African Americans should urge members of Congress to support [Liberia. I think we should support Liberia [financially]; African Americans are doing this already. There are a number of churches over there. Liberians need books; you don’t have to send a check. It can be very simple things. You can support some of the organizations that are doing things in Liberia.
TR: Do you think this is the best investment for black Americans at a time when so many black Americans are suffering? The most recent census statistics show that nearly one in four black Americans lives in poverty.
RJ: I think we recognize that we have some tremendous problems at home. The whole idea of the wealth gap, the unemployment rate, is heavy for African Americans. We’ve got these problems, but like I said, if you are a businessperson and you want to invest in West Africa, Liberia is a good place to do it.
From an individual, personal standpoint, it may be tough to do things … but to the extent that you can, whether it is a book drive or supporting the understanding of our historical relationship with Liberia, that is a plus.
TR: Does the fact that you are asking African Americans to adopt Liberia for our own philanthropy signal to you a rise in the stature of black Americans?
RJ: We never had an African-American president. That is a huge statement for the man and the nation. At the same time, we have a huge gap in wealth creation, jobs and economic opportunities. Those two things are in conflict. Those contradictions have to be addressed. We cannot be lulled into the false sense of security. We’ve got to be able to look at the world as it is and move things in a positive direction that will benefit the 40 million African Americans in this country, and not just the select few of us.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a journalist who writes and blogs frequently about race.