Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee Speaks in U.S. Against Division, Evil and Violence

By Anna Quinn

Leymah Gbowee speaks at Western Connecticut State University on Friday

DANBURY — In the first event of Western Connecticut State University’s weekend-long Peace Jam conference, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee urged a crowded Ives Concert Hall to speak up against division, evil and violence.

Now, she said, is a critical time for people to combat divisiveness by “using their voices for good.”

“It is time for each of you in this room and beyond to wake up,” Gbowee said. “Diversity is not bad. We must use our voices to let the rest of the world know that it is our diversity that makes the world great.”

Gbowee, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, is a Liberian peace activist known for leading a nonviolent movement of Christian and Muslim women that helped end her country’s second civil war.

Her hourlong speech used personal, often humorous and powerful anecdotes to promote a message of peace during what she calls a “crisis” in the world today.

She first shared the story of her driver during a trip in London, a Turkish man born in the U.K., who said because of terrorist attacks around the world he had lost his identity and become “someone’s stereotype.”

“I left that place and was never the same,” Gbowee said of his story.

His experience, and other moments of stereotyping in her life, she said, made her realize the divide created by these prejudices.

“Every time you act on what you think I am instead of who I am, you build a wall between us,” Gbowee said. “Instead of seeing a human, you see the object of your stereotype.”

This divide, she said, can be responsible for every-day injustices or larger atrocities like the Rwandan genocide or the Syrian civil-war. Instead, she said, diversity should be celebrated.

The rest of her talk focused on times she was able to use her voice to stop these injustices, like when she spoke with Liberia’s former president during the second civil-war. She described how she decided to abandon the prepared speech and instead speak her mind.

“I don’t have anything but my voice,” she said. “In the face of tyranny, we all have to be bold and use our words.”

The audience in the 750-seat hall gave Gbowee three standing ovations throughout her speech. After a brief question-and-answer session following the talk, the crowd filed out of the auditorium, many of them gathering in the hall to discuss her speech.

“I don’t think there are adjectives that can capture what we just heard,” said Karen Koza, a professor at WSCU.

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Source: My San Antonio Express Online

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About Cholo Brooks 15860 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.