This writer continues to write about Black Health and Wellness which was the theme for the 2022 Black History Month. During this research, several more African American medical doctors were discovered who were residents of Louisville or have roots from Louisville. This research will be used to inspire African American students to consider the medical field as a career. Dr. Yvette McQueen has roots in Louisville. She is the daughter of Joshua and Mary Johnson McQueen who grew up and completed secondary school in Louisville, MS. She has two sisters, Dr. Ethlyn McQueen Gibson of Yorktown, VA (Doctor of Nurse Practice, DNP) and Teresa Ann McQueen Thompson a teacher.
Dr. Yvette McQueen, MD is an Emergency Medicine Specialist in Jacksonville, FL and has over 24 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from Medical College Of Ohio medical school in 1998. She has indicated that she accepts Telehealth appointments.
Dr. McQueen is a global physician on a mission to educate about health, travel wellness and disease prevention. She is an Emergency Medicine physician and Travel Doctor; working as a physician across the US and the Caribbean. She is a travel group physician ensuring healthy and safe travel of the clients before and during the international trip. Dr. McQueen is a speaker, blogger, bestselling author x 3, consultant, CPR and First Aid instructor; wilderness emergency care training and international teacher. She has traveled to 30+ international countries and organizes international medical missions. “My education and diverse experiences have driven me to serve a purpose of travel and health, my two passions. I can share the knowledge I have gained over my years of travel to show you how to travel efficiently, healthy and economically while still having quality experiences.” She traveled to Africa, for hospital training/teaching in Rwanda and Tanzania. She also provides Wellness Lifestyle Coaching, Wellness Retreats, and is a member of the Wellness Tourism Association.
Dr. McQueen is originally from Cleveland, OH; she obtained her MD degree from Medical College of Ohio/Toledo and Emergency Medicine Residency trained in Detroit, MI. She has over 19 years of experience as an Emergency Medicine physician, several US state medical licenses and a medical license in Malawi, East Africa. After initially working in academic centers, she became an independent contractor to combine her passion of medicine and travel as a Locum Tenens physician (physicians who take temporary assignments). She travels around the US providing hospitals physician coverage in their Emergency Departments. As a Locums physician, it allows her time for her other interests in community health education, nutrition counseling, medical & spiritual international missions. Dr. McQueen is CEO of MedQueen LLC, a health education and Continuing Medical Education (CME) event planning company. She is involved with the Malawi Mission Project of Hopewell Church, Jacksonville, FL; she organized their first medical mission providing eyeglasses, spiritual counseling, Women Health lectures and medical treatment to over 1300 villagers in Dowa, Malawi.
Dr. McQueen is also interested in history, interior decorating, event planning and writing.
Connie was born in Hong Kong, the fourth child of a Chinese family, and the only one of her siblings to be born with albinism. Connie and her family then relocated to Sweden, where she studied humanities and journalism as a child. She began modelling at the age of 24 and is now a well-known jazz vocalist who is frequently invited to large events and jazz clubs.
2. Nikia Phoenix
Nikia Phoenix, an American model, stands out with her dark skin, natural hair, and freckles all over her body. When Nikia was drinking a cup of coffee in a small cafe, a member of the Alternative Apparel company, which creates branded clothing, noticed her unique appearance. She has been the face of Coca-Cola and Target advertising campaigns since then.
3. Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson, an American, never imagined himself as a model. But fate brought him into contact with a photographer who was taken aback by Stephen’s unusual appearance. Thompson’s success story began with a few photographs that were published in a magazine. His photographs have become commonplace in fashion magazines, and he is in high demand for advertising campaigns by major firms. The gorgeous albino man became the face of the Givenchy fashion house in 2011.
4. Winnie Harlow
Tyra Banks was drawn to Winnie’s distinctive appearance (she has vitiligo). She discovered her Instagram account and encouraged her to compete in the 21st season of America’s Next Top Model, where she finished fifth. Winnie Harlow, along with Brazilian model Adriana Lima, is now the face of Desigual in Barcelona.
5. Ava Clarke
Ava Clarke is an African American who is albino. This girl ruled the fashion world with her blond hair, green-blue eyes, and pink lips. Photos of this beautiful woman have already been shown in fashion magazines like Vogue, Denim, and VIP.
According to medical reports, the young woman must have gone blind by now. But, thanks to her parents’ efforts, Ava is able to read, dance ballet, and even draw the attention of renowned photographers.
6. Khoudia Diop
She is a 19-year-old Senegalese woman who was discovered by a modelling agency while looking for a job. She has since taken the internet by storm with her breathtaking images, which have earned her over 235,000 Instagram followers. Khoudia encourages others to value their uniqueness: “If you’re lucky enough to be different, you never change!”
7. Anastasia Zhidkova
Nastya Zhidkova, known as the world’s most beautiful albino child, was born in Russia in 1996. This amazing young model has transformed Russia’s fashion and cosmetics industries. Nastya is also a skilled singer who frequently uploads her performances to YouTube.
8. Lola Chuil
Despite the fact that she only has 39 Instagram posts, this youngster has over 464,000 followers. Lola is a high school student in Los Angeles who speaks eight languages. Her beauty is unique, with a charcoal black complexion, exquisite lips, nose, and eyes that occasionally appear painted. Lola’s fans compare her to Naomi Campbell when she was younger and predict that she will become a top model.
The fictional worlds spun in many TV shows, movies and video games can feel as real and as meaningful to fans as places with actual ZIP codes. Think of Hogwarts, the magic-filled, honey-lit boarding school in the world of Harry Potter books and movies; the faraway galaxy of “Star Wars”; or even the lovably quirky small town of Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls.”
Wakanda, the wealthy, technologically advanced, mountain-ringed land of the “Black Panther” comics and blockbuster 2018 movie, though, occupies an even more rarefied role. It’s not just the setting for the action in a beloved franchise; it has become a symbol of African greatness, a mythical place that feels like an actual homeland to many people, and not just to comics geeks with posters of King T’Challa on their bedroom walls.
In April, the mythical country saw its culture expand with “The Official Wakanda Cookbook,” a collection of recipes sanctioned by “Black Panther” publisher Marvel.
“I definitely felt a combination of pressure and pride,” says Nyanyika Banda, the freelance writer and chef who created the cookbook. “The lore of Black Panther and what Wakanda means now socially is so important, not just for Black Americans but to people of African descent around the world.”
Banda, who has long been a student of the foodways of the African diaspora, developed both the 70-plus recipes and the story-within-the-story of the cookbook: It’s written from the perspective of a young woman who is plucked from her mother’s stall in the capital city’s marketplace to become the royal chef to King T’Challa, a woman who — like Banda — was influenced by the elder women in her family.
Aside from the challenges posed by satisfying an avid fan base and respecting a cultural touchstone, Banda faced another, more practical task. Often, a cookbook author writing about a region of the world is concerned about staying true to the dishes, the ingredients, the people and the history of the land. But what does it mean to be faithful to something that doesn’t actually exist?
Banda, who prefers the pronouns they and them, says that before signing on to the
project, they had seen the movie but hadn’t read many of the comics. And so they delved in and also explored the deep well of fan-fueled websites, seeking to understand the characters and the landscape of Wakanda. Food doesn’t figure prominently in the comics or in the movie, so some creativity was in order.
Some ideas came more easily. Wakanda has a lake, Banda notes, so fish recipes would work. Produce and ingredients available in sub-Saharan Africa (where Wakanda is located, according to the comics), such as cassava, mangoes and goat (you can substitute lamb, Banda instructs), figure prominently. Vegetable dishes are also featured — in a recipe for eggplant and herbs, the narrator notes that “many Wakandans eat a predominantly vegetarian diet,” perhaps a reference to the moment depicted in the movie in which the tribal leader M’Baku threatens to feed a CIA agent to his children, before revealing the threat is just a joke. “I’m kidding,” he says. “We’re vegetarians.”
An important part of the kingdom’s story is that it is incredibly technically advanced, so Banda wanted a few recipes that incorporated gadgets, such as a sous vide machine or a dehydrator, to represent that.
One such dish, a smoked mushroom jerky, was inspired by the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite team of female warriors. “I imagined it would be something that would be fueling but that would carry well,” Banda says.
Jennifer Simms, Banda’s editor at Insight Editions, the publisher of the Wakanda cookbooks as well as dozens of other pop-culture spinoff cookbooks, says that from the outset, she didn’t want to create a cookbook that was generically “African.” “We wanted to make sure we weren’t trying to represent Africa as having one food culture,” she says.
To create a cuisine that is fictional, yet feels specific, Banda drew not just on studies of African foodways, but on family recipes. One dish, braised kale with tomatoes, was cribbed directly from the last meal Banda cooked with their aunt, who, like Banda’s father, was born in Malawi. “We talked and laughed, and it was a special moment,” says Banda, whose aunt died in 2020. “I thought of her a lot while I was writing this.”
One of the trickier conditions imposed by the Black Panther narrative was that Wakanda, unlike many other African nations, was never colonized — according to its lore, it had long remained hidden from the rest of the world to protect itself, and the valuable metal it contained, from outsiders. And so Banda had to find storylines to explain Western influences.
Visits to Wakanda by Captain America explained a simple trout dish and an iced coffee laced with cocoa. Travels to New York by the narrator character, the fictional palace chef, explain a pasta dish. And the current king, T’Challa, was educated in America and Europe under an assumed name, and some dishes are described as being food he discovered while abroad.
Banda and Simms worked closely with the team at Marvel when developing the dishes and the stories around them. “We would talk about whether or not they felt like it would be a part of Wakanda,” Banda says. “I wanted there to be integrity within the dish, but also have integrity in terms of storytelling.”
Banda developed the recipes while staying with their 90-year-old grandmother in Amherst, Mass., during the pandemic. And all along, they considered how important the Black Panther story was to its most devoted admirers. “I was never not thinking about Black Panther fans, hoping they would see the time and thought that went into this,” Banda says.
Black Panther fans aren’t the only cooks that publishing houses are thinking about these days. The Wakanda cookbook is part of a growing trend of pop-culture cookbooks, based on popular franchises with loyal fan bases. Insight Editions CEO Raoul Goff said he first saw the potential for the genre after the success of a 2016 “World of Warcraft” cookbook based on the popular online role-playing game.
Since then, the publisher has produced dozens of titles tied to games such as “The Elder Scrolls” and “Street Fighter,” plus movies and TV, including “Star Wars,” “Friends,” “Downton Abbey,” and forthcoming cookbooks on “Seinfeld” and “Emily in Paris.”
Goff sees these books as more than just the present you give your game-obsessed nephew or Crawley fangirl friend for Christmas. Cooking, he says, helps fans connect with the stories and characters they love in a way that no T-shirt could. “It’s another aspect of getting immersed in that world, whatever it is,” he says.
Are there any shows for which he couldn’t imagine a cookbook spinoff? Maybe “The Walking Dead,” this reporter suggests? Surely there’s nothing appetizing about struggling to stay alive after a zombie apocalypse.
He laughs. “We’ve done that one,” he says. “It was a cookbook and survival guide. Fans loved it.”
“OK, what about ‘Dexter?'” I challenge him, throwing out the name of the show whose serial-killer title character spends his evenings carving up human flesh.
There’s a pause, but Goff isn’t wiling to concede, entirely. “‘Dexter,'” he says, “would be a tough one.”
Cookbook author Nyanyika Banda’s Aunt Rose taught them to make this dish before she passed away. Banda included it in “Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook,” with a fictionalized account of how it came to be, noting that it could be eaten with “roasted fish and nsima (a white cornmeal patty) soaking up the vegetable stock with each bite.” Rice also is a suitable addition to the table.
Braised Kale and Tomatoes (For The Washington Post/Scott Suchman)Braised Kale and Tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper
8 cups curly kale, stemmed and chopped
1 cup low-salt vegetable broth
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent and the garlic is just starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cumin and paprika, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Add the kale a handful at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting for it to wilt before adding more. Once all of the kale has been added, pour in the broth.
Bring to a simmer, cover and heat for 15 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to keep it at a simmer. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.
Remove from the heat and serve family style or divide among the bowls.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each (¾ cup) serving contains approximately 163 calories, 6 g protein, 8 g fat, 22 g carbohydrate (6 g sugar), no cholesterol, 172 mg sodium and 7 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 1 ½
Adapted from “Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook” by Nyanyika Banda (2022, Insight Editions)
In this interview with Sade Oguntola, Professor Olugbenga Mokuolu, a consultant pediatrician and the Nigeria Malaria Technical Director, National Malaria Elimination Programme, talks about malaria and what is critical to ending its burden in Nigeria.
What is the prevalence of malaria in Nigeria?
Currently, Nigeria is said to have about 61 million cases. Prevalence is about 23% when a general check is made on children up to 10 years. Africa still faces a steep challenge with malaria because 90 percent of the 241 million cases and 95 percent deaths were from the continent. Nigeria is responsible for 27 percent of this caseload and about 31 percent of the global malaria deaths.
What innovation can be adopted to reduce the malaria burden and save lives?
Innovation has to do with new tools or new ways of using the same device. In this regard, innovation has to do with looking at existing tools for improvements or new tools. Retooling includes the use of new generation long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) to combat the problems of insecticide resistance. On this note, Nigeria has been using the Piperonyl butoxide (PBO)-LLINs in the last two years for the net campaigns to address insecticide resistance issues.
Other tools include the use of indoor residual spray (IRS) to rapidly reduce the burden of malaria in very high burden areas and the introduction of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). In this intervention, children under five are given specific antimalarials in monthly cycles of 4 cycles in states or areas with high intensity of seasonal rainfall patterns.
In addition is retooling of existing drugs for curtailment of the emerging challenges of artemisinin resistance; need for new medications to improve the landscape for treatment; diagnostic tools like diagnostic panels with integrated multiple test kits possibly for a one-stop distinction of viral, bacterial or malaria infections.
Adoption and deploying of the malaria vaccine as a complementary strategy is also important as well as innovative funding mechanisms through public and private partnerships. Similarly is developing a business case and having an assured market for manufacturers of malaria commodities while leveraging that assured market for ensuring affordable prices of the commodities.
How close is Nigeria to achieving the 2030 targets of the WHO global malaria strategy?
Currently, we have made progress, but we are still off the trajectory for the 2030 targets. This was, however, as per the last conducted surveys in 2018. With some additional innovative interventions like the massive scale-up of SMC and the use of PBO nets, it is possible that the 2021 malaria indicator survey may offer new information about our current trajectory.
Malaria can also cause low blood sugar, kidney failure, or seizures. Are there other lesser-known symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease? How is malaria related to things like malaise, joint stiffness, muscle pain, anemia, and shortness of breath?
Malaria causes a progressive illness. When someone gets infected, the parasite multiplies. When these parasites burst the cells in the blood, they release a variety of substances that are responsible for the fever, joint pains, headaches, and all the feelings of being unwell (malaise). At this stage, we call it uncomplicated malaria. This is usually the stage we go for treatment with our primary care physician or other sources. If this is not treated effectively or in some category of persons, the disease progresses, and life-threatening complications set in. These comprise loss of consciousness, convulsions, extreme paleness, fast breathing or breathing difficulties, dark urine, and so on. At this level of illness, it is called severe malaria. The individual must be hospitalized for critical care.
Is it all mosquitoes that transmit malaria, and is it all bites of mosquitoes that lead to malaria disease?
Specifically, malaria is transmitted by the bite of the female anopheles mosquito. The interesting thing about this mosquito is that it does not make noise. It bites silently. It bites mostly at night.
How true is it that no single tool available today can solve the problem of malaria?
This is very true, but we need to understand the context of that answer. Malaria is the product of interactions between man, his environment and the mosquito which acts as a vector. By vector, we mean an intermediary that allows the parasite to develop without causing any harm to the host and thereby facilitates transmission. So, from first principles, the effective solution to malaria include – addressing the vector, killing them or preventing them having contact with man, destroying their natural habitats to ensure that mosquitoes do not survive, preventing the onset of illness in man, treating the illness when it occurs or preventing the ability to transmit the illness from one person to another.
From this simple illustration, we can appreciate that no single solution can address every dimension of the malaria programme. That is the critical lesson we have learnt in the fight against malaria and that is why we promote a package of interventions consisting of prevention, treatment, and avoiding continuous transmission.
What other diseases can you get from mosquitoes apart from malaria?
There are a number of other diseases. Some of these include Zika virus infection, yellow fever, West Nile fever, and Dengue fever. Some of these are transmitted by other types of mosquitoes as well.
Drug-resistant malaria is emerging in Africa. What is the situation in Nigeria and what can Nigeria do to get ready for this?
Currently, what have been identified are resistance markers in Uganda and Malawi. The situation is being monitored closely as this is for now referred to as partial resistance. As you rightly observed, the National Malaria Elimination Programme, under the leadership of Dr. Mrs. Perpetua Uhomoibhi, together with partners are responding to this development. There has been some technical consultation to review the situation. Currently, there is a study about the use of Tripple ACTs i.e. adding a third drug to existing ACTs to prevent resistance.
In Africa, it is said that some malaria parasites are evading detection tests, causing an urgent threat to public health. Can you explain?
Malaria rapid diagnostic tests are of two types. There is a third type that is not in common use. Of the two in common use, there is one that is most widespread in use. This type of mRDT is based on detecting the presence of a certain substance on the wall of the parasite. This substance is called Histidine Rich Protein II (written as PfHRP-2). In a very small fraction of malaria parasites, this PfHRP-2 is missing. Hence in those cases, the test may be erroneously reported as negative (false negative). Space and technicality may not allow me to give a full description. However, please be informed that the rate of occurrence of this phenomenon is so low in Nigeria and in many countries that it has no impact on the reliability of the mRDT.
New research from Uganda and Mali suggests malaria exposure might lower the incidence of severe disease, hospitalisation and death for people exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. What is your view on this?
It is probably true. The fact remains that COVID-19 was less frequent and less severe among African countries, particularly the lower income African countries. So, if we trace the COVID-19 trajectory in Africa, the incidence is much lower in countries endemic for malaria, most of which are lower and low-middle income countries, and some other characteristics. From that epidemiological point, we need to ask what is unique about these countries. This is compounded by the fact that African-Americans in America or the blacks in other countries are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. That will appear to rule out a genetic basis of this relative protection from COVID-19. The pattern of distribution is pointing strongly in the direction of environmental factors primarily modulating the disease and this may play some roles in the response of persons exposed to those environmental factors.
This is how science operates. Steps include a careful observation of the pattern of distribution of a disease, drawing up a hypothesis of the associations and exploring the hypothesis through some experiments (as in the studies you referred to). Thereafter, there will be a presentation to relevant authorities for peer review and now an adoption of the finding to inform other actions. I must say that while the stated study may be providing some evidence to support the malaria exposure theory, the claims will still be properly researched before definite statements will be made by the WHO.
How can Nigeria advance equity, build resilience and end malaria?
By equity, we are referring to every eligible person receiving antimalarial commodities or services according to their need irrespective of age, gender, location, or financial status. So, we need to maintain the current approach of universal distribution for some of the interventions, strengthen community systems to reach people in hard-to-reach areas, get products freely to the general masses, or ensure they are affordable.
On resilience, we need to increase budgetary allocation to malaria so that services are not interrupted. Contributions from partners can be used to address items distributed through mass campaigns; building and expanding capacities in other areas of malaria interventions such as entomology, molecular skills, putting in place robust surveillance systems. After that, we need protocols for responding to unforeseen major health problems such as pandemics and epidemics. These measures and the innovations indicated previously are critical elements toward ending malaria. This year’s catchphrase is ‘Every Effort Counts’. We must do all possible to engage everyone. Mobilise the community health workforce towards the quality of care; engage the private sector and promote public enlightenment.
When Marvel dropped their film, Black Panther, in 2018, it was met by an immense celebration from the Black community that unsurprisingly caused the film to bank over a billion dollars in ticket sales. Black Panther became the top grossing superhero film ever, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The storyline of King T’Challa protecting his fictional kingdom, the technologically advanced society of Wakanda, from outsiders resonated with the comic book fanbase, many of whom tried to submit their passports to visit the exclusive African destination.
While the possibility of traveling to an imaginary Wakanda is not plausible, chef Nyanyika Banda created a cookbook to provide enthusiasts with a culinary trip to the mythical nation, Today reports.
Banda, a Malawian American who earned Culinary Degree from Madison College in 2012, concocted 70 recipes to make up “The Official Wakanda Cookbook” and did so within three months, it is now available since April 12.
“I definitely felt a combination of pressure and pride,” said Banda to The Washington Post. She is also a freelance writer. “The lore of Black Panther and what Wakanda means now socially is so important, not just for Black Americans but to people of African descent around the world.”
Before signing on with Marvel to work on the project, Banda consumed various Black Panther comics and immersed herself in fan-created websites to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and the country of Wakanda rather than solely relying on the film.
Jennifer Simms, Banda’s editor at Insight Editions, the publisher of the Wakanda cookbook, didn’t want the recipes to represent a generic Africa, “We wanted to make sure we weren’t trying to represent Africa as having one food culture,” she says.
Both women worked closely with Marvel’s team to produce dishes that upheld the storytelling of the comic book.
“We would talk about whether or not they felt like it would be a part of Wakanda,” said Banda. “I wanted there to be integrity within the dish, but also have integrity in terms of storytelling.”
Through her research, Banda’s recipes reflected the folklore of Wakandan culture. For instance, Wakanda boasts a lake, so Banda considered creating fish dishes. According to the Marvel comics, Wakanda is situated in sub-Saharan Africa, where food items like cassava, mangoes, and meat from goats would be plentiful. Also taken from the film where tribal leader M’Baku barks at the CIA agent character and threatens to feed him to his children but quips that he’s a vegetarian, inspired Banda to develop dishes that included eggplants and herbs.
For the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female military warriors, Banda was motivated to invent a smoked mushroom jerky, “I imagined it would be something that would be fueling but that would carry well,” she says, The Washington Post reports.
Banda also designed a savory sweet and spicy oxtail with cassava dumplings, okra fritters, basbousa, a creamy cake, and a tamarind cola to wash down the Wakandan cuisine, according to Today.
“I think that’s such a beautiful part of (Wakanda) being this fictional place,” she remarked. “Definitely, the impact that ‘Black Panther’ has socially right now for us, and this time and age was always something that I was like taking consideration to when thinking about the recipes.”
It was about five years ago that Patrick Lyoya first stepped into Restoration Community Church, a small United Methodist congregation just outside Grand Rapids, Mich. He was a new face, but he had a familiar story.
Like most of the congregation, Lyoya belonged to a sprawling African diaspora in Grand Rapids who came to the United States seeking safety and a better life. In Lyoya’s case, his family arrived as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. They had escaped war and fear of persecution, and after more than a decade in a refugee camp, they seemed to have finally found a haven in Michigan.
America meant opportunity for the family, so when Banza Mukalay, the pastor at Restoration Community Church and himself a refugee from Congo, met Lyoya, he could sense a promising life ahead.
“He was a very young [man] who had the future, he had something in it,” Mukalay said. “You [could] see him just trying to look for himself how he [could] be better in the future.”
That future came to a sudden and tragic end earlier this month when Lyoya was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer after he was pulled over for allegedly driving with an unregistered license plate. Video of the April 4 traffic stop released by the Grand Rapids police showed a brief foot chase followed by a struggle over the white officer’s Taser. The video ends with the officer shooting Lyoya in the back of the head while he was facedown on the ground. Lyoya was 26.
The harrowing video of Lyoya’s final moments has spawned days of protest in Grand Rapids over the death of yet another Black man at the hands of law enforcement. Nearly two years after George Floyd’s murder sparked a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice and police misconduct, Lyoya’s case, for many, represents a measure of the steep challenges that persist.
Yet for those who knew Lyoya, he is not a symbol. They knew him as a son, a brother and a father — a person of faith whose life was inextricably shaped by war. They remember him as someone who was quiet and kind, someone who loved music and soccer, but someone who loved his two children above everything else.
He worked hard and brought others joy
Lyoya was born in Congo — the first of Peter and Dorcas Lyoya’s six children. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press last week, his parents remembered him as a kid who always brought them joy.
“He is the type of person that you will love to be around,” Dorcas Lyoya said, adding that he excelled at putting her “in a good mood to make me laugh.”
Lyoya was born at a moment when war was just beginning to split their nation — a conflict with roots in the genocide in neighboring Rwanda and which ultimately resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The war would end in 1997, but only one year later a new conflict would erupt. Known as the Great War of Africa, it would last until 2003 and cost an estimated 3.8 million lives by one count.
War took the family from their home, and for 11 years they lived in a refugee camp, according to Robert Womack, a member of the Kent County Board of Commissioners in Grand Rapids who has been helping organize a funeral service for Lyoya scheduled for Friday. They were living in Malawi when they won asylum to live in the U.S., arriving in 2014 as part of a wave of refugees settling in Michigan from Congo.
In Grand Rapids, Lyoya’s parents landed odd jobs to make ends meet. Dorcas worked in a laundromat; Peter worked in a nursing home.
Lyoya, who was just entering adulthood around the time of the family’s U.S. arrival, soon went to work too. He worked in a small manufacturing plant helping to make auto parts, his father told theDetroit Free Press. He also worked at a turkey farm, according to Womack, as well as at a vacuum cleaner and appliance store.
Ramazani Malisawa, 33, says he worked with Lyoya at the appliance store for about six months starting around 2018. Malisawa, who is also from Congo, says they would often eat lunch together and talk about their lives in Africa and how it was they arrived in the United States. But he says these talks would only happen around lunch, because when it came to work, Lyoya was intensely focused.
“When he is working, he was not talking,” Malisawa said. “He was just focused on the work. He was a good worker and worked hard.”
It’s not that he was in love with the job, Malisawa said, but that it was important for him to be able to one day afford to send his two young daughters to school. He said he remembered Lyoya once telling him: “My kids, they will know we had a father, and our father — he worked hard.”
Outside of work, Lyoya enjoyed soccer, music and dancing. Womack said Lyoya would even teach Congolese dance traditions in clubs around Grand Rapids, and he shared the story of one local club owner who once watched Lyoya giving lessons.
“They said basically it was just peaceful and a joy,” according to Womack. “And even though some of the Americans that worked there didn’t understand the language, they said the vibe was just priceless … the vibe of joy in watching Patrick and his friends laugh and smile and dance.”
Lyoya also found community through his faith. Mukalay, the pastor at Restoration Community Church, said Lyoya wasn’t like many of the young adults he meets at the church.
“Some young people, they just come and then one day, two days, one month and then they quit or they just drop out,” Mukalay said. “He was ready to continue with us for a long time. So that’s why I say he was a young [man] who had the decision to do something better in life.”
His death has devastated the refugee community
Community leaders like Womack and Mukalay said Lyoya’s death has been particularly painful for the city’s Congolese population — a community that came to the U.S. to escape violence and felt they had found safety after years of war. It’s a grief, they say, that has forever changed their view of America.
“The difference between the Congolese families and some of the African American families who’ve been affected by state violence is the fact that the Congolese families are hurt and shocked that this could happen in the United States of America,” said Womack. “When I deal with African American families, they are hurt and mad, but they’re never shocked.”
It’s a sentiment Lyoya’s mother shared with reporters during an April 14 news conference when the family called for criminal charges to be brought against the officer who killed her son. The shooting is under investigation by the Michigan State Police, but authorities have not released the name of the officer.
“I thought that we came to a safe land, a haven, a safe place,” she said, speaking through an interpreter. “And I start thinking now, I’m surprised and astonished to see that my friend — it is here that my son has been killed with bullets.”
“I was thinking it was my son who would bury me,” she said, “but I am the one burying my son.”
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