Ceasefire Liberia is to be re-launched in January 2012 and it is in need of volunteer bloggers/writers from any part of the world. Liberians are highly encouraged to apply. To apply, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and state as the subject, “Volunteer Blogger”.
By: Ruthie Ackerman
A long time has passed since my last update and so many amazing things have happened for Ceasefire Liberia.
First off, Ceasefire Liberia celebrated its one year anniversary last month! It’s been an amazing year: We have formed partnerships with other fantastic organizations, we’ve been profiled a number of times in the media, we have raised friends, recruited bloggers and even were in Santiago, Chile earlier this month for the Global Voices Citizen Media summit. One of the most exciting moments was when I met Nat Nyuan-Bayjay, Ceasefire Liberia’s blog manager, for the first time in the year we have been working together online. Isn’t it amazing when online and offline worlds converge? I met so many online friends in Chile, many whom I only knew from the Twitter handles. Another bonus from the trip: Global Voices donated a video camera to the Ceasefire project so our bloggers can start to work on video. So look for those soon!
Last month, a group of students from the Graduate Program in International Affairs at New School University undertook the preliminary planning and scoping for a multi-university support project targeted toward the Liberian independent media. The team’s Practicum assignment was to develop an initial look at what a web portal might look like that would support the project. The team also developed a survey to address specific questions regarding the needs of the independent media in the run-up to the 2011 election. These students came out to Staten Island to see the Ceasefire Liberia, meet some of our bloggers, and get some first-hand feedback from the Liberian community to understand the media environment both during the war years and after.
Also in April, Ceasefire Liberia was at Africa Gathering in Washington DC, where I learned about other great work being done on the African continent and met many of my heroes from the web. I was extremely excited to speak to Bill Zimmerman of Limbe Labs, who was kind enough to let me pick his brain about the role technology is playing in changing young people’s lives in Cameroon.
And now for the drumroll please- Ceasefire Liberia in the news. Here is a list of all our media mentions since my last check in six months ago:
The Paley Media Center profiled Ceasefire Liberia on its blog Think Social
Michelle Garcia of CUNY TV profiled Ceasefire Liberia’s Staten Island project
Tevah Platt of the Staten Island Advance profiled Ceasefire Liberia’s newest project, Ceasefire, which will launch this summer
Kevin Rennie captured on video Nat’s presentation about Ceasefire Liberia in Santiago (It was amazing and now you can see it for yourself!)
Nat interviewed for Future Challenges
Interview with Saki G. for Pocket Cultures
Interview with Boimah JV Boimah for Pocket Cultures
Lonely Planet featured Ceasefire Liberia in their “Blogs We Like” section
Here is a piece in German (!) but don’t worry if you don’t know German because there is a cute photo of Nat and I to look at.
And last but not least, the Kellogg Foundation gave us a grant to start a new arm of Ceasefire Liberia called Ceasefire, which will focus on creating a citizen media project for African immigrant and African-American youth in Staten Island based on the Ceasefire Liberia model. Look for that project to launch this summer!
Thanks for reading and supporting us!
*Some Pakistani troops patrolling Voinjama (photo by Ceasefire Liberia’s staff reporter)
By: Ruthie Ackerman
Article originally published on The Daily Beast
When the body of a young girl was found outside a mosque in Liberia, vigilante justice took over and fanned the flames of religious hatred.
Fourteen-year old Korpo Kamara has become a symbol of everything that is wrong in West African nation of Liberia.
The young girl was reported missing by her parents last month after she didn’t come home from picking cassava. She was found dead the next day near a mosque in the town of Konia, 55 miles from Voinjama, capital of Lofa County, one of the hardest-hit areas during Liberia’s 14-year civil war.
In a country with a strong justice system, the police would have acted swiftly to apprehend any suspects in the girl’s murder and courts would be called upon to deliver a verdict.
But in Liberia, as in many post-conflict nations, the justice system has failed the people. While much money has been poured into security-sector reform, very little has been focused on reforming the judicial sector. A lack of qualified personnel, and unpaid salaries for judges, prosecutors, and court staff, hampers the judicial process. To make matters worse, the police are poorly equipped, questionably staffed, and certainly ill-prepared to deal with the lack of rule of law. One insidious result is that a majority of Liberians distrust the justice system, which leads to a complete breakdown of law and order.
That is why, when the young girl of our story was found dead, vigilante justice took over. Witnesses said the girl’s parents became angry when the owners of the mosque claimed to know nothing about the incident. In a country where citizens are confident that justice will be done, communities don’t need to take the law into their own hands. Instead, outrage over Kamara’s death sparked riots between the Lormas, who are mostly Christian (Kamara was Lorma), and the Mandingos, who are mostly Muslim. The towns of Voinjama and Konia have felt the brunt of the violence, which left four dead, hundreds displaced, and houses, churches, and mosques burnt. During the chaos, more than six dozen inmates escaped from the local prison, although some were re-arrested.
Reports said U.N. peacekeepers arrived, but Christian residents felt that because the peacekeepers were Pakistani—Muslim—they were biased. Many national and international media outlets jumped to the conclusion that the violence was religious or ethnically based. Even the chief of the U.N. Mission in Liberia, Ellen Magrethe Løj, said at her weekly news briefing that it had “ethnic undertones.” Meanwhile, Løj also said that cellphones helped spur the violence by making it easier to spread rumors. “Let me say that I wish there were not many cell hones in this country, because it is the unfounded rumors that were circulated that caused the violence,” she pointed out, according to a story in The Daily Observer. In a press release put out by the executive mansion, the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressed her “grave concern and regret” about the violence in Konia and Voinjama, which she emphasized was not a “religious conflict.” Sirleaf did not specify the root of the conflict though.
Nevertheless, the knee-jerk reaction is to pass the violence in Lofa County off as ethnic or religiously based, or spurred by technology, without taking into consideration the anger many feel over the ineffective justice system which lets many criminals, including some in the government, walk free. In a petition from residents of the Zorzor District, which includes the town of Konia, where Kamara lived, residents expressed concern over the murder of three children in the district, which have remained unresolved. “Our people live in constant fear as the culprits of these crimes roam about in our District with impunity,” the Zorzor residents said in their statement.
It is important to remember that Lofa County was one of the hardest hit during the war and many tensions in the area still exist. Land disputes are common as displaced Liberians return home to find others now living on their land. So, what on the surface may look like religious or ethnic violence may in fact be caused by disputes over land and brewing anger over a lack of justice.
In fact, the U.S. State Department recently released its 2009/2010 human-rights report on Liberia, highlighting the fact that the judicial system is ineffective and corrupt and that corruption and impunity is rampant in all levels of government. The report raised the issue of politically motivated killings, like one that took place on June 29 of last year in which Senator Sumo Kupee from Lofa County was accused of the ritualistic killing of a boy in Bong County. The report said the ministry of justice did not prosecute the senator because of lack of evidence.
The report went on to point out that mob violence and land disputes still exist in Liberia and have resulted in deaths.
Liberia, which has received millions of dollars in aid money since its civil war ended six years ago, and whose president, Sirleaf, is an international darling and symbol of democracy, should be held up as an example of just how difficult nation-building and peacekeeping actually are.
One minute a country is on the road to recovery and the next minute it looks like it could slide back into war. But what seems like a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is actually low-grade anger that has been simmering for years and exploded after the death of Kamara.
The challenge for Sirleaf since she took office in 2006 has been to gain the trust and maintain the confidence of the Liberian people, despite the tattered justice system and the fact that many in government, including former warlords, want to see her fail.
The recent violence is just what Sirleaf’s opponents need to cast a shadow on her tenure. Charles Brumskine, the leader of the Liberty Party, who ran against her in the 2005 elections, never misses an opportunity to criticize her. He recently published a piece in The Liberian Journal claiming that outbreaks of violence five years after Sirleaf took office “confirms that not much has been done about reconciling our people….”
He also reported that a member of the Police Special Unit was burnt to death, as a result of mob violence. The violence was in retaliation for the killing of an unarmed civilian by the officer on January 16, when an emergency response unit wounded 17 unarmed university students and other young people without any punishment from the president or the government, Brumskine said. “While the Liberty Party condones neither mob violence nor vigilante justice, the obvious conclusion is that the people are once again beginning to take the law in their own hands, seeking to protect themselves against security units created by the executive branch of government.” Separately, Senator Sumo Kupee, who was accused of the murder of a young boy but not prosecuted because of a “lack of evidence,” told the Senate Plenary that Liberia is a “time bomb” waiting to explode.
More danger seems to be on the horizon after Liberia’s Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization revealed that it is traveling to neighboring Guinea to search for the perpetrators of the violence in Lofa County. Guinea borders Liberia to the north and is just a few kilometers away from the capital of Voinjama. Looking to “outsiders” or “foreigners” as the culprits of violence is nothing new in the region. When violence broke out in Guinea last year, the government pointed the finger at Liberia. The problem is that by making foreigners the scapegoat of the violence, anger toward anyone deemed an outsider continues to brew. This is particularly troubling for Mandingos, who, although Liberian, are considered by many to be foreigners.
Given the crisis of confidence in the government’s ability to maintain law and order in Liberia, concerns are mounting that the 2011 elections will not go as smoothly as hoped. Sirleaf’s opponents, including Brumskine, were already enraged after the “Iron Lady” announced in January that she would seek a second term—after saying she wouldn’t run again during her campaign in 2005.
While the fragile Liberia is beginning to show cracks, Sirleaf is trying to stay focused on the task ahead. In her press release after the violence in Lofa County, she reassured Liberians that “an investigation into the incident will be undertaken, while those identified as the perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted in keeping with law.”
Despite the government’s shaky track record of prosecuting crimes, I believe Sirleaf is serious about cracking down on violence and impunity, which has run rampant in Liberia. But the Liberian people must believe it. Their futures and the future of Sirleaf’s presidential campaign depend on it.
By: Ruthie Ackerman
Story originally published on Ceasefire Liberia
Republished on Huffington Post
Photo on Flickr by Pink Moose
We all know the routine: the journalist, who is viewed as the authority (traditionally white and male), goes into a community and comes back with a story to share with the world. His version of events, experienced through his eyes only, is considered objective reporting for all to read and believe.
What makes (the best of) today’s journalism different is that citizen journalists the world over have the opportunity to share their hyperlocal, interactive, personal portrayals of their communities, venturing into places that traditional journalists wouldn’t have the time or money or access to cover.
I have seen the best of what hyperlocal, citizen journalism has to offer on the blog project I founded, Ceasefire Liberia. The Ceasefire blog is a space for Liberian bloggers from Liberia and the diaspora to share stories about their lives, travels, families and communities that would be of interest to readers around the world. Some bloggers on the site have written about challenges in their communities, such as Nat Nyuan-Bayjay’s piece about the lack of toilets in the township of Clara Town. Others, like Saki G, have documented their community’s efforts to fight climate change. Still others examined how the massacre in neighboring Guinea impacted Liberians across the border.
Which is why when Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice magazine, visited Liberia to “report” on an eight-part series about the most horrific and vulgar parts of a country still struggling to get back on its feet after 14-years of civil war, I didn’t blink an eye. This is not the case for the many Liberiaphiles, living both inside and outside Liberia, who have railed against Vice and Smith for their one-sided, fear-inducing, wrong-headed portrayal of Liberia (There are many responses to Smith…a few are here, here and here). But I don’t think getting angry is the answer. Instead Vice’s piece makes me feel even more firmly committed to the Ceasefire Liberia project and the bloggers who shine a spotlight on their country and communities.
If you ask me whether I think that by only focusing on the depravity and deprivation in Liberia Smith did not give a full and fair representation of Liberia, my answer is yes. But do I think that Smith’s reporting takes away from the reporting being done day after day by local Liberians who know and love and see the realities on the ground in Liberia? No. In fact, I believe that the only solution to combating misrepresentations of Liberia is to counter Vice’s series with stories written by Liberian journalists and media-makers. Because the only way to drown out the noise of the misinformed and mis-intentioned is by telling the truth — and leaving it up to the reader to decide which information to consume.
“This has left me seething,” wrote journalist Kate Thomas on a listserv for Liberian expats last week. “‘Documentaries’ like this widen the gap between Liberia and ‘the west’ and discourage understanding and interest in the burgeoning tourism industry.” While I hear what Kate is saying I have to believe that Vice is not the one-stop-shop for all Liberia information (or maybe my faith in humanity runs too deeply). If someone was really looking for information about Liberia they would go to one of the many blogs written by knowledgeable expats (such as Shelby Grossman’s, which is enjoyable and smart), or to Ceasefire Liberia, or to The New Liberian, written and edited by Liberian powerhouse Semantics King, or to the myriad newspapers, internet articles or books, which all offer well-rounded views on the country and its people. The beauty of the internet and Web 2.0 is that it gives readers access to many sources of information on which to base their worldviews.
To be fair, Smith’s reporting, while exaggerated and embellished, isn’t wholly incorrect. There are homeless, unemployed, drug-addicted and criminal parts of Liberian society (like any society), which I and others have reported on. Rape and lack of opportunities are challenges in Liberia that many have tackled. And the truth is that many of the ex-combatants who fought in the war have slipped through the cracks and have now ended up on the streets begging for a hot meal and a comfortable place to sleep.
But there are also important stories like the one Jina Moore and Glenna Gordon tell as part of a series sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting about land disputes in Liberia. And Kate Thomas’ memorable piece about Sarah Mayson, a soul singer living in Ghana’s Budumburam refugee camp. And everyday Liberians are writing real stories about their lives. Yet even these intriguing pieces aren’t going to stop those “reporters” who want a cheap thrill at the expense of others.
While I agree with David Sasaki, outreach director of Global Voices, who called Vice’s portrayal of Liberia “idiotic, sensationalizing, simplistic, and in many places factually incorrect. To say that this documentary is representative of Liberia is like saying that a documentary on Las Vegas is representative of the United States,” I do not believe that the Vice series in any way represents Liberia. (Full disclosure: Global Voices gave Ceasefire Liberia a seed grant last year). Vice’s videos represents a narrow-minded, myopic, ignorant, exploitative view of Liberia, which should be obvious to anyone watching the documentaries.
Yet isn’t that the danger of citizen media? That by giving everyone the opportunity to be heard, we may not agree with everything being said. Isn’t that the danger of a democracy? The truth is that citizen journalism, like a democracy, is for everyone and everyone does not always share the same values of journalism or tell the story we would like them to tell. That is the danger– and beauty– of Web 2.0.
No, I don’t believe that Shane Smith’s parachute-eye view of Liberia is accurate, if only because it is one person’s story. Any one story that is meant to represent an entire community, let alone an entire country, is inherently flawed.
Just ask Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Watching a video of Adichie speaking at TED woke me up to the dangers of what she calls “the single story.” When Adichie was a child growing up in Nigeria she only read American and British writers who wrote about the world they knew: snow, apples, and conversations about the weather, were par for the course. The danger was that as Adichie began to write at the age of seven her stories were filled not with what she saw around her – sun and mangoes- but with tales conjured from the stories she read in those British and American books. Seemingly innocuous details like snow and apples seeped into her tales, although they were not part of the world around her.
This is the danger of traditional journalism and why participatory journalism is so important. When the story of a culture or a community comes from one source – no matter whom or what that source is – all of society becomes impressionable.
So, yes, Shane Smith went looking for child soldiers and prostitutes and cannibalism in Liberia and that is exactly what he found. The Ceasefire Liberia bloggers, on the other hand, have never once mentioned cannibalism or heroin in their stories, instead talking about empowerment projects for women and girls, Liberia’s decision to aid Haiti’s quake victims, and feeding the hungry over the holidays.
So, who is worse off: Liberia’s bloggers, who are shining a light on their communities and the world around them, or Smith, who went half-way across the world and came back badly shaken, but with no more knowledge than he left with? Smith is part of the old guard — the white, male, gonzo journalist– who leaves the world no better than he found it. The Liberian bloggers I work with are changing the world one story at a time.
I know whose side I want to be on.
*Photo on Flickr by gbaku
Here we are about to start a new year and I am sitting at my computer reflecting on how far the Ceasefire Liberia project and website have come over the last nine months.
Since we received the first small grant from Global Voices to start our website in April, we have had over 180 posts from Liberian bloggers around the world. We have forged partnerships with organizations, such as The Niapele Project, The New Liberian, World Policy Institute, The Mantle, and GroundReport, and are in discussions with other organizations to see how we can enhance each others’ work.
Penelope Chester from The Niapele Project, along with Semantics King and David Maass from The New Liberian, are working with Ceasefire Liberia on a journalism project around the 2011 elections in Liberia (please reach out to me if you want to be involved or know of ways to enhance our work in this area). The New Liberian and Ceasefire Liberia have also begun to cross-post each others’ articles on our blogs so please look for The New Liberian RSS feed on our home page. We are also partnering on a book drive to benefit reporters in Liberia.
Rachel Sterne from Ground Report has agreed to cross post our blogs on her site to expand our readership. And The World Policy Institute and The Mantle are using their platforms to tell the world about the work we are doing.
In addition to our partnerships I was interviewed on MediaBistro about the Ceasefire Liberia project, as well as interviewed for an article in Planet Africa that will be published in the spring. CUNY TV has also been out to Staten Island several times to tape a segment on our project.
On the good news front: Our blog manager, Nat Nyuan-Bayjay, got married recently and will be sharing some photos and musings from his wedding on our site in the near future.
As for our bloggers, they have been hard at work and I’d like to give a shout out to some of our best blogs from November and December: Leroy Sonpon III reported on more reactions to the TRC report. According to Sonpon, the Country Director for Action Aid Liberia, Ernest Gaie, is warning the Government of Liberia of the re-occurrence of another war, if the recommendations of the final unedited reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are quashed. Peter Massaquoi reported on a disagreement between Jewel Taylor, ex-wife of warlord Charles Taylor, and Pres. Ellen Johnsons Sirleaf. Another important story from Massquoi is about how health workers are boycotting a yellow fever vaccine right in the midst of a health scare. Boima J.V. Boima wrote about why Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, a strong ally and sympathizer of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has chosen to support opposition candidate Geraldine Doe-Sherif in the run-off of the Montserrado Senatorial by-election. Wellington Railey kept us up-to-date on a court case where a Liberian pastor was sentenced to prison after his lawyer, the Holy Spirit, failed to appear in court. Our staff reporter wrote about how Buchanan Renewable Energies (BRE), operating in Buchanan, has cut its workforce by 150 employees. M. Welemongai Ciapha, legal writer for FrontPageAfrica, covered the trial of the gruesome murder of Keith K. Jubah. All ten suspects were denied bail. Armaa Johnson, a Ceasefire Liberia member living in Staten Island, posted a trailer for a film he is working on about the Liberian community in Park Hill, Staten Island. Wellington Railey wrote about the lack of reporting of rape cases in Liberia since the end of the war. And our staff reporter blogged about the disorganization of the senatorial elections, which may be a sign of things to come in the 2011 presidential election. There are many, many more blogs, but you will have to take a peek on the site to see what I missed!
I’ll leave you with a quick roundup of news from around the Liberian blogosphere: Paul I. Adujie wrote an interesting piece on The New Liberian about how African-Americans and Africans are undercounted in the U.S. census. The UN News agency reported that the arms embargo against Liberia has been dropped, allowing the Liberian government and the UN peacekeeping mission to have certain weapons. Dennis Jah, who started the Ning site The Liberian Way, wrote a very insightful piece about how he’s not ashamed of being a Liberian in the U.S. Somah Dahn wrote an article for The Bush Chicken about how corruption is devastating Liberia, while Harry Papa Mason writes about the difficulty of implementing the TRC report. There are many intereesting articles on Cafe L.I.B., but two that struck me are: “Beat Your Wife We’ll See You in Court,” which is what Pres. Sirleaf told Liberians at the SKD Stadium on Dec. 17 as part of her strategy to get tougher on domestic violence and the news that The Chairman of the ruling Unity Party (UP), Dr. Charles Clark, said Pres. Sirleaf would seek a second term and that the Party has already started planning for the 2011 general and presidential elections.
Please visit us at www.ceasefireliberia.com and leave comments. We’d love to hear from you! And have a Happy New Year!
By: Ruthie Ackerman
Photo on Flickr by woody1778a
Every month when I do my roundups of what happened on the Ceasefire blog that month I think to myself, “It can’t get much better than this!” And it always does.
October has proven to be our best month yet (so far). We have hit a new record with the sheer number of blog posts we have published on the site and we are being inundated with requests from bloggers to blog for us. This proves that Liberians want to interact more in the blogosphere and just needed a space to do so collectively. Many of our bloggers are now on Facebook as well so the social media contagion is really catching on.
I have also been reading a lot about the trend (which I hope is here to stay) in hyperlocal news. Rachel Sterne’s GroundReport is a great example of the possibilities in this arena. I hope that the funding world catches on so that more blogs like ours pop up around the world. I’m also glad to see that geniuses like David Cohn are thinking up potentially sustainable business models in this realm. We need more of that.
On the good news front: Saki Golafale, one of our star bloggers, led the youth of Wood Camp (in the Paynesville section of Monrovia) in a day of climate action. We are so proud of his committment and are even more proud to let our readers know that his hard work paid off: Saki was recognized by the blog 350.org. In other Saki news, Saki created this amazing photo essay documenting the Red Light Market in Paynesville, Monrovia and wrote an especially breathtaking story on Spencer and Massa, two young Liberians with very different after school lives.
In more good news, which you will hear more about as it develops, is that two different television shows have asked to do small segments on the Ceasefire Liberia project. I will be sure to keep you updated as that progresses.
And the icing on the cake is that Ceasefire Liberia is teaming up with The Niapele Project and New Liberian to do even more work around media justice and citizen journalism in Liberia. An exciting component of this partnership is that Ceasefire Liberia and New Liberian have agreed to cross-post each other’s articles so that our readers can benefit from double the reading pleasure. While Ceasefire Liberia has had fewer posts from the Liberian diaspora, New Liberian has had the opposite challenge: finding consistent bloggers in Liberia. By working together we can bridge those challenges and provide better content for our readers. A little about New Liberian: New Liberian is run by the infamous Semantics King Jr., who started The Vision, a newspaper created by Semantics and fellow journalist Jos Garneo Cephas in 2004 while they were living in Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. He eventually received asylum to live in the United States and since has started New Liberian, which recently received 501(c)3 status with the help of The Niapele Project and David Maas, an amazing journalist in his own right.
And I’ll leave you with a quick roundup of news across the Liberian blogosphere (but mostly from our very own Ceasefireblog!): I am most proud of our coverage of the Guinean Massacre this month and what it will mean for Liberia and the West African region. Three of our bloggers wrote about Guinea: Saliho Donzo, Boima J.V. Boima, who took the interesting perspective of how the instability is affecting Liberian businesses, and one anonymous blogger. Another big story was that Firestone was found guilty of pollution at its rubber plantation in Liberia, a story that we even beat the BBC to covering. Boima J.V. Boima wrote a great story about the rift between Liberians over support for Charles Julu, a former general for Samuel Doe who has been accused of numerous murders including burying children alive in wells. Boima also covered the story of Nicholas Buigar, the Liberian who won first runnerup on MTN’s Project Fame West Africa. Saliho Donzo covered the Obama/Nobel Peace Prize controversy, our Monrovia blog manager, Nat Nyuan-Bayjay, covered the plight of Guthrie’s school teachers, Wellington Railey wrote about Liberia’s upcoming presidential elections, and from the diaspora Wynfred Russell wrote about the lack of visionary leadership in Minnesota and Stephen Johnson got a lot of attention for his piece about Liberian youth. There were many more stories, but you’ll have to discover them for yourself by taking a peek around the site!
New Liberian blogger Laura A. Young covered “A House with Two Rooms,” the final report of Liberia’s TRC Diaspora project; Bill Jarkloh covered the Liberty Party’s Darius Dillon’s primary win; Dennis Jah writes about fragmentation among Liberian organizations; Dennis also started a Ning site, called The Liberian Way, which has many blog posts and allows Liberians to connect (way to go Dennis!); Stanford Peabody, the publisher of The Bush Chicken, left for Monrovia and is taking requests for questions readers wants answered or photos you want taken so take part in this interactive news-gathering process; Cafe L.I.B, another blog/Ning site where Liberians can connect, has a very interesting series by Kimmie Weeks of Youth Action International in Liberia, who left the comfort and stability of the US to start his charitable foundation. Another story on Cafe LIB is about Obama’s praise for President Sirleaf for leading a discussion on job creating at the UN and for her leadership and concern about the violence in Guinea.
Please visit us at www.ceasefireliberia.com and leave comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Photo by Seyon Nyanwleh, the executive director of A-Mon-Nue Sports & Social Association
September has been a good month for the Ceasefire Liberia project. Not only have we had dozens of new blog posts from our writers — and several fantastic videos — but we are getting noticed too. Both Feministing and the Women’s Refugee Commission have mentioned our blog on their sites, widening our audience and ensuring that those who do not usually read about the Liberian community now know where to go for updates. We have also recruited some top new bloggers: Ronald M. Mulbah is our new sports blogger, with weekly updates on the fascinating and fast-paced world of Liberian soccer; Boima JV Boima has written several blogs, one about a youth who was slapped with a guilty verdict for attempted murder as well as a story about the Muslim community in Liberia. And our hardworking blog manager Nat Nyuan-Bayjay continues to impress with his local stories about issues important to Liberia: His most recent work includes a story about the reconstruction of the Monrovia-Buchanan highway and the trial for the murder of 13-year-old Angel Tokpa who was found strangled and hung over the bathroom rod of her guardians’ house. Both of these stories were not reported in the media so thank you Nat for keeping us informed.
For those of you who don’t know, I traveled to Minnesota in July to visit the Liberian community there, which is one of the largest in the U.S., to interview Liberians for my book, but also to try and recruit a group of Liberian bloggers in Minneapolis. I had the opportunity to meet with Doris Parker, the executive director of the Liberian Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, which runs the College-Bound mentoring program, pairing junior and senior high school Liberian girls with professional Liberian women to mentor, guide, support and encourage college enrollment. Parker’s organization also has a girl’s soccer team, which I had the pleasure of watching practice before the big game the following day. Doris and I spoke about the possibility of teaching the girls’ in her group how to blog. I hope in a future incarnation of Ceasefire Liberia we are able to start blogging clubs and run workshops across the Liberian diaspora.
I also met with Seyon Nyanwleh, the executive director of A-Mon-Nue Sports & Social Association, and watched his team practice. I was very impressed with the number of young people Seyon had recruited for his program and the level of involvement of the parents. One father came and sat through his son’s soccer practice despite being awake since early the morning to go to work. The father told me that he was there because that was one of the only times he got to spend with his son.
I’d also like to point out several Liberian bloggers who have not blogged with Ceasefire Liberia, but who I have had the pleasure of meeting (or at least speaking to) during my trip to Minnesota. Semantics King runs several blogs on Liberian and community news affecting the Liberian community; Emmanuel Liu has an active blog and Twitter where he writes about everything from some harsh words between Kanye West and Obama to Patrick Swayze’s death to a haiku he wrote for his daughter; MinneAfrica is a site dedicated to all things African in Minnesota and I had the chance to catch up by phone with Yeamyah, a Liberian woman who keeps the community in Minnesota updated on Liberian news of importance such as the expiration of the temporary protected status and male circumcision and HIV. Another not-to-be-missed source for Liberian news is The Bush Chicken an online magazine for the Liberian community in Minnesota.
Any other bloggers I’m missing — let me know.
I wanted to introduce myself to the Rising Voices community. My name is Ruthie Ackerman and I am running the Ceasefire Liberia blog project. Ceasefire Liberia is a project that has grown out of my journalism work over the past several years with Liberian youth in both Liberia and in Staten Island, New York. It started off as one story about the reconstruction of Liberia after its 14-year civil war and has grown into an all-encompassing multimedia project, including a book, documentary filmwork, and now a blogging project. The blogging project is very exciting for me because it’s a way to hear directly from Liberians about their communities –no middlemen — just their voices about the things they care about. My hope is to connect Liberians living in the Diaspora with those who remained in Liberia during and after the war so they can learn about each others’ lives through blogging, video, and photography.
The idea is to create a dialogue between those Liberians who left and those who stayed and eventually to have a team of citizen journalists in Liberia and the Diaspora who find those under-reported stories in their own communities and post them onto the blog. I hope everyone who comes to the site can join us by writing an encouraging comment, reflecting on their own experiences, or telling us about their communities. The dream is that by communicating here the boundaries that keep us divided will disappear.
Please visit us at: www.ceasefireliberia.com
Just west of Ivory Coast lies Liberia and its roughly 3.5 million inhabitants. Settled by free slaves from the United States in the early 19th century, Liberia fell into a 14-year dark period of civil war and lawlessness that concluded in late 2003 with the presence of ECOWAS and the United Nations. Today Liberia is slowly recovering despite inadequate infrastructure, unemployment at around 80%, and former combatants (many of them minors) who must be re-integrated into society. Many unemployed Liberians have put their hopes in friends and relatives living abroad in the United States. However, there is often a lack of communication and understanding between Liberians at home and those living in the diaspora. By partnering with African Refuge – a drop-in center for West African youth – and the Century Dance Complex in Park Hill, Staten Island (the largest Liberian community outside of Africa), and Amnesty International in Monrovia, freelance journalist Ruthie Ackerman aims to help foster a transatlantic Liberian blogging community.
Those Liberians who lived through the war — whether soldiers or not — experienced some type of trauma or displacement. By creating a community and sharing experiences with others, it has helped give these youth a purpose and vision that there is something larger than themselves. This will benefit the community (on both sides of the ocean) on many levels: Liberians, many of whom have difficulty adjusting to life in America, can reconnect with their families and dispel myths about what life is like in the U.S. There are also left-over tensions from the war, which may be able to be diffused through the dialogue created between the communities.