Liberia’s ruling coalition chairman kickstarts capital campaign for Liberian community center in Minnesota

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Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) board member Edwina Willie holds the proclamation from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz designating July 26, 2021 as Liberian Independence Day in Minnesota. The 174th Liberian Independence Day celebrations were held at the Liberian Community Center on July 24, 2021. Photo: Tom Gitaa/Mshale

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. – The Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM) officially launched their Community Center Capital Campaign on the grounds of the community center on Saturday during their country’s Independence Day celebrations.

OLM board of directors’ chairman Abraham Brima Bah said the early fundraising effort has achieved some success with early pledges which started coming in on the day of the celebration.

The organization has set a goal of raising $60,000 which is the down payment required for a $280,000 purchase of additional adjacent space so they can expand their existing community center.

The organization purchased the community center in 2009 in part through the help of then US Senator Mark Dayton which he included in Congress’s FY2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The center is now home to a burgeoning list of programs that the organization runs, including after school programs and a nursing assistant teaching program, and is one of only a handful of community centers owned and controlled by African immigrant organizations in the state.

The center owns part of 1.15 acres almost 50,000 square feet alongside four other owners, including the Nigerian-owned Crown Medical Center. A National Guard recruiting center occupies an adjacent office.

Kamaty Diahn, the OLM executive director, said the capital campaign will allow the organization to purchase an additional 2,800 square feet of space which will more than double its current space of 2,200 square feet.

“We have so many programs here now that this space is just not enough,” Diahn said in a follow up phone conversation with Mshale.

Liberians in Minnesota were marking 174 years of Liberia’s independence two days early on a weekend to ensure wider participation from the community.

The chairman of Liberia’s ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Mulbah Morlu delivered the keynote address as darkness fell outside the grounds of the community center. He brought greetings from the president of Liberia George Weah, whom Morlu said is “committed to maintaining unity in the country by promoting national reconciliation and respecting rights and privileges of all citizens.”

“I call upon all Liberians to demonstrate patriotism and nationalistic fervor. And so while I remain thrilled for the honor to speak here tonight I am not surprised by the level of organization of this program to celebrate the birth of our nation under the auspices of OLM,” said Morlu. “This is evident not only by the warm welcome you have accorded me and my team but also by the presence of these distinguished and accomplished statesmen and women of the state and city governments, and other citizens of the United States.”

Chairman Morlu was joined on stage by the first Liberians to serve on the Brooklyn Park and Falcon Heights City Councils, Wynfred Russell and Yakasah Wehyee , as well as the two candidates on the ballot in the August 10 special election for Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Hollies Winston and Lisa Jacobson.

Morlu commended OLM on its desire to expand the community center saying it would be insensitive of him not to contribute towards the capital campaign. He gave $2,000 towards the campaign. The Minnesota chapter of the CDC matched his contribution.

The presidents of the Nigerian and Kenyan associations in Minnesota that spoke, Zee Nagberi and Huldah Momanyi, each pledged $500 from their respective organizations.

As of the writing this story Diahn said $8,500 had been raised towards the $60,000 goal.

The honorary consul general for the Republic of Liberia in Minnesota, Jackson George, Jr., was among the speakers. Hon. George urged his fellow Liberians to work with the consulate which is based in Brooklyn Park to coordinate their COVID-19 relief efforts for Liberia to ensure efficiency.

The consul general said that even as Liberians in the diaspora lament the shortcomings of various Liberian administrations “none of the governments have stopped you from helping your village back home.”

George said the consulate stands ready to work with Liberians in the Midwest in their efforts to uplift the wellbeing of those in Liberia.

To learn more about the capital campaign to expand the Liberian community center and how to donate, visit the OLM website at www.olmn.org.

About Tom Gitaa

Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, President and Publisher of Mshale. As the founder, he did a lot of the reporting during the humble beginnings of the newspaper. While he still does the occasional reporting, he now concentrates on the publishing side of the news operation. Tom was also the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dishnetwork satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states such as the president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at State House, Banjul. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as President of the Board of Directors of Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated books to Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. Tom also served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association. He retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on half marathons.

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