My Liberian heritage has always been a source of pride for me even as a child. When people would see my fair skin and smooth curls, they would quickly inquire about where I was from or where my parents were from. I would just as speedily reply that I was Liberian and then wait for the shocked expressions to follow.
“But how could you be African? You don’t look African!” More often than not, this was the reaction I received.
I took immense joy in telling everyone that my father was born in Liberia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. I had been educated on the country’s history and my family’s high-held positions in Liberian government. I knew all about the coup d’état and how many of my family members were murdered and why they retreated to the United States. I wore my history as a badge of honor knowing all that my ancestors had accomplished in Liberia and beyond.
Although I was not born in Liberia, I knew that one day I would be able to visit the country of my father’s origin and revel in the beauty of the beaches he would fondly speak of. I cherished the chance to know from whence I came and to experience a tangible, rich culture.
My mother was an African American “southern belle” from Richmond, VA who thoroughly embraced Liberian culture as well when she married my father. She loved the food and even learned how to prepare many dishes. She made us elaborate African garments by hand with the tutelage of my dad’s mother. She even began to adopt a “Liberian English” accent! Tragically, she passed away from breast cancer when I was just six years old and this event obviously shaped my life in many ways. Most notably, it pushed me closer to my Liberian family. When she passed, ties with her family faded and almost all holidays and family functions were spent with my father’s side of the family.
Naturally, I gravitated to only identifying with my Liberian heritage, and as I grew older the connection with Liberia deepened. Not too many years ago, I believe in 2009, I attended the Cooper family reunion in Virginia with my family and discovered more of our rich history. The past was not filled only with triumph and accomplishment, but dark moments such as the coup d’état. Even still, I admired the strength of Liberians and what the country was doing to move forward.
Liberia is a country of plentiful opportunity and natural resources that I believe second-generation Liberians, such as myself, must take advantage of before it is too late. There is much work to be done in our country to repair the brokenness from the war. I admire the efforts of FA’s Marketplace and what this organization is doing for merchants and children in Liberia. It is my desire to use my blessings to bless the people of Liberia, specifically the undereducated, orphaned children. Liberia is our home. It is our duty and purpose to rebuild and lift Liberia back to its previous state of glory.
“But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48 (KJV)