“I Am Back More Than Ever Before” -Charlyne Speaks on Grief, the Brumskine Legacy, Her Own Initiatives
To walk in the oversize shoes of a legal luminary and political heavyweight such as the late Liberty Party founder and vision bearer, Counselor Charles Walker Brumskine, is indeed an audacious task. His passing in November 2019 had not only left the Liberty Party more vulnerable, but the issue of having someone who would fill in the void that Cllr. Brumskine left has been of grievous concern to LP stalwarts and partisans, especially as the country heads to the December 2020 midterm senatorial elections when the Liberty Party would field its most qualified candidates under the tent of the Collaboration of Political Parties. Stepping from the shadows of an imposing father figure, Cllr. Charlyne Brumskine is not only the spitting image of her revered dad, but she is poised to carry his torch, the legacy that he bequeathed to the people of Gbehzon and Liberia. Providing her first in-depth interview since the passing of her father in November 2019 due to prostate cancer, Charlyne Brumskine told her SpoonTV Talk Show audience and her fellow citizens over the weekend that she is back in full swing from her 2017 political sabbatical, and after attending to her late father during his ailment and subsequent funeral. “I will say this again. In 2019 my father was dying of cancer. I was not involved in politics. I was spending time with my father. But 2020 since his passing, I am back in full. The Charlyne Brumskine you saw in 2016, 2017, I am coming back double, double to make sure that we help Liberia move forward.”
Sharing Memories of Love and Grief
The oldest and only female offspring of the Liberty Party vision bearer, Charlyne sees herself as the one who was always very close to her father, sharing in his passion for law, and now politics. Her two younger siblings Charles and Walker Brumskine, both resident in the United States, are married and practice law. In her own words, these are the memories she holds dearly in her heart about the late Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine and the grief she bore on his tragic passing last November.
“I am a lawyer, a mother to two amazing children, a 13 year-old daughter and a nine year-old son. I like to call myself a humanitarian. I care very much about Liberia and the most vulnerable members of our society. I am a proud member of the Liberty Party.
“I had a very good relationship with the old man, and I don’t grieve just the work of my father. He was not just my father. He was one of my best friends; my political leader, my political mentor. He embodies all that was good in Liberian politics. I had always hoped and aspired to be like Brumskine. He also was my professional mentor. I practiced law in the state of New York in Washington DC, moved back to Liberia in 2013 and I took the Liberian Bar exams. He helped me spread my wings; he helped me to navigate corporate and commercial laws in Liberia, as you know he was one of the premier corporate lawyers in Liberia. I learned about the rule of law in Liberia and litigation through Charles Walker Brumskine.
“Also, one of the things I learned from my father was that he was a man of tremendous faith. Say what you want to say about him, my father wore his faith sometimes almost to his detriment. He believed in the word of God to a tee. He wasn’t perfect but he was a fundamentalist. He admitted to his fault daily, but he was a born-again Christian. He tried to live a very different life in his latter days. He instilled in my family, my mother, my brothers and I, the importance of faith and integrity; the importance of doing the right things even when no one was watching.
“Most importantly, he taught us, his children, to always betray our generation. I asked him, what do you mean by ‘betray our generation’? He said, ‘Charlyne, look around you. Look at your contemporaries. Look how politics is done in this country. Look how business is done. Look at our court system. I want you to go against the grade. It will not always be easy to do things differently, but betray what is harming, what is contemporary, and do it differently and do it the right way’. So I have prayed to God to help me take my father’s advice.
“Last year was one of the worst years of my life. My father died from prostate cancer. I used to hear about cancer so much, even when I was in America and I would go to the supermarket and they would ask you to pledge a dollar to the American Cancer Society, and you would see these children in the commercials; but until you experience it, you wouldn’t really understand the tragedy. I don’t know if any of you have had a loved one with cancer, but the experience is demonic. It is from the pit of hell, that disease. It is horrible. So you see someone who is your role model suffer; it’s tragic. My father was my first love, he’s the first man I fell in love with. Most girls, their first love is their father; and to see this man who was my super hero deteriorate in the way he did. But he was so gracious and grateful. He believed in God. He praised God until his last breath. But one thing he said to me when he was sick…we would talk about different things, but mostly the law, because he loved the law. He would say to me: “Charlyne, I am so proud of you, you are daddy’s girl. So I am following in his footsteps legally. I have a law firm. I think I am one of the few women that is a founder of an emerging and growing law firm. It’s called the CMB Law Group, so I am following his footsteps in that way.
On Brumskine’s Legacy
Those who came in close contact with the late Liberty Party founder and vision bearer always left with a profound feeling that the man possessed uncommon humility for someone of his stature. His perennial reference to his colleagues and subordinates as ‘boss’ is something that many of those that passed under his tutelage had come to adopt. In throwing light on his vision and legacy for Liberia, Charlyne shares key points on what Cllr. Brumskine stood for and lived by.
“This man lived and breathed Liberty Party, sometimes to the detriment of his biological family. He and his wife, my mother, were married for 45 years. They had been together for about 48 years. She sacrificed so much. He gave so much of his time to the Liberty Party, so much of his money. You know, there was this Forbes Africa article that was circulated years ago that was completely fabricated; a complete lie that said that Brumskine was worth millions of dollars. Complete lie, but I wished. But the point is that the little he did have, he devoted it to the Liberty Party and to the Liberian people. I will say it from the deepness of my soul, that man truly believed in the greatness of Liberia. After he lost three elections, when 2017 hit us, it devastated us. We will speak honestly. I know the work I did in 2016 and 2017. I know the work people like Ben Sanvee did, and then to find out we did not win the elections. So when people told my father to give up on Liberia, that these people are horrible, they have lied, they cheated the elections, but my father would never agree. Even when he had decided that he no longer was going to be our political leader, he never allowed anyone to tell him that our people were worthless; that our people were liars. He believed in Liberians, he loved Liberia. During his funeral I said Charles Brumskine saw Liberia as this beautiful woman who was victimized over and over again. So when people said to her, you are useless, you’re this, you’re that, he said no. Let’s bring her. Let’s embrace her. Let’s clean her, let’s dress her; let’s feed her, let’s pray for her. That’s how he felt about Liberia, and he sacrificed everything for this country, and he would do it again.
“Now let’s speak to his legacy. I bear his last name. I don’t have the financial wherewithal that so many other people do. I don’t have the political connections and influences that other people do, but what I do know that I have garnered for myself a little name with the common people. In 2016 and 2017, the work that we did as a team resonated with so many Liberians. I know so many people who will send me WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages when I post, to say, ‘we will keep CWB legacy alive’. So, can Charlyne Brumskine do it alone? No. But he has many sons and daughter who will continue to carry on that legacy.
Let me tell you what he left for Liberia as a whole. My father created an institution that continues to thrive and survive even after his passing. I’ve had men and women, I don’t know if it’s even okay to call names, but someone who is an uncle to me, Benoni Urey, had said to me, after my father’s passing, he said, your father built sons and daughters. I heard this from so many political influencers in Liberia. They said this man built an institution, and he built so many people who call the name of Charles Brumskine today. Integrity is the belt that they wear. What do I mean when I say integrity? What we mean is that he taught us to put the people, the constituents, to put the populace before our own needs. We had people in Liberty Party who are leading auxiliary groups, who, even after Charles Brumskine’s passing, are still going into communities and working with the most vulnerable because they believe in that vision of restoration – restoration of ideas, recovering our values, reforming our institutions, rebuilding Liberia. Those are the four Rs that Brumskine instilled in us that we continue to hold today. He built young leaders. We have someone like Benjamin Sanvee, Kla Toomey, Augustine Frederick… these are young men who are in Liberty Party, who despite Cllr. Brusmskine’s death, are constantly standing up to issues that they feel are priority in our country and our body polity. He built institutions, he made sure young people had a place in our society. He taught us to ensure the objectives of the most vulnerable members of our society before our own objectives.”
Emulating Brumskine, Working Towards a Brighter Future for Liberia
One of the best ways to emulate Charles Brumskine, Charlyne said, is just to do the right thing, to be a good person even when one’s name is being dragged to the mud.
“Right now the kinds of things that are happening around me, people are fighting me, people are accusing me of wanting to take over leadership of the party, the kinds of things that are being said about me; it’s outrageous. And I say, ‘what would dad do’? He never wrestled in the mud. He always had integrity and dignity. And I think that was leadership. So in that regard, just trying to be good person and doing the right thing even when it’s difficult, is one way I emulate him.
“Now politically, I moved back to Liberia 2013 with no thoughts of being involved in politics. The work I did before moving to Liberia was a lot of child welfare work. When I moved here, I actually wanted to work with the Ministry of Gender and I applied for a job when Julia Duncan-Cassell was Minister. But as God would have it, I didn’t get offered the job. Maybe it’s God’s divine providence. But I started working in the legal field and then 2015 came and daddy was going to run again, so I got really involved. But I did not get involved in politics as a politician. I truly got involved because I saw the suffering of the Liberian people – the women and children.
“When you move from America and you move back to Liberia, your lens is very different. In the US, you will never see children as young as five years old selling in the streets. I would drive on the ELWA Highway, sometimes at 10-11 at night because I had friends that I would visit. I would see 12 year-old girls at the drinking spot with 50 year old men. It’s not a secret. You would see young children. And that moved me. My father would tell me stories about market women. I remember Ma Gbalee, a Bassa woman who was a marketer on the Old Road, one of the few Bassa women to move from a little table to a store front because of the micro loan Brumskine gave her. He started telling me about the plight of the market women. Then I heard stories about women who were abused physically and mentally. So I entered politics with this hope that God would restore Liberia to its greater day, to try to help our people. But then, for me, it became natural because people looked at me and thought, this is Brumskine’s daughter coming from America, she’s looking this way, she’s got long hair, will she able to relate to the people? And we went to Doe community, to every community, put my rain boots on, walked in the dirty water, went to campaigns and fell in love with Liberia.
“After all of that happened, we worked, worked, worked in Bassa and Montserrado. We were sure of going to the second round. We got the result that was a big surprise to us. I was devastated. When George Weah became president, I said publicly I will support him. We went to court, we believed that all the evidence was in our favor, that there had been some fraud, but the Supreme Court voted against us. When George Weah was inaugurated as president, my father and I went to his inauguration and I pledged my support to him. Now 2018 I told my father I was going to take a rest, to take care of myself and my children. I will leave you for one year. My father is gone now, and I assure you that I will be actively involved in politics in Liberia. I will ensure that his legacy continues I will ensure that every promise he could not fulfill, that we will fulfill it. So yes, I intend to be involved.
“My initiatives right now are not just in Grand Bassa. My initiatives primarily are in Montserrado. The Brumskine Family Foundation was in Grand Bassa, Montserrado; we did work in Greeneville, Sinoe, Nimba, Cape Mount and other areas. I’ve tried to continue some of the initiatives of the Brumskine Family Foundation through scholarships and what Brumskine had. My firm, the CMB Law Group, took on some of the Brumskine Family Foundation scholarships, but we also have our own scholarships that we provide to children from elementary school to college. I have my Grand Bassa Student Union people who have been coming to me. We just received another letter from them so we will be certainly involved. They will receive the same support that Cllr. Brumskine used to provide for them. Education is something that is very important for me. But even beyond that, we do interventions for women facing domestic violence. During COVID-19, we ensured our people in our community had food, masks, buckets.