Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meeting the President of Liberia - Part 1

As I wrote my book, "Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot," I had several goals in mind. First, I wanted to make sure that I documented the experience for my children. My eldest daughter Tonya became a woman and a mother during our 11 years in Liberia, West Africa. My eldest son Gyasi arrived in Liberia when he was just 6 months old and my other three children, Zevah, Muasa and Hope, were born in Liberia.

Over the years, their memories of Liberia began to fade as did mine and I feared that in 20 or 30 years the story of our lives in Liberia would be lost. I wanted desperately to preserve a very important portion of our family's history.

As I wrote, I recalled the beauty that was Liberia, and the spirit and hope of the Liberian people and realized that the Liberian war had changed that. I wondered what it must be like to be a Liberian in America and have people reference, not the art and culture and natural resources of your country, but the barbarism and brutality that had made it infamous. I wondered what it must be like to be the President of such a country. How difficult it must be to maintain your ground in the international community, head held high, friend raising and fundraising against the backdrop of the horrors of the Liberian Civil War and the trial of Charles Taylor, your country's former president, for crimes against humanity.

I wondered what it must be like to be the first female elected African president. I wondered what it must be like to be President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

So. My second thought was that perhaps my book would provide an opportunity to share something positive, about the sweetness of Liberia, the wonderful humanity and kindness, and freedom from fear I had experienced for many years, before the war erupted and sucked the civility out of Liberia. Perhaps, "Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot," could, in some small way, show Americans and particularly African Americans that Liberia had been, and again could be, a place that people consider when they want to vacation, or retire. Liberia could again be a place where international agencies and faith-based organizations feel comfortable to engage in development and missionary work: a country where African Americans could begin to invest our money in businesses and in the future redevelopment of Liberia!

Then I remembered my introduction to President Sirleaf many years earlier, in Liberia, when she was just Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Ministry of Finance and I was just the Directress of the Red Cross Day Care Center. Something made me think, wouldn't it be nice if, as she moves about the world, trying to friend raise and fundraise on behalf of her beloved Liberia, that she knew that there were many people thinking good things about Liberia. It was then that I said in my heart, "I intend to give her a copy of my book." end of part 1