Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wishing you a happy (and memorable) Labor Day!

I hope that this Labor Day finds you well! As I prepare to travel to the Congo again in the near future, the holiday has me thinking about labor in the Congo.

Through my mother's efforts, I was exposed at a young age to the power of women coming together and joining forces to redefine the realities of what it meant to be a working mother in the Congo. The magic of their unified strength was truly revolutionary. As a wise woman once said, "when spiderwebs unite, they can stop a lion."

As we are working on the final chapters of the memoir (we plan to finish the manuscript by late fall/ early winter), I am pulling on my earliest memories of these scenes, remembering back to the way it all began....

Chapter 9 - Spiderwebs

The fervent buzz of conversation dwindled as one by one the women’s eyes turned to a single corner of the room. They were waiting for Nzol Akayimb to speak.

But makw Nzol sat silent, legs crossed in her faded, neatly tied makwemb. Her eyes shone out from the soft papery folds of her skin. The silence silence spread as she steadily met the eyes of each woman in turn. When her eyes rested for a moment on my own, I could see that they were deep midnight pools in which the reflection of the moon danced and played with a shimmering brightness. Her gaze held all and yet revealed nothing.

Finally Makw Nzol spoke.

“When one falls down, will we leave her behind? Will she stay on the ground when we have so many hands to help her back up, and so many arms to lean on? No, we are together in this. We are one. Where one falls, none can continue on the path.”


As the meeting dispersed, Mom and makw Nzol lingered at the entrance after the others had gone. Then, deep in conversation, they began the journey home in the darkness together, with only the moon to light their way. Quietly, I followed behind.

“We must help one another in this as in all things.” I heard makw Nzol tell Mom before patting her chest lightly once with her open palm. It was a quick and subtle gesture, but my eyes never left her diminutive frame. When the path parted, Nzol stopped and turned toward Mom again. “We will visit him tomorrow, in the evening. It will be better.” Mom nodded in agreement and the two women said their goodbyes.

I watched as Nzol turned onto the path and slowly made her way down the road, her bare feet sounding solid, reassuring thwaps against the clay road as she made her way slowly down the shadowy path, leaning on her gnarled old kashi stick.

Trailing Mom home that night after the meeting, I wondered at the strange turn of events that had taken place. And I remembered back to the day that had started this course in motion....


Stay tuned to read the next installment of this chapter--coming soon!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

In light of tomorrow's Mother's Day celebration here in the U.S., I thought I would give a quick update on our progress with Remember for Me and also share a brief excerpt with you in honor of my mother.

We are currently on track to have a finished manuscript by October of this year. I have been truly amazed by the support that has already begun to transform this dream into reality. I'm reaching out to ask you to join this team of contributors by considering making a small donation to help us cover some of our pre-production costs. You can do this by clicking on the donation box on the right side of this page, or contact me at for more information.

It's important to note, that I am attempting to tell both my own story, the story of my mother and my family, and also the story of the community of Musumba where I grew up. My goal is to be true to the voice of the local people. Accordingly, all proceeds from the sales of this book will go back to support the people of Musumba. Please help us share this story with the world.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Remember for Me that is dedicated to my mom and to the determination, spirit, and ingenuity of all the mothers in Musumba.

“Mom is back! Mom is back!” As we heard the joyful shout, Kasua and I looked up. We locked eyes for no longer than a second before leaping from our seats and racing outside. As we ran toward the main road and along it to the entrance to our village, we caught up with my brother, Mutombu, and the throng of neighborhood children who had alerted us to Mom’s return. We ran together, arms flailing, our bare feet slapping the red clay road still damp from that morning’s rain. As we ran, hope and anticipation rose in my throat—and I could also see it on my siblings’ faces. Eyes wide, lips parted, eyebrows raised, but not yet smiling. We had to see for ourselves that it was true. Had Mom really returned? 

As we approached the village entrance, the scene before my eyes was so vivid that I knew in that moment that I would never stop seeing it. The wet earth spread in front of us, like a red carpet that had been rolled out for the occasion; the road lined on either side of us with towering mango and flamboyant trees—a canopy of green, heavy with bright fruit, and dotted with red and yellow flowers; and straight ahead—cows! Huge brown cows occupied the entire width of the corridor. Slowly making their grand entrance into town, they meandered over the red carpet, moving casually towards us.

My eyes skimmed the lush and beautiful scenery with a sole agenda—Mom. Where was Mom? Our noisy gang descended on the herd of cows, children buzzing, searching and calling for Mom. The cows, tired from their long journey, and perhaps offended by our less-than-decorous reception, began to protest. Loud moos drowned out our calls, and as we rushed among them, the cows’ discomfort turned to fear. They began to clumsily pivot and shuffle in all different directions. One by one they started to move in short, powerful bolts, attempting to distance themselves from the chaotic throng of children. The herdsmen began to shout and then calmly cajole the cows, attempting to corral them back onto the road facing the right direction. Hanging back, I observed as the other children continued to weave amongst the cows, in very real danger of being crushed, searching and calling for Mom. Amidst this furious commotion, Mom finally emerged from the back of the herd, stepping out from behind the huge creatures.

She quieted the children and gently herded us out of the way. Once both cows and children alike had been soothed and corralled, the group continued the final leg of its journey into town.