Liberians From Maryland County Organize National Association

The Perspective
May 31, 2001

Liberians hailing from Maryland County (Liberia) residing in the United States, converged in Atlanta over the Memorial Day weekend to chart a new course. While there are a number of Liberian county organizations in the United States, Liberians from Maryland County have not organized themselves into a national body. But this has changed. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Marylanders came to Atlanta to organize a county organization that is national in scope to collectively tackle problems of their county.

In a formal welcoming ceremony, the conventioners were warmly treated with Southern hospitality by the host chapter. Ms. Sue Yancy Williams, a veteran local organizer and former President of the Liberian Community Association of Georgia, in a statement of introduction of the occasion, called upon her fellow Marylanders to become proactive in this national undertaking. "We have a shared duty to give something back to our region, our people. By forming a national body, we can begin to open a link of communication among Marylanders", she said.

The host chapter, the Maryland Association of Georgia, played a leading role in planning the convention. James Davis, president of the local chapter, and one of the key organizers, classified the convention this way:

"The convention has achieved what we expected. The main purpose of the convention was to see how we could form a national association with the participation of a good cross-section of Marylanders from different states. The discussions were very fruitful. Participants of the convention agreed unanimously to the idea of forming a national Maryland association. We appointed a committee headed by Nat Davis. Other members of the committee include Steve Boley, Harrington Evans, Francis Smith, Patrick Tuon, Gabriel Wureh, and I."

But like every county in the country, Maryland has not recovered from the brutal seven year civil conflict. Despite the fact that Maryland has produced some of the top Liberian government officials including a vice President and "a chief executive", a native son, William V. S. Tubman, who served as president of Liberia for about three decades, Maryland lags behind most counties when it comes to development. The health system is terrible, there is the absence of accessible roads network. Some of the schools in the county that ranked among the top during pre-war days, are now said to be among the least in the country. Last year, all the 12th Graders from high schools such as Cape Palmas, Our Lady of Fatima , Bishop Ferguson, Pleebo, and St. Frances in Maryland who sat the National Exams administered by the West Africa Exam Council failed. Tubman College of Technology, the only institution of higher learning in the county has not recovered from the civil war (the college has yet to reopen). All equipment provided by the EU to the college were looted during the war.

When asked to summarize what was achieved and what to expect from the new organization, Steve Boley, one of the members of the seven-man committee appointed, explained:

"The focus of the conference is to unite all Marylanders (autonomous organizations) under one umbrella organization, like the Association of Marylanders in the United States. And at the end of the conference it was unanimously agreed upon by the body that we should form a national organization and a technical working committee was set up (a seven man committee that is headed by Mr. Nat Davis). The committee is supposed to draft a constitution and by-laws for the newly formed national Association of Marylanders in the United States. Within sixty days, the committee will have [the by-laws and constitution] dispatched to all the autonomous chapters for ratification and right after that there will be a subsequent convention at whichtime Marylanders will come together to approve of the final document that will constitute our by-laws and constitution The organization will focus on things that are of concern to the people of Maryland County. We are going to learn from the mistakes of other Liberian organizations, such as ULAA, and improve on what we need to do for the benefit of our people.

"Maryland is perhaps one of the counties that were hardest hit by the civil war. And since the end of the war, I understand, in order to get access to Maryland County from Monrovia, you have to go through Ivory Coast to come to Maryland County. One of the things we are going to push for is to work in partnership with some NGO's so they can do some work in the county. There are lots of social concerns in the county. We don't want to promise that we are going to take care of all the social concerns of the county, but there are some basic things we can do for the benefit of our county."

Commenting on the mass failure of 12th Graders in the National Exams, Mr. Boley continued, "In the short term, it's a general concern to all Marylanders. We are hoping that right after we formally adopt the constitution, this is an issue that we are going to address. Of course, we are very much concern about the low standard of education that is going on. In fact Maryland at one point in our pre-war history use to be the educational Mecca of Liberia. You had people from all parts of Liberia coming there to go to school. We have some of the best institutions. But as the result of war and other things going on in the country, the standard has actually been lowered. But in the not too distant future this will be the priorities of the first national administration that will come into place."

Commenting on the lack of interest Marylanders have shown in their county, Mr. Gabriel Martin Wureh, laid the blame for the failure at the feet of his fellow Marylanders. "We have fallen short of our responsibility to the kids within our area with respect to providing for them what was provided for us by our ancestors. And that's why we are here today to acknowledge that and say look, regardless of this political situation that exist in our country, we still owe our responsibility to these kids."

In few months Marylanders will meet to finalize the formation of the national body.

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