Jamestown residents share experience about Liberia
The event was sponsored by the Stutsman County Human Rights Coalition.
On Thursday, March 23, over 60 people turned out to hear life stories of four Jamestown residents originally from Liberia in West Africa. The event at the Jamestown Arts Center was sponsored by the Stutsman County Human Rights Coalition.
Gayflor, Jerome, Randy and Robert grew up during or right after the civil war that erupted in Liberia in 1989. They shared about the history of Liberia, a country with a constitution largely based on the U.S. Constitution. The panelists call the U.S. a “home away from home” and expressed gratitude for the visa program that allowed them to come to this country and have a path to citizenship.
Stories included their journeys to Jamestown and the community they have found here. At the same time, there have been challenges, including loss of loved ones during the Liberian civil war. Robert recounted how when he first arrived in the U.S. in Texas, he had to show up for work while a friend was in the hospital across the world. On top of that, being judged for the color of skin and sound of his voice is difficult. There have been more recent instances of racism in Jamestown too. The group has been able to bring some of their family members to join them here, and Robert noted, “This is our home. We have our kids here, work here, we want a place to welcome others with open arms.”
Jerome talked about founding and funding Leaders Academy, an elementary school in Liberia. He was motivated to start the school after returning to Liberia and wanting to help kids who are in similar shoes he was once in. The school includes a garden and educational program about farming, and many Jamestown residents have donated money and time to the project. Learn more at https://www.leadersacademyinc.org/ .
The group spoke of their hope to build relationships with the people and the wider community of Jamestown to foster a better understanding of their experiences and culture, including a summer event in the Hansen Arts Park. They answered questions from the larger group about Liberian food traditions, faith, economy and jobs. When asked about one thing he wishes could be changed tomorrow, Jerome said, “more empathy and compassion, partnership and understanding.”
The Stutsman County Human Rights Coalition’s next event will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at The Arts Center. A presentation by Green Dot, an organization focused on reducing power-based personal violence and other issues that impede progress toward safe and equitable communities. This event is open to the public.
For more information about the Stutsman County Human Rights Coalition, visit www.stutsmancountyhumanrightscolaliton.org and on Facebook.