Earlier this year, 75 year old South Carolina resident Mary Moran had the unique opportunity to go to Sierra Leone with other members of her family. Moran's mother had taught her a song in an African language which had been in the family since an ancestor had been brought over from Africa two hundred years ago. In 1989, through the efforts of anthropologist Joseph Opala and ethnomusicologist Cynthia Schmidt, it had been discovered that this song, composed in the Mende language, was still sung by certain villagers in Sierra Leone.
Anthropologist Joseph Opala lived in Sierra Leone for the past 23 years. In May of this year, the Sierra Leone army staged a coupe and Opala thought he would be safe in the hotel where the Nigerian general was staying. Instead, the hotel became a target and caught on fire from the attacks. Opala had to help other people get out of the country and was eventually evacuated himself. He'll talk about his experience.
Iyunolu Osagie (EE-yewn-oh-lu oh-SAW-GEE-ay) an Assistant Professor of English at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. She has researched and written the events of the Amistad slave rebellion and the trial that followed. She is a native of Sierra Leone where the Amistad story begins and ultimately ends.
Charlie Haffner wrote "Amistad Kata-Kata" a play based on the Amistad story. As a native of Sierra Leone, Haffner is critical of the new film “Amistad” now showing in theaters. He says the story neglected many significant events that occurred in Sierra Leone. Haffner currently lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Andrew Kromah lives and works in Sierre Leone. The country has been rated the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. For eight years now Kromah has run an independent radio station (KISS-FM) in Freetown and has reported on the rebels and government. Each week, as Mr. Owl he investigates local corruption. Twice his building has been burned down. During the 1996 election there, Kromah and his staff were forced to broadcast from the bush to escape injury.
When she was 10 years old, her father, a doctor and advocate for democracy in Sierra Leone, was executed for treason. As an adult, Forna returned to Sierra Leone to investigate the circumstances surrounding her father's death. Her memoir is The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Quest. Forna is a broadcast journalist living in London.
Ishmael Beah has written a memoir about his years as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. Orphaned by the civil war there, he was carrying an AK-47 by the age of 12. Pumped up by drugs, he was forced to kill or be killed.
When he was 15, UNICEF took Beah to a rehabilitation center. He was eventually adopted by an American woman and brought to the United States, where he attended high school and graduated from Oberlin College.
His book is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.
Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr.'s "Resistance" podcast explores different aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement. The podcast has been mostly devoted to the protests that started last summer after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but it also chronicles Tejan-Thomas Jr.'s personal history.