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Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Molly Gallagher April 18, 2024

On Wednesday, April 17, the boys’ varsity tennis team dominated their match against Archie Williams in the semi-finals of the Marin County...

Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Emma Rosenberg and Penelope Trott April 18, 2024

On April 18, the girls’ varsity lacrosse team battled against the Branson Bulls in a blowout senior day matchup. Prior to the start of...

 embracing his coach senior Auden Braden celebrates his final MCAL regular season game
Boys’ volleyball dominates Marin Catholic on Senior Night
Richard Byrne April 18, 2024

On April 17th, the boys’ varsity volleyball team faced off against Marin Catholic (MC) in a Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) game. The...

Shining a spotlight on YEMA’s black owned boutique

Hawi Awash and Yema Khalif showcase their products at a fashion show.

Yema Khalif and Hawi Awash first opened YEMA in Tiburon at the beginning of 2020 with a vision of success and a goal for love and peace. Bright clothing with unique designs is available for customers seven days a week, consistently staying open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. However, YEMA is not just a flourishing business because of its hours of operation but also the passion behind the scenes of Khalif and Awash.

During Khalif’s upbringing, he became aware of the lack of education surrounding him. However, when offered a scholarship to study communication and design at Dominican University in San Rafael, Khalif felt inspired to begin pursuing a cause bigger than himself. He and his soon-to-be wife, Awash, met at Dominican and started sketching a plan for crafting their empowering clothing brand. Since the planning began, the couple has always envisioned embracing their community with warmth and positivity. They always knew they would be doing much more than just selling unique clothes.

“Our message is for people to love each other and for people to support brands that are making a beautiful impact on the world,” Khalif said.

Amber Allen-Peirson, an influential poet, activist and educator, confirms that Khalif and Awash do an excellent job of representing YEMA with their kind-hearted traits and colorful clothes. Peirson became more familiar with Khalif and Awash after an incident of discrimination became publicized across Tiburon and the larger Marin County. 

In August 2020, when Khalif went to enter his store, he was interrogated by a police officer who questioned his ownership. The officer asked Khalif to show his keys as proof, and when he resisted, the officer began clutching his gun. The tension continued until a neighbor yelled from a window that he knew Khalif and could confirm his ownership. 

After hearing about this incident, Peirson began organizing a protest to bring attention to the hostility and threat from Khalif’s interaction with the officer. Through this experience, Peirson quickly gained gratitude for Khalif and Awash’s refreshing personality. 

“They just have this beautiful compassion for the whole community,” Peirson said. Although the way Peirson was introduced to YEMA and its owners was overwhelmingly negative, the positivity that came from it was even more significant. 

“I think I’m lucky to have gotten closer and learned more about YEMA through that incident, as painful as it was,” Peirson said. 

Moving forward, Peirson greatly supported Khalif and Awash in the strides they took toward expanding their business. Peirson emphasized her appreciation of the ideas Khalif and Awash present through their designs. 

 “One of the reasons he uses the giraffe so much in his logo and has the heart as its logo is because giraffes have huge hearts. That’s a great way to describe [Khalif]. He has such an infinite heart,” Peirson said.

Yema Khalif smiles proudly to represent his business.

While YEMA has been a thriving business for multiple years, Khalif acknowledges the biggest reward is not success or money but appreciation from his supporters. 

“Ultimately, I think for me the biggest achievement is seeing people appreciate what we are doing and supporting the mission of the brand,” Khalif said.

Khalif sees the value of giving back to his community as a number one priority.

 “We make dope stuff, we sell them and then we take 20 percent of that to send it back home to kids [to help them] go to school,” Khalif said. 

YEMA has already achieved great success. In addition to its profits, YEMA has expanded its range of locations and received opportunities for widespread publicity.

 “We’ve done a lot of great fashion shows, like the New York Fashion Show. We had a New York shop in SoHo [and] that was a [tremendous] achievement for us as well,” Khalif said.

Khalif consistently demonstrates immense selflessness through his actions; as the owner of a successful business, he continuously gives back. 

“Don’t empower yourself and then just keep all the power to yourself. Spread it out,” Khalif said. 

Even though their achievements are receiving recognition in local media, Khalif and Awash still aspire to create a better world and community for children in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Clothing is displayed so customers can shop with ease at YEMA.

 “Among the best achievements, we have kids that we send to school. We want to see how we can educate kids. And then number two, we also just want to do good in the world,” Khalif said. 

Khalif makes monthly visits to Kenya and Ethiopia to see his impact on numerous children as he gives them the opportunity for education. 

Throughout the process of developing his business, he faced some significant challenges that required lots of persistence to overcome. YEMA opened at the beginning of 2020 but took years to get started. 

“It took us around two years to get it right; the first few runs were a little challenging,” Khalif said. 

Within these two years of trial and error, Awash and Khalif devoted significant amounts of their time to traveling in search of quality fabrics from trusted suppliers while simultaneously considering feedback and criticism. While trying to kick off the opening of YEMA, a bit of unfortunate timing came up, forcing Awash and Khalif to find ways to persist. Opening the Tiburon location at the height of COVID-19 was risky, but with passion and grit, Awash and Khalif were able to keep their business alive. Khalif explained that trusting himself and his wife throughout the process was a key piece to doing so.

For Khalif, failing as a business also meant failing the children in Kenya and Ethiopia who wanted an education. With this crucial factor in mind, he was motivated to continue the pursuit of success in his business to give back to deserving children in these foreign countries.

Moving forward, Awash and Khalif are eager to expand their business even further. With a positive mindset, the couple is enthusiastic to find room for improvement.
“We always ask, ‘How can we make an impact on the world?’” Khalif said.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Evelyn Spiegel
Evelyn Spiegel, AJAM Reporter
Evelyn Spiegel is a Junior at Redwood high school and is a reporter for the Advanced Journalism and Media Program. She enjoys playing soccer and spending time with friends.
Anya Ghazi, Copy Editor
Anya Ghazi is a junior at Redwood High School and is a Copy Editor for the Arts and Media Program. She enjoys playing volleyball and hanging out with her friends.