Interpreting Differences

July 13, 2009

Over the past year, I participated in a seminar called “Interpreting Differences”.  People with a variety of differences including race, gender, background got together on multiple occasions to talk about how we interpret situations differently.  A lot of good came out of it, as we improved our communication skills and learned to include an appreciation for how others think.  Now, I get a chance to take this to another level.

I am on my way to Gbranga, Liberia.  Over the years, I have spent time/worked in Liberia on several occasions.  However, this time I’ll actually be spending a significant amount of time outside of the capital city (Monrovia) and will be immersed in the rural areas in Bong County.  This time I’ll be going back to Liberia as the first Fulbright Specialist working in country since the Civil war began in the early 90’s.    Because I’ll be working to expand their capacity to re-build their own country,  I’ve spent a significant amount of time studying up on Liberian culture, the Kpelle people, and broader issues facing the country.

One book I read was ‘Mask of Anarchy’…talk about Interpreting Differences!

Interestingly, the Kpelle people migrated to West Africa around the 1500’s.  They are the largest clan/tribal group in Liberia.  During the era of Human Trafficking, the Kpelle were one of the groups (forest clans) that were regularly rounded up in the Slave Raids by some of the other tribes who participated heavily in the Slave Trade.  Completely throw away the notion that it was just the Europeans…some tribes made a living off of the slave trade.  To the point where they engaged in armed conflict with others to maintain their lucrative positions in the trade…Look up King Joe Harris (Bassa).

So it really drives personal reflection to go back to Africa as a Fulbright Specialist to work in an area dominated by the Kpelle people…who in large part could actually be my own ancestors.

I’ve got a few more days to prepare…and also make sure I’m caught up on all my work!  While I am working in Liberia, I’ll regularly post pics and my thoughts on this Blog.  But, I’ll also be posting on my new web-site.  I’ve been working on a book over the past couple of years…It should be ready to go to print when I get back.  To go with the book, I have a web-site to support the concept : Taking Ownership.  So follow along with me on my journey of immersion in West African culture.

My new web-site will be up in a few days:

It is under construction so be patient with me!  If you look in the photo gallery, I’ll also be posting pictures of my various travels.  There is a pretty interesting set of photos of Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana.

Interpreting these Differences…should be very interesting!


8 Responses to “Interpreting Differences”

  1. Gwen said

    Hi Malik,
    Your blog is quite interesting and I am aware of both the history concerning the birth of Liberia, as well as the participation of many Africans in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I am also thrilled to know that you have visited the Cape Coast slave castle and perhaps the one down the road at Elmina in Ghana. My husband is Ghanaian and we hope to retire there. I have been to the castle many times, and each time the emotional experience is overwhelming. I have never been able to tour those dungeons without being overtaken by grief and sorrow. Every African American should make it a point to retrace the steps of those who were stolen, bought and sold.

    I would really like to know more about the Interpreting Differences seminar since I am trying to engage the National Center in CLC work to which it has been very resistant. Let me know where I can find more information about it.

    I wish you safe travels and I look forward to hearing about your work in Liberia as it progresses.
    Take care and be blessed.


    • Hi Gwen,

      Thanks so much for your note…we all certainly have to inspire each other…I’ll send you a note with the contact information for the person who got me into it. It was most beneficial and I developed some substantive new relationships/friendships out of it. I have not been to Elmina, but have certainly heard quite a bit about it. You are right, it is an experience that can increase our understanding/awareness of humanity…I know it has done that for me!

      Appreciate your sharing, and I’ll make sure to get that contact information to you!

      Best to you 🙂


  2. Ray III said

    I look forward to the photos and your blogs.

  3. Patrick said

    Bro. Malik,

    Thanks for sharing the experience. I look forward to following your blog. I’m inspired to create the ways and means to discover and travel in such a way. (on business)

    Again, Thanks and take care.

    Pat Dean

  4. Althea said

    Hi Malik,

    How exciting! You are truly blessed my friend…to be afforded an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others is phenomenal! “Take ownership”…those two words run deep. If there is one person I know who can bring that phrase to life, it is you.

    I look forward to your blogs and the pictures you will be sharing. In the meantime, I will be researching the Kpelle people, their culture and the history of where they live so that you and I may have meaningful conversations about the experiences on your horizon.

    Take care, be safe and continue to be blessed.

    : 0 )

  5. Ann Falconer said

    It was good to hear from you. The pictures remind me of Liberia.

  6. Kimberley said


    Love the blog and the pictures. I am looking forward to seeing pics of Cuttington U and the students.


  7. Angela said

    I am truly impressed. You have been given such a great opportunity to share with the world your travels. I don’t know if I will be able to make the trip to Liberia, though in the mean time I will see Liberia through your eyes and words.

    I wish you continue success in your travels and your commitment to helping people. Stay encouraged!

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