The Blessings of Being A Mother: I Could Not Help Being Tickled As My 15 Year Old Daughter Critically Examined Some of President Obama’s Policies from the Perspective of a 15 Year Old

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President Barack Obama continues to inspire me with everything he’s doing and planning for this country. So when he is scheduled to speak, I am all ears. Tonight, March 24th is no different. I  spent most of my day working on my memoir, editing some poems, editing students’ poems, planning for classes, and finding time to eat. Of course, I surprised my daughter and took her to her favorite grocery store where she purchased food to fix any meal she wants. She is only fifteen, but like me, she loves to cook. Since we’re only three at home these days, I can decide not to cook, fix up some left overs, and let Ade-Juah cook something for herself. She is the only American-meal eating creature in our home. But this very personal story, unlike all my other blog posts is not about Ade cooking herself dinner. The story is about something that is very close to her heart: the Television.

And “Mom, your President, the one President that you adore, Barack Obama, will eliminate American Idol again tonight,” she told me as soon as she arrived from school. “He’s making one of his speeches again tonight, and I cannot understand why he has to make a speech every night, especially, when we have to watch American Idol. This is not fair.” Ade said.
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Ade photographing herself through the mirror:

The President Gets Everyone’s Attention When He Speaks—

Ade-Juah is our youngest among the four. She is the baby, the one who all the children claim did not have the luxury of enjoying the hard time of being destitute after our family fled the civil war.

Today, Ade was complaining that the President’s timing of his speech would not allow her to watch American Idol; in fact, American Idol would have to be postponed again because there was this big speech that everyone had to listen to. She could not see why it was more important to give a speech than to watch one of her favorite shows. But Mommy didn’t understand, she said, since Mommy’s favorite show was the news anyway.

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I did not pay much attention to her until she began to discuss what she called, “a major problem policy” that the President had passed.

I stopped whatever I was doing at the kitchen sink to listen to my daughter. After all, she’d had a long day at school, got home and had to run over to the grocery store with me, and now that she was fixing up something for herself, it was important to listen to her complaints about “our” President. This was not just another “teenage” roller-coaster talk, so I wanted to hear what it was this lovely child of mine had to say.
I stood in the middle of the kitchen, facing her. She’s almost my height already at fifteen, and she is so proud of that. “Do you know what President Barack Obama says?” Ade said, her brown eyes, wide?

How many times does a fifteen year old girl who was now so sure of her image, that she spends a half of her day at the mirror, comes home with a question about the President’s policy on her mind? How many times does this happen?  She is at that stage in life when girls begin to take care of themselves, when everyone compliments them about their looks. She’sd taken dozens of digital images of herself, twisting and turning  at one of the bathroom mirrors. No one has the ability of photographing her as much as she wants, so she’d already learned how to position my camera to take her the way she wants to look. She’d face the camera at the mirror and from her mirror reflection, take a good shot, whether at home or on vacation. She has her favorite TV shows, her favorite stars, has the best of grades, and of course, a few good friends in our small town. But to listen to the policies of a President, common, this was too interesting to be true.

“He has put an end to dropping out of school, Mom,” my daughter said with disapproval. “Does he know how important it is for some kids to drop out of school, and he says no one is allowed to drop out of school now?” Ade said, frowning.

First, I chuckled, and of course, she didn’t like that. So I had to be serious. This President’s policy about young people she could know was too important to ignore, and of course, all of this unhappy undertone was coming to light for me just when the President was scheduled to speak to the American people. It was bad enough that American Idol was cancelled tonight, but all the policies of preventing dropout was now annoying to her.
“Did you by any chance have future plans to drop out of school?” I asked, and of course, she laughed.
“Why would I want to do that?” Ade again frowned.

It was one of those “duh” moments, so I quickly put on my educated face so she wouldn’t think I was stupid.

“I was just asking since you’re so annoyed the President has declared support to keep kids in school. Do you think that’s a bad policy? Is it wrong to say to kids, ‘you can’t just drop out and become useless’ to society?” I added.
“Well, Mom, in case you didn’t know,” Ade said in argument. “There are kids who HAVE to drop out of school. They have to. They can’t help it, so there must be a provision in the President’s policy that allows kids to drop out when they need to.”
“Really?” I wanted to laugh out loud, but you cannot laugh when a teenager is serious about something like that. You can get into a big fight just by making fun of a situation that should be serious according to them. I had come a long way with three other past teenagers not to be an expert, so I just listened.

“There are kids out there who have to drop out to work to support their parents. Some have to because they’re pregnant, and cannot continue. They need a break. The President cannot prevent kids from dropping out. And by the way, he can’t just take up our TV time all the time. Someone has to tell him. American Idol is important too.”

When one can have a conversation like that at the end of the day, this is a blessing. But to know that Barack Obama has reached my teenage daughter, the only one of my children any President has ever reached at that age the many years I have lived in this country, is wonderful.

I praised her for being opinionated, for being able to argue her points well the way she felt, but mostly, because she was listening even if it meant listening when she’d rather watch American Idol. Yes, American Idol is important just as it is important for kids to drop out. But the most important of all is that the President of the United States has got the ears of his people who are listening.

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DED EXTENDED–Liberian Immigrants No Longer Face Deportation: Thanks to President Obama, US Senators Paulsen, Reed, the Black Caucus and the Thousands of Supporters Out There.

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Our thanks goes out to so many out there who called the White House, wrote e-mails, signed our facebook, and made calls, joining in the efforts to prevent the forced repatriation of legal immigrants to Liberia. Our appreciation goes to US Senators Erik Paulsen, Jack Reed, The Advocates for Human Rights in Minnesota, many in the Liberian community, ordinary people, and all those who fought to help prevent the forceful repatriation of these already victimized Liberian immigrants. The fight is not over however. The immigrants have been given an extension of their DED as they seek opportunities for a more permanent status. President Barack Obama has been kind to allow this extension, but all of us must work with our families, friends, the communities to help change this sort of temporary status.

Liberian immigrants who were admitted into the United State during the 14 year civil war have been given an extension for another year as they work on obtaining a permanent status.

The matter of legally admitted immigrant deportation to their once devastated homeland is a touchy sort of subject for immigration opponents because many feel that everyone should live in their own country no matter what. But that is a very strange logic considering that there is no place on earth that is occupied by only those who own the country. The Liberian situation is not in any way related to the Immigration Debate. It is a unique one that the new President, Barack Obama will have to settle while he can. Year after year, US President since the 1990s have extended the temporary stay of these immigrants, but someone not understanding the situation might want to ask, then why have they not obtained a more permanent status yet?

When immigrants are given a temporary status because of war in their country, and that war lasts fourteen years, that status is no longer a temporary one. Besides,  many do not know that each of the temporary residents are not folks that have the ability to wake up one day and decide to change their status. They must have an employer who can file for them, a sibling or parent who can file for them, or they must marry an American citizen who can file for them. Many of the thousands that would have been deported do not and did not have that luxury. Many of us who had the education to obtain that opportunity have already done so.

Even if most could, there are others in the thousands who have no education, who have no knowledge of the system that the war forced them into, and are therefore not even aware of how to go about obtaining a new status. And yet there are others who have sought a way out by hiring lawyers who have deceived them. The situation our people find themselves in has been so complicated, many of us have friends and relatives who are simply up against the wall. Hopefully, these different issues will be examined case by case, and will be resolved more permanently in this one year.

Thanks to all:

On a more personal note, I would like to thank all of my good friends on facebook who joined with me in my small effort with the thousands of supporters and peace-loving people who fought for Liberians to be given this extension. I would like to thank my friends who joined in the calling campaign, the e-mailing of their own law makers. I would like to thank the good people at the Advocates for Human Rights, many who are dear friends of all of us Liberians. I would like to especially thank the Black Caucus that stood by Liebrians in their fight to not be deported like animals. This was not a political effort; it was a humane effort by Liberians, Americans, and even folks from across the world. I have a friend who lives in Germany, my scholar friend, Tobe, who joined in the effort with her own letter writing after she received my e-mail. I would like to thank my e-mail list that tolerated my desperate e-mails, and did not only tolerate my e-mails, but wrote back with promises to call and write. I know they all did write. May you all be blessed.

When I received the e-mail confirmation from The Advocates for Human Rights that the DED for Liberian immigrants had been extended, I called my friend, Doris Parker, and together we were overjoyed. It was a tearful moment to be reminded this year again that the war to save Liberians is never over.

This is not the end however. Liberian immigrants living in the US must buckle their belts and fight to upgrade their status or we will be talking about deportation next year again. Whatever I can do to assist, please call upon me, and I will. Two years ago, I served as an expert witness and support as a team of young lawyers in Philadelphia helped to save a young Liberian woman from deportation. She had been allowed into the country as a young adolescent, lost her parents to the war, and been forced to marry an older man when she escaped to come to this country. I could not see her deported, and was it a joy when through my and the efforts of the team of lawyers, she was given a new chance to live permanently in the US, and away from a place where she could have been killed like her parents and siblings had she been deported. Let us fight for human beings.

Some may look at our efforts to prevent the deportation of innocent, legal residents back to their original homeland as a way of bringing bad publicity to that country. That this media attention just makes Liberia look bad. I do not agree. Liberia has been looking bad for nearly twenty years, and things have not changed that much. I believe that the deportation of unwilling immigrants in mass numbers will make Liberia really look bad. It is a good thing therefore to give everyone the chance to live in a country that they love so much, a country that gave them sanctuary when they needed a home, and a country where their young children are growing up happily. God bless America.

It is a good thing. I love you.


Stop the Deportation of Liberian Immigrants:Tell President Barack Obama/ State Law Makers to Keep Families Together Here in the US!

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During the 14 year civil war in Liberia, desperate Liberian civilians were given sanctuary in several countries, including the United States. That is what usually happens when innocent civilians must flee their country because of warfare. Tens of thousands of Liberians were given sanctuary in the United States as well. Those who were allowed to come to the US have lived here for nearly two decades. On March 31, 2009, that temporary protection comes to an end, and the United States is preparing to return these refugees and legal immigrants in mass numbers to a country that has yet to recover from the bloody civil war.

On March 31, 2009, mothers will be sent home away from their children; fathers will be torn apart from their American born children; families will be forced to once more abandon their new life in America to be forcefully returned to a home that is now nearly forgotten. Young people that came of age in America will also be torn away.

Send President Barack Obama a message that it is inhumane to bring African refugees out of danger, keep them here in the US for nearly two decades and return them to their devastated homeland. America is home for them today. Forcefully returning them is wrong.. They are not animals. These are human beings.

Below is a poem I’m sending for your reading as you consider my argument.

Monrovia 2008

——— Patiricia Jabbeh Wesley (Newer poem forthcoming in The Literary Review)

On the side walk, patches of people
linger late.

In the day, they are like rice grains
along the roadways,

and at night,
they wallpaper lame bodies
in the draft darkness
of the broken city.

Crowds of war returnees,
waiting for nothing,
day after day,

waiting for nothing
after refugee camp,
after their former cities
of refuge

spewed them out like dirt,
after wandering the globe.
After death’s passing,
they have returned

looking like returnees
from the dead.

The city is hot, burning like steel
with hunger.

The air used to belong to us here
one woman said,
there used to be a road
to take us back home.

Today, the road homeward is now lost
The road to Cape Palmas, filled
with dry bones.

But on the street,
a motorcade is coming.
Someone is living.
Someone is living on these bones.

Do you know any other refugees from other countries, including Europe, who were brought to the United States between 1989 and 2009, given TPS, and afterwards, deported by mass numbers? I don’t know of any.

Liberian Immigrants who were brought into the United States during the 14 year bloody civil war are now threatened with mass deportation back to Liberia. We cannot allow this to happen in our civilized world. Join the efforts to stop this mass deportation of innocent people who have already suffered enough. Call up your law makers, and stop this madness. Liberia is neither ready nor able to survive such a mass arrival of immigrants and refugees. The video below is what these law-abiding people came from. The situation has not changed that much; so, don’t  let anyone fool you. This is the time to prevent another tragedy. Do not wait until another tragedy happens. This is your time to make a difference.

Why am I opposing this move? Please allow me to give you my reasons. Please allow those of us who are peace loving, humanitarian minded, thinking, well-meaning human beings to make our case. There is something wrong with a world that allows innocent human beings to suffer such a horrific massacre of hundreds of thousands, the destruction of an entire country, and the mass exodus of about a million to foreign countries and refugee camps over more than a decade before intervening in that war.

There is something wrong when those thousands are given “Temporary Protected Status-(TPS)” instead of a permanent status in the United states when the country they were taken from continues to be in ruins. There is something wrong when those tens of thousands who have made their home in America, who have paid taxes for the past nearly twenty years, who are struggling to bring up American born US children are told that “this is it, pack up and leave everything once more and return to nothing.” There is something inhumane about this, and you and I cannot allow this human tragedy to happen.

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This is the Monrovia I saw, where most of the refugees that were repatriated from refugee camps struggle to find a source of living. It is no place to dump more of those who were once displaced and dislocated, and are now settled in the US. Do for Liberians what has been done for other refugees.

You have to be angry about this. You as a good citizen of the great United States, you, the well-meaning, peace-loving human being must pick up the phone and call your State Senator, your state representative, your civil group, and rally with me and with all of the peace loving people to prevent the deportation of law-abiding residents who have already been dealt a heavy blow by the war. There is something inhuman about this threat to deport Liberian immigrants.

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I took this photo of Water Side in Monrovia, Liberia while I was visiting my homeland in July of 2009. This is how crowded the city was before the deportation/repatriation of another thousands of Liberians from the Buduburam Refugee Camp near Accra, Ghana. Let no one fool you, the country side has not been made habitable for returning refugee due to the violence. The United Nations is still in charge despite a government recognized by the world body. Deporting more people to that crowded, devastated country could start a new wave of violence.

The Argument For or Against the Deportation:

Let me port forth the arguments on both sides of the issue:

Some people have been complaining on the Internet that allowing Liberian refugees who were given the “TPS” to continue living legally either by a general clemency or by an extension could take away American jobs. Some contend that it would be unfair.

This is my question to you: Who is it unfair to? Who will lose if Liberian refugees who have already been victimized by the ugly civil war and by world neglect of that war are allowed to remain here in the US?

These Liberians are only the unfortunate ones who were forced to leave their country, and were given refuge by the richest country in the world, a country that Liberia as a nation has stood by since its founding in 1847. Who will lose something when whatever jobs some claim Liberians will take are jobs that only the unfortunately uneducated are willing to do in this country?

Liberian immigrants who came out of the villages and from difficult conditions of that country did not have the money to go to college or the means to find out how, and many today serve as nursing aids in America’s nursing homes, giving care to Americans, paying their taxes, bringing up American children.

What does anyone have to lose by keeping these law-abiding people here serving a country that needs service? I believe that anyone claiming this argument is only selfish, and does not know what it means to lose all of your family, your personal property, your homeland, your culture, and all that is worth living for. Liberians have seen enough, and must be given a total clemency to be permanent residents and citizens if they choose in this country. This is time for America and for Barack Obama to give back to a people who have loved America for nearly two centuries.

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I took this photo during my research trip to Liberia in July, 2008. I was asked to do a talk for this group of young women at a Life Studies (Home Economics, vocational) school. These girls had nothing much going for them even in this over-crowding condition.

The Argument Against Deportation:

Now, concluding- can I ask when we heard that refugees that were brought into the US from other non-African countries were returned in mass by the US government? Or if I am right, is this a rule that fits African immigrant /refugees only?

Whenever one country gives sanctuary to a people during their time of need, this is a great giving. All of those who were caught up in that bloody civil war, folks like myself are very grateful for that. No one knows  better than Liberians what it feels like to lose everything, to lose so many of your loved ones, to lose tens of thousands of your country people, to watch the utter destruction of your homeland, your culture, and to see the craziness of what that ugly war brought upon us.

We know what it means when we have to watch our country people returned forcefully to that memory, to that ugly past, to no jobs or food, some to no family and to ghost towns. If this ever happens, this will be a violation of the rights of these people. This is because when they were brought here and given that TPS, that was all there was, and all that we could get. Refugees are usually desperate people who do not have choices, who take whatever is given them when it is given. But most of these law-abiding people have been here for nearly two decades, making viable contributions to this great land. They cannot be allowed to be forcefully returned without a fight from you, the good American people, the good immigrant residents, the peace-loving people, the Human Rights Activists.

Tell Barack Obama to hear our cry. Tell your state Senator and representatives to hear our cry. Tell your neighbors, your church friends, your community groups to join forces with all of us to prevent the punishment of these already victimized Liberians. Some may say “why didn’t they do something all these years?”

Tell them that refugees who lose everything and must start a new life often do not have the means to fight the laws, pay lawyers, fund the expensive fees needed to fight for citizenship. Those who could, like myself, have done that. Many could only feed their families. Give Liberians a chance to survive this time. Don’t let the sun go down on these innocent people. Do not let the government tear up families this time around. Many Liberians are still torn apart with families all over the world. Don’t let the sun go down without your help. I love you.

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This is what we saw in that war.

Here are some Links on the Issue: http://www.africanloft.com/liberians-in-us-face-deportation/

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/09/liberians.deportation/

http://www.wrni.org/content/local-liberians-face-threat-deportation

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/40516512.html?elr=KArksD:aDyaEP:kD:aUnc5PDiUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU