Achille Ngoma has been interviewed twice since coming to the United States from the Congo. Both times, a college stuÂ¬dent has asked the questions and crafted a story from his responses. Both times, Achille has ached to be the one asking the questions.
â€œEvery time I see somebody anchoring, reporting, videotaping, I just think about myself doing this back home,â€ Achille says.
Journalism started for Achille as a boy sitting next to the radio while the man on the other end described a soccer match. Achille wanted to open the radio up to find the man inside but his father told him that the man wasnâ€™t really there. His voice had traveled to them on tiny waves from the capital city, where the man was really speaking. Achille liked this.
â€œOne day I told my father I wanted to be like this guy speaking on the radio,â€ Achille says.
Years later, Achille attended Marien Ngouabi University and studied in one of the best journalism programs in the country. It was his voice and face traveling to TV sets across the country. He anchored, reported and produced for public television. But he didnâ€™t stop there. He saw a need to break through the apathy felt by the youth in his country and he did something that had never been done before. Through public television, he brought real discussions about real issues affecting teens to living rooms all across the Congo.
But in 1997, civil war broke out and everything changed. Abruptly, Achille had become a target. He had worked briefly as a press officer for the overthrown president and now the militia was tracking down and killing people who had served in the government. After two years of staring out at viewers from the screen, Achille could easily be recognized.
Achille went into hiding. Nine years later, he came to the U.S. as a refugee. He now lives in an apartment in Rogers Park and absorbs journalism in the United States. Live coverage, whether of soccer games, congressional meetings or accident scenes, fascinates him. In the Congo, he says, stations rarely have the technology to report live.
But his days practicing journalism are only a memory for now. In his living room, in the glow of a soccer game, Achille looks back on the little boy trying to open up the radio to find the sportscaster inside. â€œItâ€™s like remembering a dream I couldnâ€™t achieve, but I became a journalist,â€ Achille says. â€œJournalism is my life.â€
Working with Upwardly Global
For Achille, the key to practicing journalism in the United States requires overcoming multiple barriers: How do you pracÂ¬tice journalism in a new language? Is further education a pathway? To continue his education, Achille must access his transcript from his university in the Congo, and that means dealing with a hostile government to access records in a non-computerized system. Upwardly Global encourages all immigrant professionals to get their credentials evaluated in order to make it easier for U.S. employers to understand a candidateâ€™s foreign degree. However, as Achilleâ€™s struggle attests, this process is often engulfed by red tape. Achille is currently in the process of applying to a masterâ€™s program in journalism at a local university.