Kiiton Press

Speaking Engagement


My Contributions to Nimba County and to Liberia

       Map of Nimba County


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These pages about Speaking Engagement are more than just speaking engagement.  The pages are also about some aspects of my life and work here in the United States.  It is a bit like a chronology of my work and other activities I have been involved in while living in the USA. Some of those activities can be documented by photographs, others are left to narration. When I entered the USA for the second time in 1980, I had completed my first doctorate degree and gone home and worked for Cuttington University as professor in Ethics and Theology for a few years.  At the same time, I served as Dean and President of the Gbarnga School of Theology under the auspice of the Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church for a number of years before returning to the USA. My work in the Liberia Annual Conference  included an appointment to pastor the Tappita United Methodist Church for a few years.  

In addition to my three areas of work (Professor-Cuttington,  Dean/President-GST, and Pastorate-Tappita UMC)  I was also heavily involved in doing  progressive community work in Nimba County as director of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA). I was elected VP of the National Organization in 1980.  We helped built schools, (Example-- Taryor Elementary and Junior High School in Tappita),  clinics, installed hand pumps for safe drinking water in many of the villages, including my own village of Gban, where we  installed hand pumps in all the quarters in the town.

In Nimba County, we established adult literacy programs and taught the market women in Ganta how to read, write, and do basic arithmatics.  We taught them the fundamentals of basic economic principles of supply and demand, micro-economics of price theory, and how to set prices for their market commodities.  We published a weekly newspaper or magazine with the title in the Mah language: Wàá Lɛ̀ɛ́ Yɛŋ. (The Struggle Continues). This was a publication that helped our people to understand their rights and their responsibilities under the Liberian laws. We provided legal assistance for individuals who were treated unfairly under the law. We gave speeches in schools all over the county at commencement times. We supported public education for critical consciousness.  We adapted the educational pedagogy of Paulo Ferrire--from his Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the Education for Critical Consciousness. Some of our speeches found 
their way in major liberies if America, Canada and Europe.  One of such speeches is the one with the title: Why things always go wrong in an incompetent Society. This speech
is in the Concordia University Libraries of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Click here:
Gban publication. In the same Concordia University Library system, you will find another
one of my speech on The problems of the poor in Liberia: A culture of Poverty.  Click
on A culture of poverty.

We demonstrated publicly our commitment for human rights and struggle for civil liberty. We defined our work as "A struggle for Rice and Rights." Due to our progressive work 
amongst our people, on April 14, 1979 during the rice riot in Liberia, I was forced in
exile in Guinea where I remained for several months under the protection of President
Ahmed Sekeu Toure.  When I returned to Liberia, we intensified our work in the
villages, teaching the poor and the disinherited people that they should no longer
live in the culture of silence. We reminded the students that for them, education
should be a purposeful education for the development of critical consciousness.

 Upon coming to the United States of America, one of my 
priorities was to fulfill my commitment to the organization I served in Liberia, to bring liberty to our people.  I published some of our speaches, declaration of human rights and our MOJA constitution.   I published all these in a book called, Justice, Justice, A Cry  of My People 1984.   My thanks first to Comrade Togba Nah-Tipoteh, President of  MOJA, who provided the seed money for the publication and for helping us to establish the press. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Professor Amos Sawyer,  Professor Dew Mayson, Dr. Boima Fahnbulleh, Professor Carl Patrick Burrowes,  Brother Comnny Wesseh, Emmanuel Dangbay Zuu and a host of other MOJA members who played active part in our struggle to set our people free. Total liberation is not yet achieved.  Maybe political liberation
has advanced in some meaningful ways, but economic liberation is yet to come.
I earned my first degree, B.A. Economics, at Cuttington in 1971.  Came to the USA in 1972 and earned my Masters  and doctorate degrees before returning home in 1976.  In 1980, I was  back again in the United States.  At this time, I was assigned by the Bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church in Chicago to Pastor Neighborhood United Methodist church in Maywood, Illinois:  This was the beginning of my Christian Ministry in the USA. The church below was my first church I served in.

This  is the first United Methodist  Church I Pastored in the United States of America.  This church is called, Neighborhood United
Methodist Church.  It is located in Maywood, Illinois, one of the suburban towns on the outskirts of Chicago.


While pastoring here in Maywood, I was always invited to speak in other churches, or at some meetings or by some social or religious and educational organizations.   The people at Maywood were nice people who provided opportunity for me to do some Christian service amongst them.  Some of the places I went to give speeches invited newspapers to cover the events, but other places did not cover the events in newspapers.

After about two years at Neighborhood United Methodist Church, I was appointed to another church; this time, it was to do urban ministry.   In 1983, The Bishop felt that I needed to go to the city of Chicago, south side, to do some city ministry.  I was appointed to West Englewood United Methodist Church.  The people there were very friendly and very receptive to my  ministry.  Again, I was continuously invited to other churches or universities to share my African experiences. At West Englewood, we, as a congregation, did a lot of community services.  We had a food pantry where we served the poor and the needy in the community weekly with food the church people had donated and food the food distribution center in Chicago had given to participating churches.  We conducted workshops and clinic for
those who wanted to learn about healthcare and other services.
We worked with the youth and children in the community. We held
vacation Bible School, and carried on some community services. 

We established a very fine youth choir comprising of young people, boys and girls. We cleaned up and beautified the neighborhood occasionally, and we helped the community start block clubs and neighborhood watch.  When it was  time to leave this church at the end of 1985,  I turned the church over to a very dear friend of mine who had just
come to do his seminary training at Garrett Theological  Seminary.  
Rev. Daniel Gweh  is his name.  He took over the work after I left the church.  I asked the district superintendent, Jim Reed, to recommend
him to the Bishop for an appointment in that church.  After that, I
headed to Georgia and Mississippi where I would attach myself
permenantly with some academic institutions until my retirement. 

In February of 1984, the students at the University of Illinois at Urbana,
Champaign invited me to discuss the content of my book with them-- the 
Impact of the African Tradition on African Christianity.  This was Black History month.   We talked about African Traditional Religions-- The history of the Church and of Christianity and Islam in Africa. This was a very special day for me.  I got to know that there is a growing interest in African traditional religions in the colleges,  universities and  in the seminaries of America.  My next few years were devoted  to
the teaching of African Traditional Religions and the work of the Church
in Africa.  On this same week, the other speaker was a famous Black historian by the name of Lerone Bennett Jr.  At the time, he was the editor of Ebony Magazine.

  At Grace Church, the African Safari was not about animals of Africa.   They have invited me to tell the African Church story.  Many of the women of the church were studying in their Mission studies, the work of United Methodism in Africa.  At that time, I had just published another book with a title:  Impact of the African Tradition on African Christianity.  The General Board of Global Ministries  of the United Methodist Church adopted my book as one of their textbooks in studying the Mission of the Church in Africa.  This is why Grace Church invited me to share with them our African Story.  This  was in November of 1884.  That weekend, I preached on Sunday at Grance UMC. That was the extension of our discussion on the Church in Africa.

1985 was an eventful year.  At the end of that year, I moved with my
wife and children to Savannah, Georgia where I bought a house and
opened a printing shop. After a year, I got a call from a small rural
school  in Mississippi, not too far from Jackson, to come a serve as their Dean of the Chapel or Chaplain. Again, I sold my house, closed the print shop and up-rooted my family from Savannah, Georgia to Piney Woods, Mississippi where we spent a very short, but fruitful time. 

The Proprietor of the School.
Piney Woods School is one of the best kept secrets about black educational institutions in America.This is one of the best primary 
and secondary black schools in the country.  It was established in
1909 by Dr. Laurance C. Jones (1882-1975) right after he came from Iowa.  Dr. Jones was trying to do similar things that Booker
T. Washington had accomplished at Tuskegee, Alabama. Piney Woods
Country Life School was to become an industrial institution where 
black children would come to be educated, learning all sorts
  of professions using their  hands, heart, and head.

 Students at Piney Woods School come from everywhere.      

This is not only a liberal arts and industrial college preparatory school; it is a life science school. Athletics is part of the program too. Students are involved in different sports. When I was the Dean of the Chapel, during Dr. Charles Beady's administration, our students were from Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, all the Caribbean Islands and territories, but a bulk of our students came from almost every state in the USA.  The students were the "cream of the crop, so to speak."  They were smart, polite, neat, intelligent, and serious minded, ready and willing to acquire knowledge. I am sure that tradition is still the same.
I introduced a tradition there that is no longer in existence.  
At mid-day, every day, we tolled the bell for one minute
so that anyone who heard the bell ring, can stop doing what-
ever he or she is doing to reflect in a moment of silence for one minute. This tradition is no longer a part of the Piney Woods
School's culture.

I sent my son there to go to school.  At that school,  he completed his elementary and high school education.  A very fine school.  I will encourage parents to send their children to
Piney Woods School for their elementary, junior high and high
school education.  To read about early history of the school,
get a copy of  Piney Woods School: An Oral History by 
Alferdteen Harrison, 1982.You can also find the history
of Piney Woods on this link. Click here. Piney Woods.

By 1986 ending, I moved out of Pineywoods to teach History
and the World Civilizations at Jackson State, Mississippi.
I was not at Jackson State for a long time when I was called
to be The coordinator of Chaplaincy and College Chaplain at
Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.

But before I left Jackson State, I got an invitation to deliver
A SERMON, or a lecture in one of the most historical churches
in the United States. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where those four Black children
were bombed during the Civil Rights Movement is this country.


The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is a very famous church in
the United States of America. Wikipedia has this to say about the

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963 as an act of racially motivated terrorism. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This is the church I last spoke in before I left for Hamilton College.  The title of my message was, "Afro-Americans Looking Ahead to the 21st Century With Faith in God."  The pastor of the church at the time,
Rev. James E. Young, and Layleader, Rosetta F. Brown, Chairlady,
of the Occasion, decided on the topic.  It was recorded on video  and shared with radio and television stations in Birmingham and other cities.   I have a copy of the recording in my library.

To visit the campus on line, click here:  Hamilton


At Hamilton College, I was also teaching African/African American   Religions, history and culture. I served as coordinator of Chaplaincy
and College Chaplain.  Below are the two Chaplains that worked with
me as chaplains of the College. Heidi was the Jewish Chaplain, and
Father John Croghan, was the Newman Community Roman Catholic
Chaplain.  I, Nya Kwiawon Taryor, was the coordinator of the whole
college chaplaincy program.


These were the faculty members in the Department of Religion.
       From left to right we have Jay Williams (Chairman),
             Stephen Brooks, Heidi Ravven, Nya Kwiawon Taryor,
                                    and Bennet Ransey.

I again crossed path with
  Bishop Bennie D. Warner

Strangely, while I was yet at Hamilton College, the faculty and students at Syracuse University invited me to participate on a panel they were having on Traditional African Religion on February  7, 1989. Again, this was Black History month.  I was never informed of who the other two panalists were. When I got on campus, we were called to take our seats at the podium. Who did I see coming up, Bishop Bennie D. Warner. Bishop Warner was the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Liberia and also the Vice President of the country.  He came for a conference in America in 1980.  Just a couple of days of his arrival in the US, a military coup took place in Liberia.  He was a hunted man after the coup.  He could not return to Liberia because he was going to be executed. Interestingly, he and I came together to the USA on April 9, 1980 on the same airplane. I did not know he was on the plane until I saw him and his entire family at the beggage claim. 

In Liberia, he and I were in constant disagreement because we both did not share a common understanding about the role of a Bishop.  I felt that as a bishop, he should not also be a vice president of the country because the political position will compromise his effectiveness as a bishop.  I felt that in such position, he will not be free to deal with the issues of human liberation and the injustice going on in our country as he has effectively done in the past when he was not a VP of the country.  But the Bishop disagreed with me.  

Bishop Warner thought otherwise. He felt that since Bishop Abel Muzorewa of Zimbabwe was Prime Minister of his country,
(please see question # 6 on that page), also see this site,
he, Bishop Warner, can do the same thing in Liberia.  When the
bishop accended to the Vice Presidency of Liberia,  while still 
serving as the Bishop of the Methodist Church, most of his responsibilities of the bishopric were dedicated to individuals who had
little or no knowledge of what the Bishop's responsibilities were.
His Bishop office on Ashmun Street in Monrovia was moved to the Capitol Building.
Members of the Methodist Church who wanted to see their Bishop
were now forced to go through rigorous security screening before 
seeing their Bishop.  The security on him was very tight.  Most church
people who used to see him regularly were prohibited or they
just stopped coming to see the Bishop. The work of the church
went unattended during this period.  He could not serve two
masters.  One was bond to be neglected; and the church ended
up being the neglected master at the expense of the political career
choice the Bishop made. 

Unfortunately, because of this unholy alliance, he had with the state, when the Tolbert regime fell, he also fell along with it.  Those  Bishops of other denominations such as Bishop George D. Browne, of the Episcopal Church; Bishop Michael Francis, of the Roman Catholic Church; and Bishop Roland Diggs of the Luthern Church, who were not attached to the Liberian government in any direct ways, were able to continue their ministries within the territories of their episcopates
while shepherding their flock long after the coup until the civil war   that started on December 24, 1989 in Liberia.

But Bishop Bennie D. Warner could not return to Liberia to take care of the church because he was one of the political leaders wanted for execution.  He attempted to return to Liberia by way of the Ivory
Coast, but later decided that this advanture was too risky and would be suicidal if he went beyond the borders of Ivory Coast into Liberia. Thereafter, he decided to return to the USA to engage other kinds of ministries.

At the panel, I was seated first, followed by Bishop Warner.  He sat next to me and greeted me warmly.  Rev. Chirevo  Kwenda was quickly advised by one of the coordinators of the occasion (who was probably a Liberian and knew about the conflict between the Bishop and me) to sit between Bishop Warner and me just in case the discussion got rough.  Whatever that meant.  Anyway, we had an interesting evening.  The discussion was very civil and we shared our individual understandings of ATR (African Traditional Religion) with our audience. 

             Preparing to Leave Hamilton College for Georgia

I spent 4 years at Hamilton College as College Chaplain and Lecturer in Religion and 1 year as Research Associate.  My last year at the college as Research Associate, I applied for a grant in aid to do a research on my people and their organization called UNICCO.  The president of the College, Dr. Harry Payne gave me a research grant money to do a research on the Nimba Organization.   I traveled to all the cities and towns where UNICCO had chapters and collected from individuals, letters and correspondences that were UNICCO related.  I collected from the general secretry, Joanne Toweh, whatever relavent UNICCO records she had, and I spoke with most of the chapter leaders at that time and they opened their doors for me to use some of the photographs they had in their possession.  Because of the scanty financial record keeping system in UNICCO, I did not bother about any financial records.  I was interested in only the historical materials. For an entire year, I ran all over the country behind UNICCO leaders and wherever meetings were held, I visited them.  I collected from every chapter that had a local UNICCO constitution and the National constitution.  At the end of the year, I compiled all these documents into two books.  UNICCO By-Laws and Constitution and A documentary History of UNICCO.  Below are the pictures of the covers of the two books:

Even though the organization was officially founded in December 1979, other Nimba organizations were functioning in several places such as Georgia, New Jersey, Minnesota, and New York under different names such as:
New York & New Jersey
"Nimba Students Association for Advancement"

John Kpahn's

"Slewon"  For the sake of the Land

 "Nimba Students Association of Georgia" 

All these Nimba Associations merged together on
December 29-30, 1979 to form what we call UNICCO today. 


UNICCO Constitution 
(1st & 2nd editions)

First and Original UNICCO 
By-Law and Constitution 1982

UNICCO Revised
  (1989) Constitution

Chapters having constitution
 in this book include:

Chicago Chapter

Georgia Chapter

Minnesota Chapter

New Jersey Chapter

New York Chapter 

The story of my life takes me to Atlanta, Georgia where I continued
my type of ministries--teaching,  writing, and publishing books
for myself and for other Liberians and non-Liberians.

CLICK HERE:     Moving to Atlanta



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