Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Beatrice Mbayo, October 25, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Introduction, family, growing up, education, and marriage

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Partial Transcript: I am Angene Wilson and I am interviewing Beatrice.

Segment Synopsis: Beatrice Mbayo talks about growing up in a family of 17 children. Her father was a businessman and his three wives farmed. They grew peanuts, corn and cassava to sell, and bananas and rice for the family. She had a happy childhood, creating games and toys, such as making dolls from clay. She also swam in the river with her sisters, and fished. Children also helped on the farm, spent an hour fetching water from the river before going to school. She competed with others for top grades, with two boys who are now priests. Her mother went to school up to fourth grade and pushed education for her children. She went to Catholic primary school. She moved with four other brothers and sisters to Lubumbashi for secondary school. She compares her school to her children's experience here. She had to walk a long way to school, buy books, had only one pen. The nuns helped her because she was a good student. Four of her 17 siblings did not finish secondary school. She married at 18 and went to an unaccredited college for business courses for four years, then worked for an air transport company and also helped her husband with his soap business which he sold in his shop. He also owned trucks.

Keywords: Childhood toys; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Family; Farming; Jobs; Katanga; Kongolo; Linge; Lubumbashi

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Employment; Families.; Marriage

GPS: Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -11.133333, 27.1
GPS: Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -11.666667, 27.483333
00:13:22 - Fleeing war

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Partial Transcript: And, um, then what happened in terms of, uh--when, when, when, when did, when did war come to you in Katanga?

Segment Synopsis: The first war did not cause a lot of trouble in 1992-93 when Kabila replaced Mobutu. Life got better under Kabila, especially the first three years. There was money, business was flourishing. But then war began and after the rebels came to Kongolo in September 1999, Beatrice Mbayo took her son and was separated from her husband who did not survive. She walked many miles to Lubumbashi to a Red Cross camp for displaced people and delivered a baby there. Because the baby had a disability with his feet, the Red Cross told her she should go to a refugee camp in Zimbabwe where she could get assistance. And so she got rides on trucks, stayed in pastors' houses, and eventually got to Zimbabwe to a camp.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo; Fleeing; Kabila; Kongolo; Lubumbashi; Mobutu; Red Cross; War; Zambia; Zimbabwe

Subjects: Refugee camps; Refugees

GPS: Kongolo, Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -5.4, 27
GPS: Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -11.666667, 27.483333
GPS: Zimbabwe
Map Coordinates: -20, 30
00:21:37 - Refugee camp in Zimbabwe

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Partial Transcript: And that's where you were in a refugee camp? Was in Zimbabwe?

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo describes registration in Harare, Zimbabwe, then staying in a transit camp for three months. After getting refugee status, she went in a big truck with others from Congo, Somalia, and Ethiopia to Tongoyora camp in Chipinge a day's drive away from Harare. They were in the camp for four years, but some refugees had been there for 11 years. She describes starting a school under a tree--her older son was now eight--and then UNHCR built a school. She spoke French, Swahili, Lingala and three other Congolese languages before getting to Zimbabwe where she learned English and Shona. She describes a dream of going to the U.S. The Zimbabwean government had refused to do an operation to fix her son's feet. That refusal helped her case to go to the U.S., and Shriner's Hospital did the operation eight months after they arrived in Lexington and a six year old who had never worn shoes could now wear shoes and go to school and as a teenager plays football. "That's why I love Kentucky."

Keywords: Harare; Languages; Refugee process; School under a tree; Shriner's Hospital; Son's disability; Tongoyora camp; Transit camp; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); People with disabilities.; Refugee camps; Refugees; Zimbabwe

GPS: Harare, Zimbabwe
Map Coordinates: -17.829167, 31.052222
GPS: Tongogara Refugee Camp, Zimbabwe
Map Coordinates: -20.2, 32.62
GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:32:45 - Coming to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So let's think about--wh, when you came, you--what was--what were some of your ideas about what the U.S. was going to be like?

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo describes flying into Bluegrass Airport and thinking with all the green that they would be farming for white people. She thought everything would be easy in America but it was hard. People in the community and church were very welcoming. Kentucky Refugee Ministries did a great job for the first three years. There were good times and challenges. Listening to American English was a challenge. It was hard to work and take care of children without family. She lost her job at the University of Kentucky when her son was at Shriners Hospital for 150 days. Her husband worked at Coca Cola.

Keywords: Challenges; Expectations versus reality; Kentucky Refugee Ministries

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:37:16 - Connections with Congo

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Partial Transcript: So, um, you have now been here for ten years.

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo still has family and friends in Congo and went back to Congo after she became a citizen. After everything was stable in Lexington she had flashbacks and depression. A therapist suggested she go back to Congo. That trip in 2012 cured her depression because she realized how fortunate she was. She started an organization, Dreams of My Homeland, for women who have been raped. They have built a school in Lubumbashi. She now goes every year for challenges. She talks every day with people there, that day they were digging a well. She wrote in journals in the camps, first in French, now in English.

Keywords: Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC); Citizenship; Congo connection; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Depression; Dreams of My Homeland; Writing

Subjects: Congo (Democratic Republic); Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24
GPS: Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -11.666667, 27.483333
00:43:21 - Surprises about the United States and jobs

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Partial Transcript: What, what else was surprising to you about the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo wrote a story about snow. The roads were so beautiful. Everybody worked the same shift every day. In Congo men worked and women stayed home. She worked at a hospital for one year and then at Kentucky Refugee Ministries for three and a half years. After she lost her job because of funding, she went to University of Kentucky to get her CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and now works 40 to 80 hours a week doing home health visits in the mental health area.

Keywords: Case workers; Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA); Democratic Republic of the Congo; Jobs; Kentucky Refugee Ministries; Women working; Work shifts

Subjects: Employment--Kentucky

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24
00:46:35 - Problems of refugees

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, what, what have you found as you're working with clients...

Segment Synopsis: The most common problems she faced after immigrating were getting a job, lack of education, and difficulty learn English.

Keywords: English; Jobs; Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM); Lack of education

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Refugees

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:48:19 - Good and bad experiences

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Partial Transcript: Um, have there been any really--well, let me ask it two ways.

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo's best experience is coming here and being able to be somebody people can count on in the community. She can help people, be a reference. Her bad memory is getting divorced during her first year and having to take care of her children alone. She finds men coming here want wives to work but don't want to share responsibilities. You have to take any job at the beginning -- she started as a dishwasher. Men have to adapt. She believes in mixing good things from Congo with good things in U.S.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo; Divorce; Gender roles; Independence of women; Negative; Positive

Subjects: Congo (Democratic Republic); Gender issues; Sex role

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24
00:55:42 - Her contributions to Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: And so one of the questions that we ask is, um, what do you think you, uh, as an immigrant to this state, have given to Kentucky?

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo helps in social services. She shares her experiences of domestic violence with American women. She was awarded a Kentucky Colonel.

Keywords: Domestic violence; Kentucky Colonel; Social services

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:57:48 - Questions Americans ask

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Partial Transcript: Um, what kinds of questions do people here ask you about, um, Congo?

Segment Synopsis: "Americans don't know we have houses." They don't know that Congo is a very rich country in gold and copper. They don't know where Congo is on the map. Mbayo has spoken to students at the law school. She explains colonialism, dictatorship, war in Congo.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo; Educating Americans; Mineral resources

Subjects: Immigrants

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24
01:00:34 - Discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Have you experienced any discrimination, do you think, in Lexington because of the color of your skin?

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo has heard people say that immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Keywords: Prejudice; Stereotypes

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Refugees

01:01:30 - Concern about her country

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Partial Transcript: Um, okay. I think that I've asked all the questions that I have here.

Segment Synopsis: Mbayo wants to tell about Congo's problems, including rape of women. She wants war to stop. She wants people here to do something.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of the Congo; Problems

Subjects: Congo (Democratic Republic)

GPS: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Map Coordinates: -3, 24