Student, aspiring entrepreneur and Ethiopian refugee
“I’m originally from Oromiyaa in Ethopia. Oromo people make up about a third of the entire population of Ethiopia. Over the past several decades, politicians from other smaller ethnic groups have had authoritarian rule over the country, causing Oromo people to be marginalized. To break away from that harsh political climate, my parents escaped to a refugee camp in Kenya to make their way to America. We moved to the United States when I was young. I started school at Pillsbury Elementary School in Minneapolis. Now I’m 22 and currently a senior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in political economics with an international focus.
“While I was in middle school, I remember assignments where we would have to draw what we saw ourselves doing in the future. For me it would always be a stick figure of myself behind a desk in my own office. Another goal of mine was to be able to start my own company, which I just recently did with my older sister. We always wished that there were better options when it comes to fashion for Muslim women like us, and I guess we always expected someone else to do that. We saw a need, so we started Kovered, and now my sister and I provide clothes for people who want to use fashion to express themselves. I always thought that fashion and Islam were mutually exclusive, but I’m learning that is not the case. To me, success is setting goals for yourself and then going out and getting them. My mother taught me to never expect people to give it to you, you must go out and get it yourself.
“Because I’m a black Muslim woman who is also a refugee, there are so many things that people see and assume about me before they get to know me, like I am a threat or that I am uneducated. Yes, I’m black, but there’s more to me. Yes, I’m Muslim, but there’s more to me! But you can’t get to know me unless you give me a chance, and a lot of the time I’m not given that chance.
“I understand that I have to be open to answering people’s questions because it's better that they get their answers from me than some media news source. For example, when I first started working in the corporate world, a co-worker asked if I’m forced to wear my hijab. After explaining to her that I’m not and that it’s a personal decision, I felt as though a barrier has been lifted and she felt more comfortable to ask me more questions.”