Our healing is tied to the healing of our people.
My father and his generation started struggling against injustice when they were youth. We are now raising awareness on the atrocities committed against our people. Our healing is tied to the healing of our people. As long as our people are in shackles in Oromia, we cannot be free here.
I was born in Canada. My father is Oromo from Oromia, Ethiopia. My mother is East Indian from Guyana. I come out of a confluence of all these wonderful cultures. Growing up in multicultural Toronto, my boundaries are far more fluid than what these rigid cultural identities define…I am Hindu by religion but I also appreciate other religions, including the Oromo culture and spirituality of Irreecha.
Born in multicultural Canada from two recent immigrants, culture has played a large part in the making of my identity. Being a part of two historically oppressed peoples, I have seen injustice…we Oromos have yet to find an identifiable niche in Canadian society. The indigenous Oromo people have been tortured, oppressed, and silenced for centuries in Ethiopia. This is the course of history that Oromos here in Canada and around the world have been trying to change, and this is a challenge in which I am entirely engulfed…Oromos must take their rightful place in the world. This is an issue of equity and justice…this sense of doing justice brought me to OCAYA. I looked at the injustice our youth are suffering and committed to alleviating the community suffering.
I regret that I did not grow up speaking my father’s native tongue. But I am taking Afaan Oromo classes now and I’m pursuing it with passion. I value my culture so much; that’s why a deeper understanding of Afan Oromo is very important to me. Growing up, I felt like an outsider who did not belong in any culture, whether it is Oromo, Guyanese, or Canadian. I felt the alienation very deeply. It is like the gut wounds we try to address in our healing program of HAC. Actually HAC was primarily for me as it healed me from the violence of cultural alienation and connected me to my culture. OCAYA became my home where I felt I belonged and where I got to learn about my culture. It fostered within me an increased sense of self that I knew translated across my peers.
In our HAC programs, we really do a great deal of healing and connecting. We actively and creatively engage a great many of our children to keep them off the streets and out of harm’s way…when we learn our people’s language and culture, we are healing ourselves by connecting back to what has been violently taken away from us. When we organize Irreecha celebrations and recognition events and bring together the entire community, we nurture a sense of community healing.
The recent Arab Spring inspired me beyond belief. Nothing makes me happier than seeing youth take leadership in the struggle against injustice, getting rid of tyrants, and changing their societies for the better. My father and his generation started struggling against injustice when they were youth. We are now raising awareness on the atrocities committed against our people. Our healing is tied to the healing of our people. As long as our people are in shackles in Oromia, we cannot be free here.
B.K. is a human rights activist based in Canada.
*The following piece was first published in Songs of Exile by Kuwee Kumsa. With permission, we are reproducing it here as part of the series on young Oromos in the diaspora.Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @oromusings to add your experience and perspective to the series*