#IamaLiberianNotaVirus Goes Viral to Stop Ebola Stigmatization

The hashtag and YouTube video quickly went viral when four women joined together to combat the stigmatization surrounding Ebola and Liberians.

Shoana Clarke Solomon
Shoana Clarke Solomon YouTube screenshot

Since the rise of Ebola cases in the United States, many Liberians, and people from other African countries, have been stigmatized and even discriminated against out of others’ fear of becoming infected with the disease.

In Texas, the Los Angeles Times reported, Liberians living in the Dallas area were taunted with, “Go back to Liberia.”

“If I am Liberian, that doesn’t mean that I have Ebola,” Carolyn Woahloe, a registered nurse, told the Times. “This is not a Liberian problem. This is a world problem.”

As the Ebola hysteria rises in the U.S., the finger-pointing, blaming and ostracizing have escalated. In response, Shoana Clarke Solomon, a Liberian photographer and TV host, created a video, “#IamaLiberianNotaVirus,” that immediately went viral.

Since the creation of the video, people have posted on social media sites selfies that show them holding signs that read, “I am a Liberian, not a virus.”

The Root had the opportunity to speak with Solomon about her project to raise awareness and erase the Ebola stigmatization.

The Root: What inspired the hashtag?

Shoana Clarke Solomon: This campaign was started by four women who were talking about how frustrating it is to be looked at as if they were diseased or walking viruses from Liberia, rather than as human beings who just happened to Liberians. Comfort Leeco wrote a post that inspired Aisha Bruce to respond. Rev. Dr. Katurah Cooper saw Aisha’s post on Facebook and suggested we do something about the spreading stigmatization. She suggested the slogan, “I am a Liberian, not a virus.” I came up with the idea of using imagery to express our feelings. I took a self-portrait with the words suggested by Dr. Cooper, written on a sheet of paper, and the rest is history. Within hours that image went viral.