Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jose Kazadi Kazadi, February 5, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Growing up in the Congo / Education

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Partial Transcript: I'm Jack Wilson and today is October 8th, 2015.

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi talks about his parents. His father worked at a commercial bank and his mother was a housewife. There were ten children. Education was very important to his father. --"School is your wife, your children, your future." They moved from Kananga, Kasai to Bukavu so he started his school there but moved back to Kananga for high school. Then in 1988 he went to the capital of Kinshasa. He dreamed about being a pilot first but then wanted to be journalist. His father encouraged him to become a doctor, so he majored in math and science. He went to enroll in medical school at university in Kinshasa but his name didn't appear on the list. Then his older brother found him a place in the College of Building and Public Works in engineering and he completed an associate degree in surveying in 1994. He didn't find a job because of disruption in the country.

Keywords: Bukavu; Kananga; Kasai; Kinshasa

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Employment; Families.; Higher education

GPS: Kananga, Kasai-Central Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -5.897, 22.448833
GPS: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -4.325, 15.322222
GPS: Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -2.5, 28.866667
00:14:18 - Russia and creating a magazine

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Partial Transcript: And in 1996 I had to move to Russia.

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi had to leave Congo because he was a student leader demonstrating against the government at the college in West Kasai where he was getting his engineering degree. A cousin helped him get out of the country and promised to support him in school but did not. So he became undocumented and describes what that is like. Then he decided to establish a magazine to speak for Africans. They covered trade issues, violence against people by skinheads, and educated Russians about Africans and Africans about Russians. He describes how he established a press identity and started a legitimate business. "You are legal by work, but not by statute." The magazine was published about twice a year between 2002 and 2007.

Keywords: Establishing a magazine; Kananga; Life as an undocumented immigrant; Politics; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); West Kasai

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Refugees; Russia

00:39:15 - Why and how he came to the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: So did you, did you continue to have, uh, any kind of contact with, uh, the Democratic Republic of Congo...

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi describes how he became powerful, even giving a speech in the Duma. He was invited by ambassadors to events, he organized an art exhibition at the French Culture Center and a day of Francophone culture. He could even refer someone to get a visa. He tells the story of a Congolese person who came to buy an aircraft to push back rebels. He talks about an arms deal which went awry, eventually leading to his life being threatened and him seeking protection and then asylum in the U.S. through UNHCR. He was in Russia from 1996 to 2004.

Keywords: Arms deals; Kabila; My Africa magazine; Political access; Russian Duma; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Russian Duma
Map Coordinates: 55.7575, 37.615278
00:57:35 - Coming to Kentucky, first job, education

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Partial Transcript: Okay so you got the refugee status, uh, the UN, UN, uh, assisted with that...

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi describes not knowing where Kentucky was, not knowing anyone, but he was fluent in English which he had learned in Congo. He now speaks seven languages: Tshiluba, Swahili, Lingala, French, Russian, English, and he learned Spanish in the U.S. He realized he was starting "life from scratch" in the U.S. His first job was as a picker at Amazon and after six months he became a problem solver. During his eight years there he got more education. He began at the community college and then transferred to University of Kentucky, graduating in 2012 with a Foreign Language/International Economics major, including going to Costa Rica.

Keywords: Amazon; Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC); Business; Jobs; Languages; University of Kentucky

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment--Kentucky; Higher education; Lexington (Ky.).

GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
GPS: Costa Rica
Map Coordinates: 10, -84
01:16:16 - Jobs

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Partial Transcript: Alright so, so since 2012, you, you're no longer working for, for Amazon.

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi started a job at Xerox in 2012 and he also has a business importing food products such as cassava leaf and root from Africa and Caribbean for Lexington and beyond.

Keywords: Business; Jobs; Xerox

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
01:20:10 - Family

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Partial Transcript: So do you have family?

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi's wife is from Russia and is doing PhD in computer science engineering. He has two sons, one ten years old born in Russia, and one born here.

Keywords: Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC); Engineering; Russia; Sons; University of Kentucky (UK); Wife

Subjects: Education; Families.

GPS: Russia
Map Coordinates: 60, 90
01:22:36 - Advantages and disadvantages of living in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, can you, can you do two things for me?

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi talks about good things about Kentucky: beautiful, quiet, children can be educated, peaceful environment. He was scared to come to the U.S. first because he had heard about guns, but there are maybe less opportunities for jobs in Lexington.

Keywords: Cost of living

Subjects: Education; Employment--Kentucky; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85
01:28:33 - Connecting with Congo

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Partial Transcript: Do, uh, you still have family in the Congo, or elsewhere that you keep in touch with?

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi uses Facebook and other technology to keep in touch with his mother, sister, and others. After getting U.S. citizenship, he went back to Congo to visit in 2010 and 2012.

Keywords: Communication; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Family; Travel; Vibrt

Subjects: Congo (Democratic Republic); Families.; Immigrants

GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24
01:30:43 - Kazadi's philosophy

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Partial Transcript: So what, what kinds of questions do, do people ask you, uh, about living in, in Kentucky?

Segment Synopsis: Kazadi tells people he is from Congo but now is an American citizen. "Diversity is good for the economy." "I see the world as a big bowl of flowers." "I never let discrimination, racism get me down." "I look forward." "I live my life."

Keywords: Diversity; Racism

Subjects: Discrimination; Immigrants

GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5, -85