IMPACT

West Africans Would Like To Remind You That They're Human Beings, Not A Virus

More than 4,500 people have died from Ebola, but people from West Africa say that some of the biggest threats they face have nothing to do with the epidemic, but rather the widespread stigma they encounter daily.

Children who have been orphaned by the disease often have nowhere to go. People who have survived the virus, and are now immune, are being shunned. Kids from affected communities who live in America are being bullied and children who are from African countries that haven’t been touched by the virus are getting pulled out of school.

To combat the widespread panic and destructive stigmatization, three advocates have launched a campaign that aims to humanize people from West Africa.

Participants are taking to social media and are holding signs that read: "I am Liberian Not a Virus"

Together with her mother and her friend Shoana Solomon, a public speaker, Aisha Cooper Bruce -- an advocate from Liberia -- launched the powerful campaign, according to her HuffPost blog.

Bruce serves as the Liberian representative for Let Girls Lead, a nonprofit that aims to empower girls worldwide and ensure that they lead healthy and safe lives.

Bruce recently came to America for work and is now stranded here because her return flight was canceled, she wrote in her blog.

She said she feels helpless by the amount of misinformation being spread about the virus. She is infuriated by the depressing way people from the most affected countries, which also includes Sierra Leone and Guinea, are being portrayed in the media.

"I want people to understand that we are more than the latest breaking news," Bruce wrote. "We are not 'those Africans.' We are not pitiful media images, statistics or projections. We are mothers, fathers, children, scholars, artists, doctors and survivors. We are people."

Solomon, whose daughter was accused at school of having Ebola because she’s from Liberia, hopes the initiative will urge skeptics to treat West Africans with compassion and see them for who they really are.

"It is wrong to stereotype and stigmatize an entire people," Solomon said in the campaign’s PSA. "Remember, we are human beings."

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

  • James and Tamah Mulbah
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk secti
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center, after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia.
  • Benetha Coleman
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center afte
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after attending a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said that her husband and two children died due to the disease.
  • Jeremra Cooper
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The 8th grade student said he lost six family members to the Ebola epidemic before coming down sick with the disease himself and being sent to the MSF center, where he recovered after one month.
  • Zaizay Mulbah and Mark Jerry
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Jerry was a money changer and Mulbah a delivery driver before they caught the disease and went to the center, where they recovered. Doctors Without Borders hired them afterward to counsel and comfort others stricken by the disease.
  • Eric Forkpa
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after me
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The college student, who is majoring in civil engineering, said he thinks he caught Ebola while caring for his sick uncle, who died of the disease. He spent 18 days at the center recovering from the virus.
  • Emanuel Jolo
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The high school student lost six family members and believes he caught the disease while washing the body of his father, who died of Ebola.
  • Sontay Massaley
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Octobe
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Massaley, who spent 8 days recovering from the disease in the center, said she worked as a vendor in a market before contracting the virus.
  • Victoria Masah
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Oc
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said her husband and two children died of Ebola.
  • Abrahim Quota
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 1
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 13, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. He had arrived at the treatment center 10 days before with his parents, who both died there from the virus. The Ministry of Health was to deliver him home after his release to live with relatives.
  • Lassana Jabeteh
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treat
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. He said that he previously worked as a taxi driver and that he thinks he caught Ebola when he transported a sick policeman who vomited in his car on the way to the hospital. Doctors Without Borders hired Jabeteh after he recovered in their treatment center and he now counsels and comforts others stricken by the disease.
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