News Paper Article – Los Angeles Sentinel
Thursday, December 16, 1999
Section B- 5
Kaia N. Shivers, Staff Writer
Found at Black Resource Center Library
150 E. El Segundo Blvd. LA, CA 90061
Or call 310-538-0059
Editing her show in a local production room of Media One for up to 16, sometimes 18-hours a day can be a tiresome task for Elizabeth Yaba, founder of Yaba Productions. However, the career driven socially conscious and determined producer knows her sacrifices have been well worth the rewards she has reaped since establishing herself in television. “My feeling is that this is the new millennium and we’re taking strides to portray Africa and totally different light, says Yaba.” “The time has come for Africa to be seen in its true beauty and essence as opposed to the negative images that have existed in western media for so long. We’re bridging the gap between Africa and all cultures. Indeed the Sierra Leone-born Yaba is in the forefront of ensuring that Africans from the continent and throughout the Diaspora receive their rightful position in television, film and media. With a major cable contract that has expanded the broadcast of her show “Chesima Series,” to 5.9 million television households in Los Angeles and San Diego which accounts for 95 percent of all cable households in Southern California. Yaba is excited about becoming a force to be reckoned with in the year 2000. “Chesima Series” which means bridging the gap in Yaba’s native language Kono, is a show that was created out of Yaba’s determination to place a favorable spotlight on African people. “When I first came here, I always wanted to portray this positive image of Africa because when we are in Africa, all we hear about is how the western media portrays Africans. This is so wron,g and it’s always negative” said Yaba. They talk about how Africa doesn’t have anything, and how we don’t have a powerful media like the West to counter these negative comments. It was then that a burning desire in me sprang up to portray Africa in a positive perspective.
Yaba, who raised in a small village called Sukudu, received the opportunity to come to America through the sponsorship of a prominent African-American family, says Yaba, just like many Africans, I had a dream of coming to America. The picture of America was that it was the land of milk and honey. I had the honor of being sponsored by James Meredith, the first African-American to attend a white university in Mississippi. While living in Ohio with the Merediths, Yaba exposed to television production by James’s wife Judith, who was an accomplished television journalist and news anchorwoman. Yaba recalls Judith bringing her into the set of the news cast and allowing her to watch all the activities of production from behind the scenes. It was then the shy Yaba recognized that TV was something she saw herself doing. At first, it was difficult because normally in some African cultures they don’t allow you to have straight eye contact with someone older than you, Yaba explains. But Judy saw how interested I was in TV and told me one day that with proper nurturing and training, I could be good at this. And I tell you, being there at the station was the best hands on training I’ve ever had. After spending several months in Ohio, Yaba moved to Los Angeles. She received vocational training in legal word processing and immediately entered the workforce. First she worked at a law firm and then in a prestigious architecture firm. Soon after, Yaba became involved with Crenshaw Continental Cablevision, now Media One as an intern. There she received the opportunity to broadcast her own show after submitting the idea to the program director. “I wrote to them about an idea for a show called “Local Originator,” states Yaba. Through my essay the saw I had experience and liked my idea. It was arranged that I would provide local talent and they would provide the technical support.
Soon after the show’s debut, Yaba began to receive praise from cable viewers. Seen as a refreshing program, her show became a favorite among Continental Cable subscribers. While honoring her production skills, Yaba also maintained her 9 to 5 with the architecture firm. Selected to work on a multimillion dollar project on her primary job, Yaba began to become bogged down by the stress and pressure of trying to do both. “After that project was over (at the architecture firm), I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I came out with some gray hairs, but also realized I could give my same talents to my own company, says Yaba. Eventually, she left the firm after saving enough money and purchasing inventory for an African clothes boutique. The store was located at the hub of Los Angeles black economic community – on Crenshaw Blvd. Yaba almost instantaneously acquired an impressive clientele of celebrities and community members . Although the clothing store was doing brisk business, television was still her first love. Thus Yaba decided to expand her commitment to her passion and formed her own production company. For almost six years, her clothing boutique flourished and her production company went through its toddler years and early childhood. Then the boutique fell on hard times and she began to suffer financial losses. “When I began to get more involved with the TV show, I spent less and less time at the store. I would spend weeks, sometimes one or two months traveling and filming in Africa. I hired people that I thought I could trust to take care of the store but it’s not the same. People will smile in your face and steal money behind your back, comments the now experienced and savvy business woman. Upon returning from a business trip, Yaba discovered that her employees were not coming to work and were even taking merchandise out of the store. Battling the dishonest employees proved too much for Yaba so she decided to close the store and invest all her time and energy into her production company. With her attention now fully on carrying her vision of showcasing the rich cultures of African people, Yaba began to feature some of Africa’s most prominent leaders.
“In 1994 I got the honor of interviewing the President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings. It was a major breakthrough for me. To meet any African president is not easy. The interview had a significant impact on Yaba’s success. She formed a strong business relationship with Rawlings which opened many doors for her on the continent as well as here in the United States. She has since traveled to many African nations, meeting numerous dignitaries. Yaba has also had to opportunity to interview prominent African-Americans due to the show’s success. Local notables such as L.A County Supervisor, Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, Senator Diane Watson, former L.A. Police Chief Willie Williams and current Chief, Bernard Parks have all been guests. Yaba is not only becoming a household name in Southern California, but she is also a hero in her own West African country.