This week on Immigration MIC, I talk with Mballa: Cameroon born, DC – based recording artist, who recently was able to adjust her undocumented status after a lifetime of being in and out of status.
“I had a legendary father” – Before his passing, Mballa’s father used to be Cameroon’s ambassador (also worked in Senegal, Russia, DRC) to the US for 15 years, and when he returned home to Cameroon, he was arrested without charges and was held for two years, due to political rivals’ fear he would be a successor to the presidency. The story goes so much deeper, which you’ll be able to hear within the interview.
Mballa moved to North Carolina for college, but began pursuing a career in the music industry as a manager, but decided to chase her own dream after her dad’s passing: since it was her biggest fear, and having survived cancer at 13, she found she had nothing left to fear. Growing up she had a visa, and had diplomatic immunity, but her father would tell her and her siblings “this is not your country and their going to remind you of it”.
During her college years, she would be constantly finding new ways to apply for temporary status, which began a time period when she fell into undocumented status, and was denied DACA when she applied.
Bad Boy Records, Big Pun, Wu-Tang were all artists she grew up with; she is inspired big time by Destiny’s Child and Eve. We go into her song “Illegal”, which was inspired by her undocumented status, being a woman of color, and from watching the Black Lives Matter movement’s responses. Specifically, she references having quit her job at the time, but still facing the pressure of her immigration status and the risks she felt she was taking. Though she doesn’t consider herself to be an activist, Mballa is all about shifting the culture and through her path in the music industry is looking to create change as much as she can.
“Do your best to try to eliminate fear. Own up to your decisions, and don’t be afraid to do what you have to do.” Thank you Mballa for joining me for this awesome conversation, and for having provided your song for my documentary, and I’m looking forward to continue watching you grow into the talented transcendent artist you are becoming!