Mommies in Black and White

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Tag: Liberia (Page 1 of 2)

Valarie Kaur Speech: An Opportunity to Listen, Learn, and Reflect

Immigration is HOT right now. As a blog written in half by an immigrant we are extremely in tune to the rhetoric and current cultural conversations related to the topic.

We don’t speak to every issue, every story, or debate. We try not to judge or spread hate or disrespect by attacking others’ perspectives or ideas. We do, however, encourage our readers to listen, reflect and learn…about each other, about diversity, about ways that you can engage and make a difference in your daily life by being an informed, open and compassionate person.

The video below is a passionate perspective from one side of the immigration debate. It’s worth watching because it provides insight into a life experience, a reality that you might not truly understand – unless you’ve lived it. Jebeh has lived it. Her experience was her own. It was emotional, challenging, heartbreaking and exciting all at the same time.

Every time I listen to Jebeh and open my heart to her experience, I learn and I grow. Every time we can see, truly see the world through someone else’s lens, we become better. We become smarter, stronger, and more empathetic people.

So, I encourage you to watch, to listen, to grow. I encourage you to see an immigration story through someone else’s lens.

WATCH: Valarie Kaur Speech

 

A Thank You Letter Leads to a Powerful Gift From J.T Brown

JT Brown Jersey

This past February I posted a Thank You letter to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s right winger J.T Brown. Much to my surprise, my post went viral. Mr. Brown himself even reached out to our family. He sent a very heartfelt and inspiring letter to my sons. His words of courage and understanding in the sport of hockey will continue to guide my children.

J.T Brown also sent our sons autographed jerseys because, as he said, he is their fan as well. My boys were so excited that J.T Brown sent them a letter and jerseys. Our oldest exclaimed, “I can wear this my whole life time!” My husband couldn’t help but to point out the irony, “Leave it to my Liberian wife, who hates the cold and has zero experience in hockey to connect with a professional hockey player.”

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

Pure Joy #JTBROWN

In Liberia we say, “Sharing your blessings with others will come back to you and the generations after you.” J.T Brown, your generosity to our family will bless your family for generations to come. You’ve made this Liberian Hockey mom proud beyond measure!

God Bless,

Jebeh

Reflections of love, loss, and legacy

Ma HajaCivil strife and unrest separated me from my grandparents. My parents’ courageous decision to leave their homeland of Liberia must have been a hard one to make. Most kids that I grew up with had their grandparents close by. The few times I was around my grandparents are some of my most cherished memories.

My paternal grandmother, Ma Haja, loved our frequent visits to the Dollar Store. She was fascinated with how cheap everything was. I can’t tell you how many times she asked my dad in delight while we shopped, “How much is this again?” It was like she won the lottery.

As an adult now, I realize that my grandparents seeking refuge at our home was  a temporary situation. Trips to the Dollar Store would only last a little while. Reality would set in and her time with us was inevitably cut short. Grandma would have to go back to the chaos of war.

Six months ago, my sweet grandmother, Ma Haja, passed away. I will remember her baritone voice and laugh. She nicknamed me ‘big sister’ because her older sister was my namesake. Her passing has allowed me time to reflect on the ways she impacted my life and how she was with me in spirit during major milestones.

She would send my favorite peanut butter and sugary treat called Kayan, when I was studying in my college dorms. She was unable to attend our wedding due to more political strife, but she sent a Lappa (long piece of fabric, traditionally worn as a skirt) with my aunty so we could have a piece of her there to celebrate. I was blessed that my boys were able to talk with their great grandmother in Liberia from time to time.

Liberian family and traditionShe would have been 90 years old this month. Two weeks ago, our family and friends in the U.S gathered to celebrate her life. Most of her grand and great-grandchildren wore her favorite color green, and her children wore all white.

It was a beautiful, traditional Liberian event. In honor of her religion, we had local Imams recite the Quran and all the women had special Hijabs during the service. We danced, reflected with old photographs, shared stories, and reconnected with each other.

My grandmother was a strong and determined woman. Many people in our home country loved her. She built several mosques throughout Liberia. She built a bus shelter in her hometown so people wouldn’t have to wait in the rain for transportation. She was married to my Episcopalian grandfather for 61 years. Although they were married and practicing two different faiths, they respected one another. She didn’t have a formal education, but she expected all of her children and grandchildren to get an education.

She was a respected mother. She had 13 children of her own and raised more children without hesitation, taking in friends and family who needed support. Every day dozens of people filled her front porch and yard ready to listen to her speak her truth. They would follow her everywhere she went with praise. She was grounded in her faith. She was unapologetically headstrong.

I didn’t have my grandmother physically around me all the time. But, I can attest that our bond was very strong. Our few shared memories and her legacy of strength, compassion and wisdom will always beat strong in my heart.

Lost in translation: Trapped in a closet

Often, when refugees reach safe harbor with relatives in the United States there is a sense of bittersweet relief. The circumstances can be unimaginable.

In the late 90s, Liberia was in another Civil War led by dictator, Charles Taylor. My  grandmother and her sister fled to Minnesota in order to escape Taylor’s regime. They found a safe haven at my aunt and uncle’s, the same place my family was staying.

My  grandma and her sister were often isolated during the day while all the grown folks went to work and my sisters and I went to school. They loved every soap opera on TV and admired Oprah.

One day after school my grandma and her sister had concerned looks on their faces. I thought something terrible must have happened back home. They shared with me that Oprah was going to have this woman named Ellen on her show. They explained, Ellen was “trapped in some closet and is going to come out of it.” They were praying for her. I smiled, but was too embarrassed to explain that Ellen was not literally trapped in “a closet.” I left the explaining to my uncle.

When my uncle got home from work he explained to our elders what “coming out of the closet” meant. They laughed and asked, “Why didn’t they just say that in the first place?” With tears of laughter my two elderly beacons of hope settled a little further into life in America.

#ellendegeneres #liberia

 

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