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“Oromia!” and “Release Oromo Students Now!”

Yesterday we came home from the #OromoProtests rally with two flags.  I couldn’t wait to give one of them to Jonas.  Sure enough, his eyes lit up when I showed it to him.  After agreeing to stand still for a few pictures (including some silly ones), he started marching around chanting “Oromia!” and “Release Oromo Students Now!”

OromiaWhenever he has something really special, he brings it to school to show his teacher, Gwen.  The flag promptly went in his backpack for the next day.  He got on the school bus with the flag pole sticking way out of his backpack over one shoulder.

All day I wondered what he would say to his teacher about the rally.  He knows a few of the facts of mass arrests, beatings and killings and he saw some graphic pictures.  Would he be able to get his teacher’s attention and find the words to sum up what is going on in Ethiopia and what he participated in at the state capitol?

When he got off the bus, the flag was not in his backpack.  It was in his hand and he waved it as he crossed the street in front of the bus to meet me.  Curious, but knowing I had to wait for the stories to bubble out on their own, I casually asked how his day was and if he showed Gwen the flag. “Mmmhmm. AND I showed all the students too,” he said.

Later while he was eating his snack he thought to mention that he and his only Oromo classmate, a girl, talked about the flag.

“She told me her dad and her cousin had to go.”

“Had to go where?”

“Go away… (pausing to think) yeah, they had to run away so the Ethiopian government couldn’t get them.  She knows all about what’s going on in Oromia.”

“What else did you talk about?”

“About how mean the Ethiopian government is.”

abo12These two kids are in kindergarten.  Jonas seems like class clown material sometimes, still too early to say.  He sure loves to try to make people laugh.

Yet that same silly boy took an Oromo flag to school, talked to his teacher and class about it and made a connection with a classmate who might otherwise not have had a chance to share that bit of her family’s story in school until some future grade.

I hesitate to tell the story because maybe it seems like I think what Jonas did was heroic or outstanding.  I don’t.  I think it’s just profoundly human.