Stephanie Caspelich

Reporting the news that matters.

Archive for February 2012

Kukulu Market: A Slice of Ethiopian Life in Chicago

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Kukulu Market has been serving a wide array of spices, Ethiopian coffee and its famous injera to Chicago’s diverse Edgewater community since it opened its doors in 2003.

“Edgewater has the biggest Ethiopian community in Chicago,” said owner Assefa Retta, who moved to Chicago from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital) in 2000. “There are a couple of communities scattered as far north as Howard Street and as far west as Western Avenue.”

Throughout the 1970s to 1990s, Ethiopians suffered from the crippling effects of military conflict and full-scale war with Eritrea and Sudan. As a result, about 37,000 Ethiopians sought asylum in the United States as refugees.

According to the U.S. Census, 4,500 Ethiopians resided in Chicago in 2000.

Though integration into American society posed its own set of challenges, Ethiopian immigrants remained steadfast in their search for a better life with the support of community organizations like the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, religious congregations like the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and one-stop shops like Kukulu Market, which is Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language) for rooster’s crow.

Aside from well-stocked shelves that carry everything from berbere, teff, lentils, Yirgacheffe coffee, niter kibbeh to traditional coffee dresses, movies, music cds and books, Kukulu Market also carries a locally produced monthly magazine written in Amharic that gives homesick folk a rundown of recent events in Ethiopia.

“The magazine was started because of our nostalgia for life in Ethiopia,” said Retta. “Essentially, the title of the publication translates to ‘Remembrance’.”

And while the shop has loyal following among members of the local Ethiopian community, it has attracted other East African immigrants spread across Chicago (the Sudanese are big fans of injera) and food lovers from New York.

This humble shop at 6129 N. Broadway St. has proven that food can bring a community together and, occasionally, provide a cure for the homesick blues.


Written by Stephanie Caspelich

February 28, 2012 at 4:05 am

Khemararam Temple: Strengthening the Cambodian Community through Buddhism

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The United States has provided a safe haven for more than 150,000 Cambodians who fled their country at the end of the communist Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. They brought with them not only the painful and terrifying memories of genocide but also the promise of healing and transformation provided by their Buddhist faith.

From 1979 to 1985, various religious organizations assisted in the settlement of large groups of Cambodian refugees in Chicago. While some chose to convert to Christianity and Islam, over 90 percent of Cambodians remained practicing Theravada Buddhists.

The Khemararam Temple was established in 1985 by the Cambodian Buddhist Association to provide renewal and strength to all those struggling with the crippling effects of war and tyranny. Its location at 1258 W. Argyle St. is central to Cambodians who have made their homes in Uptown and Albany Park.

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Q. and A. With Jina Moore: Giving Africa A Voice Through Her Words

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Jina Moore is a freelance multimedia journalist whose work focuses on human rights, foreign affairs and Africa. Jina moved to Rwanda in 2008 and has since worked extensively in and around Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She recently moved back to Brooklyn to receive a reporting fellowship from New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Jina will be spending a year in Zambia and DRC investigating “vulture funds,” distressed debt-investors who purchase the delinquent debt of foreign countries.

Prior to working as a full-time journalist, she helped run the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University. She holds master’s degrees from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs.

Jina is the editor of Dart Society Reports, an online magazine covering trauma, conflict and human rights. She is also a regular print and multimedia correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. Her work has appeared on Foreign Policy, Newsweek, Mother Jones, The Walrus and on the National Public Radio’s World Vision Report.

Below is a Skype interview conducted with Jina Moore on Feb. 20.

Q:  How did you get into journalism and secure your first assignment in Africa? Why did you choose to report from Africa?

A: They are both kind of the same question for me. I got into journalism essentially because I wanted to be working from Africa. I was really interested in questions of conflict reconciliation. I worked a lot with Holocaust survivors and Holocaust education before I became a journalist, and so that was my pathway. I moved from one specific historical example of mass human atrocity. Journalism seemed the quickest way to get over there and talk to people. I might, in another life, have gone for a PhD in sociology or political science, but I was a bit impatient so I became a journalist.

Q:  I guess you are doing all of that as a journalist. Journalism has all of those disciplines rolled into one. Did you start off with any particular publication in Africa or did you just start as a freelancer?

A: I’ve always been a freelancer. But when I moved over there, I did already have a relationship with the Christian Science Monitor for whom I do most of my work. I had been an intern with them when I was studying journalism in graduate school. When I moved to Rwanda in 2008, I had a network of contacts there, and I had already talked to people and tried to get them interested in what I wanted to do.

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Written by Stephanie Caspelich

February 21, 2012 at 3:16 am

Cambodian American Heritage Museum: A Story of Remembrance and Renewal

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Cambodian American Heritage Museum

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The Cambodian American Heritage Museum has been a place of refuge and renewal in the northwest side neighborhood of Albany Park since 2004. It has been a source of inspiration and hope for many.

The current exhibit dubbed “The Killing Fields Memorial” was conceived by the Cambodian Association of Illinois and born out of the willingness of genocide survivors to share their stories and the determination of family members to make sure their voices are heard.

“Our building was located at Lawrence and Winthrop in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago from the 80s to the early 90s,” said Anneth Houy, CAI director of youth programs and arts and culture coordinator. “Then there was a campaign to find a center for healing and cultural activities that would be central to community members in Albany Park and Uptown. We moved to 2831 W. Lawrence Ave. in 1999 and expanded, into what was once a vacant lot, to build the museum.”

The two-story building, which combines brick, black steel and intricately carved stone sculptures, houses the only public museum and memorial in the United States dedicated to the remembrance of Cambodian people, history and culture.

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Written by Stephanie Caspelich

February 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Tickie’s Belizean Restaurant: A Taste of Central America in Rogers Park

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Tickie’s Belizean Restaurant has been serving rice and beans, ginger beer and stew chicken in Rogers Park since 1997. It has become a distinct reminder of home for the thousands of Belizeans who have lived in Chicago since the 1940s.

“My wife Claudia and I picked this location. We actually did some research and found out that there is a huge community of Belizeans here,” said Hubert Young, 57, owner and chef. He has lived in Chicago since 1978.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are roughly 4,242 Belizeans in the metropolitan area. Aside from Rogers Park, Belizeans have settled in EvanstonWaukegan, Zion and the South Side of Chicago.

Belizean society is just as diverse as its cuisine. “The culture from Belize is a mixture. You have the Spanish, Garifuna (a mix of African, Arawak and Carib ancestry), the local Belizean; it really is like the United Nations,” said Hubert. “You have people from all walks of life. It’s that kind of a country.”

Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to its south and west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. It is a Central American country that has strong ties to the Caribbean and Latin America; the mixture of influences is evident in the food.

“I come here often because the food tastes good and the flavors are familiar,” said Michael Allen, a transplanted Jamaican who has been a loyal customer for years despite the abundance of Jamaican restaurants in the area.

“You don’t have to be Belizean to feel welcome here. People from all walks of life come in to eat,” said Claudia. “We try to make everyone feel comfortable, feel at home. Hopefully, we give them a reason to come back.”

Written by Stephanie Caspelich

February 14, 2012 at 6:34 am

East Africa Bureau Map

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Written by Stephanie Caspelich

February 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm


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