Remembering Asnakech Mekonnen (1961-2008): The voice of resistance
Tall, slender, vibrant with bright big eyes, she covered Metropolitan Boston from dawn to dusk, as the first female cab driver. Her entire life was propelled by free spirit and love and respect for the poor. Tirelessly driving her taxi to dangerous places, at dangerous times, she mastered street life early on, and then, gifted as she was, her night life was graced by her golden voice, as she roared the organ, and sung with a powerful voice at many prestigious café’s and Ethiopian events- to an admiring crowd.
The Ethiopian crowd heralded her name, and she, she sung their praises and documented their sorrows, by entering into the deep caves of their private world.
This heroine was Mrs. Asnakech Mekonen, who lived from 1961- 2008. She died on June 17th in the city of Boston, the city she loved, the city to whom it sung, and the city that she served as a tireless musician, after she retired from taxi driving.
Her life begun when she chose at a very young age to be a liberation fighter, when she left her beloved home to fight the Ethiopian Derg’s oppression by joining the Ethiopian liberation force, and moved to Sudan. Her handsome brother, Yohannes Mekonnen of Cambridge city, who himself was a liberation fighter, remembers saying farwell to his sister, when he himself was fourteen years old. Yohannes, her heart broken brother remembers her as gallant, kind, and unafraid to speak truth to power.
Many remember her as a measured woman with a husky voice built for singing, and a lanky body sculpted to move swiftly, when danger demanded it. For her, justice to those who deserved it came first before commitment to the immediate family. Her heart was guided not by the love of family, but by the love of country. Justice for Asnakech was a dispassionate commitment to the needs of the poor and not simply a will of satisfying the whims of the family.
Indeed, one could say, that she set a standard for us all, that justice is fairness to the human condition and not merely a satisfaction of a biological urge to help one’s own family, as the first commitment.
She shared everything she had with all those persons she met. She sung for them to comfort their souls. She broke bread with them when bread was available. She gave them rides when she was able.
Then life caught up with her and her lanky body was savaged by cancer. The disease did not stop her to fight it with the zest for life. She continued to sing until she could not any more. She said no to death, and yes to life. She prayed, walked, danced, sung and dispensed justice to the poor until the last second of her existence.
Her death brought the best out of Ethiopians in Boston. The wondrous churches contributed thousands of dollars from their diligent congregation. Non church goers lent their hands as well.
Ato Yohannes and Mrs, Hirut, Asnakench’ beautiful daughter, express their gratitude to the brilliant organizer’s of the fund raising drive, most particularly THE famously industrious taxi drivers, with whom Asanakech had a spiritual kinship, and shared a way of life, and ethics of existence.
May her soul rest in peace in the company of the Lord whom she will meet as her new life begins and the old life had just ended.