During the period of political unrest and the bloody, 14-year civil war that rocked Liberia, many Liberians left their country. Many moved to the United States, Europe or neighboring countries in West Africa. However, after the country’s political climate stabilized following the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, they returned to their native country. Many said they had longed for years to return, others contend that moving back was snap decision. But they all speak of the fertile opportunity that exists in business in Liberia and the warmth of the people in their country as factors in deciding to return. In part one of a seven-part series on going back home, BET.com reporter Jonathan P. Hicks talked to Barkue Tubman about her return.
Barkue Tubman and her family left Liberia in 1980 when she was eight years old, after President William Tolbert and many prominent government officials were killed in a bloody coup. She lost relatives and friends during the civil war that followed. Her family moved to the United States, where she went to Elon College in North Carolina, after attending an elite boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey.
Eventually, she worked in artist management in the high-powered world of entertainment in Manhattan, handling artists ranging from Outkast to Macy Gray. Still, something continued to lure her back to Liberia, the country she lived in as a child and where her grandfather, William V.S. Tubman, once served as president. So, five years ago, she packed up and moved to Liberia.
Since then, Tubman, 39, has plunged fully into the world of public relations, marketing and event planning for Liberia’s entertainment industry. Indeed, Tubman is well known here as the premier businesswoman in her field, with a particular cache in Liberia’s burgeoning music and entertainment world. If there is a prominent artist or event in entertainment in Liberia, Barkue Tubman is usually at the core of it. She handles most of the country’s up-and-coming artists and is involved in nearly every entertainment event of note in this country.
“It’s heavenly to be back here, because it’s home,” she said. “There is a sadness, too, because so much needs to be done and you can still feel the remnants of the past. But you can see the potential for such an incredible future.” She is investing in that future by being one of the founders of AAW Peace, a youth empowerment initiative that is run by women in business, politics and entertainment. The group creates programs to create employment opportunities for young people in Liberia while linking them with youth in the United States.
With high unemployment among Liberia’s youth, hiring and working with young people has become one of her central passions. “I make sure to employ a lot of young people and expose them to career opportunities and what’s available, especially in the creative world,” she said. “It’s critical to our society.”
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(Photo: Jonathan P. Hicks/BET)