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Slediah: The Story of Our People, One People

By Alice Mulbah, Ephistone Birch & Dennis Jah


Slediah Part I
By Mrs. Alice Welley Wilson-Mulbah
Atlanta, Georgia

As they sat in the council that night to discuss banishing oldman Teneweh, one of the fierce high liners, there were a total of 14 participants all furious about what they saw as the bad attitude in the town. Teneweh, it seems, was the one person for which the rules were instituted. Of the 14 persons, 9 were brothers. One of the brothers was the District commissioner, one was the townchief, the other was the clerk and corporal at the same time. There were 3 women, and 2 of those women were either wives or ex-wives of the brothers or cousins of the 9 brothers. Two of the other men were outsiders, meaning they had no relationship with either of the women or the 9 brothers. The other woman, though relative of the 9 brothers, was also a close acquaintance of oldman Teneweh. She had known Oldman Teneweh over the years as a kid. Her grandfather had helped oldman Teneweh to cut down the forest where the town stands today. Of course, she knew Oldman Teneweh was a controversial figure. Tenewheh had never stepped foot in the classroom, yet he was a gifted writer. He also spoke very, very, eloquently. But Teneweh had no patience for people he considered "strangers" that he had welcomed in his town, and now wanted to control his way of life.

"The children used to dance Jumayee at night, and play all the beautiful drums that made such enticing sounds, but now the District Commissioner and his corps of officers, mainly comprising his relatives, placed a ban on everything. We cannot say "Bartee" at the center of the town anymore, because we will be disturbing others.

Our children cannot cry without having one of his ruthless bodyguards raining insults at us." The lady would hear Oldman Teneweh voice out his grievances while playing checker with her grandfather in the back yard. Yes, Oldman Teneweh, as indicated by his name, was indeed a warlike individual. His disagreements with others would take months if not years to settle down. Yet, he had smart leadership qualities that little Slediah needed so much. Frankly, his good side outweighed the bad. He was full of fun for people that were on his good side.
"Remove Oldman Teneweh from this town; he has no respect for authorities!" Said the District Commissioner.
"He stole my palmwine!" Said the townchief.
"Yes, he annoys me every minute. He has no respect for my ma Teaty, and Josefu Weah", said the other brother.
"He abused my two brothers few days ago", the other brother added.
"Alright, the way I see things, I think we will vote to see who want Oldman Teneweh to be removed from this town.” The District Commissioner ruled.

Oldman Teneweh had had quarrels with the District Commissioner and nearly all of his other siblings that were present at the meeting that night. In fact, the DC always thought Oldman Teneweh's behavior was "gross insubordination". He and his brothers dreaded the grounds on which Oldman Teneweh walked. Now was the time to get even!
Oldman Teneweh was one of the founders of the little town called SLEDIAH. He struggled when others had no idea how to begin cutting down the high forest. Oldman Teneweh took the axe and cutlasses his nephew from Firestone had sent to him as Christmas presence to build the town. He cut down every single tree before building the town 9 or 10 years ago. He and few of his colleagues helped to make some guidelines that would later be called the "prayer book" of the little town, but now his fate was in the hands of his 9 adversaries that made majority of the decision-making body that night.
"Who all are in favor of removing oldman Teneweh from Slediah?" the District Commissioner, who was the presiding and high ranging officer in the town asked.
"Remove him immediately!" said the town chief, who was one of the 9 brothers.
“I don't want to hear him again", said one brother.
"Remove!", "Remove him!" All the male participants voted “yea” screaming their lungs out at the same time. All 9 brothers wanted Oldman Teneweh out completely and at once.
“Ok, ladies, what do you say....even though the men have already spoken, including me, the DC. What do you say? You all know, in the kwi community, they say ladies first."

"No, do not remove him. This town is for everyone. We can work hard to settle the quarrel business in this town, but banishing our own Oldman Teneweh will not be a good idea. Ya'll know Oldman Teneweh built this little town years ago and welcome everyone here one by one. Even the Wesar-nyu, Seleh-nyu, Finatin-nyupon, he opened his arms to everyone that today makeup this town", said the lady who was relative to the 9 brothers and also acquaintance of Oldman Teneweh.

"What do you mean! Keep the man who stole cassava from the cassava farm he was supposed to be watching? I don't care whether he was hungry or not, but he has not paid for the cassava he ate. He has not paid for the palm wine he drank from Oldman Pokla palmwine tree, so remove him from the town without delay!" shouted the lady who was ex-wife of the cousin of the 9 brothers.

"Well, me I not get anything to say, my people. Do whatever you want to do." Said the third woman, also wife of one of the brothers.

"Well, well,. our ladies have spoken. The two remaining men can now speak up" said the District Commissioner.
"Do not remove him, Sir," said the first man.
"No, do not remove him, because this case falls under my jurisdiction, and not yours. Oldman Teneweh falls under the Degbadior Quarter that I was recently elected to oversee. I should have investigated him and forwarded my findings to your high offices, Mr. DC." Said the man.

"All right, by the power invested in me, I will hand my verdict. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! We have TEN (10) in favor of removing Oldman Teneweh from the town, three (3) against, and one abstained." The DC declared. “MAJORITY RULE! MAJORITY RULE!" Someone in the meeting shouted out loud.

"Clerk, you got everything down?"
"Yes, sir!" said his brother who also served as Corporal.

‘Now, in your capacity as the arresting Corporal, you are authorized to arrest and remove Oldman Teneweh from this town effective immediately! I do not ever want to see him or hear from him again. "
"Yes, Sir!" The Coporal saluted.

By this majority rule, Oldman Teneweh was banished from the town he labored to build. He was never heard from nor seen again, and no one ever attempted to bring him back in the town ever again. The District Commissioner and his brothers still control the town to this date.

YEARS LATER, Slediah still goes through the worst situation of any kind. The army, the District Commissioner of the town instituted to protect him have gone on the rampage, abusing, stealing and killing legitimate members of the town. There is no rule of law or freedom of speech. Borbor Gum, one of the DC confidants whom have been authorized to rain havoc is unstoppable because the rules do not apply to him. The District Commissioner who exercised authority in the face of what he called "civil disobedience, gross insubordination, terrorist behavior" toward him and other citizens of Slediah, today sits in his headquarters mute over a very high degree of gross disrespect, incivility, bombastic, and animalistic attitudes towards decent citizens, whose forefathers worked so hard to accommodate some of those individuals that carry out these kinds of acts.

Is the Corporal, who forcibly threw Oldman Teneweh from the town, asleep? No way! The District Commissioner has to give orders before they are executed. Until such orders are given, the wishes of the DC must be carried out by his most trusted and fierce bodyguards and spokespersons.
"The justice in Slediah was meant for Oldman Teneweh. It is the kind of caricature justice that have killed so many innocent people through forced sassy wood or strangulation."Said Oldman Wortey.
"My people I can't believe some people do just anything to eliminate others. You mean to tell me Oldman Teneweh is gone from the town, and now we have a worser situation? Where is our authority????" Ma Gbalee wondered as she picked up her kinja to go to her pepper farm.

Justice is at its worst; it is completely blind in Slediah!

Slediah Part II
By Elphinstone Birch
Philadelphia, PA

After the exile of Oldman Teneweh, the admitted cassava and palmwine thief, the DC and members of the council of elders in the town summoned Ma Gbalee upon her return from the pepper farm. That very night under the bright moon light, the Council took Ma Gbalee to the outskirt of the town to inquire of her about alleged allegation that she Ma Gbalee who other names were Gblehee and Poponyonponjatty or Gbazu-Jahzu had been carrying news like a “Bessa Body” or what other people called “chichipoli” between exiled Oldman Teneweh and Borbor Gum. There were also news circulating in the town of Slediah that Ma Gbalee Poponyonponjatty had secret love affairs with exile Oldman Teneweh and Borbor Gum. So, for somebody like Ma Gbalee who was so critical of others including insulting their parents, Gbazu-Jahzu was more dubious than she has been known for.

At the outskirt of the town, elder Josefu Weah, a very blunt and soft but out-spoken gentleman in the council asked Ma Gbalee Gblehee what she can say about allegations in the town of Slediah that she is the “Bessa Body;”carrying news from elder to the other. Poponyonponjatty denied the allegation. She said, she never told Oldman Teneweh any news from Borbor Gum. The DC then inquired about her secret love affairs with both Oldman Teneweh and Borbor Gum.

“Who said it, it is a lie. I have no secret love affairs with these two men. I remembered, Borbor Gum wanted me, but I said no to him. I remembered one time I bought him gifts just to show I am a good person, but I never love to him. I only agreed to Oldman Teneweh. So, to say, I was in secret love affairs with them two at the same time, it is a lie.” Gbazu-Jahzu lamented.

Turning to Borbor Gum, the DC asked, “What do you have to say?”
The no nonsense Borbor Gum jumped-up from his very low stool, and beat his chest as he also swing his towel three times behind his back in shock, “What did she say?” You must be ashamed of yourself to deny our relationship and carrying news between me and Teneweh. He continues, “Oh! I see why you lied to me years back that you never had a child, knowing very well that your grandmother was raising your son. Now you are lying before the Council of Slediah that we had no relationship. Do you want me to tell the Council about the details?” Borbor Gum stopped for a moment.
Ma Gbalee Poponyonponjatty stood in shock with her head bow and tears rolling down her eyes, as she pondered over the words of the no nonsense Borbor Gum.
Ma Gbalee shouted with a straight face, “Borbor Gum you are a lair, you are a lair. I never loved to you.” So, Borbor Gum replied.

“Ok, that is fine. I know you will not admit but two of us this is true.” But my people, you look into this, how can someone preach justice when they are defending robbery? The people of Slediah deserve justice too, not so?” The Council began to look at each other after Borbor Gum asked them who should justice serve, Oldman Teneweh or the people of the town?

Borbor Gum continued after a little pause,
“When justice did not come in the way Ma Gbalee Poponyonponjatty wants it, she will jump to how some members of Slediah just have one pa and one ma from the village, leaving her love life of many children with more than one fathers. She will say ‘me my pa and ma are from there.’ But how many of Gbazu-Jahzu's parents are from this little town?” Borbor Gum asked. “If she thinks this Slediah does not have justice, what is she doing here? Why can’t she leave and find a just village? Can she look at her own children and tell them your fathers and I are both from the same village or her children have divided loyalty among their many fathers”? Borbor Gum asked. Well, we all have family members whose roots are from different towns, villages and chiefdoms, so why the fuss or injustice is about in our town? Does Poponyonponjatty want to preach here, so-called unity among us when the people she is backing have their grand or great grand fathers from far and near villages and towns, who do have their original roots in our town?”
The Council replied, “Nobody!”

Now, then let people hear about injustice in our town. Let us talk about something constructive. The Council all agreed with Borbor Gum.
Uncle Timothy Hinneh concluded the story like this,
“I used to have one friend who always used to cover her dirty and pitiful family secret in sheep skin. She will call God’s name in everything she said and when I disagreed with her, she will make me feel like I just disagree with God.” Uncle Timothy added, “I told her one day that, the same God who created (her) the self-proclaimed righteous, is the same God who created me, the accused sinner. So, justice is not when things go your way, or injustice is when one steals the villagers’ cassava, rice and peppers; and that person gets punished for stealing.
Uncle Timothy noted, it is a shame when someone will justify stealing from the Slediah’s village like Ma Gbalee Poponyonponjatty who in the beginning of the story deeply in her heart disagreed with the Council, and called the punishment of Oldman Teneweh as injustice because she claimed that he helped to build the Slediah’s village. Everybody works for the village getting big.

A thief is a thief and stealing Slediah’s cassava, peppers, and rice almost broke the village down. Plenty people wanted to just leave Slediah in the hand of the thief, but traditionally, thieves are subject to mob justice; they get good beating when they are caught. Who care of using Firestone cutlass to clear bushes when stealing is your doing? Who say if George Washington was going to steal the colonies money, he was going to have any respect. I bet you ya my people, the people were going to punish him all the way or way more than Slediah people did to this cassava thief, but this was not the case of the cassava robber. Uncle Timothy ended this segment of his story by stating, Oldman Teneweh had the chance to defend himself at the town square but he chose to bet and challenge the people of Slediah instead of dialoguing to resolve the stealing and disrespectfulness case against him.

Slediah Part III
By Dennis Jah

Lowell, MA

Before Slediah, they lived with their in-laws in an area called Chetehwon. There were skirmishes of fights, mistreatments and calling them names such as strangers or guests. Their cousins Tahnyonpon had long left fighting their way through towards the sea coast. They were long fed up with been ill treated and marginalized and took matters in their own hands taking on the most feared giants of their days.

Slediah had been corrupted in its phonology as Slèhdiah to mean land of noise, palaver and tension. It was actually Slediah (with a rise in the first syllable) meaning home of arts and crafts or aesthetes.

The once peaceful and hardworking people have turned on each other ever since they stormed out of Chetehwon and settled under their own jurisdiction grappling with changes in economy, governance resulting into more power struggle and fragmentation. They no longer acted as one. For example, the major road leading out of Slediah and connecting all the other major towns was no longer cleaned through collective efforts.

Jacopo, who was renowned in hunting elephants and other gigantic creatures, was no longer celebrated in all the quarters. In fact his quarter no longer shared his kill with the rest as it used to be and soon the saying that when Jacob kills an elephant, everyone enjoys or “Jacopo daba dweh, kloh deoh” was no longer a true saying. It was now “Jacopo daba dweh, uh tugbah deoh.” Whatever Jacob hunted was straightly for his quarter only to celebrate and enjoy. Even Wuoo, the most famous comedian of the land was now a detestable character being sued every now and them for what used to be his signature jokes. Slediah no longer acted as one.

Her neighbors who had fancied Slediah’s achievements as a test case for all that were going through marginalization and oppression were bamboozled by the in fights. The failure of Slediah to hold together meant doom for others who wanted to follow her lead. Something needed to be done to arrest the situation and return Slediah to its rightful place. The hope that Slediah will one day join with others of her kind and form an empire of Ehjaybloh was in serious jeopardy.

Tahnyonpon saw themselves as naturally positioned to intervene. They sent their envoy headed by soft spoken Poponyonponmon to meet with the elders of Slediah. Poponyonponmon, although schooled in all ways of the land, did not go with much sophistication or acting to know it all. Had it not being for the towel he carried on his shoulders and the jahwlah around his ankles, no one would suspect that Poponyonponmon was the head of the envoy sent from Tahnyonponmon to resolve a major conflict that threatened the survival of an entire group. Poponyonponmon was small in stature, soft spoken and seemed to be in no hurry in delivering his message. Just by looking at how he carefully unwrapped his words while maintaining a touch of smile on his face, no one will suspect that the towel in carried belonged to 107 year-old Bodioh Tumu who had commissioned him for such a noble task. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Ehjayblohken with Bolibodiah as its capital depended on his mission, but Poponyonponmon kept his cool as if he had to hear voices from some unseen attendants before uttering a word.

The crux of his message was that teeth and tongue sometimes have disagreement but they never stopped living together and working together to make eating and talking possible.

“Teeth sometimes bite the tongue, but do they stop being partners in progress?” Poponyonponmon asked without focusing anyone in particular. Everyone responded at the top of their voices "no!"

"If a fine woman leaves a man who she accuses of ill-treatment to marry a new man, the ex-husband and the new husband as well as her in-laws and the rest of the town are watching to see what she will do in her new relationship. If there is still noise, many will conclude that she was the problem in her old marriage." Poponyonponmon went on and on.

At the end they resolved to build one big town called Bolibodiah and name its downtown area Kpaayken. Even Tahnyonpon still suffering marginalization in her area would join in the effort to expand Slediah build Ehjayblohken and call its capital Bolibodiah. Each son or daughter of Slehdia or of the entire Ehjayblohken living in any part of the world would be required to build their own house in Bolibodea or any of the vast areas of Ehjayblohken.

In Kpaayken, Tahnyonpon, now weary of fighting wars and exhausted from being second or third in their own land will send her konbo dancers to sing their favorite song “tuh welley” which means “war is over” to celebrate the peace that has returned to Slediah and the unification of all Ehjay people or Ehjaypoh.

Jumanyee which had been outlawed a while back during those days of useless bickering would resume with all its richness. And with the proper ratings, “bah chleh belleh-tu, pleh ahmi mon” which was banned for its explicit references to sex will once again hit the airwaves. Breaking the bed frame before sleeping as the song goes would only be a result of a collateral damage and not deliberate at all.

All of Ehjaypoh, her children, grand children and great grand children who lived far across the sea including those ones who could only speak senmene-senmene would be required to visit Ehjayblohken at least once and establish connection or reconnect with their ancestors.

With this and everything else being said, bohjlu, the most energetic and influential group of adults began work in engaging the spot where Bolibodiah was to be established. And if bohjlu, the ones whom the elders always have hard time dealing with were the ones leading the effort, not even the toddlers could find reason to sit idly by.

To neutralize any future tension that may come up as a result of development and public infrastructures being concentrated in one area, Ehjaybloh will have three or more major cities apportioned according to quarters and geography. With Bolibodiah as its biggest town, there will be the learning capital called Tonkondea where a major university, technical high school and a junior college built. Wlawleehdiah will have all the major political offices and host all the debates. Everything political will be controlled from Wlawleehdiah. Then Wleehdiah will be the economic nerve center so big and powerful that no one in Ehjaybloh will taste of hunger or walk barefooted again. And who will forget about missan-nyonpon? Faith or religion will remain a major part of their lives. There will be a blend between the way all Ehjay people have lived for centuries and the way of life of the kwi and other peoples. As everything else evolves, so will be the way of life of Ehjayblohken.

United we stand, divided we fall. And there was not a single soul who disagreed.

THE END.

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