Last month, an NPR story was broadcast on the issue of Liberian youth gangs in Philadelphia. The reporter, Jennifer Ludden, mostly spoke about children of refugees developing gangs to protect themselves from abuse and violence. In the brief report, it was easy to miss the reference to child soldiers, so I’ll recap the story here.
According to the story, in the 1990s, scores of Liberians began settling in Philadelphia fleeing the civil war in their country. Instead of seeing relief from persecution, however, many of their children began having to deal with abuse, taunting and racism; teasing that sometimes led to physical abuse and serious injuries. According to the report, many of them have started their own gangs to fight back.
Jennifer Ludden, spoke to the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, a group that has provided teacher training classes, telling teachers that teasing could be extra traumatic for kids who have lived through war by triggering certain reactions based on the constant fear of living with war.
Due to an anti-violence campaign, and the fact that the number of war victims arriving has decreased, violence has subsided. But others think it has nothing to due with the campaign, but is instead because of the gangs, one of them called LIB – Liberians in Blood.
A couple of remarks on LIB from the story:
It’s a group pledged to each other’s protection…
Today… they can move around freely, thanks to LIB…
But significantly, one local soccer coach said,
“Refugees arriving in recent years have included war children who have seen nothing but violence their entire lives, among them some former child soldiers [emphasis added]… By the time these guys get here and try to emulate the hip-hop life-syle out here combined with what they already have, it’s a problem.”
Jennifer Ludden concludes with,
Children once lost to war at home, now some fear lost to street violence in America.