OyaBisi Ideraabdullah is a Brooklyn, NY-born, educator, activist, humanitarian, and a wife and mother of five children. She graduated from City College and attended Columbia University, Brooklyn College, the University of Ghana, and the University of Zambia. As the first Black recipient of the Brooklyn College Alumnae Study Abroad Scholarship, she chose to study for a year in Africa. When her year was up, she vowed that one day she would return to Africa.
Her story is one of courage and determination. In 1982, her life changed when she went into critical labor while on vacation in South Carolina. The first hospital she and her husband reached treated them as if they weren’t there and turned them away. This resulted in the death of their daughter, Imani. The Ideraabdullah’s were private business owners in Miami, Florida. But Bisi was depressed, disillusioned, and tired of acts of bias and discrimination. In 1985, less than three years later, she moved her family to Liberia, West Africa.
By 1986, she and her husband founded Imani House Liberia and set up small educational programs in honor of their daughter. When five years later, in 1990, Liberia’s civil war erupted, the family made a decision to stay in Liberia and help. Despite the dangers and bombings in her area, she began volunteering and was made a ward director at the Island clinic on Bushrod Island.
In 1991, when thousands of refugees fled into an open field adjacent to her family’s land, she worked with UNFCU, UNICEF, and others to install wells, distribute supplies, and set up urban agricultural and literacy programs. She also secured a tent from the U.N. and set it up to treat and care for the displaced. She also created a home and school for 30 abandoned children and started training and literacy programs for victims of the war.
Determined to help end the war, Bisi used much of her family’s money for this work. She returned to the U.S. several times to raise awareness and funds and to participate in anti-war activities. In the U.S., she collected urgent supplies and shipped two forty-foot containers. In 1993, she built the Imani House Maternal and Child Healthcare Clinic. The Clinic has never shut its doors through thirteen years of war, staff kidnappings, Ebola, financial crisis, and now COVID19. They treat upwards of 14,000 to 18,000 Liberians each year. It is a beacon in the community it serves.
In late 1996, after almost seven years of the brutal war, she and her children finally returned to the U.S. while her husband remained in Liberia working for the U.N. Unable to sit idle, she managed her Liberia projects remotely and founded Imani House in a small storefront in Brooklyn. In New York, without money or paid staff, she recruited volunteers and started a free food pantry, adult literacy/ESOL classes for immigrants, and children’s computer classes. Today, in addition to the clinic and Literacy programs in Liberia, Imani House Brooklyn works from 3 locations providing after-school and summer camps for hundreds of children and Adult Education for immigrant students.
After her AWA training in 1998, Bisi Ideraabdullah founded WOC Writers (The Women of Color Writers Workshop). WOC’s first publication in 2002 was “Voices of Brooklyn” Writings from the Women of Color Writers Workshop. WOC is completing “Boundaries & Borders,” a collection of writing from WOC’s across the globe. Her story “Imani Means Faith” appears in the National Book Foundation’s Collection: “Sounds of This House.” Bisi’s memoir, “How Many Days Until Tomorrow,” is expected out soon.
Despite everything, Bisi never wavered on her children’s needs. She and her husband are proud parents of successful adults; a genetic scientist, a pediatrician, an aerospace engineer, a retired Coast Guard, and her oldest son works in human services in N.Y.
The Liberian Listener congratulates Madame Ideraabdullah for efforts to help the vulnerable!