Celebrating My Foundation
During Black History Month we celebrate the many achievements and contributions of African Americans. As the country, we celebrate these pioneers in history this month, and for me, I reflect on the unsung heroes in my life- my parents, Parfait Jean Marie Likibi and Sylvie Bouiti Likibi. Together, both have built the foundation that I stand on today. Just two kids from Congo- Brazzaville (Republic of Congo), whose beginning was relatively common in a newly independent African country. My paternal grandmother was the strong arm in her family, making sure that everyone one was taken care of despite the challenges of raising a family of 6 kids.
My father’s name alludes to his strong will and drive. “Parfait” is French for “perfect.” I don’t know why my grandmother chose this name, but she knew one thing, my father would never be described as typical, average or dull. Twice during his adolescence he met and escorted two of the Republic of Congo’s Presidents. By the age of 20, he studied math, physics, and chemistry at the Lycee Saint Louis, a preparatory school in Paris, where he received his bachelor’s degree. Then, in Normandy, at the Institut National Superieur de Chimie Industrielle de Rouen, he obtained his Chemical Engineering Degree.
While attending the Engineering School, my dad got an internship in Belgium, and because of his success, one of his mentors encouraged him to go to the U.S. to get his PhD in chemistry. Because of his mentor’s insistence, he caved and ended up following his advice and enrolled at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale IL, where he obtained his PhD in organic chemistry. My mother, who was studying pharmacy in France, came one year later to join him. Together, living in a foreign country, far away from their loved ones, they pushed through. They lost family members, dealt with suffering, and struggled to succeed. Yet, they always looked in awe at their three little girls and knew that their sacrifices were what would shape their daughters into successful women. So, they pushed on…
Despite the challenges, my father’s drive and my mother’s spiritual strength have allowed them to succeed in this country. The thing about the U.S. is there are so many opportunities for success. You have to work hard for them, but opportunities are there. Even with the adversities that my parents have faced in this country, when you ask them which country they consider home, they will say the U.S. This is the country where they have been the longest, this is where their children are and this is where life is.
My dad is now in an executive position, and he has 17 patents and travels abroad on a regular basis. He says one thing he has always noticed in his travels, and something that really warms his heart, is only in the United States does he go through customs and the agents look at his Congolese passport with a smile and say, “Welcome home.” No other country has ever welcomed him this way. That gets me every time- “welcome home.”
The achievements of many civil rights heroes have allowed me to sit in a chair at DHG, to have the opportunity to achieve success in my own career and personal life. I will never know the extent of what they have lost, but they dug the foundation for my own opportunities and achievements. In a way, my parents’ struggles and hardships have molded my life’s perspective. My palette offers a shade of colors that no one else can contribute. Diversity is what makes this country and DHG so special. Wouldn’t you consider the diversity of this amazing firm and this country to be a beautiful masterpiece? With our individual experiences, each one of us adds more nuances to the corporate and national fresco. That’s what makes it vibrant. I’m so glad that I work with such a diverse group of people. It is important, regardless of the scale, small or large, that we continue to learn and embrace our differences. We’re not all the same and I’m thankful for that. However, I am most thankful to my parents for their perspective. They may never have their names in the record books, but their spirit will remain in my life and I will continue to build on the foundation that they have laid out for me.
Danielle is an Audit Associate based in the Tysons office. She joined DHG full-time after completing two internships. She earned her B.S. in Accounting and Hospitality Management from the University of South Carolina. Beyond DHG, she enjoys time with her family and friends, working with her congregation, and traveling.