The Liberia Project
Liberia is a country of hope. Settled in 1822, thousands of free-born American blacks migrated from the United States to the colony of Liberia to establish a home they hoped would have freedoms that the U.S. could not offer. After twenty years of progress, in 1847 Liberia declared itself an independent nation. Liberia is the only African republic which did not have to gain independence from another nation. It is Africa’s first and oldest republic.
Despite auspicious beginnings, Libera has suffered a series of modern setbacks. The purpose of this project is to document Liberia's modern history through its people, and to show that hope is still alive and flourishing.
As part of our longform story on Liberia, this project seeks to create biographies of Liberians who survived the country's civil wars and the Ebola epidemics, and are creating the country's future. We will include refugee Liberians in the diaspora who live in and around Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland, and will also document Liberians who remained in their country through the conflicts.
Interviews will be outlined and conducted by Yumetta Beysolow, who holds a Masters in Social Work, and licensed psychologist Ramesh Bakhtiari. James Conley will be the primary photographer.
Through autobiographical narrative interviews and environmental portraits, we will document individual experiences and stories to create both an historical record and to raise awareness of the hidden costs of Liberia's modern conflicts. We will also show how Liberians have overcome their challenges and actively work toward a bright future.
Our project goal is to present the stories in printed form. This will include both a book and subset collections grouped by theme.
While the identification of willing diaspora participants is ongoing, principal interviews and photography started in February 2017.
In early 2020, we anticipate conducting interviews in Libera, as well as beginning principal documentary photography in both Liberia and other parts of West Africa.
For more information, or to participate or volunteer:
Liberian Life in America
Yumetta Beysolow lives in Philadelphia, and Monrovia, Liberia. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) and one in Business Administration (MBA). Yumetta has extensive clinical experience in behavioral health, mental health, psychotherapy, and generalist social work practice, and has a strong passion for the uplifting and development of the Liberian people through education, health and sanitation. In Liberia, she has worked with international NGOs and in the private sector to improve farming practices and enhance sanitation, as well as to assist Liberians in creating new private sector businesses.
Apogeo Photos Member James Conley has always been a photographer. James matriculated university at 16, working for both the campus newspaper and yearbook. By 19, he was shooting for the Nashville Tennessean on a regular basis. James also covered assignments for UPI, the Associated Press, and other dailies such as the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, receiving awards and recognition for his richly empathetic and humanist photojournalism.
James is currently based in Philadelphia, and is engaged in a variety of international projects and assignments.