African-born advocate and refugee, reflects on being a Black woman in the US 

African-born advocate and refugee, reflects on being a Black woman in the US 


NEW YORK, USA, 19th April 2022 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/-On the heels of Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March and the appointment of the first Black female Justice to the US Supreme Court in April, one African woman has been talking to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, about her childhood experience of fleeing conflict in Liberia to become a leading refugee advocate in her new homeland, the United States. 

Lourena Gboeah began by describing how she and her four-year-old daughter, Moriah, read stories together, particularly ones that honour the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans, and their role in shaping the country.   

Most recently, they have been focusing on picture books by African American authors, like Floyd Cooper who wrote and illustrated Moriah’s favourite, Max and the Tag-Along Moon, about a boy and his grandfather.  

“We read books based on self-love, so that as she grows, not only does the reading enhance her vocabulary, but it also helps her to just appreciate and love herself even more,” said Lourena. 

Struggle to achieve 

For many US refugees of African descent, Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on both the journey that forced them to flee their homelands, and their new lives in America.  

And having the first African American appointed to the highest court in the land, is a shot in the arm of hope for a prosperous future. 

When we talk about being a Black woman here in America, especially for me, being a former refugee, I always think about how hard I had to fight to get to where I am today,” said Lourena, a social worker and chair of the US-based advocacy group Refugee Congress

Fleeing under threat 

As a young girl in Buchanan, Liberia, the naturalized American enjoyed watching soccer games and traditional dance performances on Sundays in the park there.  

But after the First Liberian Civil War broke out in 1989, her life quickly changed.  

The joyful shouts at pick-up games were replaced by gunshots during massacres carried out by the warring sides. Those who dared to continue dancing were seen by rebels as being supportive of opposition forces, and so they, too became victims. 

“We were getting really terrified,” said Martha Gboeah, Lourena’s mother, who escaped with her eight children after rebel groups threatened the family.  

A dream come true 

Lourena, her mother and siblings, were among 750,000 people who fled their homes during the war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. 

The family first crossed the border to Côte d’Ivoire, where they lived for two years, before being resettled in 1992 to Staten Island, New York City, where they were reunited with the family patriarch.  

Then four years old, Lourena marvelled at the idea of sandwiches made of ice cream. And her mother found joy in working and taking care of her family. 

“The first thing that was really amazing was to have work,” Martha said. “In Liberia, women [couldn’t] just get a job. Here, I was able to work and move around freely.” 

Reality sets in 

But soon the family also learned the reality of being Black in America. 

“We went through being called names. We would get teased that we lived in huts, and it was just really like a lack of cultural awareness at that time,” Lourena said. “I still remember that to this day. We all went through that bullying.” 

Years later, while working for the Jewish Family Services of Delaware resettlement agency, she taught young children in Delaware schools about refugees.  

Lourena credited a growing emphasis on cultural awareness education with contributing to changing how refugees and other marginalized groups are perceived – but maintains that there is still a lot to be done. 

Fulfilling work 

As a Black woman, Lourena said that navigating the US workforce has proven difficult.  

Despite having the necessary qualifications and experience, she has had to fight for career opportunities and a fair salary. 

While Lourena, unlike some of her counterparts, has never been “tapped on the shoulder for positions,” she acknowledged that “it really excites me when I’m able to help someone.” 

Against the odds 

According to a 2021 analysis by the Brookings Institution research group, the situation in the US job market for Black women continues to be difficult. 

For example, unemployment for Black women increased from 4.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent in November, while it decreased from 3.7 per cent to 3.1 per cent for their white counterparts. 

One study by Leanin.org and McKinsey & Co. found that women of colour in the US workplace face a wider range of microaggressions and must put in more hours to prove their value. 

Chairwoman of the board 

Lourena works to help people overcome these obstacles.  

In addition to her job as a social worker, she serves as the Board chair for Refugee Congress and as a Board member for Refugee Council USA – another US-based advocacy organization that helps people forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution. 

Lourena and her counterparts speak at public events, conduct community training and advocate with local and state governments, encouraging policies and practices welcoming to refugees. 

“I like to pride myself in being a connector of people, places, and things,” she said. “It really excites me when I’m able to help someone find a solution to whatever challenges that they’re going through.” 

A ‘conscientious’ fighter 

As a senior community engagement manager at Unite Us, a network that coordinates community-based organizations, she helps to ensure that health and social care services reach those in need. 

“One thing I will remember Lourena for is her conscientious fight to advocate for those who lack awareness and resources,” said Alyssa Bradley, a former colleague. 

“If you need a voice or hand, Lourena willingly and strongly lends hers”. 

Lourena draws on her family’s experience as refugees in her work.  

“We’re hardworking people,” she said. “But of course, coming into a totally new land, any type of extra support would have been helpful.” 

Building a brighter future 

Lourena feels a particular obligation towards Black women and hopes she can make the future bright for her daughter, who wants to be an astronaut.  

She has taken Moriah to Refugee Congress meetings and to a Black Lives Matter demonstration, hoping that the experiences will teach her daughter to value her worth and power.   

“I don’t want her to think any less of herself because of her skin color,” Lourena said. “And I want her to know that her mom was in this fight.” 

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

You might also enjoy

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: African Media Agency.

Conférence de Presse en Ligne

Les frontières terrestres ne doivent pas constituer des obstacles à la dissémination de votre message. Grâce à notre service de conférence de presse en ligne, nous vous offrons l’opportunité de vous rapprocher des médias africains, chaque fois que vous en aurez besoin.

Nos services comprennent:

Digital Communications

Today, social networks constitute an organization’s first point of contact with a user and a potential customer. At first glance, you need to convince of the relevance and quality of your content to stimulate and motivate the user to go further. We create consistently inspiring online strategy to meet business objectives, engage stakeholders and enhance our client brand’s reputation internally and externally.


Communication​ digitale

Les réseaux sociaux représentent aujourd’hui le premier point de contact d’une organisation avec un utilisateur et un client potentiel. Au premier coup d’œil, vous devez le convaincre de la pertinence et de la qualité de votre contenu pour l’inciter à aller plus loin. Nous créons pour vous une stratégie de communication précise et adaptée sur les réseaux sociaux pour atteindre les objectifs commerciaux, impliquer les parties prenantes et améliorer la réputation de votre marque en interne et en externe.

Promotion​ d’événements

Le succès d’un événement réside en moitié dans sa promotion. Peu importe la beauté de l’événement, la qualité des orateurs et de l’ordre du jour, si personne ne rapporte ou ne parle de votre événement, vos efforts seront vains. Nous vous aidons à façonner votre récit et à créer un engouement autour de votre événement. De l’annonce de l’événement à la tenue de celui-ci, nous accompagnons votre effort de planification et le reflétons sur toutes les plateformes médiatiques.​

Formation​ Médiatique

Nous fournissons à vos porte-paroles les outils nécessaires pour présenter vos principaux messages et répondre avec confiance et cohérence aux questions. Notre formation est organisée soit à distance ou en présentiel, avec des études de cas réels et des répétitions. Nos clients repartent avec le sentiment d’être à l’aise devant les journalistes et d’agir en tant qu’ambassadeurs de la marque.

Veille​ Médiatique

Nous mesurons votre portée en relations publiques et rendons compte des informations de votre industrie et des activités de vos  concurrents en surveillant la majorité des canaux de diffusion dans toute l’Afrique. Une veille médiatique complète et opportune est essentielle pour s’assurer que vous ne manquez aucune référence à votre marque, que vous êtes constamment informé de ce qui se passe dans votre industrie et que vous êtes prêt à saisir les opportunités et à réduire les risques en temps opportun.

Relations​ Média

Peu importe le lieu où ils se trouvent, nous sommes une source d‘informations fiables pour les journalistes qui écrivent sur l’Afrique. Nous nous connaissons mutuellement et ils nous font confiance, car nous leur fournissons un contenu crédible qui les aide dans leurs tâches. Nous nous entretenons quotidiennement avec des journalistes aux quatre coins du continent, ce qui fait de nous l’un des organismes les plus efficaces pour mener des campagnes de relations avec les médias.

Stratégie et développement de contenu

Nous créons des stratégies de communication intelligentes, bien documentées et spécialisées destinées à vous aider à construire un récit fort qui engagera votre audience. Nous travaillons en synergie avec vous afin de rédiger des communiqués de presse et des articles d’opinions qui alimentent le récit de votre entreprise. Notre équipe a une expérience approfondie dans la création de récits et le développement de contenu multimédia.


C’est le service phare d’AMA. Nous avons mis en place des canaux de diffusion des communiqués de presse auprès des journalistes des 54 États africains ainsi qu’auprès des journalistes américains et européens couvrant les sujets relatifs aux marchés émergents.​

​Nos services comprennent:​

Event Promotion

Half of the success of an event lays in its promotion. Doesn’t matter how beautiful the event is, how wonderful the speakers and the agenda are, if no one reports or talks about your event, your efforts are gone. We help you shape the narrative and create a drumbeat around your event. From the announce all the way to the outcome of the event, we accompany your planning effort and echo it through all media platforms

Media Training

We provide your spokespeople with the tools to present your key messages and answer questions with confidence and coherence. Our training is organised either remotely or face-to- face, with real case studies and rehearsals. Our clients leave feeling comfortable being in front of reporters and acting as brand ambassadors.

Media Monitoring

We measure and report on
your PR reach, industry news, and competitive activity by monitoring most channels in North, West, Central, East and Southern Africa. Comprehensive and timely media monitoring is critical to ensuring that you don’t miss any reporting of your brand,
you’re constantly informed on what’s going on around your business, and you’re ready to capitalise on opportunities and mitigate
risks in a timely fashion..

Media Relations

We have become an authoritative source of news for reporters writing about Africa, wherever they are. We know them, they know us, and they trust us for providing them with timely and accurate content that helps them do their job. We speak to reporters on a daily basis in all corners of the continent and this makes us one of the most effective agencies in running media relations campaigns.

Strategy & Content Development

We create smart and localised communications strategies to help build a strong narrative that will engage your audiences. We partner with you to create press releases and thought leadership pieces that sustain a drumbeat for your company’s narrative. Our team have deep experience in shaping narratives and developing media content.


This is AMA’s flagship service. We have set up channels of distribution towards the journalists of the 54 African states, as well as to American journalists and European journalists covering emerging markets issues.
Our service includes:

Editorial advice

Localised editorial piece when needed

Distribution to the major print, broadcast and online publications along with industry-specific publications

Follow-up calls to secure interview request

Guaranteed distribution to Africa.com

Distribution to Bloomberg, LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters

Social Media Reach: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram

Full online monitoring and print monitoring when available. Includesreadership stats and Advertising Value Equivalent

Translation in French, Arabic and Portuguese available