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Liberian Americans Gathering In Philadelphia For Celebration, But With Heavy Hearts

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Contestants in the Liberian-American Beauty Pageant, which kicks off three days of activities in the Philadelphia area celebrating Liberia's Independence Day. (Credit: Mike Dunn)

Contestants in the Liberian-American Beauty Pageant, which kicks off three days of activities in the Philadelphia area celebrating Liberia’s Independence Day. (Credit: Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Friday brings the start of three days of activities in Philadelphia marking the importance of the Liberian community in the area. This comes three weeks after four Liberian American children died in a fire in the city.

The activities kick off the first night with a Liberian-American beauty pageant at the airport Marriott. That will be followed by a City Hall flag raising Saturday morning, games and cultural performances at Bensalem High School in Bucks County in the afternoon, a banquet Saturday evening and a church service in West Philadelphia Sunday morning.

Organizer Vera Tolbert says throughout all the events, the memories of the four Liberian American children who died in the fire three weeks ago will remain very much in everyone’s thoughts:

“The celebration is a very tough time for us, but we will use it as a time that will raise funds, and help the people in Liberia and the families in Philadelphia that have lost the children.”

Representing Pennsylvania in the beauty pageant is 20-year old Elizabeth Johnson (second from right in above photo) of Lansdowne.  She was born in Liberia and moved to the U.S. at age eight.  She says everyone in her community was affected by the fire:

“This is going to be a way to re-unite our people.  We had a cookout last Sunday to help the families who were affected.  So this is re-assuring the Liberian people that even though we don’t go through a lot of tough times (in the U.S.), we are still Liberian, we do have to stay united.”

Johnson says she has grand plans should she win the pageant:

“I have a passion to help my country, which is Liberia.  And I believe that this will give me a platform to start my own non-profit organization.  That way I can give back not only to Liberians back home, but also to the Liberian community in the United States also.”

The Philadelphia area is thought to have the largest Liberian American community in the United States.

The Fire Marshall is still investigating the cause of the blaze.

 

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