Believe in yourself. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be negative. You can do it.
From 10:15 to 11 every Friday night from a studio in downtown Monrovia, “The Leading Lady” on Truth FM 96.1 talks Liberians into believing in themselves — and, she hopes, out of their feelings of despair.
Matenneh-Rose Dunbar may not be a psychologist, but she sounds like one on the air. All of Liberia is her therapist’s couch. Her messages to her radio audience are simple — and clearly, in her mind, they can’t be delivered too often in her sleepy and soothing voice.
In an interview before we went on the air with her last week, Matenneh told her own story, just as she encourages her callers to do (and just as we do at Together Liberia as well). She says she is flourishing in Monrovia now, just a couple years after returning here from Nigeria, where she’d fled for a decade and a half to escape her own country’s civil war.
“Somehow we have gotten past all the hurt,” she says of Liberia’s war-rattled citizens. “I think we have healed very quickly.”
Healed, perhaps, but forever changed.
Matenneh herself casually mentioned to us that a fighter in the forces of rebel leader Charles Taylor was prepared to execute her in the mid ’90s when he asked, “What is your name?” It was a surname he recognized, so he let her go. She fled to Nigeria and finally went home to Monrovia — still carrying her fear — 16 years later.
“It was frightening,” she recalled of her return. “I still had this phobia that I was going to be hurt.”
Talking it out is her own therapy for that, and it is her callers’ release, too. “Radio is taking away their anger. People just want to be heard,” she says.
Talking and sharing, “The Leading Lady” assures us all in that dreamy tone, “is a very healthy thing.”