Getahn Ward, a U.S. based Liberian Journalist, reporter of ‘The Tennessean’ passed off last Saturday, December 16. 2017 in the United States will be remembered as one of Music City’s finest journalists, by many accounts an intrepid reporter. And a model immigrant.
According to the Tennessean online in a tribute said the late Getahn Ward is a reminder that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, which is becoming increasingly true of Nashville, the “it city”.
His passing on Saturday was a shock to many of us who knew him only casually and saw him in public on occasion.
He was an affable and out-going young man – only 45.
On reading of his death in the Sunday Tennessean, I was reminded of the old Billy Joel tune, “Only the Good Die Young.”
But he might have died much sooner had he stayed in his native Liberia, West Africa.
When Getahn left Liberia, the country had just embarked on its first civil war in 1989, a conflict that lasted until 1997 and caused the death of more than 250,000 people.
It led to the involvement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and of the United Nations. The peace did not last long, and in 1999 the Second Liberian Civil War broke out.
It is reasonable to assume that had he stayed in Liberia, Getahn would have had strong possibilities of meeting His Maker there.
But we in Nashville were blessed that he moved to the U.S. two years after the outbreak of the Liberian conflict. Not until long after completing his university studies and working as a journalist at the Tennessean for years, did he become a U.S. citizen in 2014, voting for the first time at the age of 42.
Getahn was by all accounts – and from appearance – proud of his African heritage. He could be seen wearing his West African dashiki on numerous occasions.
While holding to his African heritage, he was nevertheless comfortable in most any social milieu.
His journalist beat for the Tennessean in recent years was covering real estate and development. But he could show up anywhere in his personal role.
In the lingo of my high school students in Africa, he was “too movious” — that is, he got around a lot!
While I don’t recall seeing Getahn very often during the period when we were both involved with Tennessee State University since we were on different campuses, I would run into him in a variety of venues around town.
Once at a celebration in the 12th Street Mosque. Another time at the Small Business Administration office, and another at his church.
Always friendly, always cordial.
Our nation is sorely in need of immigrants like Getahn. Our city is teeming with refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria, Myanmar, and El Salvador.
They represent the leavening in our society. It is quite likely that among today’s DREAMers there is another Getahn, studying, persevering and hoping to make a contribution to his or her adopted country.
We should honor them. The Tennessean posts a large mural of Gethan on the outside of its building.
Let’s go further. I propose that Getahn Ward be recognized by Mayor Megan Barry as Immigrant of the Year!
Galen Hull retired from Tennessee State University in 2011 and is a co-founder of the Tennessee Immigrant and Minority Business Group (TIMBG).