News / Africa

Citizen Media Bridge Liberian Divisions

The blog
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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs