Neither Here Nor There: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Eritrean and Ethiopian Diaspora in America

December 22, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 3:18 pm

I once heard a theory supposedly based in rocket science about what exactly we are; ‘we’ as in this earth, all which inhabits and surrounds it. Everything can be measured in units of energy. Here is the kicker. The source of this energy is not disconnected from the entities around it. Everything that exists is just an extension of this huge energy ball; you, me, the trees outside, the pen and paper on your desk and the stars in the sky. Now I am no rocket scientist, but I understand the gist of this theory says that we are all one. Our tools of perception may make it appear as we are separated. Our two eyes can only see the skin and bones of our brothers and sisters. Our single nose and tongue only tastes and smells the meal we will soon consume. Our skin only touches those things around us which are tangible, and our ears only hear vibrations of air. But we all have that sixth sense, don’t we? Sometimes we feel a connection between us that we can not explain; déjà vu, goose bumps, electricity between and you and a loved one. Am I the only one who wonders how many more senses are possibly out there that we just weren’t born with? Dogs, for instance, can sense fear. We say they “smell fear” because we do not come with the parts which allow us to pick up on an emotion such as this. How many cat owners get creeped out when their feline companions stare at some invisible object moving about the room?

Energy. Energy attracts us and repels us. Unites us and separates us. Teddy Fikre, a man dedicated to spreading positive energy in this world, recently wrote a blog expressing his frustration at our disconnectedness as a people. ( This blog made me think long and hard. We are both involved in various projects dedicated to doing our part in changing our community for the better; here in the States and back home. One thing we have in common is our surprise at the amount of effort it takes to galvanize a response out of each other. He says, “out of 10,000 people, do you know how many people donated to Artists for Charity?… Let me give you the answer, try closer to 0—that would be ZERO”. I write a similar blog on my own site.

My sister and I are compiling written submissions from the community about what it means to be Ethiopian and/or Eritrean in the US. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard and to break boundaries and stereotypes about what this world thinks Ethiopian or Eritrean means. Further, a portion of the proceeds will go to building a resource center for a grade-school in Kutaber, Ethiopia. We are still taking submissions of pros, poetry, artwork, essays, and random musings about life as an Ethiopian/Eritrean in the US until the end of the month here ( In my blog, I say, “My question for you is: why haven’t I heard your voice? I see the number of hits to this page, but we’ve only heard from a handful of you”. ( Eerie coincidence? Perhaps and perhaps not. My first emotional reaction to Teddy’s blog is conviction because I am one of the 10,000 that he directly confronts. I have not donated a cent to this respectable cause and I have absolutely no valid reason as to why. Then I realize that Teddy still hasn’t sent our book project an updated submission.

Obviously, the lack of action we both note and partially contribute to in some way is not an indication of our lack of passion or unwillingness to act. Perhaps it indicates just how insidious and cunning this disconnectedness is in our community. Recognizing the true scope of the beast Teddy and I and hundreds and thousands of others in our community are trying to tackle is an opportunity to get closer to a real solution. There are a million opportunities to make changes in our community. And I am sure each of us has done something to help this cause. I commend us all for this effort. When my uncle was shot and killed in Atlanta by the Washington D.C. snipers as they made their way north, the community rushed to our doorstep and helped us send him back home for an honorable burial. As I run for Miss Africa USA as Miss Ethiopia, online voting counts 10% of judging ( I have garnered over 9,000 votes by supporters who diligently go to the website daily and do their part to help me make a difference back home.

So what is the key element missing that Teddy and I have uncovered here? Honestly, I do not know. I do, however, know that the big picture easily eludes each of us in our daily grind. How easy is it to get caught up in working your fingers to the bone that you forget to stop? Only then do you have the energy it requires to see it, the big ball of energy which is not just our connection but our essence. Whether we choose to accept it or neglect it, love it or hate it, we are one. This oneness is a springboard, a huge natural advantage we can take advantage of to manipulate the events of the future into something positive, hopeful, and effective. Here is the catch; it’s still hard as hell to tap into this energy as we try to keep up with each of our daily responsibilities. I know I must sacrifice, overcome frustration with patience, learn to hope despite rejection, and continue to believe in the face of failure. So I sacrifice my own personal goals for a greater good. I refuse to become frustrated but will, instead, try to understand that the greatest facilitators of change do not live to see the change they live and often die for. I will hope that others will join my quest to see the bigger picture as often as possible. And I will take each failed attempt as an opportunity to better my path towards the vision I have for our community instead of giving-up. Right now,

I am going to contribute to Artists for Charity. I don’t have much, but I realize how inspired I am with each vote and submission I receive and how each vote and submission inspires others to do the same. I choose to be that which others are for me. In this act, I tap into the oneness which will help us change this world. Today, I see the bigger picture. Do you?


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