Kirksville, Missouri, isn’t known. It isn’t even known within Missouri. When I moved from the suburbs of Kansas City to Kirksville, a town of 17,500 people when students are here, I was struck by the homogeneity of the population.
So when the Congolese population (from the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the DRC) started trickling in, they were noticeable. Not only are they black in a sea of whiteness, their colorful clothes attract the eye. From my apartment which overlooks Kirksville’s downtown area, or the “Square,” I can see them gathering for church every Sunday, shouting in Lingala, Swahili, French, or any other of their multitude of languages.
Wanting to become an English as a Second Langue (ESL) teacher, I started volunteering for a campus organization, United Speakers. Through teaching an Advanced English class on a weekly basis, I learned a little more about this enclave immigrant community’s stories.
Therefore, I designed and implemented my own qualitative research of the acculturation of the Congolese population in Kirksville for my capstone research project in Sociology last fall. This included receiving permission through the Institutional Review Board (IRB), being allotted a grant from the Office of Student Research at Truman, conducting a literature review, interviewing 5 participants, transcribing the interviews, and analyzing the data.
In short, I learned that the Congolese population emigrated to the United States legally, through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV), a lottery program that was established in 1990. They left the tumultuous DRC, which hasn’t enjoyed a moment of peace or prosperity since the European powers divided up the rest of the world at the Berlin Conference of 1885. The Congolese are attracted to Kirksville due to its low cost-of-living, a sense of security, and good public schools. Many professionals are able to find employment at a meat factory until they achieve high enough levels of English to find a new job.
Through the COPLAC Cultural Crossroads course, we hope to expand upon the research that I have already been conducted, in order to find out how levels of acculturation have developed in the past year through using qualitative interviews and secondary resources to expand this pool of research and knowledge.
Department of Homeland Security. “Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.” U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. Last modified February 14, 2014. Accessed April 4, 2016. https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/diversity-visa.
Dummett, Mark. “King Leopold’s legacy of DR Congo violence.” BBC, February 24, 2004. Accessed September 5, 2017. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3516965.stm.