African American Studies
Interviewer: Jane Edward
Interviewee: Gloria Mesa
Date of Interview: October 4, 2019
Transcribed by: Allison Lecce
Summarized by: Allison Lecce
Gloria Mesa emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo with her family when she was a child. She was born and raised in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, when her family won the diversity lottery. Her oldest siblings moved to the U.S. and eventually her and her parents joined them in Greensboro, North Carolina. Gloria is the youngest of five. She speaks French, which was her first language, English, Lingala, Kikongo and Gimbala, a language from her parents’ ethnic group. She also is able to understand Spanish. She went to a public high school in Greensboro, where she faced a lot of ignorance and racism. People would often ask her ignorant questions about Africa, and she said sometimes she felt like she had to speak on behalf of the entire continent. Gloria attended Winston-Salem State University (an HBCU) for her undergraduate degree. While in college, she studied abroad in Brazil and Kenya, and discovered a passion for global health.
After college, Gloria received a yearlong fellowship from AmeriCorps in New York City. She moved to Brooklyn, and now works as a health promoter in the Bronx. She goes out in the community and promotes education on various health-related topics and makes the public aware of the different services her clinic offers. While working in this position, she met with many community organizers and community members alike. She soon realized just how large the African community in the Bronx is, and successfully advocated for the implementation of documents (calendars, pamphlets, etc.) in French. Previously, her clinic (and many other organizations in the Bronx) only provided these documents in English and Spanish.
Despite living so far from her parents, who are still in North Carolina, Gloria says they are extremely supportive of her life and her career ambitions. Her mother often sends her Congolese food and she talks to her parents and her siblings regularly.
When asked about the current status of immigration policies, she said a change in immigration law won’t stop people from coming to the U.S., because so many people are coming here to seek better opportunities and better access to infrastructure (especially education) that they often don’t receive in their own countries. She also said it is unfair that immigrants are being treated this way. Gloria thinks African leaders particularly should invest more into their countries instead of exploiting their people. She said, “African countries are really rich countries and you should ask yourself why are rich countries in this situation.”
Gloria hopes to one day return to Africa and work in public health there. Ideally, she would like to have a house in the Congo, but she is open to working in other countries as well. She said she has not been to the west or northern parts of the continent yet. When she retires, she would like to split her time between Africa and the U.S.
African American History Project, Bronx, "Mesa, Gloria" (2019). Oral Histories. 337.