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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid