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 a 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 three of a seven-part series on going back home, BET.com reporter Jonathan P. Hicks talked to Hesta Baker Pearson about her return.
She has become a symbol of Liberia’s slow, but steady-growing leisure and tourism life. For several years, Hesta Baker-Pearson has published the glossy and elegant Liberia Travel and Life magazine, highlighting the country’s stunning destinations. Recently, she added to her duties by taking a position as director of communications for ArcelorMittel S.A., the giant steel company headquartered in Luxembourg.
It’s a busy, hectic life that she might not have completely envisioned when she moved back to Liberia from Atlanta, where she worked as publisher of the Guest Informant, the hard cover books largely found in hotels that show the sights and goings on to guests in various cities.
She was fulfilled there, she said. However, she always harbored a longing to return to Liberia ever since her family fled the country during the unrest.
“The fact of the matter is that Liberia is home. When it’s your home, you just can’t dismiss that,” she said. “For me, America was always a place to live temporarily. All I’ve talked about for years was coming home. There’s no place like home.”
So, after 26 years of the United States, including high school in Fort Worth and a degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, she returned to Monrovia in 2006.
It’s been a whirlwind ever since. The first job she taclked was her magazine. It’s a glossy magazine with alluring photos of eye-catching models in African-influenced fashions, captivating visions of pristine beaches and close-ups of bright “country cloth,” the colorful fabric that is woven in Liberia.
The magazine celebrates the wide array of goods sold at the busy marketplaces in the city, the rolling mountains of the country’s Nimba region and the stunning waves along the Atlantic at Robertsport, an area gaining attention as a world-class surfing destination.
Her magazine has been a staple in the hotels, offices and restaurants throughout the country. In addition, her new job takes her regularly to various cities and towns in Liberia’s 15 counties, promoting the work of ArcelorMittel, which took over the operations of the Lamco, the onetime Liberian-American-Swedish Minerals Company. ArcelorMittel has become the largest private employer in the country.
“I’m busy, that’s for sure,” she said. “But I’m having the time of my life.”
Previously in the series:
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(Photo: Jonathan P. Hicks/BET)