Ethiopian sisters and co-owners of Kefa Café bring love and positive energy into the community

An interview with Lene Tsegaye the co-owner of Kefa Café in Silver Spring, Md

By: Nicole Howard


I looked at the drink options, written on a black coffee pot-shaped chalkboard that hung from the café ceiling. Lene Tsegaye greeted me with a smile she wore a black velvet blazer, jeans, and knee-high black boots. I noticed a flyer, on the cash register, titled, Kefa Café Hub at the New Library. Lene and her sister Abebe won a bid to build a café in the Silver Spring Library opening this summer. Lene said, “We need to raise $50,000 by the end of the month.”

Update: They surpassed their goal and raised $53,921! Today they will open their cafe in the  NEW  – Saturday, June 20th. (Learn more about the library:

Lene believes when the goal is met it will show that God meant for it to happen. This small moment was an example of her faith. The café wasn’t busy at the time so there wasn’t any rush to make my drink so we continued talking.

Lene grew up in Ethiopia, Africa and came to the United States in 1983.  Her brother came up with the idea to open a coffee shop. Lene and her sister Abeba opened Kefa Café in 1999 and they are still in business. Some people may view success as the profit a business makes, but Lene said that is not how she defines success. Her definition of success is,

“[To] have a place where by the time they leave they are happy; you must have it in you.”

Lene describes it as “love” and “happiness”.  In other words, if they walk in with those things deep inside then she can help to bring it out before they leave.

We sat at the unique tables of her shop, they are covered in large burlap coffee bags, under a large piece of glass. Under the glass, you can find a short strip of paper with the words, Coffee should be something special printed on it. Other tables had illustrations drawn by the shops younger fans.

20150306_142321After finishing my latte, I ordered tea. I got to select the tea bag I wanted and it was steeped in a cast iron teapot accompanied with a beautiful teacup and saucer that you may find in your Grandmother’s china cabinet. It was a reminder that the café is meant to feel like home.

“What do you like most about owning a coffee shop?” I asked

“The community. To provide a space for people to feel at home,” she replied, awaiting my next question.

Focusing on showing love and caring about the community separates Kefa Café from the larger coffee shops in the area. Their motto is: we cannot spell community without unity. Lene explained her knowledge of the culture surrounding coffee from that she witnessed growing up in Ethiopia.

“[There is a] deep culture, and history where people sit down and talk, sit down and make decisions,” said Lene.

This environment is created by choosing not to provide Wi-Fi. “[There is] no internet access, but you get a better connection with people.” said Lene

When it isn’t too busy you can find one of the sisters talking with patrons.  I asked Lene what she likes about owning a business in the Silver Spring, MD area.

She responded, “Diversity and people believe in spending money in the community.”

Our conversation was briefly interrupted because she had to speak to someone about a business matter. There is nothing like witnessing women taking care of business, making decisions, doing what’s best for their establishment.

20150306_141927Lene supports local artists and business owners. Looking around the shop you will find brochures, business cards, fliers. Additional seating is available in the room titled, Space 7:10. It is run by an artist/activist who selects artists to showcase their work.

Learn more about Space 7:10

“[It] makes our place look good and gives a chance for people to show their work,” Lene said when asked about the exhibit space.

Another way Lene likes to show support is her involvement with Free Minds Book Club. She hosts open mics. You can find the literary journal, They Call Me 299-359: Writings by the 20150306_142141Incarcerated Youth of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop on display.

Read the Washington Post article about Free Minds Book Club. 

She doesn’t view people as patrons but as owners.
“Everyone who walks in owns the place,” said Lene.

Lene hopes to employee youth when the café opens in the new library. She wants to particularly help those who have dealt with some difficult times to have an opportunity to be employed and have positive interactions within their community.

Take a short tour of the Kefa Café with photos I took during my visit.

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See the owners in action by watching this interview on Voice of America,

Support Kefe Café by donating to their campaign fund.

View the Kefa Cafe on 

This interview took place on Friday, March 6, 2015.

A Super-Soul Sunday You Don’t Want to Miss with Paralympic Bronze Medalist and “Dancing with the Stars” Finalist Amy Purdy

Oprah Winfrey with Amy Purdy on “Super Soul Sunday”. Photo Credit / Harpo, Inc.
Oprah Winfrey with Amy Purdy on “Super Soul Sunday”. Photo Credit / Harpo, Inc.

If my life was a book and I was the author how would I want this story to go? – Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy will be the guest this Sunday, February 22 at 11 a.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. At the age of 19, Amy was diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis and the doctors had to amputate her legs below the knee. Months later she had a kidney transplant. After these experiences, she decided to continue to pursue her goals. Amy entered the USASA National Snowboarding Championship winning medals in three events and was the 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist.

Her story is one that will inspire you to take whatever life throws at you and make the best of it. The way Amy Purdy decided to do what may have looked impossible to others should remind us all to keep going. She did not just change her life for the better but continues to help others as well by co-founding Adaptive Action Sports. This non-profit helps create opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities to get involved in action sports like snowboarding.

Be sure to check out her book, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life On-My-Own-Two-Feet-600

Amy will talk about the power of visualizing your dreams. Watch this clip to hear about what she visualized after her life drastically changed.

About “Super Soul Sunday”

“Super Soul Sunday” is the multi-award winning daytime series that delivers a timely thought-provoking, eye-opening and inspiring block of programming designed to help viewers awaken to their best selves and discover a deeper connection to the world around them.  Recognized by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with two Daytime Emmy® awards, “Super Soul Sunday” features all-new conversations between Oprah Winfrey and top thinkers, authors, visionaries and spiritual leaders exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment, spirituality, conscious living and what it means to be alive in today’s world.  The series is produced by Harpo Studios and executive producers are Tara Montgomery and Andrea Wishom.

About Adaptive Action Sports

Created in 2005, AAS is a non-profit organization that helps those with permanent disabilities get involved in action sports. AAS has partnered with ESPN and runs “adaptive” action sport competitions at the summer and winter ESPN X Games. These events were instrumental in getting adaptive snowboarding added to the 2014 Paralympic Games.

Happy Holidays from !


The Journey film premiere for Survivors of Suicide Loss Day from a supporter without personal loss

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Coverage of The Journey film premiere for Survivors of Suicide Loss Day from a supporter without personal loss
By: Nicole Howard (Twitter: @Ms_Shininlight)

On Monday, November 17, 2014 I attended the Film Premiere of The Journey at the AFSP Public Policy Office in Washington, DC. An event to discuss and view the film created for #SurviorDay usually includes this question, who are you here for?

Out loud I responded, “I am an AFSP volunteer and came to support.” In my mind I would say, myself.

I received an invitation to the event from Ryan Newcomb (AFSP Area Director: Metro DC-National Capital & Maryland) who I worked with while volunteering in the planning stages of the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Washington, DC.

The space was inviting with high top tables covered in royal blue tablecloths, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks. The area designated for the screening was in theater style with large TV screens on both sides of the panel table. Guests were able to mingle with AFSP staff, survivors featured in the documentary, and other survivors of suicide loss. The diversity among the guests was a clear reminder that death by suicide can affect any gender, any ethnicity, and a range of ages.

Eric Marcus, the Senior Director for Loss and Bereavement Programs, who is a survivor of suicide loss as well, gave the opening remarks. He shared a personal moment of looking at a photo of his father as he sat as his desk in his AFSP office. He is responsible for planning the events that will take place on #SurvivorDay. Next, AFSP Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christine Moutier introduced the 30-minute documentary. She is featured in the film providing expert commentary.

The Journey: A Story of Healing and Hope

The documentary helps bring to light the stigma around suicide, the effects that stigma has on the survivors of loss, and the different ways to grieve after a loss.

A few moments in the film resonated with me:

Suffering in Silence: Survivor Sandra called the death by suicide in her family, the big secret. This feeling of living with a “secret” can be viewed as a parallel to people who deal with mental illnesses in silence. They may be dealing with depression but don’t speak about it. Survivor Alice story really touched me. She shared the moment she found her son’s journal. Alice said, “I had no idea how much pain he was in.” Some survivors knew their loved ones were dealing with a mental illness others didn’t know the amount of pain they were enduring.

(Signs and Symptoms of Depression according to NIMH)

Volunteering as a means of healing: After reading the film discussion guide it is clear the majority of the survivors in the film are also volunteers with AFSP or other organizations. Survivor Kathleen spoke of hosting support groups for mothers who are survivors of loss after her only child died by suicide at the age of sixteen.

Asking for help: The survivors talked about attending therapy sessions and support groups. A reminder to ask for help and to grieve alone.

To find out about Suicide Warning Signs visit the AFSP website:

I knew better than to attend this event without carrying tissue. I was able to get through the film with only a few tears but once the panel discussion began you could hear the sniffles in the audience which immediately struck me in the heart. The panel included Filmmaker Jeff Gersh, LeAnn Johnson, wife of Congressman Bill Johnson, The Journey participants Dylan Kane, Katie Kane and Paul McShan.

After the panel discussion, there was additional time to talk with others and enjoy coffee and desserts. Little did I know I was about to have an Ah-Ha moment.

I thanked Eric Marcus for his work with AFSP and he introduced me to filmmaker, Jeff Gersh. I don’t remember exactly how I began to open up so quickly to Jeff but he listened. I spoke about the fear of speaking up about mental illness in general. People can be told to keep it hidden, don’t reveal something so personal there can be consequences. Friends and family may not know how to respond, no one will want to hire you, etc. His response was the importance of speaking out. These public conversations need to continue to happen. What really stuck with me were the words he said he would leave me with, “You are healthy.”

Attending this event and volunteering with AFSP remind me of the effects that taking one’s life can have on family and friends. The reminder that you are never alone, seek help whenever you need it, and don’t give up.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.

Learn more about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention



REVIEW: How We Got On

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland has become a place to enjoy all forms of the arts. Venues such as AFI Theater, Round House Theater, and The Filmore have brought a variety of artists, actors, actresses and more to the area. October 30 – November 22nd the play, How We Got On is featured at the Forum Theatre. The play was written by Idris Goodwin and directed by Paige Hernandez.

The play blends hip-hop history, old school rhymes, and the story of friends living in The Hill (a suburb in Midwest America), trying to become respected rappers. They look up to the rappers featured on Yo! MTV Raps. Hank (Manu Kumasi), Julian (Thony Mena), and Luann (Kashayna Johnson) are pursuing their dream but deal with obstacles along the way. Idris Goodwin demonstrates the characters conflict personally and the ones they face towards each other.

For many hip-hop fans, especially those who are familiar with hip-hop from the 80s you might catch yourself “rapping-along”, waving your hands in the air, or just feeling positive vibes when you see Hank’s boom box or watch The Selector switch records.

The Selector (Alina Collins Maldonado) skillfully takes on multiple roles throughout the play adding in moments of humor when she is Hank & Julian’s fathers. One of the conflicts throughout the play includes seeking approval from their parents.

Hank, Julian, and Luann come alive as they develop a passion for the art of creating, writing and performing rap music. They become one with the art and the most vulnerable when they experience writing at the top of the water tower. You will most likely cheer along as they find a way to come together and create their own mix-tape. Remember those? They attempt to compete in rap battles, and radio competitions hoping to make it to Yo! MTV Raps.

The script shows a part of the music industry that is seen today-songwriters whose names may go unknown (Hank), as the performers (Julian) bring their words to life. Sometimes the writers step out to give the world of performing a try. A few artists you may know who have done this: Frank Ocean, Meghan Trainor, Keri Hilson, and Ne-Yo.

I recommend taking some time out before the show leaves Silver Spring to experience the music, the rhymes, and the energy for yourself.

8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD

Here are some songs to get your energy right before you see the play selected by Idris Goodwin from the Forum Theatre’s blog

What I Know For Sure (Part 1 – Restoring Relationships)

After finishing reading Oprah Winfrey’s new book, What I Know For Sure, I’ve been trying to complete this statement for myself.  This is what I came up with: What I Know For Sure is love & faith in (1) This reminds me of Ezekiel 37 the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord [b]God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause [c]breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.’” The Love I am referring to is not only in the romantic sense but also in relation to restoration within a family, or even restoration of love for one self. This process of restoration is just like when a plant appears to be dead but just needs to be transplanted – moved to a new pot for its roots to grow, a little fresh soil, with the right amount of water and sunlight to begin to blossom again. Lately, my faith has been restored as I’ve transplanted my mind to a more open space. I’ve allowed my mind to be moved out of a pessimistic, tight, closed space where I can see from my view-point. Now, I’ve been able to look at relationships from the other persons’ perspective. Their actions maybe a direct reflection of their character, which is something that is who they are and just needs to be accepted, not changed. How frustrating, to continue to want someone to be the way you have them to be in your mind, which they cannot see, and/or have invisible expectations they know nothing about or can’t meet. All roads lead to tension; just the way roots of a plant may feel stuck in a pot they can’t grow in. The new open space = really getting to know who the person is and learning to accept that, and function around their true character not the superhero you have created which no human being can live up to. Remove the pedestal and view the person from the realistic perspective. This offers room for understanding and growth. Communicate your wants, needs, and expectations because people can’t read your mind. Once you have clarity on the truth, you can have a peace of mind and can remove the tension and confusion. For more inspiration check out Days of Self Love.

Elizabeth Gilbert answers my question during Facebook Live Q&A


Headshot photo courtesy of OWN Communications / Photographer Jennifer Schatten

Today, best selling author and Oprah’s Life You Want Tour Life Trailblazer, Elizabeth Gilbert, answered questions on OWN TV-Super Soul Sunday’s Facebook page.

My question was:

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?


Today I take my vow to always write! Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert!

Q & A with Jas Boothe – D.C.’s Toyota Standing O-Vation Recipient on Oprah’s Weekend Tour

Q & A from the Round-table Interview with Jas Boothe hosted by Toyota Brand Ambassador Amy Purdy. 

By: Nicole Howard

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High resolution photos above are Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns 

Watch this video of Jas Boothe’s incredible story from losing everything after Hurricane Katrina, to being discharged after 13 years of service in the U.S. Army after a battle with cancer.

Learn more about her organization here.

Follow on Final Salute, Inc on twitter: @FinalSaluteInc

Q.  Do you have psychological services available?

A.  We have a full-time case manager. We also have a  connection with veteran organizations. Some of our residents in the house are Veteran disability rated and are getting support that way.

Q.  Is there anything that we can do on our platforms to help the problem before it gets to the stage where you are helping the woman.

A. People say, do you need more homes? – No we need less homeless veterans. Prevention is the key. I think it starts in the military.

“I don’t think it’s a military issue, I don’t think it’s a governmental issue, I think it’s an American issue.”

Q.  How did you get past your own struggle to help other people?

A.  You have to get your foundation set first. You have to be in a position where you can help others. If you can’t help yourself you’re truly not in a position to help others. Once I got in the position to help others I personally felt that I couldn’t live the life I wanted with so many women who serve not getting what they needed out of life.

Q.  What is the next vision that you have?

A.  My next step is to be out of business. I want to get to the root causes and try to cut if off before it gets too bad. I’ve helped over 300 but there are over 50,000 out there.  I don’t want any veterans male or female to have to be homeless on American soil.

Q. How are you balancing pursuing this passion and still maintaining your family life?

The work life balance is a myth. It’s not really work life balance -it’s focus.  Focus on what your doing at the time and give it your full attention.

Q.  Have any women in your program gone on to work with you further?

A.  Most women who come through our programs want to give back. One way they gave back is through their testimonies. It let’s other women in that situation know they are not alone and their are people who care about them.

 Q. How will you use your $25,000 grant?

A.  The money will go toward the mortgage of the home to allow more women and children to come in. It will also go towards preventing homelessness i.e. help with utility bills.

Q.  How can our children get involved?

A. Read books, have a movie night, make lunches, etc.


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Army Veteran, Jas Boothe – president and founder of Final Salute, receives “Toyota Standing O-Vation” at Oprah’s Life You Want Tour

Washington, DC – On Saturday, September 20, 2014, Army Veteran, Jas Boothe, president and founder of Final Salute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization Boothe founded to help homeless female veterans in the United States by providing them and their children with transitional housing was honored by Oprah Winfrey and Team Toyota brand ambassador Amy Purdy. Final Salute will receive a $25,000 grant from Toyota.

Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

The audience rose to their feet to give Jas Boothe a “Standing O-Vation” after watching a video of her story. Boothe has overcome many life experiences from losing her home during Hurricane Katrina to overcoming a devastating cancer diagnosis. Jas Boothe faced homelessness and the loss of her job firsthand. Once back on her feet, Boothe recognized the availability of helpful programs for male veterans, and the lack of such services for women. Today, Final Salute has helped more than 300 female veterans and their families from 15 states and territories.

Jas Boothe response to becoming the Washington, DC, Toyota Standing O-Vation, recipient, “It lets me know I’m on the right track.” Boothe hopes receiving the honor will raise awareness to the issue of female veterans homelessness.

The Toyota “Standing O-Vation” is an opportunity to celebrate remarkable women who are not only making the world a better place, but also motivating others to spark their own journey of personal change.

“Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend” will include additional presentations of Toyota’s “Standing O-Vation” awards during the following tour stops:

Oct. 17-18              Houston, Texas                   Toyota Center

Oct. 24-25               Miami, Florida                      American Airlines Arena

Nov. 7-8                  Seattle, Washington           KeyArena at Seattle Center

Nov. 14-15             San Jose, California           SAP Center at San Jose

Coming soon interview recap with Amy Purdy and Jas Boothe. 


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My AH-HA Moment from Oprah’s the Life You Want Tour-Intentions

oprah energy


Oprah said, “You’re responsible for your intentions…You co-create your life with the energy of your intention.”

I saw it again in her recently released book, What I Know for Sure”. Oprah wrote, “When you don’t examine your intention, you often end up with consequences that block your progress.”

Intention: a determination to act in a certain way (

Intent: a :  the act or fact of intending :  purpose;  b :  the state of mind with which an act is done … (

Many times we say this little prayer: Oh God, if you just… I won’t ___ever again.

Before we get to that moment a simple pause to stop and think: what is my intention? before acting could save us from those desperation prayers. These prayers usually come with feelings of anxiety, stress, and even self-hatred. It can turn into one ugly cycle.

An example, spending money first, then regretting it once you realize you needed the money for something else. Your intention at the time was probably connected to an emotion. I’ll feel good if I buy these shoes. Later, you feel stressed once you figure out you’re coming up short for a bill payment.

Quick actions without reflections on intention can lead to life changing consequences or episodes of regret.

As Oprah spoke during the first night of the Life You Want Tour in DC I watched this video clip of Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. A great image I’ll think of to remind me to pause before I act.

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