Uzo Udu: United Through Music

Uzo is from Ukraine, and describes his unique background. His journey to the United States is spectacular, and he describes how music was a source of individuality and unity for him. Uzo also helped coordinate a safe space for Muslim students to pray at his university. He is a global DJ, and the Co-Founder of UNITED IN AMERICA, which unites people of all backgrounds with music, art, fashion and culture.

This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.

 

“I was born and raised in Ukraine. My parents are actually from Africa, and my mom she is half-Russian. Currently I live here in Chicago and I moved with them. I lived in Ukraine until I was 16. Childhood in Ukraine, it is very, how do you call it, it’s interesting because you need to learn how to defend yourself since you are pretty much little. Because every single day when you’re walking down the street, you are a target. But at the same time, the difference between Ukraine and for example the United States, in Ukraine if there’s racism it’s right in front of your face. Here, it’s more hidden, more passive aggressive.

I would say one of the main things is I tell stories through music. Because many times when I create a mix or I create something, it’s more of ‘let me tell you a story’. Even recently, my friend found a mix from about 2010, and it was called ‘Emotions.’ It’s a very high energy mix. But I understood again why I called it emotions, because every single track is a very emotional track, the lyrics provide you with something that will move you and you will see actually a story and then as the music changes you are travelling with that story.

Because I was very active in all of the organizations, and running here and there, here and there, when the Muslim Student Association was at a situation where a couple of girls were trying to figure out how do we combine everybody together on campus. And I told them,”… how about I’ll be your PR guy and I’ll actually connect you with all of the organizations and we’ll provide you with the feedback, of what you can do, how you need to do it, where you need to go, what are the things that you actually need to do?” One of the biggest proudest moments is when the whole organization actually got locations on campus for prayers. To the Muslim community, it was very important. Instead of just going and doing it anywhere, we had specific designated locations that were particularly bought and open for people to come in so that they could pray.

You have to be open to new experiences, new information. You have to be open to actually absorbing that information. And think for yourself. Many people group-think. But sometimes when they alienate themselves in the thought that ‘Oh, I’m going to think about this thing differently,’ it makes them say ‘Oh, I’m not part of the group, or the society, or this anymore.’ But who cares? You’re living your life. So you have to live your life, never give up, and actually follow your passion to the fullest. Because once you actually see and create the road-map for yourself, you will be better.

And also make sure you have relationships, because the number one thing is actually having relationships with the people around you. Relationships with your family, and relationships in general. The most important thing is to build the communities and actually have a community that is going to be something that you’re proud of. You are going to be united, that’s why you have to be open and open minded to accept all of the new information.

My goal is actually to educate, slowly but surely, is to educate people. I even educate my team on certain subjects because they were never exposed to certain things. Slowly, when they ask me questions, I provide them with feedback. It’s hard for them to accept it, because it’s like ‘Wow, I did not know.’ But once they understand it, they understand it deeper. It’s just a matter of understanding the subject and the topic. Love each other and share positive lives with each other.”