AURORA (Africa News Matters) – On the evening of Saturday, July 30, natives, friends, and well-wishers of the African nation of Liberia filled the corridors and ballroom of the Holiday Inn Express in Aurora to celebrate 175 years since its independence.
Formerly a US territory, Liberia was founded by freed American slaves on July 26, 1847. History tells us the country is the oldest democratic republic on the African continent.
Invited guests to the event came from far and near. They came not just to celebrate the country’s history, but also to experience what may be the transformation of the country from a colony into an independent nation.
The program included time for food, music, and prayer for a nation that has seen its own share of socio-political turmoil and upheavals.
The speakers included political and community leaders in Colorado, and from the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Attendees sang both the American and Liberian national anthems and offered remarks about why they were gathered for the yearly event. The message was clear and full of talk about nation-building and unity that transcended national boundaries.
The United Liberian organization of Colorado (ULOC), led by President Ebenezer Norman, said they did not want to do this alone.
“So tonight my job is to talk of the people who are building our community,” Norman began his remarks. One of the people he mentioned was Rep. Naquatta Ricks, a native Liberian and Democrat who is a member of the Colorado legislator and who represents parts of Aurora in House District 40.
Norman cited legislation that he said Ricks recently helped pass, including a reduction in bus passes, as well as a reduction in the fees for driver’s licenses for Colorado residents. Other recognitions included students who were given scholarships and business professionals given recognition for their work in the community.
Ernest Tweh, a member of the ULOC urged his fellow Liberians to put aside their political differences and work for the common good of their native country.
“As we celebrate 175 years of existence and ever cognizant of the fact that a unified and peaceful Liberia comes first and foremost…,” he said.
Candidates for Office Reach out to the Community
The lineup of speakers included candidates for state office in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections.
“I want to send you my best wishes on the celebration of Liberia Independence Day,” said Pam Anderson who is contesting the office of the Colorado secretary of state. Anderson, a Republican, touted the important role of the secretary’s office in the regulation of elections, business, and commerce, the very things that she said form the foundations of a free and democratic society.
“My work in the office of the secretary of state really typifies some of the things that both of our countries share and the values that we hold.”
Heidi Ganahl, the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado and the keynote speaker for the evening, took to the podium to congratulate Liberians on their country’s independence.
“My mission is to take back Colorado and give it back to all of you,” she said.
Ganahl, currently an at-large member of the University of Colorado board of regents, talked about hope and opportunity, something she said both Liberia and the US share in common.
She said the education of children is one of her primary goals and she hopes to use the office of governor to help reduce the rates of suicide, and drug addiction among children in the state, and to help bridge the gap in reading, writing, and math for the state’s children.
“Liberia Can Only Be Built by Liberians” — Henry Saah Fako
Perhaps the highlight of the evening came from remarks made by the visiting Honorable Henry Saah Fako, an elected official representing Liberia’s District 9, who urged his fellow Liberians to make a contribution to the development of their country.
“Today’s Liberia, whatever we have learned from the diaspora, whatever we have understood from the diaspora, in terms of infrastructure development, in terms of development, I think the most important and best thing you can do is to go home and do a single thing for your community that would transform your community,” Saah Fako told the audience.
Saah Fako applauded the work of Liberians who he said studied in America but decided to return home and give back to a nation that needs their support.
He cited the leadership of former President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, as well as current President George Weah, all elected democratically, for leading Liberia from a tumultuous time into peace and prosperity.