Speaking at the jam-packed Mondavi Center in Davis, California, New York bestselling author Ishmael Beah reaffirmed his love and loyalty to his native land when he declared: “I am a Sierra Leonean first, but I have American tendencies”.
Beah was at the University of California, Davis where he spoke in the distinguished speaker series. Beah’s popular book “A long way Gone” has bagged awards and given a fresh perspective to the Sierra Leonean crisis and the global issue of child combatants.
Responding to a question as to whether he considered himself an American now or still a Sierra Leonean, Beah was unflinching in his pride in Sierra Leone and said he would do all in his power to ensure that education is supported in his native country.
“I would not be where I am today, if not for education,” Beah asserted, adding that he wants other kids growing up in Sierra Leone today to be afforded the opportunity to realize their full potential.
He made reference to the fact that opportunities afforded to child soldiers like him back home revolved around being mechanics, tailors and the like.
The option for those who could afford it was to be in academia, medicine or law.
“Their needs to be more support for the arts,” he suggested, adding the role music, particularly reggae and hip-hop, played in his rehabilitation.
Backstage, we spoke about assistance for Sierra Leone. Beah fervently believes that communities should be taught ownership by counterpart-funding of development projects. He said the idea of depending on donors to fix everything allows for communities to neglect infrastructure, hoping that once it dilapidates, government and/or donors will come and fix it again.
Asked what he personally is doing for Sierra Leone, he said he supports a school construction project in his native Mattru Jong and will continue to help noble causes as and when time and resources permit him.