PORTRAITS OF DIVERSITY: Shumbusho Emmable found inspiration and went on to found his own business

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 09-22-2023 5:03 PM

When Shumbusho Emmable was a senior at Concord High School during the winter of 2022, he read a quote that resonated with him: “Stagnation breeds destruction.”

He had moved to Concord from Tanzania with his family when he was in the fourth grade. By the time he got to middle school, he started to misbehave and get in trouble.

“I couldn’t seem to get myself out of the deep rut I was in. I had never felt so bad in my entire life,” he wrote. “I was mad at myself, and couldn’t seem to break it. I was blaming my problems on everything but myself.”

By the time he read that quote and the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill in high school, everything started to make more sense to him.

“At the time, I was very stagnant and that resonated with me,” he said. “I didn’t always have that mentality and some people will look at me and think, ‘there is no way I’m the same kid I was when I was younger.’”

With his new motivation, he stopped selling himself short, he stopped disbelieving in his own abilities and he started to use his voice in creative ways.

At school, he’d put up anonymous posters with inspiring quotes tagged with the name Project Concrete. That name was something so tangible, it’s now the name of a business and clothing brand Emmable launched. Printed on most of Project Concrete’s sweatshirts, t-shirts, tote bags and hats is the same powerful quote: “Stagnation Breeds Destruction.”

“As I developed, I wanted something that would resonate with what I was doing in life that reflected my self-improvement and becoming the best person and version of myself that I could be,” Emmable said. “If I put myself in this vulnerable situation and talk about my experiences and what I am going through, maybe someone else in the community can relate and it can help them.”

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In addition to selling clothing online, Emmable also hosts community events for Concord youth to come play basketball and soccer and for vendors to sell their food and their ethnic artwork and crafts, he said. Moving forward, he hopes to make the brand his full-time business by establishing an online media presence, selling merchandise, hosting community events and inspiring younger generations to continue the momentum of bettering themselves and finding their purpose in life.

“I’ve learned many valuable lessons including: If I have an idea, I can bring it to life; I can become whoever I want to be; the only person stopping me is me; I can only blame myself; and I can achieve any of my goals,” he wrote on his website.

Emmable, now 19, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania after his parents fled Rwanda. He grew up in a house his father built with bricks, mud and scrap wood.

“It was bad there but you don’t know any other life and you don’t have any other experience. You can’t think of your life outside of your circumstances,” he said. “Here, I can be in America and do whatever I put my mind to. There are no outside forces that can dictate my actions or where I live or what job I do. Over there, there are some things you really just can’t do because of your circumstances or where you were born or your race.”

Emmable was eager to come to America and had no trouble integrating in Concord, or learning English, he said. It was harder for his parents, and it still is.

Between attending school and securing housing, finding a job that could both support the family financially and work around their limited English proved difficult.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities for her [his mother],” Emmable said. “She works in a factory and she comes home, her legs are swollen and she’s very tired. She’s not like me, who is fit and can do that type of job. Here, I have white friends that I can talk to and it’s a better community in a way but for her, there’s barriers and she doesn’t go beyond her friends.”

At Broken Ground Elementary School his teachers and his peers were welcoming, inclusive, helpful and patient when it came to his language and educational challenges.

“I loved coming here. I saw one of my friends that was in Africa and he was on a bike and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you have a bike here?’ I was just so amazed,” he said. “I was really happy and just so thankful that I was finally here.”

Emmable faced some barriers due to the family’s financial situation, lack of transportation and developing English, he said. But the challenges didn’t slow him down, they inspired him, as did his involvement in Project S.T.O.R.Y., a nonprofit organization that supports and encourages immigrant and New American youth’s journey to success and self-discovery.

“It had a huge influence on me,” he said. “I saw someone doing something like that, putting their heart and soul into it, and I was inspired. Some of our parents aren’t lucky to have cars or the income or the time.”

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