It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. Søren Kierkegaard
The statistics never escape me. Having been born in Monrovia, Liberia, there was a far greater chance that I would be illiterate than a successful entrepreneur. Had I been born to another Liberian family, perhaps one without the political connections or education afforded my parents, it is pretty easy to imagine how I could have been called into the Civil War as a young boy or otherwise trapped in a perpetual cycle of poverty and ignorance.
My call to future architecture began at a very early age. By five, I had lived on three continents and seen my parents share our home with people from all over the globe. This was particularly true when we lived in Bonn, Germany, where my father was a diplomat. My childhood experience solidified a sense of global citizenship and painted an idyllic view of the world. I lit up every time my parents threw a party or hosted a head of state. It gave me the sense that I, too, had access and agency. No one was untouchable. The veil of authority never existed. My father drank, often too much, with the presidents. My mother gossipped, also in excess, with their spouses. From my mother, I inherited an identity that felt safe and unapologetically African — steeped in a revolutionary faith, based on universal love and dignity.
My childhood worldview began to crack when my family abruptly moved to Palo Alto, California. I was too young to remember many of the details of our involuntary exile, except that it felt eerily similar to when the von Trapp family escaped Austria in The Sound of Music. Harsh realities started to set in about our new life. Issues around American racism, crime and immigration first started entering my consciousness, and there was always this voice from within calling me to do something about it.
In middle school, I began to formulate more complex questions about economics and justice. I once overheard adults speaking about how wealthy people were moving into a once poor neighborhood in the inner city. Without much context, I wondered what would happen to all the low-income people who lived there. Would they be forced into the suburbs and rural areas? Do the rural areas and suburbs have the infrastructure to support low-income families who need better public transportation and social services? I never shared these questions with anyone, but I imagine that this curiosity fueled my lifelong passion for policy.
One day, also in middle school, a teacher introduced our class to a new word: “entrepreneur.” From the moment she shared her definition, I knew exactly what I was going to be doing with my life. My first real venture would begin in high school and get acquired while I was in college. I also took my first philosophy courses while at university. Studying Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre greatly strengthened my passion for policy and entrepreneurship; specifically how business and policy could work together to create the society we all want and need.
After working in entertainment, finance and tech through most of my 20s, I had an itch to go back to Africa. Specifically, to Liberia. Before and after he was a diplomat, my father was a historian. Losing him tragically to heart failure when I was 18 brought his lifelong commitment to Liberia to the forefront of my personal agenda. I decided to dedicate my life to this grand experiment known as Liberia, and on a larger level, post-colonial Africa.
However, where my father spent his life looking backwards, I knew that it was my calling to look forward. I dreamed of using the tools I acquired from reading Sartre and Kierkegaard to create unlikely possible futures from nothing and to enroll others into the pursuit of those futures. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Leyma Gbowee, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thomas Sankara, I wanted to help create beautiful futures with people facing difficult circumstances and build community around bending the universe’s moral arc closer to justice. Future architecture is providing me with a modern and holistic framework with which to do just that. I am proud to call myself a future architect.