Tabitha Liburd is an attorney and conflict management strategist, born in Guyana and now living in Michigan . The CEO of Marshall Duke Consulting, and also a Christian, Tabitha was directed by God to change professions from law to conflict resolution.
To hear how this came about is nothing short of a testimony of God’s guidance and direction in her life. Tabitha sees her job as a gift:
When God showed me conflict resolution as a profession, I was being pastored by Pastor Miles Monroe. And he was talking about the kingdom and he was talking about leadership, and he was talking about dying empty and serving the world with the gifts. And so I got to a point in time where I felt that my gift was so much larger than law.”
Tabitha’s decision to study law was influenced by 2 factors –
- Her love for justice and people – “ I always had a strong sense of justice, I was very interested in learning how I could advocate for people and help people.”
- Her mom – who always wanted her to be independent and said to her “ be in a profession where as long as you can sign your name and read, you can earn. Don’t be in a profession where you’re on your feet and after there’s some wear and tear, you might not be able to work”.
In this Episode You’ll Learn
Why she became an attorney [00:04:53]
Her journey to becoming an attorney in the Caribbean [00:07:26]
Why she transitioned from being an attorney to a conflict management strategist [00:12:49]
How her faith influenced her transition [00:17:16]
The impact of being in conflict resolution as an immigrant woman[00:20:35]
How she feels as an immigrant woman [00:08:49]
What women seeking to immigrate should know [00:24:58]
Our coastline is six feet below sea level. And we have a sea wall protecting us from the mighty Atlantic. [00:27:05]
Social Media Links :
Instagram | Website| Facebook | LinkedIn
[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “Chatting with Experts”, a podcast for immigrant women from Africa and the Caribbean who have relocated to the UK, North America, Europe, and Australia. In this podcast, we talk about our struggles, but we also highlight the triumphs that we have experienced while living abroad. And we also share resources that may help our fellow immigrant sisters as they go down this journey that we are still going down. My guest today is amazing. She’s a fellow Caribbean sister, Tabitha Liburd, who was born in Guyana and now lives and works in Michigan in the US. We were introduced by a mutual friend and once we started talking, we just hit it off. One of the things we have in common is that we share a similar cultural background, in that she lived in Guyana and so did I. And we could talk about schools, we could talk about the culture there, the food there. And now we live in the US, but we also have lived for some time in Grenada. So Tabitha is like my new best friend and I want to say welcome to “Chatting with the experts”. Tabitha.
[00:01:19] Tabitha: Thank you so much, Paula. It’s lovely to be here and thanks for having me.
[00:01:24] Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I always begin by asking people to tell us about yourself. Like why are you in the US? What made you come to the US.
[00:01:35] Tabitha: I came to the US after I got married to my dear husband. Before that, I was living and working in the Caribbean. And with us falling in love and courting, we had enough of a long distance courtship to know that we wanted to be together. And for us, it was the best decision for me to come from the Caribbean to be with him.
[00:02:01] Paula: Wow. Wow, wow. So you came from the Caribbean to be with him here. But let’s talk about your formative years. You were born in Guyana, I assume?
[00:02:09] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:02:10] Paula: I know you went to school there because we went to some similar schools. So tell us about your education.
[00:02:15] Tabitha: I was born and grew up in Guyana. Going to primary school there, it was new Cornelius primary school. After that, I went to Queens College from first to fifth form. And then I did sixth form at the Bishop’s High School in Guyana. After doing that, I started moving towards law, and to do that I needed to start the degree. So I did my first year of the University of the West Indies Law degree at the University of Guyana, having done a year of pre-law first. And then I transitioned over to the Cave Hill campus to complete that degree. So I completed the UWI law degree in the Cave Hill campus in Barbados. And then I moved to Trinidad to do the bar, which in the Caribbean we call the legal education certificate. And I did that at Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad.
[00:03:18] Paula: For those listening you can see all the connectivity with different countries, different islands. She went from Guyana to Kingston, right?
[00:03:28] Tabitha: Guyana to Barbados.
[00:03:30] Paula: Bridgetown, Barbados.
[00:03:31] Tabitha: Bridgetown, Barbados. Yes. And then Trinidad.
[00:03:34] Paula: Trinidad?
[00:03:35] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:03:36] Paula: Wow, wow, wow.
[00:03:38] Tabitha: I loved every minute of it. I missed home a lot. It was the first time that I left home, but it was a wonderful experience and I came away with so many friends who are friends for life. That’s where some of my godchildren are from those friendships and enduring friendships. Friends who were in my wedding, who took me to my wedding. One of my best friends whose daughter is my godchild, drove me to our wedding. So it’s just these deep meaningful friendships that came out of the Cave Hill campus and came out of the experience at law school. Very, very deep and enduring friendship.
[00:04:25] Paula: Wow. So what inspired you to do law? I mean, people go into different professions for many different reasons. And I know sometimes with the British education I find it a little different from in the United States. So typically in the British system, whatever you do as your undergraduate you continue doing. You know, that’s your profession for life. It’s a little different here. So what inspired you to go into law?
[00:04:53] Tabitha: Well, I always loved it. And the attorneys that I knew personally were women attorneys who stood out as very, very strong women who could advocate for people. And because I always had a strong sense of justice, I was very interested in learning how I could advocate for people and help people. And so coming out of that came the desire to want to advocate for people. And I felt that I could do that best by becoming an attorney. However, as part of the Caribbean experience, it is a fact that our professions are a lot of the times, the choice of a profession, parents get involved. And so my mother was very involved in the decision too. She wanted me to be in a profession where I could be independent and I didn’t necessarily have to work for or with someone. She used to say, “be in a profession where as long as you can sign your name and read, you can earn. Don’t be in a profession where you’re on your feet and after there’s some wear and tear, you might not be able to work”. Because I used to say I wanted to be a nurse and she’d say yes, but when a nurse gets, you know to a certain age, she’s not able to take care of patients. But when an attorney gets to a certain age, they can still go into the office and sign papers. So that was my mother’s extremely practical approach to supporting what I wanted to do.
[00:06:39] Paula: That was very wise of her because she’s right. I mean, you could be 72 and still go into the office and sign papers. Very wise. But the good thing is that you liked it, because that could have been a suggestion and you could have been like, yes, but I don’t want to, I don’t think I can do it. I don’t like it. And you could even have liked it, but struggled and not be able to complete it. So you completed it?
[00:07:03] Tabitha: Yes. I did and I enjoyed it. There were some subjects that were not easy, but there were some that I loved. I was able to complete it. So thanks be to God, I was.
[00:07:16] Paula: Amen. Amen. Amen. So we finished in Trinidad. Did you go back to Barbados? Or where next did you go after that?
[00:07:26] Tabitha: After Trinidad, I returned to Guyana and I started working there. I worked for two years and then I moved to the Twin Island of St. Kitts Nevis. I’ve worked there for a few years. I also have worked in the Bahamas at the court for about 10 years. And I’ve also worked in Grand Caman for a little over six years.
[00:07:55] Paula: Grand Cayman, oh, some places that I’d like to go.
[00:08:00] Tabitha: It is beautiful. And so is Nassau.
[00:08:04] Paula: Yes, I’ve been to Nassau, but I haven’t been to Grand Cayman Islands. That is on my bucket list. But that’s for another conversation. But now you live in Michigan, in the United States. You said you came here primarily with your husband. So tell us about that. You know, your professional life now that you live in the United States. And before we go there, let me ask something a bit more personal. So how has it been living here in the United States? It’s a little different. All the places that you mentioned were nice and warm and sunny and hot. But definitely Michigan isn’t any of those apart from in summer. So tell us about that. How has immigrating been?
[00:08:49] Tabitha: It has been both a blessing and a challenge. I am happy to be here. I’m happy to be with my husband. It’s where I want to be, and I am blessed to be here. I am also sometimes lonely. I am lucky that because I’ve lived such an itinerant life, I have maintained friendships with all of my friends and all of the places that I’ve lived. And also added to my family now are my in-laws who are very, very loving and supportive. So I’m surrounded with support. But being local in a city or town where I’ve not grown up can be lonely and can be hard. I moved to the US in my late forties, and this is an age where women have had their friend groups for a very long time. And sometimes I’ve been invited, but I’ve sort of feel like I’m fit in instead of I’m included in the group.
[00:09:51] Paula: That’s a good one, yeah.
[00:09:53] Tabitha: And so Covid didn’t help either, cause we were home for a full year, intentionally not connecting with people physically. And so that has made it hard making friends locally where I am, especially, you know, since the pandemic. I have been blessed with virtual friendships, like meeting you and being introduced to someone who you introduced me to. And I’ve met some friends here, wonderful friends in business groups, and we still have formed something like a little sisterhood of business friends, and we keep each other lifted and encouraged and that has been a blessing. I have never met some of them in person. One of them lives in Michigan and she’s my travel buddy for when we go to Christian conferences and so on. But God has still been keeping me surrounded by his people. And so I have stopped mourning the loss of local connectivity. I do believe that I should just let him be God and he will connect me anywhere. Because when I lived in The Bahamas, I was pastored by Dr. Miles Monroe.
[00:11:10] Paula: Yeah.
[00:11:11] Tabitha: Who taught us what the kingdom is and taught us how God created the kingdom and what the kingdom means. And being a citizens of the kingdom means. And that gave me such peace about borders and restrictions. Because if my God owns the kingdom, he will place me wherever he needs to, and he will place someone to help me wherever I can.
[00:11:36] Paula: And I know that’s been very reassuring to you to know that you are never alone, really.
[00:11:42] Tabitha: Yes it has. Look at our meeting.
[00:11:45] Paula: I know, I know. What our listeners don’t know is that you and I spoke for an hour and a half before we actually did the recording. And it was amazing.
[00:11:56] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:11:56] Paula: It was such a great conversation.
[00:11:59] Tabitha: Yes, yes, yes.
[00:11:59] Paula: And then we said, well, you know what? You’re supposed to be recording, so let’s do this. .
[00:12:04] Tabitha: People talk about six degrees of separation. I like to say six degrees of connection.
[00:12:10] Paula: I like it said that way. Oh.
[00:12:12] Tabitha: Because we found so many ways that we are connected and can connect each other to people who we need to be connected with. It’s just amazing how God works.
[00:12:24] Paula: Yes, yes, yes. I agree with you 100% on that. We talked about your personal life. So tell us a bit about your professional life. I mean, now that you are here in the United States, I know you have a degree, a law degree from the West Indies. From UWI, as we call it. But how did that translate here?
[00:12:49] Tabitha: Hmm, great question. I was faced with a decision of going to law school or doing something else that God had been placing on my heart for a very long time. Even before I met my husband, I was interested in mediation and conflict resolution. And I started that journey continued by doing courses and doing advanced courses and getting certificates. And so I was at a point where I had connected with a university, and I was wishing and hoping and praying that I could do their masters degree. But the only option was an in-person degree. And so I was on their mailing list for 10 years while I was in The Bahamas, after I moved to Cayman and started dating my husband and deciding what we were going to do. And there came a point when the Lord confirmed for me that the decision would be for me to move and come here to the US and live with him. And once I got there and I made that decision, communicated with him and we started planning together what that would look like God, only by his grace had my husband in his job transferred to Nashville Tennessee, which is where the university is.
[00:14:18] Paula: Look at that.
[00:14:20] Tabitha: And that transfer was for two years. And in those two years I was able to move from Cayman to the US, enroll and complete the masters. I graduated in December, and by the February he was told that it was time to transfer out of Nashville.
[00:14:39] Paula: Oh my gosh. I have tears in my eyes as I listen to you relate that story. Because you know, we talked earlier on, not on this, not during the recording, about how our steps are ordered by God. But to listen to you relay this, which we hadn’t talked about. Oh my word. For 10 years you were on the mailing list. You had to be there in person, but you were working outside of the United States and you didn’t see how that was possible. Until you met your husband, dated, got married, and then his company transferred him to where the university was. Oh my gosh, Tabitha.
[00:15:18] Tabitha: For two years. So I can do an 18 month master’s degree. And guess what, Paula? The person who was emailing me was the admissions director, and we would relate by email. So when I finally got there, I emailed her and said, “Hey, I’m here. I’d actually like to start this masters.”
[00:15:39] Tabitha: She connected me to the new by then admissions officer. I enrolled and I did all of my modules and my final capstone paper. When it was time for my capstone paper, I got the email connecting me with the professor. The professor who supervised my capstone paper was initially the admin director who I was first in touch with when I was in The Bahamas.
[00:16:09] Paula: Look at that.
[00:16:10] Tabitha: So she was the person keeping in touch with me and being intentional about letting me know what happened. And she was the last person to assess me before I graduated.
[00:16:23] Paula: Look At God.
[00:16:25] Tabitha: I could not write this story, only God could do this.
[00:16:29] Paula: You said it all, you could not have written this. This is, you know, just yesterday I was saying, I was recalling some of the sayings my mom had. And one of them was that, life is stranger than fiction. And this is an example. I mean, you could not have written this story, that the person you had been in contact with, you were able to connect with her in person. And I mean, it’s like she had known you for years, right? Because you had been communicating for so many years.
[00:16:57] Tabitha: And she was my professor.
[00:16:59] Paula: And she was your professor.
[00:17:01] Tabitha: She was the professor for my capstone.
[00:17:03] Paula: For your capstone. Oh my gosh.
[00:17:05] Tabitha: Only God could have done that.
[00:17:07] Paula: Yes. Tabitha. Oh my word. Do you have any other stories like this? I mean, this has just gotten me so happy.
[00:17:16] Tabitha: It’s just amazing because, you know, when God showed me conflict resolution as a profession, I was being pastored by Pastor Miles Monroe. And he was talking about the kingdom and he was talking about leadership, and he was talking about dying empty and serving the world with the gifts. And so I got to a point in time where I felt that my gift was so much larger than law. And I love the profession of law, and I have the utmost respect for attorneys. But I saw that conflict resolution and conflict management could actually help people to be involved in the decisions that are being made about them. Rather than have a stranger, which is who the judge is. The judge is a stranger who listens to your case, told by another stranger, a lawyer, and those two strangers advocate for you. And the head stranger makes a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. While with the mediation and the conflict resolution model, we are able to actively be involved in deciding what happens by learning how to communicate with each other, or by being in a setting where someone facilitates communication. And so I felt God calling me towards this, and now I’m a conflict management strategist. And I teach corporate entrepreneurial and spiritual leaders to manage conflict in their relationships, workflows, and systems, so they can bridge those gaps between issues and outcomes and create a peaceful environment.
[00:19:01] Paula: All because you listened though. Because you could have heard that and said, mm, that’s not for me. After all, I’m a lawyer. I don’t want to come and do my masters and get some certificate. But no, everything that you’re doing is interwoven. Your legal background I know helps you logically reasoning through conflict and mediation. Conflict resolution is looking through, but in a more personalized way, I like to say. Whatever is going on in the life of your clients or whoever they may be, and finding a peaceful or common solution.
[00:19:44] Tabitha: Because Paula we can disagree and still find a solution, you know?
[00:19:47] Paula: Yes.
[00:19:48] Tabitha: We can totally disagree with each other, but we can find a solution. But we can do that when we are committed to an outcome.
[00:20:00] Paula: Yes.
[00:20:01] Tabitha: Yes. When we get that big picture, we can still disagree, but we can say, you know, what’s the best thing even in the space of disagreement.
[00:20:11] Paula: I just love it. Wow. So how have you found your job now being a conflict management strategist in a culture that is not really yours? I don’t say that in a disrespectful way, but sometimes we have to learn the culture of the place that we are in and that can be challenging at times, so.
[00:20:35] Tabitha: It can be challenging. I speak with an accent, that can be a barrier sometimes to communication. If the listener fixates on my accent rather than what I say. I’ve had a moment where I was with my mom at the doctor and someone asks if she needed an interpreter. So people make assumptions about what they see without really listening deeply and intentionally. And so this has affected sometimes how I move through the world. Because I feel as I have to be careful and I have to be watchful, especially with what is going on right now in America and how people of color are being perceived by some, and treated by some. That is a reality that I live with. And so I’ve had to be watchful, be mindful. I don’t have that foundation of stability that people who are born here have been afforded. And so I have seen God create that foundation for me and do it better than anyone else could have done. And for me, I always, sometimes need to relearn that reliance because I’m strong and I’m purposeful and I am goal oriented. And so sometimes I see a straight line between point A and point B, and I try to get there. I’ve had to learn to let go and let God, because he can do it so much better than I could. And his timing is perfect. Mine is the desired timing His is the perfect timing. And so I’ve had to surrender to him and once I surrendered, he started to build things around me, friendships, support systems. My business sent me coaches who are exactly what I need. Sent me people around me who are exactly what I need. And so even though I feel sometimes lonely, I know that I’m not alone and there is my confidence. So if I’m heading into conflict with a client, I’m heading in with confidence because I know I was called to do this. And if he called me, I know he equipped. And because he equipped me, I know I can help my client.
[00:23:10] Paula: That’s powerful. Knowing within yourself that I’m not doing this alone. I have a calling, I have a purpose, and I have been called by my Lord and Savior.
[00:23:20] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:23:21] Paula: And if he called me, he equipped me.
[00:23:23] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:23:24] Paula: That takes away the uncertainty of meeting with a client and not quite knowing we’ve been trained. No matter how well we’re trained, we are human and so we can err and we make mistakes. But when you know that I’m not here alone, in here I’ve walked in with a majority Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a difference that makes.
[00:23:45] Tabitha: Such a difference, Paula to know that I have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with me in everything I do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have hard times. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have sad moments. It doesn’t mean that I always succeed. I failed maybe more than I’ve succeeded. But still I’ve not failed because God knew even before I failed that I would fail. And I do believe that He has already made the way out. So what I see as a failure now, He doesn’t see as a failure because He knows what He has for me in the future. And this is how I sustain myself. This is how I find peace. This is how I have peace that I can share, the peace of Christ, that I can share with others.
[00:24:34] Paula: I just wondered if there was any part of your journey to where you are now that you think could inspire others similar to you who are either planning on coming to the United States, or it may not even be the United States, but they’re coming from the Caribbean too. Whether it’s Europe or the Uk, or Australia, or Canada, wherever. Is there any part of your journey that you can talk about that would inspire a woman like you?
[00:24:58] Tabitha: Yes. The part of my journey would be my journey with God. If you’re a woman of faith and you are listening and you’re considering coming to the United States, understand that things are not always easy. Understand also that everything that has happened to you before is a springboard for your future. The God who was with you in the past in adversity is the God who has gone before you to the United States. Understand that everything that God has put into you is for your future. And so the people who are here waiting for you will show up once you show up. And when I say show up, not show up as a timid person, not show up as someone who is an immigrant, but you show up and take up space. Transition to the United States with all the experience that you have had. All your life experience, all your academic experience, all your common sense, all your values, your faith. You are a full package and you are unique package. Only you can do what God wants you to do in the United States, and they’re people waiting for you to do that. So come and take up space. Don’t move to the United States and shrink. Come here and take up the space that God has created for you and inhabit it. That’s what I would share.
[00:26:35] Paula: And I love what you said. Come take up space. Don’t shrink, but inhabit it with the purpose that God has for you.
[00:26:44] Tabitha: Amen.
[00:26:45] Paula: Yeah, that’s a real inspiration.
[00:26:48] Tabitha: Thanks be to God.
[00:26:50] Paula: Amen. Amen. There’s a question that I always try to ask all my guests who have migrated from the country to wherever. Could you give us just one fun fact about Guyana before we close?
[00:27:05] Tabitha: Our coast line is six feet below sea level. And we have a sea wall protecting us from the mighty Atlantic. That’s my fun fact. If you walk the coastline of Guyana, you can see a huge cement wall. In some places it’s more well built than others. And in some places there are breakers behind that wall and the sea. But our coast is literally six feet below sea level. So pray for us that the Lord keeps the water is in place and the lands in place so that there never is a natural disaster. That’s our fun fact.
[00:27:45] Paula: Yep. And having lived in Guyana, I remember the fun we had going to the seawall to fly kites.
[00:27:51] Tabitha: Yes.
[00:27:52] Paula: Just to fly kites. I remember walking on the sea wall and just thinking, wow, we are six feet below sea level, yet we haven’t been flooded. We don’t have, we had, we used to have floods. But you know what I mean. The land hasn’t been taken over by the sea. Thank you so much, Tabitha, for coming on to “Chatting With The Experts”.
[00:28:13] Tabitha: Thank you, Paula. This has been a wonderful experience. Thanks for having me.
[00:28:17] Paula: Absolutely. And for my listeners, if you have enjoyed what you just heard, please head over to “Apple Podcast”, “Spotify”, “Google Podcast”, or wherever else you listen to podcasts and follow us there. And if you are an immigrant woman from the Caribbean or from Africa, and you now live in Europe or North, or the UK or Australia and would like to have your story told, please reach out to me on “www.chattingwiththeexperts.com/contact” and I will definitely respond because the life of a immigrant woman is magnificent. As you obviously have heard from Tabitha Liburd and so many of my other amazing guests. Thank you again.