Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Porte's legacy

Reading Runs Through
- Albert Porte's Legacy Lives Through a Library01/09/08
Bill K. Jarkloh, FPA Staff Writer

Monrovia -

Although the man Albert Porte died years ago without achieving in total the principles of justice, and equity that he struggled for, his memories continue to impact the minds of the people in general, and his family in particular. But how could this man best be remembered? Shortly before the fall of 2007, the Porte family in Liberia erected a library in Paynesville at the outskirt of Monrovia.

Strolling along the Redlight-Gardnesville road last December, a reporter spotted the sign “Albert Porte Library” pointing inside a community in the Redlight district, Paynesville and of course the well-designed artistic work mesmerized the reporter and landed him to all he had read about Mr. Porte’s struggle.

The Struggle of Porte was for better Liberia

The name Albert Porte in Liberian history represent activism for the rights of the ordinary people.

A portrait of Albert Porte welcomes visitors to the reading room.Porte – a man somehow with a background of Americo-Liberianism challenged the evils of the more than 100 years of despotic rule of the True Whig Party, a party which every Liberian will reason with me symbolizes indeed, the so-called Americo-Liberianism.

The memories of Mr. Porte is an obvious recollection of the days when people were arbitrarily arrested and detained, when the common man has no say in the pseudo-democracy practiced by the descendants of the freed slaves that were repatriated by the American Colonization Society and were eventually settled on where is now referred to as Liberia, I thought.

For Mr. Porte’s lifestyle, justice and equity should know no class or status, they should always remain blind to those who play on the platform of life - which Zoroaster says characterizes the struggle between good and evil forces. As a consequence, whenever this pamphleteer went somewhere, he went with his mat and overnight bag, bearing in mind that he could be arrested and detained for his struggle against the system, the struggle which advocated for peace, truth and justice in Liberia.

On a recent visit, a reporter set his digital camera to capture the white-painted fenced Library, gearing himself in haste a bit as he started to ponder how this sound Liberian writer, progressive and activist was not only committed to the ideals of justice and fairplay.

Some students making use of the Albert Porte Reading Library in Paynesville outside Monrovia.Albert Porte was a classroom teacher. His dream was to ensure that the children, in whose hands the future of the country lies, are educated. This is because of the open secret that knowledge is power, and the only way to challenge a rotten hegemony of the so-called Americo-Liberia elite was not to be in ignorant, but to take the challenge with the knowledge and understand of the noble principles of freedom and democracy and all that are associated with them for a better Liberia.

At the entrance, knocking at the gate, a young fellow came out and asked gently:

“Can I help you?”

“Yes you may! I’ve come to talk with Mrs. Williette Porte, the proprietress of this Library.”

And so the young man who later I began to know as Othniel B. Porte, a grandson of the legendary Albert led the reporter into the Library.

Certainly, there is a need to remember Mr. Porte. The ideals he stood for are still in demand today. The need for justice will ever be unwavering.

What Porte was against was arbitrary arrest and detention and torture. It is obvious that Mr. Porte’s activism was to scorn corruption, gullibility and selfishness that had and perhaps continue to permeate government, the interference of the Executive Branch with the functions of the Legislative and Judicial Branches, using the security as vehicle for such interference and the general security excesses. Surely, Porte wanted a Liberia governed by people with characters that respect human value, a Liberia where proceeds from the vast resources would be equitably distributed for the common good of the people.

For these objectives that he struggled for honoring, Mr. Porte even in a modest way as in the case of erecting a library that will provide resources for the development of good citizens is equally noble.

Mr. Porte Envisioned the Library

Make reference to Albert Porte Reading RoomAnd so Othniel Porte escorted the reporter around and revealed the various features of the Albert Porte Library, which has a reading hall wherein a portrait of Mr. Porte is conspicuously displayed on a card catalog. It also has a Children's Section containing books for pre-school and elementary students, an African, Reference and General Sections. It also has International and Periodical Sections.

“My late granddad was a classroom teacher. It was his desire to help the unfortunate children and see to it that people are educated properly,” Othniel explained.

Relying on this dream of Mr. Porte as related by his grandson, it must be said that proper education is obtained in the environment where libraries and laboratories are equipped, classrooms are not congested and textbooks and other instructional materials are available. According to Othniel, Mr. Porte had envisioned the Library. “Dating years back when he was alive, my granddad had his own collections in his chamber. And so we have this dream of a Library as of grave importance to us,” he explained.

On one section of the library, students are already making use of Porte’s legacy. Most were seen researching their works at the Albert Porte Library. The beneficiaries said the Library was a very great assistance to the community. Says Y. Winston W. Taingay, a student of the George Toe Washington School in 72nd: “This Library is important to us because here we do our assignment. There is no Library, so before we had to go all the way to central Monrovia for our assignments.” Another Student from the George Toe Washington Institute who was also researching at the Albert Porte Library, Abraham B. Hagg, made similar assertion. He praised the Library. “The Library has good books that are useful to our curricular engagements in school,” he said, while Elijah Bryant and others who were at the Library praised the Portes for the project.

‘We thought to do something tangible’

Cornered in Central Monrovia, Mr. Elfric K. Porte, son of Albert Porte said, “We thought we should do something tangible to portray the dreams and aspiration of dad. His wife Williette Porte, who historicized the Albert Library, said it all started 1996. In a relaxed mood at the Paynesville hub of the I. B. Xpress Inc., Mrs. Porte said the idea of the library started off by looking after kids during the war in 1996 during which time they decided to look for basic things for the kids to read to detraumatize them. Accordingly, the Portes taking care of some 24 kids, decided to teach the children basic skills in reading and drawing. “The kids were also anxious to watch movies. So we got ‘Sesame Street, ‘Barney’ and ‘Lion King’. We also taught them the Bible. We have friends in these disciplines to teach and we compensated them,” Mr. Porte explained.

She said it was this idea that has grown and blossomed into the “Albert Porte Library”. “Albert Porte himself was writer. Did Othniel show you his collection at the Library? He has his own Library in Crozierville and his son Elfric K Porte, my husband, decided to have a library in honor of his father,” Mrs. W. Porte further explained.

According to Mrs. W. Pote, the project started in 1996 and the Library was officially opened in 1999 in Paynesville at a building now housing the IB Xpress Incorporated in the community.

Meanwhile, Mr. Porte expressed the desire of the Portes to equip the library further. She therefore sends out an SOS for assistance in kind and cash, including books from friendly institutions and philanthropists that will help to upgrade the Albert Porte Library and to continue to keep the memories of the Liberian activist for social justice, author and teacher. HOW TO HELP?
For those wishing to donate books, or make financial contributions to the Albert Porte Reading Room Call Elfric Porte Sr. at 011-2316-582665Or IBXPress, 763.531.0743

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