5 October 2017

Liberia: The Story Behind Young Actor Joe and His Homeless Mother

You might have seen Joe on a Facebook live streaming being picked on by kids while selling his black plastic bags on the set of a movie he acted in earlier this year, or in films pretty much showing the same thing - a child who is disabled and behaves in violent manner. What most people don't know is, Joe, whose age is unsure, has been picked on all his life and doesn't know how to communicate with his mother, to help her get off the streets now that he has won himself some fame.

A couple of years ago, a production team operated by a group of men from various neighboring countries, Nigeria to be precise, came together and began taking kids with some form of deformity off the streets and using them as attractions for their homemade movies. You may know of two little boys, both suffering from dwarfism, and a man they call Samaguan, who began the trend that has now become popular in comedy movies.

Before Joe got picked up as Liberia's next new actor, he was partly living with his grandmother around the Snapper Hill community; some days he went home, some days he just slept on the streets, battered and wearing only a dirty T-shirt. Joe refused to talk to anyone whenever he was asked, "Where is your mother?"; "Are you hungry, little boy?"

On several occasions, our reporter tried speaking with his grandmother, but she was unable to give any further information on the child.

People who have known Joe since he was a small child retell a strange story that is yet to add up, but given that Joe has never been to school, is unable to understand how to communicate and looks as if he suffers from a birth defect called Microcephaly, which causes a baby's head to be much smaller than expected, he has not been able to confirm it.

According to many, before Joe could get his big break working in a small studio situated in Slipway, he hung around his mother, Tutu Girl, as she is called, everyday.

What many wanted to know was why was there never any sign of social contact like a hug, a kiss, or any sign of knowing each other while lying next to his mother?

Joe's mother is presently still on the streets.

"Tutu Girl was a victim of eviction; she used to squat with her family up Snapper Hill. In 2013, they evicted her and everyone in the house and broke the building down. She had to run away leaving Joe behind. A church was built there later," stated a Facebook post by our reporter.

According to reports in dailies across Liberia back in 2013, Tutu Girl had just given birth to a baby girl and the child was a couple of weeks old when the eviction took place. Because of Joe's ability to comprehend as normal children would, his mother decided to stay close by, sleeping on the streets day and night in hopes of seeing her child again.

She stayed right where she was, articulating to newspapers that her son would not be able to find her if she moved, despite people offering her a house to stay and a safe haven for her and the baby.

No one knows if she ever found Joe, because weeks after her story was published all over local media, she was spotted again, but this time without her infant, and something strange about her. Gone was the clean and healthy look, now replaced with rags and a look of emptiness. Whenever people tried talking to her, she wrapped her face with rags and put her head between her legs; and it has been this way since 2013.

Two years ago, Joe began sleeping a few feet away from Tutu Girl. We are not sure if he knows her mental state or how to help her in her depression, but it's obvious that he knows that she is his mother. But, no reports have come up stating if Tutu Girl is Joe's mother, though neighbors, his grandmother and those who lived in the community with them say that she is.

Meanwhile, a group of advocates have been reading about this story on social media and have decided to step in by finding ways to get the attention of some of Liberia's presidential candidates in hopes that they can help put this family back together.

Unfortunately, Joe has disappeared from the picture again, and is no longer seen coming around Tutu Girl, or even around Broad Street as before. But the group, who has asked not to be named, say they intend to rally in the name of this family so that this story can end on a happy note.

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