Ross, III, Josephine Gibson, Dr. Joe Gbaba, Evelyn Broderick, Edwin Gibson. Other original founding members not in the photo above include: Christian Fenning (aka Fumbah), Alicia Murray, Mona Bedell, D. Eugene Wilson, Stephen Crayton, Raymond Kromah, Dr. Nathaniel Sieh Doe, Jestina Gibson, Sweetie Martin, Joseph Butler, Calvin Harris, Nyema Elliott, Blidi Elliott, etc.
Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) was founded at the University of Liberia in 1977 by Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba along with some conscientious University of Liberia colleagues including but not limited to: Joshua Howard (Dehkontee’s first President), Claude Langley (Business Manager), Bill N. Ross, III (Stage Manager), Kathy Lokko (Secretary), Mona Bedell (Treasurer), Guy Melvin Smith (Scenic Designer), Dr. Henrique Zobon Scott, Dr. Nathaniel Sieh Doe, Raymond Kromah, Stephen Crayton, Jr., Josephine Gibson, Jestina Gibson, Christian Fenning (aka Fumbah), Herbert Elliott, Joseph Kappia, Comfort Innis, D. Eugene Wilson, Alicia Murray, Sonia Tubman, Evelyn Broderick, Edwin Gibson, Sweetie Martin, Eric Goll, Festus Russell, and many others.
Past & Present Contributions of Dehkontee Artists Theatre to Liberian and American Cultures and Societies
DATI is a non-profit cultural and educational organization presently based in the City of Bowie, Maryland, U.S.A. It was incorporated as a non-profit entity in the State of Delaware in 1998 and is also registered in the State of Maryland as a non-profit organization since 2015. DATI was established at the University of Liberia 39 nine years ago and became Liberia’s premiere theatre in the mid-1970s through the patronage of Liberia’s 19th President, Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. who took a special liking to Dr. Gbaba as his “Precious Jewel”. DATI on two different occasions performed at the Executive Mansion Theatre in Monrovia in December 1998 and 1979, firs as a private performance for President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and First Lady Mrs. Victoria Tolbert, in the company of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Richard A. Henries, Chief Justice James A.A. Pierre, including the Haitian Ambassador to Liberia, among other distinguished guests. The second occasion was during the state visit of Ghanaian Head of State General Fred Akkuffu and Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Prior to the Executive Mansion performances in Liberia, DATI previously held a command performance under the auspices of Sierra Leone’s First Vice President S.I. Koroma, the Acting President during the absence of President Siaka Stevens at the State House in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on July 26, 1978, as well as a performance at Fourah Bay College and the Freetown City Hall. DATI also entertained all diplomats accredited near Monrovia at the Monrovia City Hall Auditorium in 1979 under the aegis of Liberia’s Foreign Minister C. Cecil Dennis, Jr.
A branch of DATI was established at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1982-83 and staged Joe Gbaba’s “The Chains of Apartheid” at the UNC-G Aycock Auditorium and participated in the Annual Greensboro City Stage Event (“African Marketplace”). Dehkontee Artists featured “Gee, the Mighty Warrior King”, performed by students of UNC-G and A&T State University including: Keith Hill, Andre Minkins, Maurice Donnell, Scott Carter, Sheba Wilson, Sherry Jamaison, and many others.
Dr. Gbaba returned to Liberia in 1983 after he earned his Master’s in Theatre with emphasis in Directing and Acting from UNC-Greensboro. He served in many educational and political positions in Liberia as lecturer at Cuttington University, University of Liberia, A.M.E. Zion Community College, Mother Pattern School of Social Work; Acting Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of Liberia, including but not limited to teaching at various secondary schools in Liberia, such as St. Patrick’s High School, A.M.E. Zion Academy High School, College of West Africa, St. Teresa’s Convent, and Zwedru Multilateral High School among many others.
Dehkontee Artists Theatre was revived and incorporated in Liberia after the cessation of hostilities in 1992. DATI played a pivotal role in the Liberia peace process in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) by providing civic and peace education programs such as radio and live theatrical performances, conflict resolution workshops for school teachers, administrators, and displaced persons through the Kukatonon Conflict Resolution Project. DATI was also incorporated in the United States in 1998 as a non-profit cultural and educational organization and has performed in Philadelphia, Allen Town, Pennsylvania and in St. Paul, Minnesota over the years.
About the Play
“The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” is an African fireside fable and children’s play that emphasizes the importance of unity and the promotion of cultural diversity and tolerance. It stresses the need to educate electorates so that they may be able to make informed decisions when holding free and fair democratic elections. The play also promotes cultural awareness, nationalism, and peaceful coexistence of persons of varied cultural and political leanings.
Cast of Characters
Julian Gbaba (Toad Frog) Jacques Gbaba (Bull Frog); Joseph Gbaba (Spring Frog); Annette Landers (Mother Toad); Ariminta Gbaba (Baby Toad); Daniel K. Moore, Jr. (Black Snake & Old Grandfather Toad); Christopher Miller (Old Grandfather Toad); Alie Kamara (Narrator/Elder); Rita Pierre (Winged Creature & Chicken); Lars Tomo McCritty (Winged Creature).
Celebrating 42 Years of Service to Mankind in the Literacy and the Performing Arts
Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr. is the founder and Executive Director of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI). He is one of the surviving descendants of the royal Nien Dynasty of ancient Krahn kings in Liberia, West Africa. He received his calling forty-two years ago when he heard a strange voice call out his name three times while he was a senior student at a Catholic all boys boarding school called Carroll High that was then located in Grassfield, Yekepa, on the lower range of Mt. Nimba. His first drama he wrote, directed, and produced was titled: “Life Story of Kekula”. Its theme was based on “national unity and integration.” The play was staged at the Open Door Theatre in Yekepa in 1974. Later the young playwright enrolled at the University of Liberia after he completed secondary school and majored in English and Literature. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Liberia College in 1980. Dr. Gbaba studied theatre (with emphasis in Directing and Acting) and earned his MFA in 1983 from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Subsequently, he returned to his homeland Liberia where he contributed meaningfully in the areas of arts and culture and education and taught at various institutions of higher learning including but not limited to: University of Liberia, Cuttington University, Mother Pattern College of Social Work, A.M.E. Zion Community College, and also served as Principal of the Zwedru Multilateral High School and consultant to the United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF). Prince Joe Gbaba also taught at St. Patrick’s High School, A.M.E. Zion Academy, College of West Africa, and St. Teresa’s Convent, respectively.
The Executive Director and founder of DATI also holds a Master of Science degree in Education (emphasis in Elementary and Special Education) and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from St. Joseph’s Jesuit University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is married to his wife of 32 years Princess Ariminta Porte-Gbaba and is father of five children and five grandchildren, respectively. Further, Dr. Gbaba is also author of three self-published books: Conflict Resolution and the Concept of Change (Dr. Gbaba’s assessment of the Liberian civil war and how Liberians and international peace negotiators can achieve sustainable peace and reestablish genuine rule of law), Ah-zeo, Ma Garh (an autobiographical account of the pivotal role his mother and other surrogate mothers played in his life as a child and a creative youth leader, artist/scholar); and, The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville (an African fireside fable and children’s play that focuses on the principles of democracy, the need to celebrate cultural diversity and reinstate rule of law in post conflict societies, etc.). Added to his credit, Dr. Gbaba has also written and directed numerous other unpublished plays such as “Chains of Apartheid”, “Zon Ninneh Taryee”, “Town Trap”, “Love for Mymah”, “The Resurrection”, “Yah” (“Vision”); “The Minstrel’s Tales”, etc.
Officers of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc.
James Krischen Wah, Sr. (President)
Timothy Gardiner (Vice President)
Ariminta Gbaba (Box Office Manager)
Lars Tomo McCritty (Acoustic Technician)
Harrison Jiedueh (Videographer)
Annette Landers (Scenic/Costume/Make-up Designer)
Julian Gbaba (Stage Manager)
Alie Kamara (Props Manager)
Sponsors and Board of Advisors
Christopher Miller (Sponsor)
Emmanuel Gbedee (Sponsor)
Father James Yarsiah (Sponsor)
Father Allen George & members of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. (Sponsors)
Mrs. Juliana Koffa-Dixon (Sponsor & Member of Board of Directors)
Mrs. Comfort Shilue-Sobah (Chair, DATI’s Patrons Club)
Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Sobah (Sponsors)
Mrs. Felicia Gaye-Wright (Patron)
Mr. & Mrs. Isaac & Amanda Sobah-Yah (Sponsors)
Mrs. Edith Walo-Smith (Sponsor)
Mrs. Alfreda Chayee-Morris (Sponsor)
Ms. Nellie Rue (Sponsor)
Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Bedell (Sponsors)
Mr. & Mrs. Handel Diggs (Sponsors)
Mr. Archie Wilson (Member of Board of Directors)
Mr. Emmanuel Sumo Clarke (Sponsor)
Mr. & Mrs. Emmanuel N. Reeves (Advisors & Sponsors)
Mr. Josephus Cassell (Sponsor)
Senator Archibald Bernard (Advisor & Sponsor)
Mr. & Mrs. Ansumana Sirleaf (Sponsor)
Father Wilmot & Dr. Eugenia Cooper-Merchant (Sponsors)
Mr. & Mrs. Virgil Boston (Sponsors)
Mr. Ignatius Taplah (Sponsor)
Adam Kyne (Advisor)
Dexter Tueh (Sponsor)
Amula Goba (Sponsor)
**** Event made possible in part through a generous grant from the City of Bowie.
Dehkontee Artists Theatre Auditions for Adults and Children at the Bowie Gymnasium, Monday & Tuesday April 4 & 5, 2016, 7-9 P.M.
About Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI)
What Is Dehkontee Artists Theatre and Its Function in the American Society?
Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (abbreviated as DATI) is a Bowie-based 501 ©(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization that specifically focuses on African history, traditions, entertainment. Its motto is to “Educate and Entertain through Cultural Awareness”! You can read more about DATI on our official website: www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com. Donations made to DATI are tax deductible and there are several ways one can make a donation online or in person through:
- DATI’s Wells Fargo Corporate Checking Account #: 3931972677;
- Online at: dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com and click on the “Donate” button to make a deposit in our Wells Fargo Corporate Checking Account #: 3931972677
- Online at: dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com through our PayPal Account by clicking on the PayPal button.
Your Donations Will Be Put to Good Use
Your donations will be put to good use to carry out an all year round research-based and results-driven Afrocentric literacy, peace education, and performing and visual arts program designed for children and their families, and the general public. Our areas of specialty include: Drama, Reading, Writing, Speech, Actors training, lessons on traditional African fireside storytelling, history and cultural beliefs, and providing participants with basic experience in public performances. We may provide these services to our targeted audience at no cost if you partner with us and generously donate to a worthy cause. Also, there is a summer component designed to actively engage children in worthwhile literary and cultural pursuits while they are out of school during the summer months, to help expand their knowledge and improve their individual skills in writing, reading, speech, and other innate artistic qualities they may possess. READ MORE
16010 Excalibur Road, Bowie, Maryland 20716
Dehkontee Artists Theatre Thrills Hundreds of Students at Robert R. Gray Elementary School with Its Afrocentric Literacy and Theatrical Performance!
Over the past two centuries the United States of America has produced many outstanding black scholars that made great contributions toward the improvement of the educational system to ensure that equality of educational opportunities is made available to America’s diverse populations, particularly children of color and other minority ethnic groups. This article focuses on Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s recent magnificent Afrocentric theatrical performance on Thursday, 16 June 2016 that set approximately hundreds of pre-K, kindergarten, and first and second graders of Robert R. Gray Elementary School ablaze with excitement as their pre-summer vacation treat! Robert R. Gray Elementary is PK-6 public school in Prince George’s County. It is located at 4949 Addison Street, Capitol Heights, Maryland and has an approximate student population of 423 students. The school is run by Mrs. Cheryl Franklin as Principal and Assistant Principal Hope Albritton-Smedley, and a group of mixed race devoted teaching and technical staff. READ MORE
Prince George’s County District Five Supports Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s Peace Education and Cultural Awareness Program and Fund Raiser!
This week has been a progressive and inspiring one for Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) through a series of positive and supportive events! This indeed fulfills the true meaning of the African word or expression “Dehkontee”, which means, “There is time for everything.” It derives from the Kwa speaking languages of Liberia (Krahn, Kru, Grebo, Bassa, Sapo, Gbi).
Similarly, it appears from all indications thus far that prominent citizens and officials of Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland are in agreement that it is time not only to showcase the rich and diversified history and cultures of Africa in particular but also to generally promote multiculturalism, peace, and non-violence in society through the performing and visual arts. Honorable Andrea Harrison of PG County District 5 is the latest County official to lend her support by making a donation to this worthwhile and patriotic cause to support the cultural awareness and peace education programs of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. The grant donation will enable DATI to provide services to children and their families specifically in District 5 at a date and time to be announced in close consultation with the Councilwoman and her staff. DATI is a 501 © (3) non-profit Bowie-based African-centered theatre and educational organization located in PG County District 4. READ MORE
Liberian Ambassador Accredited to U.S. H.E. Jeremiah Sulunteh Graces the 42nd Gala of Professor Gbaba as Playwright with His Presence on the Green Carpet!
Saturday, January 9, 2016 was an evening of pomp and pageantry and a “Liberian Cultural Night” at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts! Also, it was the very first time in western history that the celebration of such magnitude was not being held on a “Red Carpet” but a “Green Carpet” during the 42nd Gala of Professor Joe Gbaba as playwright, theatre director, actor, and producer. In addition, the ceremony was also in observance of the 39th Anniversary of the founding of Dehkontee Artists Theatre at the University of Liberia. In this light, the Embassy of the Republic of Liberia in Washinton, D.C. attached significance to the ceremony particularly as Liberia is now gradually emerging from the dust of war to regain its international status as the oldest African republic.
Thus, no better guest was there to grace the auspicious formal procedure that drew crowds from all races, different age groups and persuasions than the Liberian Ambassador accredited near Washington, D.C., His Excellency Jeremiah Sulunteh and his charming wife. Interestingly, as well, the envoy was accompanied by some of his Embassy Staff including the Deputy Chief of Mission Honorable Jeff Dowana and Mr. Delaney. He and his entourage had come with good tidings from the government and people of Liberia to express their best wishes and to render support to his former Cuttington University Professor Dr. Joe Gbaba who helped to academically nurture the young diplomat that has now become one of the most favorite Liberian envoys in the diaspora. Also, a cardinal reason for Jerry’s likableness is because he is very humble and is a man of his word: when he makes a promise; he keeps it!
A week before the grand occasion Ambassador Sulunteh confirmed that given the significance of the ceremonial he would definitely find some time off his very busy schedule to attend Dehkontee Artists Theatre’s 39th Anniversary to celebrate Liberian history and culture in the theatre and watch a play written, directed, and produced by a veteran Liberian American playwright and theatre icon at a prestigious performing arts center in the State of Maryland—namely the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts—where quite a number of American celebrities have performed before. Besides, Ambassador Sulunteh freely intermingled and willingly took photographs with members of the cast on the Green Carpet. Further, he warmly greeted other Liberians and foreign nationals that attended the glamorously verdant occasion. Accordingly, he personified and depicted the true spirit of a seasoned diplomat and patriotic representative of the Republic of Liberia to the United States of America and Canada, respectively.
Dehkontee Artists Theatre put up a brilliant performance with a rendition of a Liberian/African fireside fable “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” written, directed and produced by Dr. Joe Gbaba. He also acted in the production as Spring Frog and demonstrated his versatility to the fullest extent possible. The play was family friendly and appropriate for kids and their families, so many parents took their children to watch “The Frogs and Black Snake” as a New Year’s treat for their kids! Of course Ambassador Sulunteh and Madam Sulunteh spent some joyous moments with the kids on the green carpet with ease and compassion.
Also present were community and organizational leaders like Arthur Doe, Secretary-General of the Union of Liberian Association in the Americas (ULAA), Anthony Urey, President of the United Tchien Association in the Americas (UTAA), as well as maternal uncles and aunt of the Dr. Gbaba including James Glaywulu, Smith Mooney, and Princess Edith Wrighyee Waleekendeh, Dr. Gbaba’s God daughter, Dr. Anbec Deshield, among others.
The kids were fascinated by the bright, colorful costumes of the actors and actresses and so too were their parents, especially when “Chay-chay-poly Chicken” (Rita Pierre) spread her chicken wings and did a few dance stunts for the crowd on the green carpet. Also, another character from the play that made the night was Black Snake played by Daniel Kevin Moore, Jr. Everybody wanted to take a photo with Black Snake on the Green Carpet because he depicted his role very well as a vicious, cunning serpent that lured the frogs into electing him Chief of Frogsville. Subsequently, he subjected the frogs to inhumane treatment and insecurity and finally drove the frogs out of their own village and renamed it “Black Snakeville”!
Oh yes, the evening was filled with fun and laughter. One of the funny moments was when the President of UTAA, Mr. Anthony Urey challenged Black Snake to pose with him as a “strong man” on the Green Carpet”! That was so funny that everyone laughed their hearts out! The children loved it, too!
Ambassador Sulunteh also took some time to meet some of the cast members and officers personally, including other Liberians present who requested a brief audience and chat with him. He was so sociable that everyone felt at home in the theatre and a spirit of comradery and brotherhood and sisterhood contagiously ignited once again among a people not too long ago whose national reputation had been marred by unnecessary bloodshed for nearly over two decades. Here, it is important to note the healing quality of arts and culture and the performing arts in the process of conflict resolution. This is basically due to man’s universal enjoyment of imitation. As a result, people generally tend to forget their worries and misfortunes at times when they are being entertained, especially by a genre of amusement that has a moral lesson attached to it. Thus, the healing quality of culture demonstrated itself in the jolly good mood that those who attended the DATI production of “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” experienced and exhibited. Hence, it was all so good to be true; and, it is amazing what culture can do for a nation and its people when it is cherished and promoted to the fullest extent possible as an instrument of peace and reconciliation!
More Photos from the Green Carpet!
Building Bridges and Broken Relationships through the Visual and Performing Arts!
Throughout the history of mankind, it has been repeatedly proven that a nation that lacks vision shall desperately perish. Consequently, part of that vision or foresight stems from the culture of a nation and its people. In other words, a “vision” originates from the people’s way of life, their concept about life, and appreciation of the others around them. Against this backdrop, culture provides an enabling condition under which man is able to assess who he actually is, from whence he has come, where he presently stands, in order to determine where or which path to tread in the future. Additionally, culture is the complete embodiment of a people and it is reflected not only in their belief systems but also in the clothes they wear, the shelters under which they sleep, the foods they eat, and ultimately their interactions with one another.
Hence, this begs the following questions: “Do Liberians really know who they are?” Are Liberians aware of their congenial familial relationships as brothers and sisters, or as compatriots—people from the same country?” “If not, then how can Liberians attain and maintain the cordial relationships and sustainable peace and tranquility they need in order to put their lives back together again, and thus move forward?
For us at Dehkontee Artists Theatre, we believe we have a suitable answer to these rhetorical questions because we have been working very hard for the past thirty-nine years to help Liberians (and all Africans inclusive) to collectively solve their national puzzle—to join together the dismantled pieces that reflect the oneness of Liberians as a people from the same mother’s womb and same navel string.
In this light, Dehkontee Artists Theatre has been endeavoring to help solve Liberia’s national puzzle through the promotion and preservation of Liberia’s rich cultural heritage and history with scanty family resources and personal funds from its founder with much success during a 39-year span! However, this individual or family effort to promote the heritage of a nation and its people must be supplemented by the good will of the citizens whose history and culture is being preserved and promoted nationally and internationally. Consequently, this may empower Liberians to maintain their oneness of purpose and unity. Furthermore, by adoring and celebrating their diverse cultural and historical backgrounds and differences as a mosaic of Africa’s and the Black Race’s crème de crème, it would engender national consciousness and the inner desire of all Liberians to take great pride in who they are as citizens of Africa’s oldest republic.
Guess who came on the Green Carpet to celebrate! Dr. Gbaba’s brother Joe Cole and nephew Jaeden Cole who was celebrating his Birthday on Saturday, Janaury 9th! Of course the agile and fascinating Zebra and Narrator (Alie Kamara) was on the Green Carpet to light up the crowd. He was a dazzling sight to see and listen to during the show; and the audience loved his narrative skills, too!
Of course Mother Toad (Annette Sanders) deserved a bouquet of flowers after such a wonderful performance! Not only did she act in the show but she also helped to design the scenery and the Green Carpet event as Scenic Designer of Dehkontee Artists Theatre. Indeed, Toad the Wise One (Prince Julian Gbaba, oldest son of the Gbaba children) played the lead role in “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” and demonstrated his artistic and acting skills to the fullest extent possible. His performance was off the hook!
Promoting a Culture of Peace and Tolerance in Post Conflict Society Through the Arts
No doubt and to say the least, the role of educators, politicians, the youths, and entertainers in finding lasting solutions to political problems in society cannot be overly emphasized. It requires the resolute minds and hearts of all concerned citizens to galvanize support from every nook and cranny of society in order to restore rule of law, law and order and execute the laws of the land to the fullest extent possible. Therefore, this herculean task cannot be singly achieved by Dehkontee Artists without the assistance of the patriotic citizens of Liberia and foreign nationals alike. Against this backdrop, DATI needs your support (financial, material, and moral) in order to achieve its goal of educating and entertaining the citizens of the world through the performing and visual arts. For this reason, DATI formally launched its peace, civic education and conflict resolution campaign to unite Liberians in the diaspora with those on the continent of Africa. Therefore, your humble contribution (financial, material supports) will go a long way in helping DATI achieve its goals and objectives of promoting peace and reconciliation among Liberians at home and abroad.
Please Donate to a Worthy Cause
For those wishing to learn more about the work we do and how to contribute toward a nice cultural program, please log on to:www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com. Also, we would like to receive feedbacks from you and request your active engagement so we may all implement a culture of patience and oneness as a universal family. For, peace is not just the absence of war; but rather, it is a state of mind that seeks to provide a suitable milieu through which citizens can attain sustainable peace and enjoy their basic human rights and freedoms without the use of force or intimidation!
Published by the Public Relations Bureau of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI)
12 January, 2016
***Photography by Harrison “BlackBaby” Jiedueh, Videographer of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI)
Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr. Guest Speaks at Inaugural Ceremony of the Liberian Community Organization in the Research Triangle (LCOT) in Raleigh, North Carolina on 31st October, 2015
The Carolina Events and Cultural Center at 3209 Gresham Lake Road, Suite 146, Raleigh, North Carolina, will be the center stage of attraction in the Tar Heels State’s capital on Saturday, October 31st, 2015. The event is expected to attract an array of distinguished Liberian and international guests, family members, and well-wishers, and will highlight the inauguration of one of
Liberia’s soccer superstars none other than Honorable Philip Krawlay “Eusebio” Klah as President of the Liberian Community Organization in the Research Triangle (LCOT).
Others to be installed include but are not limited to: Mr. Charles S. Roberts (Vice President), Ms. Evelyn Kayee (Secretary), and Ms. Elizabeth Barkon (Chaplain). Distinguished members of the Board of Directors of LCOT include among others: Lowell Dargbeh, Mcswain Forkoh, Dakena Jones, Anna Mulbah, Pastor Cecelia Towah, Roberta Mc Cauley, and Justin Woyee. Members of the Planning and Entertainment Committees include Ms. Eva Diggs, Laura Kennedy, Martha Dargbeh, Chester Woyee, Pastor Moses Bee, Kama Sherman, as well as many other wonderful and hard-working male and female volunteers in the Triangle area.
According to the organizers and hosts of the event there will be no cover charge. However, the LCOT will appreciate generous donations from attendees to underwrite the cost of the ceremonies and assist the Organization to undertake future self-help community-based programs for its constituents in the Research Triangle which includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and other nearby surroundings.
Also to grace the occasion will be UNC-Greensboro-trained theatre director and actor and Jesuit trained scholar Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh and Princess Ariminta Porte-Gbaba, both of whom are also alumni of St. Joseph’s Jesuit University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The event begins at sharp 6:00 p.m. with the commencement of cocktails to be followed by a series of cultural and social activities that will culminate in the inauguration ceremony, dinner, and ball.
Recognized as one of Liberia’s leading and controversial scholars and premiere cultural expert since the demise of Honorable Bai T. Moore, Rabbi Gbaba is founder and Executive Director of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI), a non-profit cultural and educational organization founded since 1977 at the University of Liberia and that is presently based in the City of Bowie, Maryland. Dr. Gbaba is expected to speak to the gathering about the importance of peace and reconciliation among Liberians on the one hand and among members of the Black Race on the other. He will also highlight the dire need to restore rule of law in postwar Liberia through the process of civic and peace education and cultural awareness among Liberians and all Africans both in the diaspora and on the continent of Africa.
The prolific playwright and theatre director will also seize the occasion to inform the dignified gathering about the peace and civic education and cultural awareness project recently launched by Dehkontee Artists Theatre and to invite all guests to DATI’s debut performance of “The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville” to be staged at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts at 15200 Annapolis Road in Bowie, Maryland on Saturday, January 9, 2016. Curtains will open at 7:30 p.m. The general public is cordially invited and information regarding ticket sale will be published later on DATI’s official website: www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com and Dehkontee Artists Theatre Facbook page.
Meanwhile, those wishing to make donations towards DATI’s civic and peace education and cultural awareness fund drive may do so through DATI’s Wellsfargo corporate bank account #: 3931972677 or via PayPal. DATI hopes to tour major cities in the United States during the spring and summer seasons of 2016 to promote the rich cultural heritage of Liberia in particular and all Africans in general. DATI will also offer African cultural and history courses during the summer of 2016 for African children born in the diaspora and children of all races that would like to learn about the rich culture and history of Liberia in particular and about Africa in general. The public is advised to please visit the DATI website and Facebook page for constant updates.
Dehkontee Artists Theatre Receives the Lord’s Blessings from Church of the Epiphany and Saint Simon
By Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.
My dear cyber friends, I bring you on this blessed Sabbath Day the blessings of Younsuah, the God of Liberia and our forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The center of today’s story is about the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon, a little Christian chapel of the Episcopal denomination located at 2910 Avenue M in the City of Brooklyn, New York that is pastored by Reverend Dr. Allen Winnie George. Father Allen George, I am proud to say, was a student studying Theology at Cuttington University in Suacoco, Bong County, when I was a member of the distinguished faculty of that prestigious Episcopal institution of higher learning in Liberia between the years 1985-1988. Interestingly as well, Father George also attended the same high school I graduated from forty-one years ago—Carroll High, and so that was one thing I thought we had in common when I first met him at Cuttington. However, recently, I also found out that he hails from Maryland County in Southeastern Liberia where my ancestors come from and that his maternal cousins the late Leo Abraham and I were classmates at St. Philomena’s Catholic School in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, while his other cousins the late James Harris, Jr. and Roland Harris and I were classmates from Carroll High, Nimba County, respectively. This is to show you what a small world Liberia is, and that we are all interrelated as one big happy family!
Further, I learned when my wife and I recently visited Father Allen and his lovely wife Mother Debbie George that a Grebo old man the residents of Zwedru affectionately called “Old Man George” my father introduced me to in Zwedru twenty-five years prior to meeting my student at Cuttington was Father George’s paternal grandfather who lived and spent his entire life among the Krahn people in Grand Gedeh where he set up his permanent residence. Then, talking from one thing to another during our recent visit to Brooklyn, I discovered that Father George is also a descendant of the great Liberian Evangelist Prophet William Wade Harris! So, in this case, it is indeed true that the ripe plumb does not fall far from the plumb tree when it drops on the ground. Let me get an “Amen”, please!
For many of you who do not know Liberian history and the reason why I carry the title of a “Rabbi”, that you mistakenly believe is only a title to be held by a Caucasian that claims to be a ‘Jew’, here is some food for thought for you. Among the Liberian linguistic groups of Liberia, members of the Kwa Nation (Krahn, Kru, Grebo, Bassa, Deiweion, Gbi, Sapo, Belleh) are remnants of ancient African Jews. And according to our traditional history these ethnic groups have always had high priests called by varied names such as “Barh-gwenyon” (Krahn), “Budioh” (Grebo), “Kwi-Jorpleh (Kru), “Dar-zoe” (Bassa), etc., that served as intermediaries between God and his people. These high priests were very well respected and they interceded on behalf of the people and prayed to God for deliverance during times of war, natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, famine, and when their crops yields were low. Prophet William Wade Harris was one of those very powerful high priests from the Grebo ethnic group of the Kwa Nation in Southeastern Liberia that lived between the years 1860-1929 (Shank, 1986). He was a fiery Grebo preacher who preached in Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. Prophet Harris had a very large following and he may be considered the founder of the Pentecostal Movement in Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and other West African nations, and that may have probably led to the founding of the Church of the Lord Aladora commonly called “Prophet Church” that is located on Center Street in Monrovia, Liberia.
According to the narrative of David Shank (1986) Prophet Harris was ‘converted’ to Christianity in the early 1880s and worked for the American Episcopal Mission as a school teacher and catechist. He actually began his evangelistic work in 1910 when he was arrested for his part in an insurrection and he later indicated that while in prison he received a vision of the angel Gabriel and went out preaching in 1913, clad in a white robe and a turban. He carried a bamboo cross, a Bible and a gourd rattle, symbolizing the African nature of his mission and identified himself with the biblical prophet Elijah. Prophet Harris believed in polygamy (had many wives) and is credited with baptizing over 100,000 new converts, even though many of his followers later joined established denominations, both Catholic and Protestants (Shank, 1986).
In Liberia and here in the United States of America there are many mega churches that have a membership enrollment of thousands of Christian believers, with very decorative altars, stained glass windows, well-polished and furnished pews and wall-to-wall carpets but very sadly lack the presence of the Holy spirit. Most members of these mega churches attend Sunday services to show off their new apparels instead of going to bless and glorify the Lord. Even in some of my own Catholic churches I have attended in the United States, the preaching is cold; members hardly shake your hand when the priests ask members of the congregation to share the peace of Christ with one another; and the parish priests or pastors mainly cater to the rich—those who contribute mega bucks to the church—and vastly ignore the poorer believers who attend mass on Sundays to worship the Lord and contribute their widower’s or widow’s mite during offering time in church. As a result, I have observed that most Christian churches do not in my layman’s opinion, really meet the criteria of what Christ wants his church or followers to be or do: to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, because serving God is not a profession that one learns in school. Instead, it is a vocation—a calling! For, it is said: “Many are called but few are chosen”; and this speaks louder than words when it comes to how and who is called to deliver God’s word on the pulpit, or to live the life of Christ as believers—i.e., to love our neighbors as ourselves.
At the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon you immediately sense the presence of God’s Holy Spirit and God’s elect right from the door. The congregants are very warm and receptive and they encourage you to want to return in their midst to worship on another occasion from the way they meet and greet you. I wish many other Christian churches including some of my own Catholic churches were like the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon!
Anyhow, coming back to Father George, as an educator I learned from my father never to overlook any student that sat or sits in my class, or that attends the school at which I serve on the faculty, because each child or adult that sits in your presence comes with a special gift that God wants you to harness on his behalf so that that child or adult may be prepared to face his or her calling from God. Hence, being humble and well advised by my parents I never picked and chose among my students. Also, I did not only teach my students academics but I also taught them ethics: I taught them to read, speak and write the English grammar correctly; to dress properly; to be disciplined; to be civil and law abiding and trustworthy; and to cherish the dignity of labor and to be honest in whatever they do. Above all, I was very strict when it came to learning the materials and living or applying what my students learned to real life situations in their daily lives and immediate environs.
Hence, when I first saw Father George who now is my colleague academically, he was quite a lean, handsome fellow that always had a warm smile on his face. We never talked much but whenever we did, he listened very keenly and was eager to learn. I also observed he stood out among my Cuttington students that were studying to become Episcopal priests. Others I still vividly remember are Fathers James Yarsiah, Thompson, and James Wilson. And, if you were farsighted enough you could tell those young would-be-priests were then being called by the Lord to do his work; but when and where, that was only the Lord’s to decide.
I left Cuttington to take on a new assignment as Principal of Zwedru Multilateral High School in 1988 and did not have the time to say farewell to my Cuttington family I had gotten attached to and that was also very attached to my family and me. So for more than a quarter of a century I lost contact with many of my beloved students even though we kept each other in prayers. Then one day through the social media I got a note in my inbox and it was my student Allen George! It seemed that day the heavens had opened up miraculously and bang! The surprising news that my student had successfully become an Episcopal priest, had married a beautiful professional wife, had children, and had earned a doctorate degree over the years we had been separated by the civil war in Liberia! I shed tears of joy that day because there and then I realized that my work was not in vain! My student had not only learned and matured but he was now in the world going about the Lord’s business and serving mankind.
“Prof, how’s your wife and your children”? Allen inquired with great excitement after we exchanged digital numbers. Of course, my Cuttington students would never forget my wife because like “Uncle Joe” as I was affectionately called by my students, “Aunty Atta” was always burning her fingers in the kitchen to prepare those delicious home-cooked Congor meals that came right on time to substitute the dining hall foods they students sometimes loathed eating!
“They are all fine” I responded. “And our kids are all adults. In fact, we are grandparents of five”! I exclaimed.
“Oh, Prof, you and your wife must come and visit us and I mean very soon, too! I want you to see and enjoy the fruit of your labor, Prof! I am now an Episcopal priest and am assigned to the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon in Brooklyn, New York. The parishioners are very nice people and you will like my wife Debbie. She’s a lawyer and she loves my people! Please Prof, we will be very honored to have you and Mrs. Gbaba over for a week-end. Please, Prof!”
Again I cried when I hanged up the phone after our emotional telephone conversation ended. I shed tears because of the kind of gratitude and warmth Father George exhibited and also because I too was grateful to the Lord that he used me as an instrument to prepare his servant! Further, it reminded me of the ten lepers that Jesus cleansed but only one out of the ten returned to give thanks to the Lord. Of the thousands I taught during more than four decades of teaching Father George was just one out of the million that gave me my flowers while I am still alive. Of course it would be unfair to single him out alone because there are thousands of other students of mine out there that love and respect me as well and that will be featured in later articles to let you know how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my corner!
However, for now, my focus is on the revelation I observed from my Brooklyn trip: visiting with not only my student but an offspring of the great Liberian Evangelist Prophet William Wade Harris. For me it seemed like a reincarnation: that Prophet Harris had returned as an Episcopal priest even though according to Father George Prophet Harris was denied the opportunity to join the Episcopal priesthood when he attempted to join. Nonetheless, that did not stop the Budioh from carrying out his mission and vocation from God to preach the salvation of the Lord; and he did so with distinction, too! Now, in my own day and time here I was in the presence of Prophet Harris’ descendant following the footsteps of his ancestor, and history repeating itself in a different age and on a different continent!
Our trip to the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon was very successful spiritually and socially. My wife and I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Father Allen and Mother Debbie George and to pray together not only for ourselves but for Liberia and all peoples of the world. Among other things we talked about promoting peace and reconciliation among Liberians at home and abroad and how each of us could be a catalyst in realizing this lofty dream. Amazingly, too, Father George is a very good chef and we enjoyed his cooking. He prepared a number of delicious finger-licking dishes that just had us speechless—especially for a Liberian man to be so gifted with his hands. I never knew he was that talented! Also, my wife and I had the privilege to socialize with and meet members of Father George’s congregation at a dinner dance where we had an assortment of sumptuous Caribbean dishes and danced to some calypso music. One of my dance partners was an eighty-year old parishioner that I am convinced she could win the “Dancing with the Stars” contest on the ABC television network if she contested. Mother Mahdoo her name was and she was very agile and her dance steps were very well calculated; and she danced with grace and flare. However, to Mother Mahdoo’s surprise she never thought one bit that I had it like that and so she got the greatest surprise of her life when I started boogying down to the floor as she and the crowd cheered me on!
Then on the Sabbath Day in that little chapel at 2910 Avenue M in Brooklyn, New York, we experienced the presence of the Lord through the warm reception we received from the parishioners. And as I said earlier, the ripe plum does not fall too far from the plum tree! Father Allen George delivered a heart-warming sermon that was so touching that I felt the goose bumps on my hands as he preached. I realized at that point that life is a “see-saw-up-and-down”! Here we were in the congregation listening to my student preach the Gospel to me and blessing me with the sign of the cross as an Episcopal priest! In addition, the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon made a donation to the Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. fund drive to promote peace and reconciliation among Liberians/Africans in the diaspora and back home on the continent of Africa. Surely with thanksgiving to the Lord on this blessed Sabbath Day I can count my blessings and name them one by one and say what the Lord has done for me! He has blessed me with many children among which are my sons and daughters and distinguished students the likes of Reverend Dr. Allen Winnie George and members of the Church of the Epiphany and St. Simon in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.! Blessings and peace to all on this Sabbath Day.
Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.
8 November, 2015