On March 24, 2019 my friend, Namuzeyi, came over for a shoot we had planned to do in my apartment. As we laughed and caught up, we ended up having a discussion about who we are as African women and how that has impacted how we decide to live our lives today. We all have a story and a place we come from, but it is up to us to decide how we allow that to shape our future. She shared with me her experience coming from the Congo and how that has impacted who she is today. I want to share a bit of her story with you.

“I belong to the Banyamulenge Tutsi Tribe. My mother was born in Mulenge and married at 16 years old. She later moved to Mbuji-Mayi so when she had kids they would be able to go to school. My father was a businessman.

On August 2, 1998, the government of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) ordered the genocide of all Tutsi people in Congo. There were multiple occasions where the police visited our home in search of my father and requested money. My mother would say ‘my father was off on business’, when in fact he was at home hiding. If the police knew of his whereabouts, it would’ve been the last time we’d see him. As it was televised everywhere, my mom heard that the president was willing to kill any Tutsi and keep their belongs. As a result, we went into hiding. She did everything in her power to keep us hidden, but unfortunately, we were discovered.

September 23, 1998, we were captured along with 4 other families and carried into a truck to a death camp. Every day was a fight for survival as we watched our loved ones be tortured and murdered right in front of us. Each day we were threatened to be the next family, but God didn’t let it happen. While in the death camp, my mother found out she was pregnant with twins. Later on, with no medical care, my mother had my twin brothers on the cold concrete floor, cutting the umbilical cord with a piece of wood and tying it with the thread from her hair. She named the twins after the commanders who captured us in the hope of saving their lives. And it did. The commander and his wife were honoured at the gesture and his wife helped look after the little ones. For 16 months we slept on concrete floors with no windows and had to share small amounts of food amongst nine. My mother barely ate because she wanted to make sure we were fed.

After 16 months we were rescued by American Red Cross and found refuge in Phoenix, Arizona. As I got older, I later found out that the government had ordered for all the men to be murdered, my father being one of them. I’m sharing this, not for sympathy but to show that we each have a story that has shaped us into the people we are today. I am just Namuzeyi Nyazigama Moise and I don’t think my life is worth more than anyone else’s. Why my family and I survived…..I don’t know, but I was given a second chance and I want to use it loving others unconditionally, taking chances, learning and growing from others and giving back. I could live my life hating the people who took away so much from me, but that wouldn’t make me any better than them. I would rather take that energy and use it to spread love and laughter. We only have one life and we shouldn’t take it for granted. We all have a story that has transformed us into who we are, and with that, we choose how we want to live out the rest of our lives. So stay true to where you come from, who you have become, strive to be and trust the process.”

Our lives are a gift. It is a precious gift that we have been given and every day is an opportunity to live our lives to its fullest potential especially because nothing is promised to us. Namuzeyi’s story is an example of not allowing your past to shape our futures and I hope that with her sharing her story, you do the same.

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