Young Liberians Summit Challenges Youth to Change Country for the Better
September 13, 2015
SACRAMENTO, USA – On Saturday, August 22nd, the Young E’nnovative Leaders of Liberia held its fourth annual Young Liberians Summit in Sacramento, California. Among the attendees were a panel of guest speakers including Randall Dobayou Massaquoi, Elijah Nyaneor, Dr. Ernest Uwazie, and MacDella Cooper.
Cooper, who is the Founder and Global Ambassador of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, served as the keynote speaker for the event. She offered a rousing speech saying Liberians were the key to uplifting Liberia to its greatness.
Driving home the theme of the summit, “It Starts with Us,” Cooper said Liberians spend too much time talking about their dissatisfaction with the country and the government and not enough time changing it.
“The time for placing blame is over,” she said, adding that it would not get the country to where it needed to go. “Liberians are giving their power away, and it’s diminishing our greatness.”
From neglect of parental duties in disciplining children to tribalism and marginalization of certain groups, Cooper described a variety of issues facing the country where she saw Liberians abandoning their responsibilities.
She provided the example of her life’s work as a clue on what needed to be done. Cooper’s foundation runs a boarding school for at-risk youth and provides them with academic supplies and proper healthcare.
“I walked away from my successful career to go and be with the orphans and my people in my country,” Cooper said. “Everyone knows the statistics of Liberia, so it is of no use repeating. The fact remains – what are we going to do about it?”
Cooper closed her address by requesting that the audience make it their primary goal “to leave the country in a better condition [than we] found it in, for the next generation.”
Another speaker at the event was Uwazie, the Director of the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution and a criminal justice professor at California State University – Sacramento. He gave brief opening remarks at the conference and implored the attendees and young people to commit to their families to fortify what he calls the “Essence of the Nation.”
Panel member Randall Massaquoi also spoke on a range of issues including his past as a youth and student advocate, and his personal experience with poverty.
Elijah Nyaneor, also a panelist, commented on the importance of Liberian innovation while Franklin Wesseh of the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions offered his perspective on the state of Liberia. College student Jong Massaquoi spoke on behalf of the Brain and Hearts Education Project, which supports students through mentorship pairings.
The event was streamed live online by The Bush Chicken and a recording of the program is available for viewing. During the event, some residents in Liberia vented their frustration on social media platforms at events of such caliber always being held outside of Liberia. Maurice Woods wrote, “How will you have an important event that affects Liberia in a country [where] we have no assets…” He continued, “Look America is not Liberia.”
The President of the Union of Liberian American Organizations in the Americas, Gaye Sleh, echoed similar sentiments in remarks he made at the event. He encouraged the participants and attendees of YELL to engage not only Liberians in the US but also in Liberia. He implored the organizers to host the next YELL conference in Liberia, adding that the youth on the ground need to be engaged with valuable insights on how to improve the conditions they face on a daily basis.
In an interview, Garcon Morweh, the President of YELL, said the event may be held in Liberia in the future once logistics and strategic direction are finalized.
Morweh said he felt that the summit was a success. He said the future of Liberia relies on the youth’s ability to get engaged, which is what the summit provided.
Randall Massaquoi, the youth and student advocate, also felt similarly. “Despite the abundant resources of Liberia, the people are still struggling,” Massaquoi said. “And that’s why we gathered here today to start changing the direction of the country.
Featured photo: Asmita Gharat. Asmita Gharat also contributed to this report.
Source: By Amelia Bangura - The Bush Chicken