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Where to eat African cuisine in Metro Detroit

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THE DETROIT NEWS — Being a huge continent, the food found in Africa varies among the countries within it. Some staples are seasoned meats, rice, couscous and fried plantains.

Metro Detroit is lucky to have a few authentic restaurants that serve the dishes of Ethiopia, Morocco, Senegal, Burundi and elsewhere. Here’s a look:

Maty’s African Restaurant: A small, colorful dining area that can seat about two dozen people is filled with aroma of grilled fish, lamb skewers and beef shawarma. I’ll return for the fataya, a Senegalese version of a fried empanada comes stuffed with chicken or fish and is served with a side of mustard-y onion slaw. 21611 Grand River, Detroit. (313) 472-5885 or eatatmatys.com. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Taste of Ethiopia: This cozy spot offers a buffet lunch on weekdays ($10.95) with jerk chicken, collard greens, fried plantains, split peas and a fantastic red lentil dish called yemisir we’t. Many of those dishes are on their vast dinner menu, which also includes vegetarian and meat combos, and beer, wine and cocktails. 28639 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield. (248) 905-5560 or tasteofethiopia.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and noon-10 p.m. Sat.

The Blue Nile: Also Ethiopian, the Blue Nile offers all-you-can-eat feasts for vegetarians and carnivores, as well as several vegan dishes. Both Blue Nile and Taste of Ethiopia serve injera, a very soft, sourdough flatbread that is unlike any other bread I’ve tasted. It’s porous, spongy texture is perfect for soaking up stews and sauces. Blue Nile has two locations and both have a full bar. 545 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 547-6699. 221 E. Washington, Ann Arbor. (734) 998-4746. bluenilemi.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 4-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 3-9 p.m. Sun. Ann Arbor location is also open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues.-Sat. for lunch.

Nwanneka’s Place: Specialties here include a large variety of soup, goat meat and yams. Nwanneka’s, which also serves American and soul food dishes, serves fufu, a dish found in Ghana and Nigeria. It’s white lump made by pounding yam flour and grounded cassava, and is often eaten with soup. 27532 Schoolcraft, Livonia. (734) 744-7777 or nwannekasplace.squarespace.com. Open noon-7 p.m. Mon. and Wed., noon-9 p.m. Tues. and Thurs.-Sat. and noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Kola Restaurant & Ultra Lounge: Not just a restaurant, Kola is a nightlife destination with weekly events like Soul Thursdays, Tropical Fridays and Afrobeat Night on Saturdays. The menu offers beef and chicken suya, which is thinly sliced meat seasoned with onions, tomato and yaji spice. There’s also a full bar, a variety of soft drinks, and Nigerian beverages like palm juice and Maltina. 32523 Northwestern Hwy., Farmington Hills. (248) 932-5652 or kolalounge.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-midnight Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat. and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sun.

Casablanca: Named after the largest city in Morocco, this Ypsi restaurant specializes in Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes. Choose from bistilla, a chicken pie, or chicken Mhammar roasted with butter, onions, saffron, herbs and fresh ginger, or get both with the Moroccan combo plate for two. 2333 Washtenaw, Ypsilanti. (734) 961-7825 or casablancaypsilanti.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and 1-8 p.m. Sun.

Windsor: Our neighbors across the border have two Somalian restaurants: Jubba(2000 W. Wyandotte, Windsor) and Somali Restaurant (2127 University, Windsor). Somali cuisine is influenced by a variety of regions and includes beef, chicken, rice and even pasta and samosas.

Pop-ups: There are several chefs in Metro Detroit that operate as a pop-up while they work toward opening brick-and-mortar restaurants. Kitchen Ramarj blends Liberian and Mediterranean flavors and pop ups at places like Corktown’s Brooklyn Street Local. YumVillage pop-up and food truck serves West African and Caribbean food like jollof rice and jerk chicken. Until it’s food truck season again, find chef Godwin Ihentuge cooking monthly dinners at Colors Restaurant the last Thursday of each month. Burundi restaurant Baobab Fare is readying to open in West Village after winning a $10,000 grant from Comerica Hatch Detroit. While they ready to open, the husband-and-wife team have been hosting pop-ups around town. Jerk & Jollof is a nightlife pop-up that blends African and Caribbean music, food and culture that most recently took over Saint Andrew’s Hall for a New Year’s Eve event.

Did I leave out a restaurant that you think should be mentioned in this list? Please, let me know.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.

The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.

The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.

Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.

By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.

The sisters attended high school in Staunton.

The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”

The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.

“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”

Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in Norway.

Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.

Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.

“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”

His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.

When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”

It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.

“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.

“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”

Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.

When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.

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