Finding Fertile Ground Podcast: Resilient Refugee Olive Bukuru Kabura
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
I launched a podcast last week! I’ve always been inspired by people who possess grit and resilience and are able to connect with people in an authentic way.
After writing a few hard-hitting articles about race, I got the honor of being interviewed by Jackie Capers-Brown (the Level Up Your Life podcast) and Charles Edward Jackson, III, for his Relational Leadership series. Those experiences prompted me to hit the airwaves and create the kind of podcast I would like to listen to. So off we go!!
I am interviewing people who have experienced hardship in their life, and most of my guests will be from marginalized communities—Black
or other people of color, from a non-Christian religion, LBGTQIA, or women. I’ve conducted four interviews so far, and I am having a blast!! I knew I wanted my first interview to be with Olive Bukuru Kabura, a refugee from Burundi and Tanzania.
I met Olive (pronounced “Olee-vay”) last fall when I was coordinating an event called “Voices from the Margins” for the City of Beaverton’s Welcoming Week. I was immediately taken with Olive and impressed by her wisdom beyond her years and the way she exuded joy, even while talking about the difficulties her family has faced.
Olive was born in Makamba, Burundi. When she was just six months old, her parents escaped from genocide on foot with their two-year-old daughter and Olive, along with her twin sister. They lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania until immigrating to the US when Olive was just 10 years old.
As the first person in her family to graduate from high school and college, Olive now works with children with disabilities. She has big dreams for her future. She lives with her family of 10 (8 siblings and mom and dad).
Olive shared her memories of the refugee camp. She knows how lucky she was to have parents who were alive, and she has positive memories of spending time with her friends and going to school…in spite of the poverty, hunger, and violence. Her parents applied for resettlement in Australia, America, and European countries, and in 2006 they were accepted for immigration to the United States. When they left Tanzania the next year, they traveled to Oregon with just two or three bags. They left behind all their belongings, extended family and friends, and everything they knew.
A bit about Burundi
One of the smallest countries in Africa, the Republic of Burundi is landlocked by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and southeast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The Twa, Hutu, and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. Burundi was an independent kingdom until the beginning of the 20th century, when Germany colonized the region until it ceded the territory to Belgium after the First World War.
Burundi gained independence in 1962 and had a monarchy until assassinations, coups, and regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and one-party state in 1966. About 250,000 people died in Burundi from genocide between 1962 and 1993. In 1972, the Tutsi-dominated army did mass killings of Hutus, and in 1993, the Hutu majority did mass killings of Tutsis. After fleeing from Burundi, Olive lived among both Hutus and Tutsis in the refugee camp and couldn’t tell any difference between them.
Olive shared some of her struggles assimilating into American culture, followed by more recent challenges with the police. Neighbors have called the police on her family for ridiculous reasons no less than 12 times.
After they saw her six-year-old brother fall off his bike, neighbors called the police for “child abuse,” which terrified all of them. When Olive worked hard to purchase a new car, someone called again, claiming Olive "looked suspicious."
When Olive was in college, she did a semester abroad in Tanzania and raised $17,000 to help children in Tanzania and Burundi. Her father accompanied her, and they visited Burundi again for the first time since they had left. She plans to get a master’s in public health and work for the United Nations or UNICEF. Her dream is to help the children in Africa and extend a hand, just as a hand was extended to her family.
Olive and I also talked about Black Lives Matter and her efforts to convince ignorant people that her life does indeed matter. She has an infinite amount of patience and refuses to give up, even though it can be exhausting to try to get her point across. “I’m not going to get tired sharing, no matter how tiring it gets,” she said. “I'm going to keep going. But I think of all of the people who actually lost their lives for this. The least I can do is get involved.”
We also discussed our mutual love of the “Black Panther” movie. Olive shared her excitement in seeing Burundi represented in the movie and how it shines a light on the real authentic culture of West Africa and East Africa...and we discussed what things could have been like if it were not for colonization.
When I asked her what she is most proud of, Olive said she is proud of the fact that she is able to show sympathy and accept people and their truth for who they are.
Here’s the thing that really got to me. When I asked Olive if there is something she wishes people understood about her, she said she wished people would understand she is not mad when she says her life matters.
My PSA to white people: WE NEED TO STOP TELLING BLACK PEOPLE THEY SOUND ANGRY.
I have now conducted three incredible podcast interviews, two of them with badass Black women--Olivé Bukuru Kabura and Nett Edwards. When I asked these wonderful individuals what they wish people understood about them, they BOTH said they wish people would stop viewing them as angry when they talk about race and Black Lives Matter.
Passion does not equal anger.
And even if they are angry, DEAL WITH IT. They have a right to be angry. But the point is we are misunderstanding passion and emotion.
White people have got to get over it, y'all.
Olive and I talked about the way white people are treated differently when they commit a crime, like Brock Turner and Jeremy Christian, the MAX killer, a rapist and murderer who were treated gently by the police, while George Floyd was killed over a suspected $20 counterfeit bill.
In closing, Olive told me how much she admires her parents for working so hard to make a better life for their children. They embody grit, resilience, and connection...as does Olive.
She is a resilient refugee and I am so proud to know her.
This week I’ll release my interview with Skye Leybold, a friend who is living with Stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer. A few years ago her doctors had written her off when she went into liver failure, but Skye and her husband refused to give up. And that’s why she is here today. She was determined to live for her children. Now she takes pleasure in the simple things in life—walking her dog, reading, and raising her teenagers—and she has created a loving family without any role models to guide her. She is a fierce fighter. Don’t miss it!
You can find it on your favorite podcast channel, or check it out here! If you like what you hear, give us a rating, subscribe, and share with your friends!
Contact me for more information about sharing your story, building or revamping your website, or advancing your marketing communications and leadership. With over 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, I am passionate about sustainability and corporate citizenship, equity & inclusion, businesses that use their power for good, and doing everything I can to create a kinder, more sustainable, and just world.
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