Black journalist in Sierra Leone: Chapter 4

Feb 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Reporter's Notebook

Editor’s Note: The following entry is from the reporter’s travel diary of Martin Ricard, who recently traveled to Sierra Leone to report on youths’ attitudes toward agriculture since the end of the country’s civil war in 2002. It originally appeared on Martin Ricard’s blog.

Feb. 3

Before I share my recollections on my last night in the country, I wanted to share something I forgot to mention in the last entry.

On the night we get back from Pujehun, after everyone had dropped off their bags at Sahid’s place, I was sitting in the foyer of the house just outside of the living room waiting for the Internet to load when Augustine, the teenager who stays with Sahid and his family in Freetown, approached me very quietly. I could tell he was connecting with me since we first began talking about hip hop in America.

So when he approached me, he was very honest. Standing against the wall, he told me that his views about agriculture had changed since I had arrived. A few days ago, he was explaining how he, like many youths in Freetown, felt agriculture was not appealing to him. But he said he had witnessed my commitment to my assignment and how I had traveled to each youth farming group in the provinces to hear what they had to say about agriculture. That effort, he said, had inspired him to perhaps go into farming after he finishes secondary school.

That statement right there should be an indication that youths’ attitudes about agriculture in Sierra Leone are indeed changing.

My last night in Sierra Leone was a memorable one. I guess I made such an impression on one of the youth groups that I interviewed in Waterloo that they decided to show their appreciation by hosting a send-off party for me and my guides. Mind you, these are youths from a rural part of the country who often can’t afford to finish school, who don’t have anyone supporting their organization, who have to struggle for everything. Yet they plan this big celebration just for us. We ate, danced and perspired until about 2 in the morning.

They put so much effort into it. They cleared out a room in their multipurpose center and had a few lights hanging from the ceiling. They got chairs for me, Sahid and Theo to sit on, a table and a table cloth, plates, glasses, silverware, napkins and plenty of Fanta (for me, of course), beer and palm wine, and a D.J. These were all rare sites in most of the places we have visited at night. As I’m writing this, I can still hear LRG’s “Money in the Bank” and everyone jumping to the middle of the room and dancing in a circle when they hear it.

As I traveled back home, I stopped at Heathrow Airport in London for one of my layovers. I walked through the airport to my gate, and what did I see? A Tiffany’s store with the best of the world’s diamonds on display for all of those passengers who just can’t leave London without a piece of high-class jewelry in their suitcase. I want to qualify this by saying that I have no problem with Tiffany’s or anyone who shops there. But, at that moment, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that 25-year-old guy I met in Kono who was in that mining pit, knee-deep in the murky, sewer-brown water, working for meager wages and searching for a diamond he may never find.

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