The city of Winston-Salem in the United States has named a streetLiberia Street for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in aceremony last Saturday in the city’s oldest black neighborhood.
Mayor Allen Joines read the proclamation naming the street “PresidentSirleaf Lane” to about 50 people who attended the ceremony. TheExecutive Mansion, quoting a dispatch from the United States, saidmany of the attendees were current or former residents of the HappyHill Garden neighborhood.
The sign in Sirleaf’s honor is at the intersection of Liberia andAlder streets. “She is a true definition of freedom, justice andequality for all people of Liberia,” Joines said of Sirleaf in the proclamation. Sirleaf visited Winston-Salem last weekend as part ofher trip to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly’s annualmeeting in New York. She is the first foreign head of state to visitthe city during Joines’ 15-year tenure as mayor.’
Sirleaf said it was a great honor to have Liberia Street named after her.“I’ve resisted at home people naming things after me because I said‘you don’t that when I am in office. Do that when I leave office,’”Sirleaf said jokingly. “Since this is not at home, I am pleased toaccept it. It’s not only a honor for me, but also it’s a honor for theLiberian people.”
Sirleaf Lane or Liberia Street was part of the Schumann plantation inthe early 1800s.Dr. Friedrich Schumann freed his slaves in 1836, and they traveled toLiberia, where many freed blacks from the U.S. settled. Most of HappyHill’s first settlers were former slaves who had lived or worked inthe Moravian town of Salem.
In 1872, the freed slaves bought plots of land in the community thatbecame known as “Liberia” and “Happy Hill.”By the 1920s, it was known mostly as Happy Hill. James Hunder Sr. President of Liberian Organization of the Piedmont, told the crowdthat the naming of Liberia Street for Sirleaf was an historic moment.
“We gather here and stand on the broad shoulders of former slaves andformer slave masters,” Hunder said, announcing a proposal to build adormitory in Happy Hill for students from Liberia who would attendlocal universities and colleges.
The project is his organization’s way to help educate Liberianstudents who would return to their country and help rebuild it. Rence Callahan – a partner with Walter, Robbs, Callahan and Pierce, alocal architectural firm, said the project would be a 20-bed,two-story house with office space.
“There is no timetable for construction, and the Liberian Organizationof the Piedmont would lead efforts to pay for it,” Callahan said,noting that the project would cost between $1.75 million to $2million.
In her remarks, Sirleaf thanked Hunder and the Liberian Organizationof the Piedmont for their efforts to help Liberian students. Following the ceremony, Sirleaf talked briefly about the possibilityof Hillary Clinton being elected in November as the first femalepresident of the United States. “We look forward to working with female heads of state all over theworld, including in the U.S.,” Sirleaf said.
Apostle Edith Jones, the president of the Ecclestiastes DeliveranceCenter on Alexander Street, said she welcomed Sirleaf’s visit to theHappy Hill neighborhood. “We are very excited to see such a beautiful woman who has done somuch for her country,” said Jones, the vice president of the HappyHill Neighborhood Association.“It was a beautiful experience.”