Many Voices and One Vision: For Peace

We are pleased to introduce you once again to Jong Massaquoi and share with you the words of our friend and fellow IIT student from the country of Liberia. Jong is a 4th year student in the IIT Stuart College of Business with a minor in architecture. A fellow classmate at Illinois Tech; Jong was among the very first people that greeted many of us – and indeed nearly everyone from the 1st August/September 2012.
Liberia has known the deep pains and losses of internal violence; “The First Liberian Civil War was an internal conflict in Liberia from 1989 until 1996. The conflict killed over 200,000 people.” After a short period, “The Second Liberian Civil War began in 1999 when a rebel group backed by the government of neighboring Guinea, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), emerged in northern Liberia. In early 2003, a second rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, emerged in the south, and by June–July 2003, Charles Taylor’s government controlled only a third of the country. The capital Monrovia was besieged by LURD, and that group’s shelling of the city resulted in the deaths of many civilians. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes as a result of the conflict.

The Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by the warring parties on August 18, 2003 marking the political end of the conflict and beginning of the country’s transition to democracy under the National Transitional Government of Liberia which was led by interim President Gyude Bryant until the Liberian general election of 2005.”

As we have learned since our arrival at IIT, many of our fellow international students understand war, and too many fellow US students understand violence in their own cities, including many neighborhoods in Chicago. We would like to see all of us at Illinois Tech as STE{A}M professional who are all peacemakers. We all have common experiences and together we represent the entire IIT story –a set of ideals and goals that we hold deeply, that is, a deep commitment to home and family, the place of our youth, places which we seeks to help through community service and outreach through the professional fields studied at Illinois Tech, to build our communities and neighborhoods – and our countries – with a great history forward.

At IIT, we know that we are a community of students from every part of the US and more than 100 countries; we believe that our diversity and inclusion will serve Illinois Tech and our world. We hope to welcome Jong and so many of our IIT classmates to Syria, to visit their homes, and to learn and work together through our shared histories, and our lives to see how we will build – and design – a better tomorrow, for all.

– the Editors, the IIT Syrian Student Blogز

Summer 2011- the summer after my high school graduation- I found myself back home celebrating my accomplishment with family and friends. At this point I had lived in the U.S for seven years and was looking forward to spending the summer in Liberia and heading back to the U.S to start my college journey at Illinois Institute Of Technology (IIT).

But during those first seven years, I always had one question on my mind. Why was I given an opportunity to come to the U.S. at a time when Liberia was at war (I left Liberia in 2003 and spend some time in Sierra Leone before arriving in the U.S in 2004).

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In the midst of all the killings, destruction, lack of education, and use of child soldiers, I was not physically affected. Instead I received the opportunity to start fresh in a new environment- Somerville, Massachusetts. The answer to my question did not arrive until I was on my Delta flight heading back to the U.S.

 

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While in Liberia that summer I hung out with many people. I heard their stories and saw their living conditions. That same summer some friends of mine from the U.S came along with me to Liberia. We were interested in filming a documentary that would share light on the situation in Liberia. Due to funds/ time the documentary was never produced.

After an exciting summer, I was ready to head back to the U.S to start college. On my flight back, the answer to that question (why me?) was made known. I understood that I was somehow chosen to have this amazing opportunity because I am meant to be The Voice for Liberia at IIT. With that in mind, I started my first semester in the fall of 2011. The first couple of weeks were great. I made new friends, was exposed to a new and vibrant city, and for the first time in a long time I was attending a school that had a good amount of other students from the continent of Africa. Within the first few weeks my room became the hub for what could become the African Student Organization (ASO) class of 2015/2016.

The African Student Organization (ASO) was my first step toward being “A Voice” at IIT. During my first semester I interacted with many students and saw that IIT was a place of innovation and a place that valued diversity tremendously. With that in mind I set out to re-introduce the African Student Organization to the IIT community and would become its first President in its new Era.

I went on to serve as President for five straight semesters (elected twice) and with help from many others, I cultivated and re-defined the ASO brand and give it a new vision and mission (http://aso-iit.weebly.com). ASO was the start but over the past six semesters I have witnessed the impact and opportunities that IIT has provided for many students here on campus. IIT have worked with the City Colleges of Chicago, and to join programs with other universities in the U.S, the Caribbean and most recently in the initiative to welcome students from Syria, a country that knows all too well the deep the pain and loss of life.

I have learned so much from my peers and colleagues at IIT, indeed our faculty and staff hail from every part of the U.S. and around the globe and in their professional and personal lives; they too have understood our histories, and have supported us as students and in our dreams. Indeed President Anderson’s strategic plan for Illinois Tech shares this theme: Many Voices, One Vision.

 

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So with three more semesters remaining at Illinois Tech, I believe myself once again renewing my commitment and obligation to carry forward this idea of “A Voice for Liberia” forward. How can I learn from the history and traditions of community organizing in Chicago, throughout the U.S. and around the globe to galvanize momentum among the diaspora of Liberians in support of home? I see what strength there is among my peers when their countries and regions are represented in greater numbers at my university, my soon to be alma mater. And I ask, how can we create greater larger cohorts of students from Africa with over a billion people and home to so many young people, and how can we create learning exchanges between Illinois Tech and Liberia, and a movement of students from Liberia to join me at IIT?

I want more of the opportunities that I have enjoyed at this great institution for my country of 4 million.

I know that it doesn’t happen over night and it takes time and countless hours, but I have a dream – a dream that may well take my lifetime but one that I am committed to seeing come through. A dream that will reshape the future of a tiny West African Nation and give it educated and well trained leaders. I have a dream that before I graduate from IIT in Dec. of 2015 we will begin to several new Liberian students here at IIT and many more to follow every year.

This is face of stage two of “being the Voice” and I welcome you to join me.

Jong Massaquoi

About the Author:
Born in Lofa County, Liberia, Jong Massaquoi is currently a 4th year student at Illinois Institute of Technology. Although Jong has spend the past 10 years in the United States, he still has deep roots and connections to his home country Liberia and to the continent of Africa. Jong contributes regularly to the IIT community and over the last three years have been involved with student organizations such: African Student Organization (ASO), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Undergraduate Business Council. In addition, Jong has worked as a Student Ambassador for the IIT Office of Undergraduate Admission since 2012 where he introduces new first-year and transfer students to the university through: giving campus tours, booking campus visits, and helping out at Admissions events. Jong remains dedicated to providing educational opportunities for young Liberians and Africans. After obtaining his MBA someday, Jong hopes to build a thriving business conglomerate in his home country; this journey begins with building the educational infrastructure in his home country and establishing learning exchanges between university level students in Liberia, and Illinois Institute of Technology.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Laurie Walle says:

    I am so proud of you, Jong. This brought tears to my eyes!
    ML

  2. I am so glad to hear this great passion that you have in you as a Liberian.

    I believe that you have more to give back to your country Liberia like what I have done and still hoping to do in the development process of Mama Liberia.

    I have the strong convection that your vision or dream will not die but rather be accomplished. I will like both of us to work together and push your vision or dream so it can be realize as a true Liberian son of the soil.

    I look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks for your what you have started over the past years and still continue to do.

    Adam Salifu Kamara

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