even before i had the honor of crossing paths with her, i was hip to the fact that dominique has been making waves in both virtual and physical spaces. i’d hit you with all her accolades but that’s not what struck me most about her. it’s the undeniable fire she expresses herself with and the fact that you can literally feel the butterflies in her stomach when she’s speaking about the things that move her.
an all around entrepreneur who has her hand in all things creative, she hosts a podcast, runs a co-working space and publishes books that center african narratives. she describes herself as the most proactive person she knows, which to me, is one of the things we stan most about the people in our communities who just get shit done.
below, a conversation on the lengths we go to perform rather than be the thing, being cognizant of the ways privilege stifles the possibility for connection and how learning to tear down is more powerful than building.
Narrated by gem
everything that i am today ties into my deconstruction journey. one day, my friend laure said to me, umuntu uzi gusenya arusha uzi kubaka gusa. that statement gave me the validation i needed to destroy my faith because i was holding on to it so much that i had become suicidal. i kept saying to myself, if god doesn’t make sense to me, let me at least die so i don’t risk not meeting him. that conversation gave me the permission i needed to rest & let go. i share all that to say that, when what you thought was your foundation is destroyed, nothing gets to be a foundation any more.
at 24, i had connected the shyness & self rejection that rwandans have to not reading, not being exposed, not having options. so i was like, i can bring that in as a solution— you know, african savior syndrome. i considered myself as some sort of solution seeker, a change maker. you feed on that, especially for social entrepreneurs, but it’s such a scam. you don’t need to be labeled & celebrated because you seek the label before you even seek the work itself.
the plan was to develop a software that tracks reading and connects it to an incentive that helps people’s daily lives. i wanted people to think, if i read, my life is actually going to change. that didn’t work out but one thing that resonated with me, which led to me shaping imagine we into what it is now is that every time we’d tell the kids to try reading something, they’d say that it was for white people, and understandably so because all the books had white characters. we couldn’t reach them. it was from that that we decided to launch our first book that had all rwandan characters and rwandan names to see if there would be any change. obviously, it was super successful because seeing yourself in a story has a different effect on the reader. from there we hosted our first fundraiser so we could create more books and the rest is history. i never set out to be a book publisher, it was just being twisted and turned in different places.
this is a recent thing for me but one of the things we’re taught is ‘gukatura’(to bargain) when we go to the market. but when we go to the likes of simba and frulep, we don’t do that, yet they’re the ones who need that money the least. so i’m stopping that. if i can’t afford it, i say that but i’m no longer adding to people’s poverty.
when i was 18, i was inspired by akaliza keza gara to start a blog. there are people who write to make you think and there are people who are so good, their writing inspires you to create. that’s what she did for me. she’s the one who got me excited about writing and i’ll always be super grateful for that.
growing up, we are taught to associate people with money with people who are safe. i’m doing the soul work to inherently know that i’m not more or less valuable or trustworthy because of predetermined external factors.
it’s a feeling- it’s the grandness of the world and the gratitude i have for how small i am in how big it is but also how big i am in how small it is.
the red cross forest
my grandparent’s house
i have a very serious flight ritual that i love and look forward to. before i fly, i download music or a podcast that is specifically curated for how long the trip will be. the intention is to turn that very small, squeezed area into a safe space.