News / Africa

Citizen Media Bridge Liberian Divisions

The blog "Ceasefire Liberia" acts as a bridge between different Liberian communities facing post-war challenges
The blog "Ceasefire Liberia" acts as a bridge between different Liberian communities facing post-war challenges
Nico Colombant

Citizen media projects are giving Africans around the world new ways to connect.  One such project gives those living in war ravaged Liberia as well as the country's diaspora in the United States opportunities to exchange ideas, share experiences and ease tensions.  

The blog "Ceasefire Liberia" has volunteer postings from Liberia and New York, where thousands of Liberians relocated during their country's civil war, which lasted from 1989 to 2003.

Monrovia-based blogger and coordinator Nat Bayjay says it is important to have an online citizen forum like Ceasefire Liberia because so many Liberians have been displaced.

"There was a need to bridge the gap of these two groups of Liberians that found themselves on both sides of the Atlantic [Ocean]," said Nat Bayjay. "And so we thought that through the blog, we should have Liberians here share their experiences, their stories.  And then we have a blogging community in the [United][S]tates specifically, Staten Island, in New York."

On the blog, there is video with interviews of Liberians in Staten Island that sends people back home a message that life in the United States is difficult.

"If you graduated and you were in college in Liberia, you probably come to America and [have to] be in the fifth grade.  You are going to have to start in fifth grade and work at [fast food restaurant] Wendy's overnight and then have a day job at McDonald's and go through school at the same time," says one of the video comments.

The interviews are by American journalist and citizen media activist Ruthie Ackerman with the New York-based World Policy Institute.  She launched the blog last year and says Staten Island has a long history with Liberia.

"One of the first ships that set sail to Liberia, to what became Liberia, I should say, left from the harbor at Staten Island," said Ruthie Ackerman. "And so for me, the story really does come full circle because the ship left with freed slaves and some volunteers that were being brought to West Africa."

Ackerman says that despite the lack of ready access to electricity and high Internet access fees, people in Liberia are eager to become citizen bloggers.   

"The young Liberians still living in Liberia really feel a sense of urgency that their stories need to be told, that they should tell their stories because otherwise no one else is listening," she said.

Postings offer personal stories, but also investigations of communal violence, forest management and overcrowded prisons.   ///

"Stories on the site have been very journalistic," said Ackerman. "Right now, there is a lot about the upcoming elections and some of the controversies and criticism around the election."

Ackerman says Liberians in Staten Island are much more reluctant to give their time to the web project.

Some of them are former child soldiers.  Many arrived in Staten Island during the 1990s, which coincided with crack cocaine violence.

"There have been lots of tensions and even gang violence and shootings and issues with drugs and high incarceration rates," she said. "These were all issues that kept coming up in this community."

Ackerman received grant money this year to start a new citizen media project focused exclusively on Staten Island.  But so far, she says, interest has been limited.

"It has been really difficult to get people to commit," said Ruthie Ackerman. "There is no monetary incentive at all right now; there is no business model to keep this project going other than hoping for more grants from foundations.  What I keep trying to tell the young people is that the hope of this project is to unify the community so that [for] the issues of incarceration, the issues of violence in the community, [we are] trying to decrease these challenges."

Ackerman has held several workshops and received laptop computers and video cameras to help with her new project.  She says the model could be duplicated for other African immigrant communities across the United States, each of which faces its own set of challenges.

Ackerman says contributors gain valuable computer and communication skills, which can help them in a difficult job market, while they also help open lines of communication in diverse American neighborhoods.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid