By Will Todman
When my friend Jonas signed up for a cooking class in Vienna, Austria, he was struck by how differently the organizers viewed refugees. Organizations serving refugees that he’d volunteered with before seemed to adopt a paternalistic attitude toward them, often depicting them as victims. But the classes with KAMA were different. Refugees were valued for their skills. They led classes on art, cooking and dance. They were sharing parts of their past, but also expressing their hopes and dreams for the future. In the process, they created ties with people in their new communities who they might not have met otherwise. Critically, those people expressed an eagerness to learn from immigrant teachers.
KAMA is a German acronym which roughly translates as “classes taught by asylum seekers, migrants and those who have been granted asylum.” It started in Vienna, but soon spread across several cities in Austria. Jonas went on to co-found KAMA Dresden in Germany and then proposed the idea of replicating the model in D.C. with me. We’d taken a class on refugees in the Arab world together as graduate students and were both confident we knew others who’d be interested in creating an organization like KAMA in DC.
We held the first meeting in a church office in Shaw five years ago, with thirty people gathered to explore the feasibility of starting the organization. From this gathering, about 10 of us decided to give it a go. Among the team was a Syrian translator, a French rocket scientist, a Venezuelan artist, a lawyer, a diplomat, two analysts and a student.
Our first step was scoping organizations already working with immigrants in the area. We didn’t know if something similar already existed, and we also knew that the refugee resettlement process is very different in the United States from Western Europe and didn’t want to place even more burden on refugees. After speaking with more than 60 organizations in the DMV area who expressed positive views on the potential of KAMA DC, we went for it. Although the name KAMA doesn’t have meaning in English, we wanted to maintain our link to the idea that began in Europe.
Since its inception, volunteers for KAMA DC have met once a week to organize classes, conduct community outreach and advertise what we do. We wanted to create a collaborative spirit, so we made decisions by consensus and encouraged everyone to contribute when they could.
In December 2016, we held our first class – a community organizing class taught by Vandalark Patricks, a human rights activist from Liberia. Soon after that, we held an Afro-Venezuelan dance class, a Kurdish language and culture class and a workshop on writing for resilience. It was immediately clear that we were onto something by highlighting the skills of immigrant communities in the area. Word started to spread about what we were doing, and people started reaching out to us and expressing their enthusiasm for having a platform to share their skills.
When some people asked if they could share their stories through KAMA rather than teaching a class, our immigrant storytelling night was born. We were extremely fortunate to find a home in Lapop, the bar under Lapis in Adams Morgan. Our storytelling nights quickly became the most popular event we held, and we even had to set up waitlists for tickets.
As our team and the scope of our activities grew, we decided to formalize KAMA DC, incorporate it as an organization and then apply for non-profit status. We worked with Georgetown Law Center’s non-profit legal clinic, and two law students completed our application. We also decided to formalize our volunteer structure as we realized that our style of making decisions by consensus had started to hold back our growth. We divided volunteers into three teams – classes, storytelling and promotions – and found that we could increase our programming significantly. In 2018, we held our first film screening, first panel discussion, attended festivals and forged new partnerships with businesses and organizations in the area.
When the pandemic hit, we knew that some people in immigrant communities would be especially vulnerable. We came up with a list of resources to help those who might be struggling and checked in on our past teachers and storytellers. We paused our events as well – we couldn’t do anything in person and were wary of asking too much of people during such a difficult time when Zoom fatigue was setting in.
But it quickly became apparent that moving things online created new opportunities. Since the pandemic began, we have held cooking classes, a makeup tutorial, literature workshops, storytelling nights, panel discussions, film screenings and more virtually. In 2020, we nearly doubled the number of people who took part in our classes or attended storytelling nights.
We also began a new Instagram initiative – Immigrants of the DMV – which has since gained over 1,000 followers. Every Sunday, someone from an immigrant community who lives in the DMV area takes over the account and shares whatever they want. Some share their favorite places in D.C., some share photos of their lives before they moved to the United States, others describe challenges they have overcome since moving here. We also launched this KAMA Blog in February this year as well as the first series of our Journeys podcast in May.
I’m proud that KAMA DC now serves as a platform for immigrants living in the area to share their skills and stories. People can teach classes with us, participate in storytelling nights, take over Immigrants of the DMV on Instagram or share their story on our podcast or blog. We’ve worked with immigrants from more than 40 countries around the world, and more than 2,000 people have participated in the 60+ events that we’ve held. All of this is possible because of the 24 volunteers who devote their time to KAMA every week.
As the city reopens, KAMA DC is entering an exciting new phase. Not only are we thrilled to begin holding in-person events again, but we’re also growing our team by taking on some phenomenally talented new volunteers. We can’t wait to see what the future holds!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By BEN JAFFE
A friend and I decided to make our own walking food tour and try the same dessert from different restaurants, cafes and bakeries. We wanted to try something that was a little more unique than cupcakes, so we landed on baklava. I planned the tour and realized that we had the wonderful and unexpected benefit of the diverse D.C. food scene. While we expected that baklava at one place would be different from another, for a dish like baklava, which crosses cultures and geographic boundaries to the point that there are multiple accepted spellings, we got to try many different versions of the dessert.
All restaurants, cafes and bakeries below are immigrant-owned, founded by immigrants or feature well-known immigrant chefs. I have provided a map of my recommended walking path.
TIP: If you do this, or even a shortened version, I’d recommend not eating the full baklava. Baklava is reasonably filling and is quite the sugary dessert. Take a couple of bites and save the rest for a treat.
La Jolie Bleue
This Mediterranean café in Georgetown is easy to miss. The interior, however, is another story. Inside, behind the counter containing pastries and sandwiches, the white tile wall contains light blue window frames holding pictures of desserts, cascading plants and chalk-written menu items. Fabulous coffees and marzipan are accompanied by some less usual items including soufflé, kirsch and salep. The owners, a lovely couple from Algeria, proudly informed me that most items they made in-house, include their almond baklawa.
The day we went, two baklawas were available, pistachio and almond. Both were delicate and full of flavor, but also crisp with many layers of phyllo dough. The group was nearly split with which one we preferred, but my preference leaned toward the flavorful almond baklawa.
A short uphill walk took us to Janti Café, immediately recognizable from blue flowers climbing the outside wall. Through the entrance lies a cozy space with the usual café fair, though with some bonuses of Turkish coffee and Turkish bagels. The bagels would alone warrant a return trip to Janti, but the real treat lies upstairs at the Turkish market, where you can find traditional Turkish ingredients.
We brought a plate full of pistachio baklava to the outdoor seating area and began to dig in. The pistachio flavor came through well, strongly complemented by the syrup and a wonderfully crisp exterior. This was my second time having the baklava from Janti and, if possible, it was even better than the first time.
The longer walk from Janti to our next stop, Byblos, in Cleveland Park was an excellent way to burn off some calories and explore some neighborhoods as we took the scenic route through Dumbarton Oaks Park and Woodley Park. Beyond the door, underneath a loud blue-and-white-striped awning, Byblos carries a feeling of your usual neighborhood deli and diner with white marble tables, tile floor and large menus above the counter proclaiming Greek shawarma, falafel, gyros and much more.
As a group, we did our best to eat this round of baklava, but these pieces did not skimp on size. Large squares of baklava greeted us full of what I think were walnuts, though it may have been almonds. Whatever it was, it was delicious with wonderfully crunchy phyllo dough and amazingly chewy inner layers.
Back down to Woodley Park and past the National Zoo, Afghan Grill is a restaurant that I have found to be quite overlooked. Up a small flight of stairs lies the first restaurant of this tour with a large room boasting red walls, hardwood floors and many ornate lamps. This restaurant is actually a favorite of my grandmother, so I had been there quite a few times and love the sambosa, aushak and pumpkin buranee.
This walnut and cardamom baklava was the most unique tasting of all the baklavas on this tour, with cardamom adding an extra flavor to complement the soft and chewy dessert.
A short walk across the Duke Ellington Bridge and arguably the most well-known on the list, Mama Ayesha’s was our next stop. It certainly has the most well-known mural on its outside as Mama Ayesha Abraham herself stands in-front of the White House alongside 11 U.S. Presidents. The grandeur of the mural is matched on the inside where fountains, red cushy sofas, intricate lamps and Middle Eastern styles reign supreme. With a décor such as this, it is abundantly clear why Mama Ayesha’s is known to serve numerous ambassadors and government officials.
Their baklawa had a walnut filling, was lightly dusted with pieces of pistachio and all of the flavors mixed beautifully. It was a wonderful reminder that I really should order baklawa more often.
The last stop, Sharbat, was a nice quick walk into the heart of Adams Morgan. I felt like I must be sweating sugar at this point, but we pushed through to our final destination. This new Azerbaijani café has received a lot of attention since it opened. Aside from their honey cake, which I have been told multiple times is their best-seller, they have excellent pastries. The shorgoghal has become one of my favorites and, as its interior is only spices, I’ve convinced myself it’s healthy enough to eat multiple at a time.
Now this pakhlava I was familiar with. I had ordered it many times and knew its dark golden top with its single almond. Instead of the usual look of layers of phyllo dough, the interior was full of nuts, held together by what I can only imagine was syrup or honey or whatever goodness makes pakhlava one of the greatest desserts in the world.
I arrived home shortly after Sharbat and collapsed on the couch. My stomach, my head, my neck, I felt like everything had been reduced to the syrup and honey that makes baklava such a sugary dessert.
It was great. What is not great is that I felt like I had to choose a favorite out of all these baklavas. There was no way I could create a list in order of best to worst. I can promise anyone who visits any of these places, you will not be disappointed if you order the baklava. However, if I had to choose a favorite, it is the almond baklava at La Jolie Bleue.
If there is one thing that I believe this tour shows, it’s that baklavas, baklawas and pakhlavas are as diverse as their spelling, and I can promise you it is a very worthwhile adventure to try them all.
By Karelia Isabel Pallán
“...I hoarded secret syllables I read
until my tongue (my lengua) learned to run
where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.”
-Bilingual/Bilingüe by Rhina P. Espaillat
The poem’s words washed over me as I sat in a nook hidden behind a bookcase in D.C.’s newest museum, Planet Word. Growing up bilingual — and especially learning English at an early age — has made me particularly attuned to the power of words and language. I grew up considering which words in my two languages were very similar, or which seemed similar but had different meanings, and being frustrated at the ones that had no good translation. I grew up unraveling all the hidden meanings and unspoken cultural literacy behind language and communication. I didn’t think a fun afternoon in a museum would prompt me to analyze my upbringing and worldview, but I’ve found that the best museums often do make you reconsider and restructure your lens of understanding.
Planet Word celebrates not just words, but also the mechanics of how we speak and how we can communicate with each other: sharing ideas and stories, telling jokes and persuading, enlightening and inciting action. This museum combines the old idea of lifelong learning with new technology and design to create a true 21st century experience — you are invited to speak aloud, sing, laugh and interact digitally with the various exhibits all around you.
Like a fish noticing water for the first time, the exhibits and interactive elements encourage you to consider the mechanics and impact of something you may have taken for granted — language. Real-life examples bring the power of language to life and show how it is important in many different contexts.
It’s difficult to write a complete review of the museum without giving too much away — I want to share all the fun discoveries I made there, but I’d rather you go in person and discover these surprises for yourself. I will share, however, a little bit of the exhibits and what makes this museum so unique.
You begin at the top floor where you get a short primer on how babies acquire language. This is a useful allegory for the experience of the visitor from this point on, as, like a baby, you will be discovering how the exhibits work and respond to your gestures and voice.
You then encounter the pièce de résistance of the whole museum: the magic Word Wall, which responds and changes the script according to your answers to its prompts. It goes over the intricacies and discrepancies of the origins and influences of the English language as we know it today.
In a world languages great hall, you can interact with videos of native speakers in more than 20 languages as they not only teach you phrases in their language, but also explain to you what aspects of their language make it uniquely structured. A large, brilliant globe at the center of the room reacts with lights, pictures and sounds as you complete a module or say a certain phrase correctly.
An interactive library hosts the aforementioned hidden nook that goes through a curated selection of poems from authors around the world, as well as a speech recording booth and whimsical miniatures of famous literary scenes that light up when you speak a phrase or quote from the story.
In between the large exhibits, smaller modules in the hallways around the museum explain bite-sized aspects of the use of language.
Exhibits that kids may be drawn to include a wordplay room filled with games that use jokes, puns and idiomatic expressions, and a karaoke studio that teaches you the lyrical components used to write a hit song.
For me, one of the most impactful rooms was the very last exhibit called Words Matter. This part highlighted the sometimes darker side of language — how it can be used to discriminate, marginalize or hurt others. It featured videos from different storytellers sharing their experiences, as well as some interactive quizzes on linguistic bias. It was a good reminder that language can connect or divide depending on how you wield its power.
Ultimately, Planet Word champions language as a beneficial tool and celebrates the power of communication, through its text and context, as humanity’s defining characteristic. It succeeds in its mission to engage both children and adults in literacy and language, while reminding everyone of the importance of words.
I highly recommend visiting Planet Word soon and attending their online events. Timed-entry tickets are available on their website, though the museum can also accommodate a limited number of walk-up visitors. Tickets to both the museum and events are currently free, but you are also able to make a small donation to the museum or become an inaugural member. Learn more about Planet Word and schedule a visit at planetwordmseum.org.
Las vacunas desarrolladas para protegernos contra el coronavirus (COVID-19) ahora están disponibles para todas las personas adultas en los Estados Unidos, que tengan 16 años o más, independientemente de su estado migratorio (según informa el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional). Si usted aún no ha recibido su vacuna ni agendado una cita, ahora es la oportunidad perfecta ya que muchas ciudades y estados están ofreciendo la vacuna en sitios como farmacias, supermercados, hospitales, centros de salud y otros espacios bien ubicados. Todos estos lugares tienen capacidad para atender a mucha gente y sin necesidad de hacer una cita. Si usted ya ha recibido la vacuna, por favor comparta esta información con su familia y amigos.
Vacunarse contra el COVID-19 es muy importante ya que no solo le protege del virus y de complicaciones graves de la enfermedad, o inclusive, de la muerte, sino que también ayuda a proteger a su familia, amistades y a su comunidad. No se exponga ni exponga a los demás. Vacúnese lo más pronto que pueda. La vacuna es segura y lo protege.
Vacunarse contra el COVID-19 es gratis, fácil, rápido y está disponible para todas las personas
Consejos para obtener la vacuna
Hay varias maneras de encontrar los lugares para vacunarse:
(Fuente de información: Colaborativa COVID del Ad Council)
En nuestra area
Distrito de Columbia
Desde el sábado, 1º de mayo, el Distrito ha hecho la transición al uso de 11 sitios de vacunación de alta capacidad, sin necesidad de cita previa. (Los lugares sin cita previa son para las primeras dosis. Después de recibir su primera dosis, se le programará una cita para recibir su segunda dosis). Los lugares sin cita previa son las farmacias, clínicas y proveedores de atención médica y están administrando las vacunas en toda la ciudad.
Todas las personas adultas también pueden agendar citas a través del sitio web de CVS.
Usted puede obtener más información sobre las vacunas de D.C. en: coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccinatedc. (Puede cambiar el sitio web al español haciendo click en el encabezado superior a la derecha.)
En Virginia, puede encontrar y programar citas buscando su dirección en https://vaccinate.virginia.gov/index-es.html o llamando al 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682). El centro de llamadas está disponible los siete días de la semana, de 8:00 AM a 8:00 PM y hay asistencia disponible en inglés, español y más de 100 idiomas adicionales.
En Maryland, las personas pueden preinscribirse en un sitio de vacunación masiva o en clínicas de vacunación como farmacias y hospitales. Visite https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine para obtener más información y registrarse. (Puede cambiar el sitio web al español — listado como ‘Spanish’ — haciendo click en la pestaña azul a la izquierda de la página)
Vaccines developed to protect against COVID-19 are now available to children and adults in the U.S. age 12 or older, regardless of immigration status. (Source: Department of Homeland Security) If you have not received or scheduled your vaccination, now is the perfect opportunity to get it as cities and states are offering doses at various locations like pharmacies, grocery stores, hospitals, health centers and walk-up mass vaccinations sites. If you have already received the vaccine, we hope this information might also be useful for sharing with family and friends who have not yet received it.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is important as it will not only protect yourself from the virus, but it will also help protect your community and slow the spread of COVID-19 domestically and worldwide.
Getting a COVID Vaccine is Free, Convenient and Open to All
Tips on Getting the Vaccine
(Source: Ad Council’s COVID Collaborative)
In Our Area
District of Columbia
Beginning in May, the District transitioned to the use of 11 high-capacity, walk-up, no-appointment-needed vaccination sites. (Walk-up sites are for first doses. When you receive your first dose, you will still make an appointment to get your second dose.) The walk-up sites will be in addition to the pharmacies, clinics, and health care providers that are also administering the vaccines citywide. These sites will operate their own scheduling systems.
CVS is now offering vaccinations at participating locations. All adults can book appointments through the CVS website.
Learn more about D.C. vaccinations at: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccinatedc.
In Virginia, you can find and make appointments by searching for your address at https://vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682). The call center is available seven days a week, from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM and assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 additional languages.
In Maryland, individuals can pre-register at a mass vaccination site or at vaccination clinics like pharmacies and hospitals. Visit https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine to learn more and register for an appointment. You can also call the COVID-19 Vaccination Support Center at 855-MD-GOVAX (855-634-6829), which is open seven days a week, from 7 AM until 10 PM and Support Advocates are available in English and Spanish.
COVID-19 Vaccine and FAQ Information in Other Languages
The DC government has translated COVID-19 resources, including info about how to get the vaccine, available on their website in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
The COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub is a searchable hub with COVID-19 resources available in 61 different languages, vaccine FAQs in 21 languages, and a link to information about how to sign-up to receive a vaccine.
The Ad Council has vaccine information available in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Russian, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese.
The CDC has print materials about vaccine safety available in 26 different languages.
The National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) has vaccine fact sheets available in more than 30 languages.
By Laila Kunaish
During the month of April, organizations around the DMV are celebrating Arab Heritage Month. This little-known cultural celebration is part of the effort to promote the robust narratives of Arab Americans and their communities during a time in which these stories are limited in the media. As a Syrian American, April has become an exciting time for me. The celebration of Arab Heritage month has acted as a short immersion into my Arab heritage, something I have not been able to do regularly since access to my family in the Middle East has been restricted.
Arab Heritage Month began as a result of the influx of Arab immigrants to the United States in the 1990s. During this period, local communities and individual states began organizing Arab heritage celebrations. In the 2000s, media portrayal and public perception of Arabs became increasingly one-dimensional. As an effort to give a more robust portrayal of Arabs and give the ever-growing Arab American population a space to celebrate their culture, in 2017, the Arab America Foundation declared the month of April the unofficial National Arab Heritage Month. Since this declaration, multiple states began officially recognizing this month of cultural appreciation, with Virginia among the first states. In 2019, legislation was introduced to officially recognize Arab Heritage Month nationally. That same year, Spotify released an Arab Heritage playlist (check out these existing playlists on Spotify). The same legislation was introduced in May 2020, and, though it has not yet been passed, the U.S. Department of State recognized the event for the first time this year on April 1.
As residents of the DMV, we have access to many events celebrating Arab heritage this month. This is because the DMV has one of the highest populations of Arab immigrants and Arab Americans in the U.S. The state of Virginia, specifically Vienna and Fairfax county, has one of the highest concentrations of Arab Americans in the U.S. As a result, the region acts as home to many Arab cultural and political organizations. In past years, the month of April brought a multitude of in-person events including concerts, markets, panels and more.
Due to COVID-19, most events this year have been held virtually. This month’s events ranged from panels with Arab American artists and prominent figures, to online cooking and coffee courses. The benefit of these virtual events is the ability to watch and celebrate beyond April and continue to enjoy Arab heritage and culture.
I chose to support local and national organizations this year by buying tickets for virtual events. The first event I attended was hosted by the Museum of the Palestinian People discussing a newly published cookbook, “The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World.” The Palestinian authors, Reem Kassis and Zeina Azzam, discuss uniting generations of Arabs in the diaspora through contemporary spins on traditional foods. I also attended a virtual celebration hosted by the Arab American Civic Council featuring prominent Arab American figures speaking about the importance of the expression of Arab culture and the value of the struggle for appreciation and representation. (A recording of the virtual celebration is available on their website.) I later enrolled to see three signature virtual events hosted by Arab America. These events featured a broad number of well-known Arab Americans including members of Congress, educators, artists and more, and recordings can be accessed on Arab America’s Vimeo page. I found that this event series is most reminiscent of pre-COVID celebrations because it includes concerts and dance-alongs. There are a multitude of other local organizations and businesses that took part in the festivities of this month, and several will continue to hold sporadic events for the remainder of this year.
To close off my celebration this month, I would like to share a few of my favorite businesses and organizations owned and run by Arab Americans, which demonstrate the vast cultural contributions of Arabs in the DMV area and the United States as a whole.
Local organizations and businesses to support:
National organizations and businesses to support:
About the author
By Ben Jaffe
If D.C. is known for one thing, outside of being the seat of the U.S. federal government, it is the city’s monuments. On the schedule of every tourist is a visit to the National Mall to look upon the Washington, Lincoln, MLK Jr. and Jefferson memorials. Throw in the WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorials, and that would likely cover most of the average tourist’s to-see list. However, D.C. has many more monuments to offer than just those at the National Mall.
D.C. has long drawn people from all over the world, and the city’s landscape reflects that. We’ve compiled a list of five different memorials honoring immigrants or commemorating international events that have shaped the U.S. and the world.
"Washington DC Old Post Office & Gibran Khalil Gibran Memorial 006" by Nicolas Karim is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Khalil Gibran Memorial Garden
Hidden along Embassy Row next to the South African Embassy lies the Khalil Gibran memorial. Crossing the small footbridge, you will find a modest memorial garden with a small fountain, trees, a sculpture of Gibran and a bench bearing his poetry and quotes. Gibran, a Lebanese-American poet, was the first Arab American honored with a memorial in D.C. Though Gibran only lived to 48, his influence was felt across the Middle East and the United States through his writing, painting and teaching. His most well-known work is arguably his book, “The Prophet,” which has sold over 11 million copies and has been quoted by artists such as Elvis Presley and John Lennon.
Saint Mother Théodore Guérin Statue
Théodore Guérin was a French-American nun who was canonized in the Catholic faith as a saint in 2006, 150 years after her death. Born and raised in France, she moved to rural Indiana in 1840 and established some of the first schools across the state. She was also seen as an experienced community leader and businesswoman who helped with community development in western Indiana. Her statue can be found directly behind the the main basilica on Catholic University’s campus. Dedicated in 2008, the statue was given by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the congregation Guérin led.
Armenian Earthquake Statue
Down the street from the White House and next to the American Red Cross National Headquarters, a statue of a woman clutching a child stands as a “thank you” to the American people from the Armenian people for their aid following the 1988 Armenian earthquake, also known as the Spitak earthquake. Between 25,000-50,000 people were killed, and the damage was so bad that the Soviet Union, which Armenia was a part of at that time, requested aid from the United States despite the ongoing Cold War. The sculpture was designed and made by Armenian-Russian artist Frid Soghoyan, who himself had lost many friends to the earthquake and highlighted the key role the U.S. support provided to Armenia.
Albert Einstein Memorial
Arguably one of the most well-known scientists in history, German physicist Albert Einstein originally came to the United Kingdom and then the United States as a refugee. His memorial, though located north of the Lincoln Memorial right below the National Academy of Sciences, is easy to miss. Originally dedicated in 1979, the memorial features a platform surrounded by a semi-circle of stone benches. Represented on the platform are locations of stars and planets, in the position they were at the time of the memorial’s dedication, and on the surrounding bench sits a 12-foot-high statue of Einstein with a book in his left hand. On the book is etched three equations that Einstein is credited with discovering.
Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933 by Max Herz is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
National Holodomor Memorial
Just west of Union Station on Massachusetts Avenue sits the Holodomor Memorial, which stands in dedication to the millions of people who died of starvation in Ukraine from 1932-1933 during a famine engineered by the Soviet Union. Built in coordination with the Ukrainian government, the memorial was made to honor the victims and educate the American public on the event, which is not well-known in the United States. The memorial was designed by local architect Larysa Kurylas, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, and consists of a 30-foot wall depicting a field of wheat that slowly transitions from abundant to barely visible. To the right of the wall, an inscription in English and Ukrainian describes Holodomor and provides context to one of the deadliest genocides of the 20th century. This memorial is just one of the three modern memorials in D.C. to be designed by a woman.
KAMA DC condemns the racism and violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across the United States and mourns the loss of those murdered in Atlanta. We stand in solidarity with our friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbors who are facing intimidation and violence.
The horrific shootings in Atlanta were a terrible culmination of anti-Asian discrimination and harassment, especially towards women, that is on the rise in our community and in our nation. We call on all those in the DMV, including our leaders, to support our AAPI communities and combat racism.
We aim to actively work against harmful stereotyping and hate while lifting up immigrant voices. KAMA DC is proud to uplift and celebrate the stories and contributions of immigrant AAPI communities. Additionally, we are committed to renewing our fight against all types of racism.
Visit the resources below to find ways to support AAPI communities:
Little Ethiopia sign on the corner of 9th and U Streets NW.
BY ALAYNA HUTCHINSON AND ALLIE JUDGE
This past December, the D.C. Council officially named the 9th and U Street business corridor “Little Ethiopia.” The council unanimously agreed on the measure “to recognize the Ethiopian community’s heritage and culture, outstanding leadership and contributions” to D.C.’s economy and the business corridor in the Shaw neighborhood, as well as “its partnership with the African American community in the fight for social justice and civil rights.” The full resolution can be found here.
“The Ethiopian community has played an integral role in the development of many businesses in and around Washington," said Philemon Mastewal, whose Ethiopian-born parents own Büna Coffeehouse in Petworth. "As the city with the highest concentration of Ethiopian immigrants, D.C. has always felt like ‘Little Ethiopia’ to me, but I am glad to hear about the recent formal recognition from the city council."
Although the resolution was ceremonial, it signifies the impact and history of the Ethiopian diaspora in the D.C. area, which stretches back decades. A 2016 WAMU story noted that D.C. was a draw for Ethiopian immigrants for a number of reasons, including the location of the embassy, the strength of Ethiopian-American political relations and prominent HBCU Howard University. The majority Black population in the city also created a more welcoming environment in the 50s, 60s and 70s when Ethiopian immigrants and students first began coming to the U.S. in significant numbers.
Because Ethiopian immigrants initially settled in Shaw and the nearby Adams Morgan neighborhood, “Little Ethiopia” became a prominent location for Ethiopian-owned businesses. The resolution notes that the flourishing of Ethiopian businesses in this area helped with “revitalizing the community following the riots in the mid 1960s.” Since then, Ethiopian businesses have sprung up throughout the DMV, but “Little Ethiopia” remains a cornerstone representing the economic power and historical impact of the Ethiopian diaspora.
In 2014, the Migration Policy Institute estimated that the Ethiopian-born population in the D.C. area was about 35,000, which makes it the largest concentration for Ethiopians outside of Africa. Other local sources and organizations consider that number to be much higher, and certainly, as the resolution notes, the population of Ethiopian descendants in the D.C. area totals more than 300,000 people. “Little Ethiopia” has been one of the areas where a concentration of Ethiopian immigrants live, work, and open businesses; however, research from 2015 has also shown that higher concentrations of Ethiopian immigrants are now living outside of D.C. in areas like Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Alexandria, creating new “Little Ethiopias” all over the DMV.
To support the Ethiopian immigrants in the DMV, be sure to visit local Ethiopian restaurants and businesses, such as Büna Coffeehouse. You can also donate to the Ethiopian Community Center and other immigrant-focused organizations, and continue learning more about the history of immigrants in your community!
Dishes from (L-R): Immigrant Food, Cielo Rojo, Peruvian Brothers, and Thamee
By Alayna hutchinson and allie judge
As we’ve seen with our KAMA community, one of the great things about DC is that it draws people from all over the world. This international population makes for an eclectic and exciting food scene, much of which is driven by immigrants who bring authentic dishes from their home countries to the nation’s Capital and surrounding areas.
With many of us ordering takeout right now, why not taste cuisine from around the world while supporting local immigrant-owned businesses—all from the comfort of your own home? We’ve compiled a diverse list of 10 immigrant-owned restaurants - including more established favorites, buzzy new spots, and some hidden gems - keeping in mind that there are plenty more not included and many to come as the DMV’s immigrant community continues to grow.
Heat Da Spot - Ethiopian-American (Petworth, DC)
Hailed as one of the best breakfast spots in the District, this Ethiopian-American cafe has become a staple in DC’s Petworth neighborhood just five years after opening. Heat Da Spot offers a variety of American classics like pancakes, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches, as well as dishes with an Ethiopian twist, like scrambled eggs with a side of injera.
Pho 75 - Vietnamese (Arlington, VA and Rockville & Adelphi, MD)
Thiep Le and Binh Ngo came to the U.S. in 1975 as refugees from Vietnam and opened this pho shop a decade later - naming it for that significant year - to bring a taste of home to their new country. Now with five restaurants across the DMV, their longstanding success is a testament to the quality of their version of this Vietmanise comfort food.
Purple Patch - Filipino (Mt. Pleasant, DC)
With a menu based on her mother’s recipes, chef Patrice Cleary is recognized as one of the first to bring authentic Filipino cuisine to DC. Purple Patch’s unique and flavorful dishes have earned it top spots on U.S. Filipino restaurant lists. What makes it even more remarkable is its contributions to the community, providing free meals to local children and hospitals during the pandemic.
Peruvian Brothers - Peruvian (NoMA, DC)
Mario and Guiseppe Lanzone brought “the taste of Peru” to DC seven years ago with a food truck, then concession stands across city venues. The brothers continue to serve Peruvian cuisine inspired by their childhood in Lima from a brick-and-mortar location near NoMa in DC,a permanent food stand in Arlington, and a catering kitchen operating out of Alexandria, VA.
Sakina Halal Grill - Pakistani (Mt. Vernon Square, DC)
The Sakina Halal Grill is an authentic Pakistani restaurant located in downtown D.C. near Mt. Vernon Square. Owner Kazi Mannan came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1996 and has been working to create a space that serves as a safe refuge for all. This includes residents in DC experiencing homelessness, who Mannan has ensured can always find a free meal at his restaurant.
Dolan Uyghur - Northwest China/Xinjiang (Cleveland Park, DC)
Hamid Karim opened Dolan Uyghur in 2016 to provide DC with a taste of Uyghur, a mix of Asian and Middle Eastern flavors. The restaurant uses fresh and homemade ingredients to achieve the “true bliss of Uyghur food.” Uyghurs are an indigenous ethnic group from the Xinjiang region of Northwest China, and, as the website notes, “the unique food plays an important role” in preserving the culture.
Taco City DC - Mexican (Navy Yard, DC)
Unexpectedly, this quirky taco spot near Navy Yard, which is inspired by the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Mexico, is owned by two Salvadorians. The head chef and co-owner, Francisco Ferrufino, came to DC from San Miguel in 2007 when he was just 17 years old. His fellow co-owner, Juan Jimenez, had immigrated to DC in 1984 from La Unión. The pair noted in a recent 2019 Washington City Paper article that they had “recipe helpers” from Mexico City and Puebla to help them create their delicious tacos and small plates. Salvadorians actually make up the largest immigrant population in DC, with 11% of immigrants hailing from El Salvador as of 2018.
Immigrant Food - International Fusion (Downtown DC)
One of the newest and perhaps most unique on our list, Immigrant Food opened in 2019 as DC’s first “cause-casual” restaurant, a fast-casual eatery partnering with DC-based immigrant service organizations. Co-founders Enrique Limardo, a chef from Venezuela who has worked internationally, and Peter Schechter, a political consultant who was born in Rome and came to the U.S. before living in Latin America for nearly a decade, started Immigrant Food to “celebrate America’s story - the story of immigrants.” Their global experiences are reflected in the restaurant’s menu, which fuses flavors from around the world.
Thamee - Burmese (H Street Corridor, DC)
Burmese immigrant Jocelyn Law-Yone and her daughter Simone Jacobson along with Eric Wang started serving Burmese food at a pop-up and then a bodega, opening a permanent spot in 2019 with Thamee, the only Burmese restaurant in DC. It has quickly become acclaimed, being named Eater DC’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year and a James Beard Award semi-finalist, and was described by Thrillist as “a window into the Capital’s vibrant Asian culture.”
Cielo Rojo - Mexican (Takoma Park, MD)
Located in the heart of Takoma Park, Cielo Rojo offers traditional California-inspired Mexican cuisine. Owners Carolina McCandless, born in Chile, and David Perez, who came from Mexico as a teen, opened this fine-casual spot as “a place where friends and family can come together to nourish themselves with the beauty of food, community and mezcal.” Their community values are also in the way they make their food, with a focus on organic and locally-sourced ingredients.