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AndStill

Great news! AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME has been selected for Starbucks Digital Network’s in-store reading club. Starbucks Digital Network provides exclusive access to film, tv, newspaper, and book content.  This content will only be accessible to consumers while they are in the wifi space of the store.

Starbucks selects two books every two weeks that they will make 100% available for reading online in the store—so this is an amazing opportunity to create a buzz about the book through word of mouth.  The consumer can read as much as they want while they’re in Starbucks wifi but they lose access when they leave the store.  If the consumer enjoyed what they were reading, they can return to the store to read more or they can purchase the ebook through the iBookstore.

The title will go live on 3/22/11 and be taken down on 4/5/11.

AndStill

“We must know each other’s stories to exist in each other’s eyes. In And Still Peace Did Not Come, Agnes Umunna brings us the stories of child soldiers, brave women, the despair and new hope of Liberia, and her own personal journey. This book is a gift. Accept it.”
—Gloria Steinem, writer, feminist organizer

“Agnes Umunna has captured so much in this compelling book. I can hear the voices of the boy soldiers, I can hear the cries of the women and children whose lives have been ravaged by a senseless war, and I can feel and see how one exceptional spirit can make such an enormous difference, even under the worst of circumstances.”
—Abigail Disney, Series Producer, Women, War & Peace, THIRTEEN/WNET.ORG

“A compelling journey through the horrors of the Liberian civil war and the lives of so many children who were on the front lines of this national nightmare. Despite this, the book offers equal measure of humanity and decency and gives us hope that there can be recovery. A highly recommended book for anyone interested in the human impact of war and the struggle to survive.”
—Tom Crick, Associate Director, Conflict Resolution Center, The Carter Center

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Agnes Umunna

Agnes Umunna

The Liberian Civil War (1989-1996 and 1999-2003) was one of the bloodiest in Africa’s history, claiming over 200,000 lives and displacing a million more. During the fourteen years of turmoil, this Northwest coastal African nation was shattered by unspeakable violence and brutality, crimes against humanity, and corruption. Today, Liberia is recovering from its harrowing past, trying to heal the wounds of a scarred country. As part of the healing process, the Liberian government is encouraging those involved in the war—both victims and perpetrators—to come forward and tell their stories, acknowledge the past, and vow to move forward. Agnes Kamara-Umunna, a native Liberian now living in Staten Island, New York, is a foot soldier for this cause, coaxing former child soldiers to share their tragic histories in order to free themselves and help their country move on. AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME: A Memoir of Reconciliation (March 22, 2011; Hardcover; Hyperion) is Agnes’s emotional story of war, and finding peace among the ruins.

AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME is Agnes’s personal history interweaved with her retelling of and personal testimonies from child soldiers and other victims of the war. The stories here are diverse—often traumatic, but also hopeful and deeply moving. Agnes was born in Liberia, a child of relative privilege who at first refused to believe that her beautiful country would be torn apart by war. When her father’s house was riddled with bullets during Charles Taylor’s violent coup, she realized the violence had indeed come to her. From the day her father
took them both across the border to relative safety in Sierra Leone, Agnes experienced the feeling of being hunted. She writes, “Your eyes change, your ears change. Your skin crawls with the unremitting, tactile knowledge someone may be behind you, ready to leap.” This feeling would haunt her for the next fourteen years, as one of the most brutal, bloody civil wars in history unfolded in her native Liberia.

After the war, Agnes returned to Liberia to host the radio program Straight from the Heart at a UN-sponsored radio station in Monrovia. Boldly, she sat down in the studio with victims, warlords, and government officials. And then, she did what no one else was yet doing—she went to find one of the war’s cruelest consequences: child soldiers. She walked the ghettos and slums of the war-torn capital, finding former child soldiers and convincing them to share their stories on the radio. Today, she continues to serve as a statement taker for the Liberia Truth & Reconciliation Commission, focusing mostly on Staten Island, home to the largest Liberian community outside of Africa.

The stories Agnes weaves in her memoir are borderless, timeless, and appeal to our shared humanity. AND STILL PEACE DID NOT COME is a testimony to a nation’s descent into the horrors of civil war and its subsequent rise out of the ashes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Agnes Fallah Kamara-Umunna was born in Liberia. After the war, she hosted the radio program Straight from the Heart in the capital city of Monrovia and was a statement-taker for the Liberia Truth & Reconciliation Commission. She lives in New York City, where she continues to volunteer for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, taking oral statements from Liberians now living in the United States.

Coming Soon! One Liberia Advocacy Radio FM 103.5

Posted by Agnes on November 24, 2010
Posted in Uncategorized  | 2 Comments

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One Liberia Advocacy Radio FM 103.5 is an independent and a non-governmental Radio Station made up of local female and international journalists that will operate independent news and information from the voices in the communities in Liberia. One Liberia Advocacy Radio FM will aim to overcome lack of information from the communities.

Through its trustworthy radio services, One Liberia Advocacy Radio  FM will play a crucial part in rebuilding and maintain peace and reconciliation in Liberia.

One Liberia Advocacy Radio FM 103.5 will aim to strengthen and support local female victims of the war in Liberia

Our mission is to build and support for female victims from the war in Liberia to be able to talk about issues that matters to their heart during and after the war in Liberia, using the radio and to become women radio producers and broadcasters in their communities and country. As a women radio project, we have trained female victims of the war in Liberia to approach journalism and broadcasting from a social justice framework

The outreach unit has been working since we started work in the communities in Liberia. Realizing that the key element to peace and reconciliation in Liberia lies in the awareness and hence the interest of local communities, In addition to its community involvement the Community Out-Reach unit plays an important role in the communities we have worked with survivors in Liberia.

The Community Out-Reach Unit activities varied from Student activities, media outreach, Friends of  SFTH.

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Straight From The Heart Group Inc has announced the advent of a Community radio station in Liberia, which will focus on educating rural women ahead of the 2011 General and Presidential Elections.

According to SFTH Media and Outreach Director Macdonald Metzger, the station will broadcast to over half of the country’s estimated 3.5 million population, using stationed relayed transmitters across the country.

Mr. Metzger said several specialized programs will be created to highlight and reflect the views of rural women who over the years have not had the opportunity to speak out on civic issues.

“We will create several programs, such as “Dis Voting Business” which is a common Liberian way of speaking about elections. Programs such as Dis Voting Business gives rural women the platform to speak their minds on the 2011 Presidential polls”

SFTH seeks to create the platform where women will speak to women and help get the message of peace building and national reconciliation across to the entire country.

The station is expected to be launched before December of this year.

Website Update

Posted by Agnes on April 8, 2010
Posted in Uncategorized  | No Comments yet, please leave one

You can now donate to our cause through NYCharities.org. See Contact page for more details.

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Monrovia, January 19, 2010 : Straight From the Heart Group, a Liberian owned Non Governmental Organization on Thursday,  January 14, 2010 screened for the first time in Liberia, the movie Who Does She Think She Is? at its headquarters on the S.K.D. Boulevard, in Congo Town, Monrovia.

Who Does She Think She Is? is a Mystic Artist Production, directed and produced by a U.S. based filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll. The movie portrays the lives of five women who use arts to be self reliant and maximize their potentials through creativity.

“The movie shows women all over the word that despite the odds, they can use drawing and painting to stand up and be equal with men in homes,” said one of the young women who watched it.

According to Straight From The Heart’s Executive Director, Agnes Umunna, the movie is expected to be screened all over the country once there is sufficient funding from her partners in the United States. She told reporters in Monrovia over the weekend that the project is been sponsored by the U. S. filmmaker and producer Pamela Tanner Boll and the Wellesley Center for Women.

Over 30 Liberian women between the ages of 17 to 35 watched the movie in the Straight From The Heart’s conference room, with smiles on the faces while they munched on snacks. At the end of the movie, the women broke up into three small groups to discuss and give their reactions about the movie.

During the group discussion, some of the women said that they are presently experiencing some of the difficulties that the women in the movie underwent. In their words: “We feel sorry for the women and also feel sorry for ourselves, but for them at least they had people to support them to take up those art works.”

Oretha Johnson, 32 said she hoped Straight From the Heart will not only show them the movie but will be able to help them start “some thing on their own.”  She added that “if we can be empowered to get training in various skills like the women in the movie, I think we will be able to do more than what they did or have done.”

Korto Freeman, 34, a young woman with three children, whose father died during the Liberian civil war said, “I think this movie should be taken to the counties where women are only considered to be always in the back of the house and to take care of the children. No! Women, like you see in this movie are people who too can make their own and not only wait for the man to come from work and bring food money. Its time that we get up and fight for our children.”

Straight From The Heart’s Program Officer, Morris Dunoh encouraged the women at the end of the movie to engage other women in their communities, and spread the word about Who Does She Think She Is?

“Tell your friends, your sisters, and other relatives, that those days where men sit say women belong to the kitchen are over, those days where women stay home to only take care of the children and cook for the men are over! You must rise up now and start to do some thing for your selves, so that your men, or husbands will be very proud of you,” Mr. Dunoh said.

The women praised Straight From The Heart and Pamela Tanner Boll for her courage to produce the movie. They commended the team for thinking about the women of Liberia and finding a means through which they too can learn from the experiences of other women around the world to “maximize their potential to the fullest and be self reliant”.

Straight From The Heart was created in 2005 as an hour long radio program to aired the true life stories of victims, survivors and perpetrators of Liberia’s 14 years bloody civil war that left over half of the country’s populations destitute, maimed and vulnerable, while others got killed during gun battles in and around the country. The brains behind the creation of the radio talk show, Mr. Joseph Roberts Mensah (Kojo), Chief of the United Nations Mission in Liberia Radio (UNMIL Radio), did not stop at creating the radio program, but encouraged the presenter of the show, Agnes Umunna to set up a trauma healing and reconciliation center where victims and perpetrators can come together and discussed their past and hence forge a common ground. Many of these impoverished and traumatized Liberians now live in and around the country’s capital, Monrovia where they survive on less than a dollar a day.

SFTH provides medical referrals and psychosocial support services to traumatized Liberians, especially women and former child soldiers in Liberia. Since the centers were created in 2006, it has helped both victims and perpetrators get psychosocial support services. The Centers were located on the Old Road Community in Monrovia, and another at the General Services Agency compound, which is now referred to as ‘Baghdad’ in Monrovia. The centers are now not totally active as a result of lack of funding to keep the program running. SFTH is however appealing to its international partners and donors to provide funding or support in any form to keep the program running in Liberia. SFTH also intends to take the program to other war torn countries such as Sudan, Congo and recently Kenya which suffered post-elections violence.

Signed

Rhoda Davies –Communications Assistant SFTH Liberia ( 00231 6 827308)

Art Transforms Women Lives

Posted by Agnes on January 20, 2010
Posted in Uncategorized  | 99 Comments

Picture 2By C. Winnie Saywah

It is believed by aged-old tradition that a woman’s place is usually in the home and at the back of a man but the modernization of human existence has changed that belief and makes women the best part of the global society.

Women are now considered a better part of everything that must move the world to its next level and so a humanitarian organization with a quest to change the lives of girls in Liberia especially those associated and or affected by the war was keen on engaging some girls in the Samuel K. Doe community through a movie named, “Who Does She Think She Is”?

“Who Does She Think She Is” is produced by Mystic Artist Film Production in association with Wellesley Centers for Women, was screened yesterday, January 14, by “Straight From The Heart Group” as a pilot project to enlighten the minds of girls on how to become dependent inspite of the odds of life.  The movie featured five women artists involved with their diverse household chores and at the same time struggling to lead creative lives while balancing family and motherhood. “Who Does She Think She Is” portrays real women who are a testament to both the heartbreak and the beauty of a 21st century life lived in art. “Sometimes you feel that society does not like what you do; as a women it is not about doing it but about doing it so good,” the artist said.

Read More at The Inquirer

During the Liberian civil war, my parents were not together precisely.  My father had sought refuge in neighbouring country, Sierra Leone. Considering the  tension within our community, the Samuel K. Doe Boulevard (SKD), we (my mother and us) decided to move as a family seeking a better place.

On our way with no where special in our mind, we met some rebels at the Stephen Tolbert Estate Bridge commonly known as “Double Bridge”.   While there, my mother was searched by one the rebels’ leaders named Mango Menlor, who was a Special Forces trained by Charles Taylor to attack Liberia. He was among the first group of Liberians rebels that attack the country on December 24th, 1989.

After searching my mother, they saw that she had a huge amount of money which was taken away from her.  Then, believing that my mother would report them to some senior commandos, Menlor ordered my mother to be killed.  He then fully participated in the killing of my mother. I saw him when he shot my mother twice in the lower and upper sides of her body.  Thereafter, we were taken by him to a place called Kakata until his departure to other assignments areas.

Later, Menlor knew that we were children of the lady killed at the bridge. My twin brothers were given to some relatives of his as their own.  But I closely monitored their dwelling areas based on conversations I overheard about the relatives, and kept a close watch.

Then, at the age of 14, the rebel leader asked me one day go along with him to some unknown area.  I went along.  Upon our arrival and considering what he did to my mother, I became afraid.  But within a second, he threw me down, removed all my clothes and forced me into sex. In short, he raped me.

With such experiences, I decided to escape, which I did.  Then, with the coming of the Truth and Reconciliation Comission of Liberia, I was opportune to have shared my experiences. Menlor was called and questioned.  He admitted to his crime, and asked to make my two brothers available for the sake of reconciliation. However, just a few months after he met them,one brother was killed.  Today, only the two of us are living, our mother killed, and our father’s whereabouts unknown.

Agnes Umunna, executive director and founder, talks to the press

Agnes Umunna, executive director and founder, talks to the press

Monrovia , January 9, 2008: Straight From the Heart, a local psycho-social support group have said that it is going to embark on additional programs to empower vulnerable Liberian women.

Speaking over the weekend at its second general meeting with more than 150 vulnerable and war affected women and girls at its head office in Sinkor, SFTH Executive Director Agnes Umunna told journalist that her organization is presently partnering with a local organization MEASUAGOON Inc. to embark on a pilot project to provide agricultural training and vocational skills for 150 vulnerable women and girls from four counties.

The project is being sponsored by the International Trade Center ITC with headquarters in Geneva , Switzerland .

According to Mrs. Agnes Umunna, the pilot project is bringing together vulnerable women and girls from Lofa, Bong, Nimba, and Montserrado Counties . She revealed that the project will be implemented at the project site in Peleleh Town along the Gbarnga, Voinjama highway.

“We want to help you so that you can stand on your own, and no man will bluff you again” Madam Umunna said.

She noted that SFTH is committed towards empowering vulnerable young Liberian women and girls who were affected by the civil war and do not have any skills but rely on their bodies as a form of survival for themselves and their siblings.

Madam Agnes Umunna also announced that her organization and Saving Mothers Research Team-SMRT are negotiating to launch a midwifery training program for twenty Liberian women in Monrovia .

Cross section of women attending the program

Cross section of women attending the program

“I am also negotiating with this group to see how they can help with midwifery training for the first twenty of you”

Meanwhile, MEASUAGOON Program Manager, Bantie Brownell Fortune said that the women will not only received vocational skills but will be given formal training to learn how to read and write while at the Peleleh Camp.

She noted that the project aims to provide the women and young girls with marketable skills; so that when they leave the camp they will be able to survive on their own and not rely on unhealthy practices.

She added that both Straight from the Heart and MEASUAGOON are committed to empowering the women to be self sufficient.

Straight From the Heart was founded in March 2005 to provide psycho-social support services to war affected persons through trauma healing and counseling. It was collaborated with a number of local and International Non-governmental institutions, including the launch of the TRC’s formal statement taking process.