Celebrating Black Excellence: Njamba Koffi

Njamba Koffi, International Relations and Creative Writing student has long abided by the Mark Twain quotation, “ I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Njamba like many others, views education as a manifestation of life experience guided by self
reflection – not something that is obtained by a degree or diploma. Such an outlook for Njamba has been acquired through his lived experiences as a refugee, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and raised in camps in Malawi and Swaziland.

Putting it lightly, Njamba has been deeply involved in the UBC community, being the Co-representative of the African Studies Minor Program as well as the President of the African Awareness Initiative. The work of himself and colleagues has been instrumental in bolstering representation of African scholars and influencing the discourse on Africa at UBC. Such accomplishments show the power of student advocacy and collaboration. Yet, Njamba emphasized the continued need for advocacy as African Studies remains “outright one of the
most underfunded programs at UBC.”

When I asked Njamba about why he chose International Relations, he told me that his experiences living in refugee camps as a child led him to see the world through “new lenses.” As a result, Njamba wanted to pursue a deeper understanding of the global forces at play which influenced his own personal displacement and that of others. He told me, “in addition to trying to learn my identity I am also trying to understand the world itself.” Yet such an understanding was influenced by the Western and Eurocentric nature of the International Relations program and UBC itself. Yet Njamba “takes it as it comes” as he shares his “intention was to learn not to be in school.”

When I asked Njamba what advice he would give to himself before he started his university journey, he laughed and humbly shared that he would simply congratulate himself. Njamba shared that he was proud that he did not allow himself to get wrapped up in the hysteria of grades and competition. In doing so, Njamba safeguarded his well being and mental health allowing him to do the things he loved such as poetry, writing, and music, all while navigating his identity of being a “refugee and Black man in North America.” Njamba never saw himself as a writer. In fact, he mentioned that the very first time he considered himself an author was when he was holding a hold of his book, “Refuge-e: The Journey Much Desired,” in his hands. Yet, influenced by the realities of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 and his own personal journey, Njamba has spent years creating a memoir which details his lived realities as a refugee.

Njamba’s book details his journey of resilience, navigating relationships, school, and life in general while growing up in a refugee camp. He shared with me he hoped his book would contribute to the discourse on forced migration and refugees, as well as educate people on the present lived realities of forcefully displaced people around the world. Njamba’s book can be found at Indigo , Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Apple books and more. Keep an eye out for his poetry ontology, children’s book, and young adult fiction works coming out sometime within the next couple years.

 

– Lilly Callender