An Afternoon with LitWorld Board Member Chernor Bah

Throughout the first three weeks at LitWorld, my fellow interns and I have met a slew of inspiring and captivating affiliates. One after another, the staff introduces us to magnificent people who gracefully share their stories. On Wednesday, Natasha and I had the privilege of meeting Chernor Bah, a member of the LitWorld Board of Directors. As we introduced ourselves on Skype, Chernor asked that we each answer the question “if you could change the world in one way, what would that be?” When his pixelated face told us he would spread the education and empowerment of women and girls, I was hooked.

As a teenager growing up in wartime Sierra Leone, Chernor had the idea to collect the stories of his peers, whose voices, unless they were involved in a horrific incident, went unheard. Amazingly, he turned this idea into action by forming the Children’s Forum Network and curating his country’s oral history. He compiled these stories with the hopes of youth voices shaping policy. As he has aged, Chernor has collected stories internationally and pursued similar ends with his dissertation. Chernor possesses a contagious idealism (that can even be transmitted through Skype). Speaking with him, I could understand the delicacy with which he treats youth narratives and how deeply he cherishes them.

At the end of our discussion, Chernor offered to answer any question we may have. Natasha asked why he singled out women’s and girls’ education. A self-professed feminist, he explained that while growing up, the strength of the women around him—his mother and two older sisters—always impressed him. However, even though he believed his sisters were smarter than he, they had fewer opportunities to cultivate their intelligence. Witnessing this unfairness inspired him to support education.

What I found most impressive about Chernor is his ability to transform his own experience into activism. In the worlds of second-wave feminists, he has truly made the personal political. Despite the difficulty of executing that transition, Chernor makes it appear seamless. His appetite for justice is insatiable: by not accepting the inequities he has confronted, Chernor has made the world more accurately reflect his own ideals. Do not be complacent when you could be compassionate.

--Susannah Rosenfield, LitWorld Intern