Episode 42: How Yema Khalif, the Kenyan-born owner of the only black-owned business in a small California town, stood up to racist cops and triggered a movement that ended their careers

One of the most successful protests against police brutality following the killing George Floyd happened in Tiburon, Calif., where a police officer resigned and the police chief was forced to retire early. We speak with Yema Khalif, the owner of YEMA, the only black business in the town of 9,000, whose harassment by cops led to outrage from the community.

Yema Khalif. Photo: Courtesy.

Khalif’s is the ultimate story of resilience. He was born and raised in one of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera, which is located in Nairobi, Kenya. After struggling to graduate from high school because of his parents’ lack of funds to pay for his education, Khalif got a rare opportunity to come to the United States to study at Dominican University of California, where he graduated from in 2015, before continuing to earn a master’s degree from the same university.

Rather than follow the traditional route of seeking a white-collar job, he decided to become an entrepreneur, fashion designer, and philanthropist. With his Ethiopian-born wife Hawi Awash, they founded YEMA, an African clothing store in Tiburon, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.