After attending the State Fair in search of some fried dough and a story I stumbled upon a quiet, humble man named Max Mpoyi. Immediately I was mesmerizd by the intricate gem collection he had. Being the inquiring mind I am, one question turned into 40 more and before long I ended up unearthing a really heart-wrenching story.
Max’s effort to give his family a better life made him move from the Congo and make a living off selling gems.
I was floored. Fried dough would have to wait as he began to share with me his past.
Brutal tribal wars forced Max Mpoyi to pack up his livelihood and move to America 15 years ago.
In the Congo, the Kasai tribe he belongs to were discriminated and persecuted against to no end.
“Kasai are like the Jewish people in the Congo,” he told me with heavy eyes. “All because the Kasai go to school and have a lot of potential and money.”
Having a higher social status in such an impoverished country only made matters worse for members of Kasai. “It wasn’t just the tribes but the government…it’s all about politics,” he would add.
To escape the opposition, Max left behind his 10 siblings and brought his wife and seven kids to the land of the free. Upon arriving he would return to his first love, Malachite.
His interest in the gem started off as something curious and mystifying. Later, it would lead Max to obtain a mining license and start a gem business with his wife.
Now he is owner of “Malachite & Gems of Africa, Inc.” in Greece, NY. There, a wide array of dazzling gem colors, handcrafted jewelry and objects made from fossilized wood, amethyst, and fluorite among many other captivating stones can be found.
Malachite, the most popular gem, is tiny, green, easy to obtain and one with healing powers he explained.
As Max began telling me details of how his business came to be, his life in the Congo, and why Malachite matters, frequent customer and gem collector Barbara Bessette became captivated.
Since it first opened, Max’s business has become very successful. It’s more than just selling gems, fossils, and minerals, too. He takes a personal interest in all of his customers and makes sure their needs are met. Also, each sale is always a cool history lesson.
Today, his time in the Congo is a distant memory. His desire is to leave it in “the past,” he said with clear discomfort.
Aside from being with his family, Max is most content when involved with his business. He mentioned not wanting to retire.
“I’m happy because I get to meet new people…I’m proud and it makes me strong. I get to meet people like you who can bring me new customers and share my story,” he exclaimed with a slight chuckle and smile big enough to light up a room.
He couldn’t have been more right.