ALDABASHI FAMILY MIGRATION STORY
Artists: Jin Jones and Sybille Simon-Thomas
Writers: Wendy Orr and Zach Franklin
Completed in 2018
Link to full Interview video
Faiza Kassim Aldabashi’s grandparents moved to the US from Yemen. They were searching for better opportunities. Her grandfather bought a four-unit apartment building in Oakland. His four sons and their families all lived there together. Faiza grew up happily living with all her cousins in the same building. Each family had a separate unit in the building. They would come together for meals and to play.
Faiza’s husband Ali was born in Juban, Yemen. He moved to Oakland when he was 25 years old. He was also in search of greater opportunity. Ali worked with his brother in Oakland. Then he bought his own business in Berkeley. When they married, Ali taught her to speak Arabic, which she had never had the chance to learn growing up in Oakland. Now Faiza speaks five different dialects of Arabic.
Faiza and Ali went back to Yemen to get married. Their wedding was in the countryside where their families have farms. The food there is wonderful - everything is fresh and organic. The people there grow their own grains. They mill the grains themselves. They make their own bread. Faizi was thrilled by picking grapes off the vine and pomegranates from the trees in her family’s farms.
The Alabashis still have many relatives in Yemen. But life there has become far more difficult because of the war with Saudi Arabia. The main Yemeni airport in the capital city of Sana’a has been destroyed. This makes it very difficult for Faiza and Ali to visit family there. This kind of separation during wartime is difficult for families spread out across the globe. Luckily, their family in Juban grow what they eat. They are not dependent on grocery stores. This means they are less affected by some of the problems of war than the people who live in the city.
In Berkeley, Faiza and Ali run their own grocery store. It is a Halal grocery called J&B Fine Foods. They follow Muslim rules about not selling pork or alcohol. The building has apartments above it. Their family lives in one of the apartments. They rent out the others. They love Berkeley, both because of the schools, and because of the people who live here.