'I am more determined than ever to be a voice of change in our generation': Karen Koukou Twaglee Discusses Racism
11/24/2016 by Berenice Mulubah
|Karen Koukou Twaglee|
A determined voice, Mrs. Karen Koukou Twaglee, CEO & Founder of PDS Self-Esteem IMAGE Campaign, spoke with C Liberia Clearly on racism and social injustices.
1)I do follow your updates on social media. I've observed that you are very passionate and vocal when it comes to racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. What is your drive and why are you so involved?
As a change agent and global citizen, I am passionate about all social and racial injustices and inequality that exist in our world, not just the Black Lives Matter movement, hence the reason I was moved to start my non-profit organization, The Power to Do Something five years ago, which focus is to educate and empower and inspire underprivileged girls, women, and orphans in Africa, beginning with Liberia. Black Lives matter and my daily #TellingOurStory social media posts are just another dimension to me activating my power to do something in contributing to the change that I want to see in the world.
I immigrated to the United States at the tender age of 8, as a result of growing up in America a lot of my experiences has very much been connected to my blackness, not my immigrant status. To answer the question, I am involved because racism and prejudice is not a respecter of culture, therefore as black woman of Liberian decent, I fit the narrative simply based upon the color of my skin. Because I was privileged to grow up in the United States, I immersed myself in the complex and painful history of Blacks in America at a young age. Because of the knowledge gained and the unique experiences that I have had as a Black woman in America, I do not take for granted the sacrifices that leaders of the civil rights movement made for me as a black woman to enjoy rights that many of us take for granted today.
The civil rights movement propelled Black citizen forward on the right path to equal rights for African Americans. The Black Lives movement is also a catalyst for change that has adopted the non-violent protest framework of the civil rights movement to continue the fight for equality and equity. My drive to get involved with the Black Lives movement is due to the current racial climate. America has proven that racial equality and equity is still not yet a complete reality. As a mother raising strong confident, change agent girls, I see it as my duty to ensure that their future is better than our current reality. We may be a long way from slavery, but racism and prejudice have hidden itself in institutions and policies since the civil rights movement. The recent execution of black men and women by law enforcement officers has shaken up black communities to its core, so much so that the black lives matter movement was birthed to validate the life of Black people. The movement is a call to action to anyone who resist the dehumanization of black people.
2) Have you ever been directly discriminated against? If yes, would you mind sharing the experience with us?
Yes, directly and indirectly I have experienced discrimination, prejudices, and biases towards me and my love ones simply because of the color of our skin.
About 8 years ago, my husband was cornered at gun point outside our residence in Philadelphia as he was leaving for work by a sea of police officers with their guns pointed at him threatening to shoot to kill if he moved. Thankfully, he obeyed in the midst of the yelling and chaos, one of the officers confirmed that he was not the suspect, that’s how his life was saved. They ran off without an apology, I was 5 months pregnant with our first daughter at that time. I was at work at the time of the incident. I was furious when I found out what had happened just in front of our doorsteps. All I could think about is what if they would have killed him, I would have been widowed and my child fatherless all because he fit a profile of a Black male suspect. Needless to say, we filed a former complaint with our local police department, nothing became of our compliant.
There are also been the handful of times that I have been in the car with my husband during a routine traffic stop where we would be questioned if our car was ours, and other very inappropriate questions, assumptions, and harassment that I am confident most of our white counterparts have not experienced.
Then there are the times that I have been followed from my job by officers, all the way to my driveway with both of my girls in the car driving within the speed limit. An intimidation tactic that most of my white counterparts probably have never experienced. It’s one thing to be followed and stopped or speeding, and it’s another to just be followed simply because you are black in a predominately white neighborhood on several occasions with young children in the car.
Or the times that my girls and I will go to the playground and white families will immediately run their children off so that my black children will not play with my children
There has also been the time that my daughter’s braids were referred to as a mop by one of her white teachers.
Or the time my American born daughter was automatically assigned to an English As A Second Language (ESL) class even though she was born and raised in the United States and speaks only English, just because she was born to immigrant parents. A class her immigrant mother never had to take.
Not forgetting the strong black woman being translated to an angry black woman analogy by some of my former coworkers at a former place of employment and being treated differently because I didn’t fit the meek, insecure, and timid conservative woman definition.
These are just a few of the many instances of biased, prejudice, and discrimination that my love ones and I have experienced.
3) Do you think racism is limited to just minorities?
Racism is a system in which a dominant race benefits off the oppression of others-whether they want to or not. To carry out acts of racism, a race must have power and privilege. There has only been one race in American history that has held both and that is White Americans. However, every race experiences a degree of prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance, whites included, no one is exempted from that reality. The challenge is not to change the narrative by getting distracted and shifting the significance of a conversation of racism and the Black Lives movement which directs its energy towards uncovering systems of racism and challenging policies and laws that have hidden racism and biases, in order to evaluate and put into place systems that will be more inclusive and that will ultimately humanize all citizens in this great UNITED states of America,
4) What’s new in Karen’s world?
I am more determined than ever to be a voice of change in our generation in effort to change the trajectory of our stories (the story of immigrants, Blacks, girls, women, and orphans). I will continue by #tellingourstory with our voice and our truth. I will continue to educate, empower, and inspired underprivileged girls, women, and orphans. And I will also continue by #SettingSitersFree through my own stories via blogs, social media, some literary projects that are in the works, and through my speaking platforms and non-profit organization.
4) Do you have any message to share with our audience?
We all have the capacity to impact change, it starts by activating our Power to Do Something. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” Have the audacity to be great!
Well, I hope this article inspires us all to work at making the world a better place. Thanks Mrs. Twaglee for sharing your thoughts!!!