Together, Fatu Gayflor, Marie Nyenabo, Tokay Tomah and Zaye Tete, all of whom tell their stories in the movie, Because of the War, formed an ensemble in 2013. They call this group The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change. These remarkable singers dedicate themselves to addressing issues of Liberian immigrant women through the performance of traditional and newly-composed songs.
Thousands of Liberian families live in the Philadelphia area, making it one of the largest Liberian communities in the United States. Most arrived as refugees after 1989, when the first of back-to-back civil wars broke out in their homeland. Many carry with them memories and legacies of loss, trauma and violence. Within these families, women bear particular burdens. Isolation, fear of asking for help, and not knowing what one’s rights are, were particular issues that Fatu, Marie, Tokay and Marie had heard neighbors and friends speak of. They decided to address some of these issues through what they do best: performing and engaging in conversations with their audiences. With financial and logistical support from the Philadelphia Folklore Project, and training from Women Against Abuse, the members of the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change have placed a special emphasis on intimate partner violence (a problem in communities everywhere) in their programs, enlightening people about local resources, and encouraging them to reach out. It’s amazing that all four of these women have joined forces in Philadelphia to offer beauty, entertainment and connections to culture and traditions back home as well as a platform for the discussion of current troubles and possible alternative ways to move into the future.