Dr. Rickie-Ann Legleitner
June, 7, 2017
Witnessing her people being slaughtered, hunted down, and slowly vanishing right in front of her eyes, my mother knows what it means to not just give up when things are tough and seem impossible to live through. Agnes Paye, my mother, was born in a small village in Liberia, Africa. Growing up she didn’t have much but she made due and didn’t complain about her unfortunate life. She wasn’t able to go to school because her family couldn’t afford it. She had to go to work right away to contribute to the family’s income since there wasn’t much to start with. She only ate once a day because she had 17 siblings in total and it was very hard to feed all those mouths. Agnes realized that life was going to be tough for a very long time and she worked towards making life better for her future family by continuing to grind and forget about whining and complaining.
At a pretty young age, 13, in Agnes’s life, a civil war broke out and this turned her whole life upside-down. This civil war was due to the government favoring certain tribes and villages and people rebelling because they thought that it was very unfair. The president of Liberia was from my mother’s tribe and the people thought that he was favoring this tribe. The name of my mother’s tribe is the Krahn tribe. The rebellion is filled with all other tribes in Liberia fighting against what they saw as unfair. This civil war separated Agnes from most her family and put her in a refugee camp. The first refugee camp that Agnes went to was a refugee camp in Sierra Leone. She resided here for a couple of years with some of her family and found a mate. Life wasn’t so bad for a while although the war was still very much going on. She became pregnant and realized that surviving this war was going to be so much harder because she had to lives to protect now.
After giving birth to my older brother, Komotay Koffie, the rebels have found out where most of my mother’s tribe was residing and raided the area. The rebel forces of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have systematically murdered, mutilated, and raped civilians throughout their campaign. When they raided the area, they did it in a way that no one would expect. They would come at night when everyone was sleeping and they would light the house on fire. Now when people were waking up realizing their houses were on fire, they quickly got up sprinted out of their houses to go get water to put the fire out. As they ran out the houses, the rebels were waited right there at the door with automatic rifles unloading full clips of bullets killing all they could. Agnes put her son Komotay on her back and climbed out the back window realizing what was going on along with her partner Komotay Koffie Sr. When she looked around to see the damage, she said it was “total chaos and something that a person would only see in a nightmare”. As people fled into the forest trying to escape from the flying bullets, my mother hadn’t seen her father anywhere to be found. As she looked over to see where her father’s house was, she saw him try to dodge the bullets as he ran but failed and was murdered right in front of her eyes. The person who she looked up to, the person who she learned everything from was murdered right in front of her eyes. She knew that there was nothing she could do but to move forward to secure the safety of her child and herself.
Walking for two days now night and day without any rest in the forest with no food or water, Agnes thought of giving up but that baby crying on her back pushed her to find a place to settle and find safety. The small group that escaped eventually found refuge in a small town in Guinea. The remaining tribe members were able to live in this area for a while. Agnes came to realization that she is now pregnant again and thought that now it definitely will be impossible to survive this war. Out comes the baby on November 19, 1998 and it is a baby boy. She says that she will name this baby after her father that was murdered, Kwity Paye. Hearing this story for the first time I was shocked and I couldn’t believe it. Being where I am now, I feel a lot of pressure and weight on my back knowing that I have to live up to my name. I have a certain type of pride and integrity whenever I realize who I actually am. This really pushed me to strive in anything that I do and makes me proud of where I come from. The tribe resides in Guinea for a couple of months and just like before, the rebels happen to find the remaining members of the tribe. This time around they are specifically looking for the males in this tribe to kill because they see them as a threat. They were looking for all the males with the last name of Paye and Koffie no matter what the age was. This put me, my older brother, and my father all in danger of being killed. My father had to change his name to Leroy K. George forcing him to split and go his separate way to ensure his safety so he can be able to see his family again. That was the last time Agnes would see Leroy again in years to come. In present day, Leroy now lives back in Liberia but now has a family of his own but he and Agnes are still pretty good friends talking on the phone here and there. As the violence broke out again, Agnes witnessed people leaving their loved ones behind as they fled to safety. Leaving her two boys behind was not even a thought. “I would rather die than to leave my children behind knowing that they were going to be killed”. Carrying one in her arms and the other being strapped on her back, Agnes made her way through the dark and prayed that no one spotted her. She was able to find some relatives in another village in Guinea.
This civil war was now known to America and other countries in Africa specifically Nigeria. Nigeria heard of this war and thought that it had gone on for too long and it needed to come to a stop. The Nigerians were a crucial role in putting this civil war to an end and without them, things would’ve gotten worse. They aided the wounded and set up areas where the rebels couldn’t attack. When the rebels tried to attack the bases, they were quickly put to rest. Bill Clinton was aware of what was happening and allowed us to come to America. The reason for him doing this is his regret in not helping prevent the genocide that happened years prior to this civil war in Rwanda. With some help from her family, Agnes was on her way to having a better life in America where there was opportunity and a possibility to give her children the life she wished she had. We touched down in Providence, Rhode Island August 3, 1999. Being a teen mom in a foreign place, not knowing anything about anything in this country Agnes knew that her journey wasn’t finished just yet. She had two boys to raise in the inner city of providence but knew that giving up wasn’t an option. She didn’t come this far to just come this far. She was going to sacrifice fun, free time, and relaxation to make sure her kids would never experience anything she did. She vowed to do whatever it takes. There was no room to feel sad or tired. Agnes came for one reason only. This is just the beginning of the life of Agnes Paye.