For Kedist Girma, the road to homelessness started with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint that she filed against the U.S. Department of State in 2004. Ever since, she said she has been stalked various times and harassed by the police. She also believes that the government might be using the U.S.A. Patriot Act against her.
Girma was hired for a three-month clerkship at the U.S. State Department. While she was on the job, she felt she experienced ethnic and racial discrimination. She filed a complaint, but her case was dismissed. Her worries that the government is seeking retribution have haunted her ever since.
Girma’s claims against the U.S. government might fill several densely typed pages. She has pictures of helicopters and small airplanes flying overhead and police reports on stolen items including her U.S. passport, her social security card and other identification cards.
Still, it takes a leap of faith to join her in her version of the story.
Girma was born in Ethiopia and moved to America when she was about seven years old. She was reunited with her mother, who had left for America when Girma was a newborn. Girma eventually obtained U.S. citizenship and graduated from Howard University with a degree in history. While at Howard, she was offered the summer clerkship at the U.S. Department of State.
Her clerkship did not go well. In addition to the discrimination Girma said she experienced, she complained to superiors that her email messages had been tampered with. In response to her complaints, a U.S. State Department official named Richard M. Esper said in an email thread she has kept:
“I advised her that the charge that her emails are being monitored and edited/changed is outrageous and that I will not pursue the matter.”
Girma’s suspicions of government surveillance have only been compounded since then. A man who she says was her brother, Brook T. Genet, 29, was killed in an armed standoff with the Prince George’s County police in August 2008. According to the press, he suffered from bipolar disorder.
Girma filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming that under the Patriot Act, the government is using many means to spy on her, invade her privacy and violate her human and civil rights in retaliation against her for filing the EEOC complaint. She also claims her brother’s death was part of the larger scheme against her.
Her case was dismissed. When Girma appealed, the United States Court of Appeals responded, “The district court properly dismissed the complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C SS 1915 (e)(2)(B)(i).”
But Girma has not given up hope, she says.
“The judges have been seemingly understanding but not to the point to have someone prosecute the individuals who are perpetrating these hideous acts,” Girma says.
She has appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Girma is living with a relative since she was evicted from her apartment. She is multilingual and enjoys studying, particularly reading about international affairs.
“I love seeking knowledge,” she says. She sells Street Sense, not only in the District but in the city’s suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
Girma also has established a small business, KEDIST.LLC, to promote tourism and cultural events in Ethiopia and to assist orphans, nuns and mental patients in the country of her birth.
She would love to see the establishment of a iconic and historical museum in Addis Ababa that would attract tourists to the country.