Gama plans to stay in Glenwood Springs |

Gama plans to stay in Glenwood Springs

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Henry Akim Gama was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He describes himself as a mutt.

“I really am an African mutt,” he said, describing how he spent time in different parts of the continent growing up and speaks quite a few different languages.

Gama, 29, said his dad was from Swaziland, who later moved to Johannesburg, put himself through school and got into politics. He met Gama’s mother in Malawi and started a family in Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe, Gama said.

Gama’s mother passed away in early 2007. One of his three brothers said Zimbabwean secret police were asking where Gama was at the funeral. His father died under “mysterious circumstances” just before Gama came to the U.S. to escape political persecution in 2000, Gama said in 2005.

Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, has been accused of numerous human rights atrocities and stepping up violence in response to his apparent loss of a March 29 presidential election.

“He uses the army like his own personal body guards,” Gama said. “He’s got his thumb over the country.”

Gama declined to discuss in depth his involvement with the Movement for Democratic Change party opposing Mugabe’s regime. He said he got involved through people he knew. The party had to do with the trade union at first, but then something had to be done about Mugabe, he said.

Gama’s three brothers and one sister remain in Africa. He said they would probably come to the U.S. if they could.

Gama was working at a hotel near Victoria Falls when he was given the chance to come to the company’s hotels in the U.S. for a hospitality training program.

“It’s not that easy to just make it out here,” he said. “I was lucky to be offered that opportunity.”

After a brief stint in Kansas, he arrived to work at the Glenwood Springs Ramada Inn in 2000. He was supposed to stay only for a few months but the manager at the time liked him enough to convince the company to keep him, Gama said.

He came to love the area and later got a job at the Rivers Restaurant. Among his hobbies, he enjoys golf and being a “river-rat.” He said he’s invested in Glenwood and plans to stay in the area.

“I fell in love with this valley, man,” he said. “There’s too much to do and life is too short.”

His September arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and subsequent close call with deportation inspired a great deal of support from locals. Anita Wan, general manager of the Rivers Restaurant, City Councilor Dave Sturges, Glenwood Rotarians and other friends raised and spent over $16,000 on Gama’s legal fees and started a letter-writing campaign to politicians.

Gama’s been described as someone who makes friends with everybody. His attorney, Mark Barr, of the Lichter and Associates law firm, said other clients who met Gama in an ICE detention facility in Aurora asked for him to say hello to Gama for them.

“It’s really simple,” Gama said. “You just gotta treat people the way you want to be treated. Let your guard down … It’s life.”

He said his parents instilled the sense of “Ubuntu” or humanity toward others in him.

“My situation was a true test of that,” he said. “But I’ve always invested in people. You’ve got to show people love. Show people respect. I’ve always looked at life that way.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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