Liberia: Lofa County Senator Joseph Jallah Explores Education and Anti-Drug Initiatives During U.S. Visit

Monrovia — Lofa County’s newly elected Senator, Cllr. Joseph Jallah, was recently invited by the office of the Trade Commission of the state of North Dakota to discuss Teacher Education, Nursing, and Cultural exchange programs. While in the US, Senator Jallah outlined his visit to four other states, including Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania, from June 16 to July 6, 2023. He also mentioned borrowing methods from shared experiences when meeting organizations that have rehabilitated drug addiction survivors, who are now champions and integrated into society.

“At the state University of North Dakota, I met with the staff headed by its Vice President. During the consultative meeting, both sides agreed to work together in the areas of Teacher Education and Nursing Programs, as well as cultural exchange. At the end of the consultation, I invited the Vice President and his team to visit Lofa County University next year, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the county’s establishment in 1964,” he said.

Senator Jallah mentioned that during his trip, he coordinated with an old friend in Columbus, Georgia, Andy Garr, who now heads a drug-free organization called Turn Around America (TAA), which focuses on anti-drug abuse and drug trafficking.

The organization, founded by the late Dr. Hernan Wrice in the 1990s, is known for its famous slogan “Up with hope and down with Dope.” According to the Mural Arts Philadelphia, TAA founder Herman Wrice transformed Philadelphia through his enduring commitment to social activism and belief in the transformative power of a strong community. A native of West Philadelphia, Wrice experienced firsthand the gang violence and drug culture that infiltrated the lives of many youths in the neighborhood. Through the creation of his organization to inspire entrepreneurs and future leaders in underserved neighborhoods, Wrice broke down the door to the crack house with a sledgehammer. The sight of the young kids and community members in the house struck a chord with Wrice and served as a catalyst for the founding of an organization called Mantua Against Drugs (MAD). The community united against a common enemy, successfully closing and demolishing the crack house and marching against street drug dealers.

Senator Jallah mentioned that he once worked closely with Dr. Hernan Wrice of Pennsylvania and Andy Garr of Texas between 1998 and 2000 when he worked on the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Agency of Liberia (LDEA). Mr. Andy Garr arranged for him to meet several TAA groups and civil society bodies in Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

“I also met a group of neighborhood drug fighters that have an agriculture farm to transform young people into useful citizens in the USA. The social transformation is called the ‘Rite to Passage.’ The group assembled to meet me at their agriculture site.

During the meeting with community neighbors, I was fortunate to meet with two Representatives from the state of Georgia and one Senator, the Mayor for the city of Columbus, Georgia, and a member of the city council, among others,” he said.

He further stated that he discussed a “sister” relationship between Columbus, TAA Columbus youth, and counterparts in Lofa County to share agricultural methods and provide youth entrepreneurship training via Zoom and/or social media.

Cllr. Jallah mentioned that from Columbus, Georgia, he continued to Tampa, Florida, where he met with a veteran community activist, Madam Chloe Coney, founder and director emeritus of the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, along with the present executive director, Earnest Coney, Jr. Madam Coney informed them that the neighborhoods used for drug abuse were confiscated and converted through the corporation’s TAA efforts.

“I toured their Urban Enterprise Center for Entrepreneurship and learned about their Youth Success, Workforce Development, and Real Estate Development Centers. These four centers focus on creating opportunities for people to build prosperous futures and vibrant communities. Possible collaborations were discussed on youth and community development, as well as crime and violence prevention. I invited them both to visit Lofa County, Liberia, as guests of the senator at Lofa County’s upcoming 60th-anniversary celebration in 2024,” he said.

Senator Jallah mentioned that prior to his departure for the USA, he was requested by the leadership of the Lofa County Association in the Americas, based in Minnesota, to attend its annual convention and serve as the installing officer for their elected officials. During his speech to the Lofa Citizens in the USA, he provided them with updates on development in the county, ranging from road construction and the elevation of the Lofa County Community College from an associate degree program to a four-year full-fledged degree-granting program, to rural electrification and the progress made by the county in sports, with the men winning the championship of the league.