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Liberians in Triangle fight fear, misinformation about Ebola

Posted October 12, 2014

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— Durham residents of African descent met Sunday with county health workers to discuss the Ebola outbreak raging in their homeland, whether to risk a return visit and how to meet prejudice in the United States.

"We are trying to ensure that people aren't afraid of local Liberians or other Africans," said McSwain Forkoh.

Lowell Dargbeh, who has lived in the U.S. for almost 30 years and is an American citizen, said he is used to the questions.

"Those who hear my accent are interested to know where I'm from. I don't shy away from telling them," he said. "Then sometimes the follow up question is 'How long since you've been home?'"

Dargbeh and Forkoh said they have come to expect reactions of genuine curiosity about Africa, but since Ebola has made headlines, they've seen a different response.

"Once people learn that you are from Liberia and one of the affected countries, people tend to have second thoughts about their association or affiliation with you," Dargbeh said.

Their home country is among the hardest hit by the Ebola virus. More than 2,300 people there have died, and more than 4,000 cases are suspected, according to data collected by the World Health Organization.

Although neither man has visited Africa for more than a year, both have been in contact with family there and are trying to help from afar.

They have sent protective gear such as gloves and masks, and are advising African family members about hygiene protocols common in the U.S.

In Durham, they serve as ambassadors for their country to ease a growing fear.

"What we're trying to do is everything we can to present the information, the right information, to the people, and most importantly let them get the information from the experts," Forkoh said.


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  • LetsBeFair Oct 13, 2014

    After being heavily trained on these diseases in the military, I here to say ... this is more dangerous than people can imagine. I have close friends in Africa that have told me for years it takes nothing for ebola to wipe out entire villages in just a few days. The doctors on TV are carefully watching their words ... why, because they know exactly how dangerous this is.

  • btneast Oct 13, 2014

    This is NC. The racists around here have been afraid of you for their entire lives.If you think racism exists only in NC or the American South, then you aren't very well traveled. Go to Paris and ask about race relations there as one example...

  • Sara Hauser Oct 13, 2014
    user avatar

    why haven't they discussed limiting or eliminating flights arriving from the endemic areas until the outbreak is over?? BTW-Letsbefair-I agree with you totally!!

  • Setnitst8 Oct 13, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Yep, I don't care if they are originally from Africa, I do care whether or not they decide to go and play hero and come back home freely infecting folks.

  • Alexia Proper Oct 13, 2014
    user avatar

    It's really sad when you have to write something as awkward as "residents of African descent". AMD, it's wrong. The article is focused on Africans who moved to America, not ones who descended from those living in Africa.

    A reasonable classification for these people might simply be Africans. Or, perhaps more precisely, Liberians. If they're now Americans, perhaps African-American. But, that option has been misused by real Americans who truly did descend from Africa.

    I'd like to hear from black folks. Shouldn't we drop phrases like African-American when referring to black Americans?

    "Residents of African descent"... that's just too funny.