Having over an hour in the Denver airport to wait until my departure...I, of course, was meandering in and out of the stores seeing what silly items they had to sell.
One store in particular caught my eye, not for what was inside it or what it was called, but by the beautiful woman working behind the counter. She had medium brown skin, big dark eyes, a huge smile and a brillant bright green burka around her head. In the land of Cowboys, Indians and Rockies...she definitely stuck out.
So being who I am, I went right up to her and said. "Asalamaolecom" . She smiled and "Wa alaolecomasalam" me back. "How do you know how to greet me" she asked. And I said my usual in a twisted tongue way ( bc I never really know what to say ) " Well, bc its what I do. So tell me, where are you from...Africa?"
"Ethiopia" she said. And that. of course sparked my interest. "Salam! and Ama-say-ka-nan-do" I said with a giggle...which basically means hello and thank you"
She was so impressed with my Amharic and asked how I know so much about her culture.
Again, all I can say is "bc this is what I do. This is what I love...I LOVE YOU! I love where you are from. Ethiopia...what a magnificant country...the history, the food, the honey wine, the injara bread, the bright beautiful colors, the jazz and the people...gorgeous goreous people"
She was beeming with a smile and was almost speechless but asked, "My goodness (or ya allah- oh my god) how many times have you been to Ethiopia?
I said, "Never! But I go to Little Ethiopia any chance I get"
We started talking about the large Ethiopian communities in LA, Michigan, DC, Denver and NY...and I was sharing stories about how I would take my mom to an Ethiopian restaurant and she kept asking for a fork and they kept showing her the injara bread and how to use that as a fork...so funny!
...and the great music and jazz of Ethiopia.
And then I asked her about being Muslim in Denver and if she ever got any problems. "Yes of course" she said "I have many people come up to me and say mean things, and I keep telling them that in the Holy Qu'ran it says that we are not even supposed to kill a bug. The Muslims out there killing are not us and they are not following Islam"
I could tell this hit her in a deep place, as it did me as well.
This is the story I want to tell.
This woman's story of coming from Ethiopia, through Kenya to Denver.
Raising a family here and keeping her scarf on and her ethnic name tag clear so that everyone can see it.
Proud to be a Muslim from East Africa in Mid America. I am proud of who she is!
Her name was Zewditu: named after the Empress Zewditu. And to me, she is a queen.
This show, this concept of America's Gypsy..is for YOU, Zewditu!
Ama say Ka nan do ! Salam Salam Salam