By Octavia McBride-Ahebee
My first year in Cote d’Ivoire was difficult for me in terms of not being able to communicate with people, of not being able to easily share the new experience of a being a new bride in a foreign country beginning a new journey. Cote d’Ivoire is a French-speaking country and Francophones are so unforgiving of those of us Anglophones who on too many occasions sloppily conjugate verbs, pronounce emphatically all h’s and neglectfully misplace adjectives. Many Liberians, refugees at the time from a civil war in their country, were living in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s economic capital. And they were my savior. They were English-speaking and so familiar on so many levels.
There was William, young, tall, proud, traumatized by the war in his country and from being uprooted and landing in Abidjan, which was safe, but unkind. He was a master quilt-maker, and I would sit with him for hours, detailing the designs I wanted for my quilts and he sharing the history of how he learned quilt-making; a family tradition carried to Liberia by many of the African-American slaves who settled there.
This is the kind of history and complexity and storytelling that surrounded me. And when I lay in those handmade quilts I was wrapped in a continuity of desire and protest and connections that were palpable. I am thinking of my Liberian friends, who when my husband died, came en masse to my home in Abidjan and for three nights sung Negro Spirituals and African-American gospel songs to remind me of the continuity of life, of how we eventually meet up again, whether it be in another time period or another sphere of the world.
It is 3:30 in the morning; I am wondering where the sustained outrage is and where the support is for the Liberian people during this horrific Ebola crisis. I have friends in Liberia that I have lost touch within the last week; friends with families, with children who were scheduled to start University, friends who share all of our desires. There is only silence now and those awful images we see occasionally in the news; images that alienate you from them.
Here is link to Paul Farmer, who is a doctor, activist and Harvard professor, discussing the global inequity of global healthcare as it relates to the Ebola crisis in Liberia. Listen and then begin to actively search for a way in which you can support those affected by the Ebola crisis. I have started a letter campaign urging the National Institutes of Health to speed up human trials for the Ebola vaccine. It is our tax dollars that support this organization. Let’s make some loud demands.
*Photo of Quilt retrieved from:http://www.union.edu/news/stories/2011/01/quilts-from-liberia-focus-of-show-at-nott.php