Diplomatic Impunity

Wouldn't you love to rub shoulders with a man who has been knighted by the Queen of England, honored by the Pope, and appointed our local Liberian ambassador? Of course you would!

Finally Boada himself takes center stage. Standing behind the Liberian flag, his thick hair curling in the humidity, he wipes his hands on his suit jacket. Immediately he addresses a sticking point.

"Yes, we have been called a flag of convenience," he bellows. "And I've had that hurled at me as something I should not be proud of. To which I say this: Isn't it convenient to have a flag that stands for freedom of navigation? I think it's important [to promote] freedom of the seas, freedom of commerce, and to have our flag waving in Miami and in every port of this continent, and all the other continents every day of every year for more than 100 years." Pausing to emphasize his main point, he wipes the sweat from his eyes. "A flag of convenience is convenient to have!"

As he assumes "this very powerful office," Boada says, he wants to express his gratitude to his late father (who taught him to wield "power without arrogance"), to his mother (who taught him that "defeat isn't an option"), and to Daryl Jones ("thank you for your intelligence"). Lastly, he beams, he would like to thank the person who got him started on the road to diplomatic dominance: Charles Cinnamon.

The Dean of PR twitches timidly when Boada calls him forward. "I've had basically zero opportunities given to me in life," the ambassador-at-large proclaims. "I have created my own. But then there are those few angels who come around, and Charlie was one of them."

Boada calls to Mario Lamar, his First Secretary. Rising from the front row of chairs facing the stage, Lamar brings forth a golden dagger. "Malta tells me we have to go through the formalization of the accolades," Boada intones, clasping the knife and tapping Cinnamon on each shoulder. "It gives me great pleasure to declare you, Charlie Cinnamon, Sir Charlie Cinnamon."

The End of the Party
After the musicians have packed up their instruments and the tiny Liberian flags on the hors d'oeuvres have been tossed into plastic garbage bags, the guests that remain move upstairs to Boada's apartment for an after-party. His mother scurries around the kitchen, trying to clear space for a bartender, who lugs in what's left of the champagne and beer. The kitchen sink is filled with ice to cool the liquor.

"I am very happy about it," Mrs. Boada says of her son's diplomatic appointment, "but to tell you the truth I don't want to give an interview or anything like that, because I am not authorized by anyone to give an interview."

The new ambassador sheds his blue suit in favor of a multicolor kinte and a white Muslim kufi, approximating the African headgear of Konah Blackett, who has settled onto a couch.

"He's a chap, you know? He knows people," Blackett pronounces with more than a hint of admiration. "I have never seen someone who knows so many people of substance. I have talked to some people in London, people who impress me, and he knows them personally. I don't know how he is able to penetrate in Holland as well, but he knows the highest people there, too. Those at the top! I mean, he had a senator at the party! This kind of man can be of use to us."

Two weeks later, ensconced back in Washington and speaking by telephone, Blackett will revise his assessment somewhat: "He is not the ambassador, he doesn't have documentation. Liberia doesn't have any representative in Florida. We don't have one now, and we don't have plans in the immediate future to do anything in Florida. And if we decide to have an ambassador, we will make sure it is done properly."

Such situations are not uncommon in Liberian diplomacy, Blackett will concede: "Three years ago a guy flew into Miami from Canada and said the same thing, that he was the ambassador from Liberia. Apparently Miami is the hot spot for this kind of thing."

Perhaps coincidentally, in the weeks that follow the party Boada will drastically lower his public profile. In response to phone calls, his attache will say her boss is out of the country for an indeterminate amount of time and cannot be reached. A faxed list of questions concerning his credentials and the business of selling titles will go unanswered.

But for now, with the embers of his party gracefully dying -- a leggy model dancing a mock flamenco here, an FIU professor slumped wearily in an easy chair there -- Boada is still giddily riding his VIP high.

"I feel very little motivation to do anything right now, because I have in terms of money, in terms of achievement, very little that I haven't already done," he offers. "A friend of mine said I must be going through a midlife crisis. Now, in most midlife crises, you get to 40 and you realize that you've accomplished nothing of what you set out to do. But she said, 'Tony, the problem with you is you've accomplished everything. And now you're probably wondering, "Where do I go from here?"'"

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