My knowledge of Liberia has been pretty limited to date. I learned about the Liberian Renaissance Education Complex talking to Dr. Dennis Harper (founder of Kijana Voices and Generation YES) at NECC in 2007 as part of a podcast interview. Before our conversation I had not heard of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the current president of Liberia and the first female to be elected as a head of state on the continent of Africa. I vaguely identified Liberia as a nation in west Africa, but did not realize until very recently it had been in the throes of a civil war which started in 1989. I was also ignorant of Liberia’s history as a country founded as a prospective home for U.S. slaves reversing the middle passage and returning to Africa. According to today’s English WikiPedia’s article for Liberia:

In 1822, the American Colonization Society established Liberia as a place to send black people who were formerly enslaved. Other African Americans, who were never enslaved, chose to emigrate to Liberia as well. African-Americans gradually migrated to the colony and became known as Americo-Liberians, from where many present day Liberians trace their ancestry. On July 26, 1847, the Americo-Liberian settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia.

Some time ago I was invited to the Facebook group for the movie “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” At the time, I did not realize the group focused on a movie about an important recent chapter of Liberian history. According to the film’s official website:

Pray the Devil Back to Hell chronicles the remarkable story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country.

Thousands of women – ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters, both Christian and Muslim – came together to pray for peace and then staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential palace. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, they look on the warlords and nonviolently forced a resolution during the stalled peace talks.

A story of sacrifice, unity and transcendence, Pray the Devil Back to Hell honors the strength and perseverance of the women of Liberia. Inspiring, uplifting and most of all motivating, it is a compelling testimony of how grassroots activism can alter the history of nations.

Consider bringing a screening of the film to your local community.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

After last week’s celebration events commemorating the life and achievements of Clara Luper who helped lead the nonviolent Oklahoma City Sit-ins in 1958, I have been thinking more about civil rights activism.

It is telling and unfortunate that the WikiPedia article for the African-American Civil Rights Movement is titled with the inclusive dates, 1955–1968. This struggle is not over in the United States or around the world.

NetFlix has the film listed in their database but the page does not show a DVD release date. The film summary from NetFlix is:

Director Virginia Reticker’s documentary tells the story of the thousands of Liberian women who helped end the bloody late-1990s civil war that killed 250,000 people, allegedly supported in secret by then-President Charles Taylor. Through nonviolent protests, the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative forced a resolution in the peace talks, and their efforts led to the election of Africa’s first female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

I hope I’ll have a chance to this film about Liberian peace and human rights activists soon. Stories of courage and struggles like these certainly put the relatively minor challenges I face in my own life in stark perspective.

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