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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid