James Emmanuel Roberts, aka Kona Khasu (Sr), Founder/Director
In the 70’s, Kona served as Director the the Liberian Cultural Center at Kendeja where he introduced Kendeja Comes to you, a program where national artists were promoted arts and culture through direct visits to the nation’s schools. His directorship saw innovations in the national troupe’s repertory of plays and traditional ballets. He also opened the first school for children of artists as well as young performers. He also created, directed and produced Liberia’s first TV series, Kotati, with members of the Blamadon Theater Troupe and recognized internationally as one of Africa’s accomplished artists.
He was jailed two times, in 1975 and 1986, respectively prompting a move to the United States where he stayed for over a decade. He served as Director for Planning at Liberia’s Ministry of Education from 2006 to 2010 where he led the Liberian delegation that negotiated donor partners, UNICEF, The Soros Foundation, The E.U. and others, governing principles of the 240 million dollar Pool Fund to rebuild Liberia’s post-war education system. After leaving government, he served as Executive Director of the Providence Baptist Foundation. Accomplishments include completion of the Alexander Letter Academy on the Liberia/Sierra Leone border. This School served as the site of a farm and Providence Water, a commercially sold bottled water that remains the church’s most successful social entrepreneurial effort to date.
He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees with distinction from Hobart College, Boston University and Harvard University. He is the father of several adult children and grandchildren.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and raised in Monrovia, Liberia, Sengbe has an MFA in Filmmaking from Boston University where his first screenplay, “Terminal Island”, about life in Liberia, was a runner-up in The Writer’s Guild of America Scenario Magazine Student
Competition (1995); that script along with his second, “NAT TURNER” were semi-finalists in The Sundance Writer’s Lab the following year. He has worked as a “writer for hire” for movie actor Will Smith and adapted Caryl Phillips’s novel on vaudeville legend Bert Williams, DANCING IN THE DARK, into a screenplay.
He is the director of the short film, HUNTING IN AMERICA, (2001). HUNTING IN AMERICA project and team placed Semi-finalist in the 2014 Sundance Creative Producers Lab. The theatrical full-length version is in pre-production.
He produced, directed, and edited ‘NO MORE SELECTIONS! WE WANT ELECTIONS!’ (2012), a feature
length documentary on the Liberian elections of 2005 that saw Africa democratically elect its first
woman President – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. The documentary was funded in part by a grant from Open Society Foundation.
A multi-discipline artist, he has toured the world as a bass player with renowned jazz saxophonist and Grammy-winner, Kenny Garrett and sang in the Vai language of Liberia on Mr. Garrett’s Grammy-nominated 2012 release, “Seeds From The Underground”. Most recently he has appeared as a bassist on singer-songwriter Kevin So’s Nashville recording, Country Side, and his Asian American musical, Great Wall.
He has written, directed, produced, and is currently shooting, ‘BACK HOME’ (2014), a short film starring his younger brother, Saiba, and his father, James Emmanuel Roberts (aka Kona Khasu Sr.), a pioneer of the Liberian stage and creator of the nation’s first TV series.
D. Elwood Dunn, Phd. , Advisory Chair
He advises BCA officers on the foundation’s priorities, strategies and programming.
Elwood served as editor of the American-based Liberian Studies Journal, 1985-95, and has authored, co-authored, and edited several books and articles. A prolific orator, he holds the distinction of being called upon twice to provide national orations of Liberia by two Liberian Presidents. He has chaired several special presidential commissions to investigate matters of state.
He was born in Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County January 28, 1942 and raised by maternal grandparents. He graduated Cuttington College and Divinity School 1964, and was certificated in French in 1967 at the Universite de Lyon in France. He received a Ph.D. degree in International Studies from American University in 1972.
He was Minister of State for Presidential Affairs/Chief of Staff to President William R. Tolbert, Jr. when the April 1980 coup took place. He would teach briefly at the University of Liberia before leaving for the United States where he embarked on a 31 years academic career at The Sewanee: The University of the South where he would serve in various faculty capacities including chairman of the Department of Politics, and subsequently the Alfred Walter Negley Professor of Politics. He retains the title in retirement with the suffix “emeritus” added.