Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Liberian U.N. diplomat speaks at KCKCC after presidential defeat


Had he been elected president of his native Liberia, U.N. diplomat Winston A. Tubman would have engaged more youth and skilled Liberian diaspora in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.

Defeated by Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tubman spoke to more than 300 students, staff and faculty in a series of three programs at Kansas City Kansas Community College Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

Speaking on the theme, “Liberia in Transition” in an era of global terror, Tubman spoke on the cardinal themes of Liberia’s political transition and UN peacekeeping operations in Africa as well as the relationship between his family and the Harriet Tubman family which carried the fight against slavery in the U.S.

Asked if he was a relative of the legendary Harriet Tubman, the U.N. ambassador pointed out several similarities. “My junior sister’s name is Harriet Tubman and she lives in Virginia,” said Tubman.

“The legendary Harriet married John Tubman and we have a John Tubman in our family. Both John and Harriet hail from Maryland and our homeland in Liberia was initially known as ‘Maryland in Africa” and now is called Maryland County.

“Harriet’s parents, Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross, named her Araminta but people chose to call her by her mother’s name. Despite these similarities, we need to do more research to determine the true relationship between us and the Harriet Tubman family in the United States. One thing is sure, John Tubman visited Liberia in his lifetime – but not Harriet.”

KCKCC Prof. Ewa Unoke, the author of the new book, “Global Security After Evil,” explained that “Harriet Tubman was a woman of great courage. Although she was born as a slave, she was determined not to be a slave.”

Dr. Unoke also reminded the audience of Harriet Tubman’s most famous words: “I had reasoned this out in my mind. There was one of two things I had a right to – liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have the other.”

“With this brave and courageous spirit,” concluded Dr. Unoke, “Harriet Tubman embarked on the Underground Railroad project to free as many slaves as she possibly could set free.”

“My class and I appreciated the presentation of Ambassador Tubman and found it interesting and informative,” said KCKCC terrorism instructor Roger Villaneuva. “As we study terrorism, we are reminded by Mr. Tubman and Dr. Unoke that there are a lot more good people in every country than bad people.”

A Liberian statesman in addition to being a U.N. diplomat, Winston Tubman is a graduate of Harvard University and the London School of Economics.

His programs were sponsored by the Ralph Bunche Society, Students for Global Peace and KCKCC Intercultural Center. Further information is available from Dr. Unoke at

PHOTO: Nigerian U.N. Diplomat Winston Tubman made the most of his speaking engagements at Kansas City Kansas Community College by making a visit to the Truman Library where he posed with Emily Scherrer, president of KCKCC’s Ralph Bunche Society. (KCKCC Photo)