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Rolanda DeShield

Rolanda DeShield

Bank Teller and Liberian Civil War Survivor

Born: Monrovia, Liberia
Heritage: Liberian

Be kind to each other. Children need to be respectful of their adults. They need to listen to their parents and teachers and be kind to each other.

Rolanda DeShield

Bank Teller and Liberian Civil War Survivor

My name is Rolanda Deshield. I was born May 31 over 30 years ago in Monrovia, Liberia, located in West Africa. We had the rainy season and the dry season. I was the cutest little baby in the family. My grandmother would sew all my clothes.

Liberia is the oldest Republican country in Africa, founded in 1876 by free slaves from America. Our first President was Joseph Jenkins Roberts. The capital city is called Monrovia named after James Monroe, the American President who helped the people form the country. Our constitution is similar to American constitution. Our flag has 11 stripes and one star, which represents Monrovia.

When I was five years old I went to school. My mom was a teacher. I got to go to school every morning with my mom. I remember going to school to draw, color, sing songs and write poetry. The school was so similar to the school here. All through school I loved school. I went to a Catholic Junior High School. The teachers were nuns. It was so strict in school. I went to a Methodist High School. My family was Methodist. I then went to college and it was great. Now I took classes and made my own decisions.

After three years in school something terrible happened. We had a coup. My stepfather was the Finance Minister. When the coup took place he was arrested and put in jail. The military people executed President Tolbert. It was so sad and all of a sudden my whole life changed. We went to another city with an aunt and all that night there was shootings and killings. The only thing I had was the clothes I wore. Our home was destroyed. Everything was in chaos. That was in May of 1980. I had to leave because my country wasn‘t safe anymore. It became a dictatorship. There were no jails or courts anymore. The person who had power was the person with the gun. They would kill and get away with it. My mom went to the embassy of America and got us a visa. This is a travel permission to leave and enter another country.

I had to leave Liberia and come to America. I was 21. I was fortunate enough to come to Minnesota because my uncle lived here. It was cold here. I went to California and went back to school. I finished my degree. I started to work for a bank. I got married and had two boys. I stayed in California for 15 years and loved it. Then, things didn’t go well. I got a divorce and left California and I came back to Minnesota. I hooked up with my high school sweetheart. Now we’ve been married for 12 years. My oldest son is Ricky, my younger son is called Ryan and my daughter is Renelle. My name is Rolanda. R is the pattern.

I came to work at North Junior High in Hopkins. I was hired to be their learning coordinator to work with 7, 8, and 9 grades. I helped with homework and problems. After I worked for a year a two I went back to school to Concordia. I will be a licensed ESL teacher. I’ll be able to work with kids. I am so thrilled. I love making a difference in their lives.

My favorite place is Liberia. So many good things happened to me there. I hope my country will become stable where people can return home. We all want to go home and see our friends and be comfortable and safe. The U.S. wants Liberians to go home and help rebuild their country so they can be independent again. They have a democratic government. Now we have a lady President, the first female President in the continent of Africa. Still there’s no electricity in the whole place. No running water. She is trying her best. She is working with people outside of Liberia to help bring all those things that the terrible people destroyed and took out.

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Honoring Rolanda DeShield

Monrovia, Liberia

I was born in Monrovia,
Liberia, West Africa
Cutest little baby you ever saw
First grandbaby for my grandma

Grandmother she would go
To the store to look at clothes
Then come home and sew a dress
Spoiled me good, I looked the best

In a big house where Grandmother lived
Aunts and uncles and cousins
Three level house, nine bedrooms
We always had room to move

Monrovia, Liberia
What will become of you?

Founded by slaves set free
Africa’s oldest democracy
From America they did come
Back to the land where they came from

Along the coast they built a home
Named it after James Monroe
With eleven stripes and one star
And a constitution a lot like ours

Where Great Great Grandfather would
Sail to America to buy goods
To bring back to sell at home
Not far from Sierra Leone

Monrovia, Liberia
What will become of you?

Went to school each day with mom
To color, draw, and sing songs
We read books like See Dick Run
We always had lots of fun

From Catholic School to Methodist
We wore clothes from the west
Ate Southern foods like collard greens
Fried chicken, rice and beans

Then came a military coup
Telling my people what to do
Lost our freedom, lost our rights
The whole country was in a fight

Monrovia, Liberia
What will become of you?

Military shut the school down
Took control of Monrovia town
Wasn’t safe, had to leave
Mother went to the embassy

Flew to Minnesota where my uncle lives
Now I have three beautiful kids
In one week will graduate
Soon to teach in the United States

Now after years of war
Liberia studies war no more
Now they have a lady President
First in the African continent

Monrovia, Liberia
What will become of you?

Words by LARRY LONG with Mrs. Swanson’s 3rd grade class of Eisenhower Elementary School
(Hopkins, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2007 / BMI

Listen: Liberia