Saturday, October 18, 2014

"I Am A Liberian, Not A Virus" Video, Hashtag, & Comments

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases and provides comments about the YouTube video and Twitter hashtag "I Am A Liberian, Not A Virus".

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Shoana Cachelle, and other founders of and participants in this anti-stigmatizing movement.

My prayers for all those who are diretly involved in the Ebola scourge in West Africa and elsewhere.


Shoana Cachelle, Published on Oct 13, 2014

Hash tag link:

One of the tweets on that page is a Liberian saying "The streets can't buy you unless your house sells you." That saying was also quoted in a Huffington Post article about this anti-stigmatization movement [ "I Am a Liberian. I Am Not a Virus." Posted: 10/17/2014]

My interpretation of that saying is that if you have the support of your family, other people can't harm you. In this context, all Liberians are considered to be family and are challenged to be empowered and to speak out on their behalf and on behalf of other Liberians. Extending that saying, all people who care about fair and ethical treatment of people are family, and can therefore can also support the goals expressed by this awareness and anti-stigmatization movement.
Here's an excerpt from that Huffington Post article:
[quoting Aisha Cooper Bruce, Let Girls Lead's country representative in Liberia and a program alumni]
"I want people to understand that we are more than the latest breaking news. We are not "those Africans." We are not pitiful media images, statistics or projections. We are mothers, fathers, children, scholars, artists, doctors, and survivors. We are people."

A young Liberian, Comfort Martin Leeco, put it best in her Facebook post (partial excerpt):
I am the lady who gave birth to her twins on the street. I am the sick looking for healing even though I do not have Ebola. I am all those victimized by the health system due to this deadly virus. I am ALL brave ones picking up dead bodies. I am ALL the health workers risking their lives. I am the Liberians fighting to leave the country. I am the Liberians that have nowhere to go. I am the Liberians using their personal resources to reach out ... I am the Liberian who presents her passport and waits for the expressions on the faces of those I hand it to. I am the Liberian afraid to speak, because of my accent ...

"#IamaLiberianNotaVirus Goes Viral to Stop Ebola Stigmatization"

The hashtag and YouTube video quickly went viral when four women joined together to combat the stigmatization surrounding Ebola and Liberians.
By: Yesha Callahan, Posted: Oct. 17 2014 9:00 AM
"Since the rise of Ebola cases in the United States, many Liberians, and people from other African countries, have been stigmatized and even discriminated against out of others’ fear of becoming infected with the disease.

In Texas, the Los Angeles Times reported, Liberians living in the Dallas area were taunted with, “Go back to Liberia.”

“If I am Liberian, that doesn’t mean that I have Ebola,” Carolyn Woahloe, a registered nurse, told the Times. “This is not a Liberian problem. This is a world problem.”

As the Ebola hysteria rises in the U.S., the finger-pointing, blaming and ostracizing have escalated. In response, Shoana Clarke Solomon, a Liberian photographer and TV host, created a video, “#IamaLiberianNotaVirus,” that immediately went viral...

The Root: What inspired the hashtag?

Shoana Clarke Solomon: This campaign was started by four women who were talking about how frustrating it is to be looked at as if they were diseased or walking viruses from Liberia, rather than as human beings who just happened to Liberians. Comfort Leeco wrote a post that inspired Aisha Bruce to respond. Rev. Dr. Katurah Cooper saw Aisha’s post on Facebook and suggested we do something about the spreading stigmatization. She suggested the slogan, “I am a Liberian, not a virus.” I came up with the idea of using imagery to express our feelings. I took a self-portrait with the words suggested by Dr. Cooper, written on a sheet of paper, and the rest is history. Within hours that image went viral...

TR: What or who do you blame for the stigma?

Shoana Clarke Solomon:
I place no blame on anyone for the stigma. It’s bound to happen, especially when people don’t take the time to learn the facts. Ebola is a deadly virus that people know very little about. Radio and television are bombarding our homes with news about Ebola every minute. It’s accompanied by dramatic music and scary images. People are hearing about all the deaths and not paying attention to how you actually get the virus. I am also grateful for the media. It’s bringing much-needed attention to Liberia and other countries that need help with ending this epidemic. Without press coverage, this situation would be far ... worse.

Ebola is a global issue, not just Africa’s problem. Soon the public will stigmatize the two nurses stricken with Ebola. We pray for their full recovery and we hope that they and their families will not be socially ostracized and treated as Liberians are being treated. Stigmatization is really happening because of the lack of information. Most people I have talked to about Ebola think it’s an airborne virus and if someone sneezes, they could infect their entire community. This is far from true...

Ebola spreads through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or tissue. The virus can be transmitted when an infected person’s vomit, blood or other fluids contact another person’s mouth, eyes or openings in their skin. It is not an airborne virus. A person with Ebola is contagious only when they get very ill...

TR: What do you think needs to be done to remove the stigma surrounding Ebola?

Shoana Clarke Solomon:
...The purpose of this movement is simply to make people aware that even though this virus exists in our country, we are not all infected by it. We do not want our children to be stereotyped or discriminated against at school. Adults can better cope with the insults, but our children can be scarred for life. My 9-year-old has been insulted three times in two weeks for simply being a Liberian.

Stigmatization really starts with parents. We need to be sensitive about what we say around our children. I understand that people are scared and trying to be cautious. We are scared and equally cautious. We do not intend to change anyone’s feelings of fear, nor minimize the severity of the crisis. This is not our intention. We just want people to be sensitive with their actions or reactions to Liberians and others who have resided in countries afflicted by Ebola, especially the children.

Liberians have suffered enough. First it was a civil war, which lasted 14 years. As if that was not enough, we now have the Ebola virus. By the way, we did not start the virus or invent it. On the contrary, it discovered us."

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1 comment:

  1. This is timely. I'm glad President Obama vetoed suggestions of stopping flights from West Africa. The only way to stop this disease in its tracks is more medical teams where needed, and proper treatment for patients, so their families don't have to try and tackle this outbreak alone and unaided.

    Also, panicking about the hunting of small game - a practice that must go back literally to the dawn of mankind - is unhelpful. According to the BBC nobody ever caught ebola from eating cooked or smoked wild game, though hunting or handling the raw meat is a probable source. Scientists suggest banning the hunting of certain species like fruitbats, which they think act as a reservoir for the disease. But what price we now see panic demands for banning all that terrible "bushmeat"? (Cute word Funny that when the royal family go grouse-shooting or in the Highlands nobody accuses them of going after 'Scottish bushmeat'.)