This blog recounts my personal growth and reflections gained during the 11 years (1979-1990) that Liberia was my home. My family fled during the Liberian Civil War, but the Republic of Liberia remains an important part of my life and my story. I use this medium to inform my readers.
As the woman who has lived in Liberia, West Africa for eleven years and the author of "Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot", a 318 page memoir about that life, I have a close and fairly unique vantage point of Liberia.
As a matter of fact, I was born on the south side of Chicago at a Catholic Hospital that no longer exists and if it did, they would be chasing my daddy to pay for my birth because, as my mother tells it, my dad sneaked us out without ever paying the bill! He was a wonderful, adventurous man, but, well, bill paying wasn't his thing.
But I digress, the point of this post is that I'm going to claim the right to speak a bit about Liberia because after living and working and bearing three of my children there, I have put something good into that pot. Some of my Liberian friends may be annoyed by what I'm going to say next, but friends speak the truth to friends, or else they are not really friends.
I see the civil turmoil, ignorance, poverty and lack of economic development that the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is struggling to overcome and it seems so simple to me that Liberians, in the interest of progress need to find a way to overcome the bitter divisions that led to a war that began in December of 1989 with a 'rebel incursion' and spun into a horrific civil war, from which Liberia is struggling to recover. There is much work that needs to be done to help Liberia and I know many Liberians and Americans who feel that way. But, but the plain truth is that the greatest barrier to Liberia's rise is Liberians!
With a Liberian community in Chicago of thousands, the Community would not, come together to host a unified Liberian Independence Day celebration. There was a celebration hosted by the Liberian Community Association of Illinois (LCAI) in one part of town and another hosted by the Organization of the Liberian Community in Illinois (OICI) in another part of town. Last year when I learned there were two celebrations, I was a good soldier and hauled my daughter and her Liberian partner to both celebrations. I'm not saying that there can't be two celebrations, but I don't get a sense of Unity and cooperation between the two groups. Whenever I ask my Liberian friends about the division I get a polite answer that shifts the discord to the other group and the responsibility to bring unity elsewhere.
This year as I was preparing myself to attend both Liberian Independence Day Celebrations I stopped in my tracks and just could not do it! If we can't create a vision of UNITY here in Chicago, how can we ever expect to see that out pictured in Liberia?
I have great respect for the leadership of both groups. They have lovingly embraced me as their sister, validated my experiences in Liberia and helped me feel a part of a beloved community. I care for them very much and so I say to my friends in both groups, "having different goals and a different focus is sometimes necessary, but not working collaboratively to create an event that lifts the celebration of your countries Independence Day to a higher more dignified level, not setting the example of UNITY is, in my opinion, just plain wrong.
I'd be happy to have Liberians push back on me here, I actually invite it because I'm not judging, I'm seeking information. Last Saturday, as the Republic of Liberia celebrated its 165th day of Independence in two separate gatherings in Chicago, I lamented the fact that with the thousands of talented Liberians in Chicago a really unified effort around this important day, could make a splash in this city! A multi-day event that could command television news coverage, perhaps featuring a cultural extravaganza, showcase West African Cuisine, offer a day or two of seminars on investment in Liberia, showcase the reports of various successful development efforts in Liberia, draw Liberians from other parts of the country, and reenergize the Liberian community spiritually. But an event like that would take UNITY.
On behalf of myself and my family I will say that I will not attend another separate Liberian Independence Day event in Chicago.