Zipporah McCoy's FLAS Fellowship Journey


By Zipporah McCoy, Ph.D. Student, Howard University

The journey to understand the relations between Ethiopian and African Americans began when I was nine years old and read during my personal bible study the scripture: Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God (Ps. 68:31).  This scripture intrigued to inquire of my mother, a teacher of Judeo-Christian biblical text, why she chose the name “Zipporah” and what was significant about the relationship between African American and Ethiopians.  My mother shared with me the history of Emperor Haile Selassie and his advocacy in the United States.  However, it was my visit to the Gallery in Founders Library where I discovered a more profound understanding of Ethiopia’s connection with the black community. 

Ethiopian Soul Food

Nevertheless, when given the opportunity to conduct research on a culture different from mine during Dr. Dawn William’s Advance Qualitative class in Fall of 2015, I decided to interview the Ethiopian community. My process began as conversations with Ethiopian friends here at Howard then speaking with random people I met on the streets of D.C.  Yet, I knew the best place to meet more Ethiopians was at church.  God lead me to search the internet.  There I found an Ethiopian Church.  I met the pastor and some wonderful people who prayed for me and provided me with the information I needed.    As a result, of the relationships I established with church members I was invited by Ambassador Gira Birru to the Embassy to meet with him on May 2016.  My love for the Ethiopian community also caused me to pursue my desire to learn the language, so Spring 2015 I registered for Amharic I.

Zipporah and Minister Counselor Tesfaye W Hussen

After observing my diligent study of the language and hearing my story, Dean Adams-Fuller encouraged me to apply for the FLAS Fellowship.  Once I was awarded the FLAS, I began my studies and I was led of the Lord to inquire of Ambassador Birru, if he would be willing to come speak to my Amharic class on the historical relations between Ethiopians and African Americans.  He agreed.  He then introduced me to his minister counselor, Tasfaye Hussen, who would work out the logistics of the visit.  On July 22nd 2016, I was able to introduce my teacher, Prof. Tasfessework, to the minister counselor as we met to discuss and coordinate a symposium on the historical relationship between Ethiopians and African Americans.  It is our desire to host the symposium Fall 2016.  As a result of my childhood curiosity and allowing God to orchestrate my life, my dream has come to fruition as I watch Ethiopia as she “stretches her hand to God”.  In the words of the minister counselor “Today, Zipporah, you have become a diplomat”.  The Book of Daniel came to mind, which supports the minister counselor’s words to me.  I thought: “Daniel, an exile from Judah, served as the King’s advisor with God’s skillful wisdom, knowledge, understanding of science and an excellent spirit”.  Therefore, I am a servant leader like Daniel because it takes an act of faith to link me with all these people to make my dream come true.  


FLAS and African Languages