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

April 28, 2010

Exciting new update!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 2:32 pm

The Ethiopian/Eritrean Book Project will officially be extending the submission deadline! We are also extending the book project to include perspectives on the Ethiopian/Eritrean Diaspora around the world!

The new deadline will be determined soon.  In the meantime, get your pens, paintbrushes and cameras ready for the second call for submissions and tell a friend. For details about the type of creative work you can submit or to submit a piece of work to the book project, just visit:


April 27, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 3:45 pm
Tags: ,

By Teddy Fikre

The birth of civilization
The cradle of mankind… See More
The lost Garden of Eden
The hidden Jewel of Africa
The proud lion of Judah
Sons of the warrior
Daughters of the proud
Ethiopia the horn of Africa
Blowing the melody of the undefeated
Bowing only before God
Standing against our tormentors
12 months was too short
To realize your beauty
So God blessed you with another
Conquered by none
Vanquishers of colonizers
Sent to America
Living life on the fast
Have we forgotten our culture?
How long will it be
Before we forget our own past?

April 19, 2010

‘Habeshoch’ and ‘Niggaz’: Is anyone really allowed to say them?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 10:31 am

Certain words have historically derogatory meanings. However, different cultures have re-invented these words which once degraded their people into words which represent them positively and the strength which carried them through a historically repressive time. Gay people can call each other ‘queer’, black people call each other N-bombs, and some of us East Africans call each other ‘Abesha’.

When I was on my journey to find “my self”, there was a time when I didn’t know many Ethiopians. I tried hard to identify with the Black American culture and even thought I got away with it until I was hanging out with some of my local Black friends. We were all in the car on the way to a performance where they would be rapping and I would be singing a couple of songs and reciting poems. Then, like an atomic bomb, I let the arsenal slip from my lips and instantly kill the conversation so there was just the bass-heavy beat looming in the air like a funeral procession song. I had said “Niggaz”.

“You can’t say that!” One of them proclaimed defiantly after a dramatic pause which made the air congeal into a thick amalgamation of tension and ambivalence. ‘Can’t I?’ I thought to myself. As though he read my thoughts, another one of my friends said, “Look, Liya. There will be no hippedy-hoppedy talk. Just be who you are.”

Who was I? Well, I am Black. And I am African. Yes, there is a local racism in America which ironically does not discriminate between a Black African, South American, Austrailian, Caribbean, or American. However, racism goes much further than that. There are social implications in our governmental system which target people of specific backgrounds, both intentionally and un-intentionally. Further, there are residual effects stemming from slavery in America which have not and will not disappear for quite some time. Because I come from a family who grew up with a completely different set of struggles, I have escaped most of these inherent prejudices which reach beyond the local-racism I encounter in America.

What am I talking about? An ignorant racist has called me a ‘nigger’ before. I call this local racism. Education, in my opinion, is the key weapon to fight ignorant racism. Further, education is a value which began in my family generations ago and has only snowballed.  Slaves in the U.S. were tortured, maimed or killed if they taught themselves to read. If a slave-child learned the alphabet, they were likely reprimanded instead of encouraged out of fear for their lives. So the value of education was eradicated with this method and has to, now, begin all over in a time when its benefit is not evident for this group of people due to various social and governmental phenomenon. Is it an utter surprise, then, that the Black American population in this country has a statistically lower % of its people in Universities and Colleges? How about the fact that people with culturally Black names in the States, like Ebony, for example, have a much lower chance at getting an interview for a job even with the exact same credentials as an Emily or Liya? So, while these jobs are being funneled to other people who will be able to pay for their children’s educations, Ebony has to find a way to make ends meet instead of saving for her child’s tuition. I do not carry these burdens. My ancestors were never called niggers. The use of this word by Black people in a social context is only accepted if that black person carries these ancestral burdens because they are the ones who strive to overcome them on a daily basis.

Instead, my ancestors were called Habesh. A derogatory term in Arabic which also refers to the color of our skin. Ethiopia even means Burned-Face People. But today, a lot of us East Africans wear this label loud and proud. The statement we want to make is, “The people you belittled actually ruled the Eastern world, are named seven times in the Bible, and fought off colonizers to keep their independence. The people you belittled have kept their ancient written language, culture from hundreds of thousands of years in history and posses the most prized religious relic, the Ark of the Covenant.” We call ourselves Abesha to really say, “In yo’ face!”.

However, this is a very personal choice. Not everyone has the same sentiment when they hear these words. Instead of trying to re-define a word which, honestly, will always carry some level of its original negativity, they would rather eradicate them from language altogether. I did not know the heavy background of the term Abesha or Habesha when I helped come up with the name of a book project which I am working on with my sister ( Though I, personally, identify with it, I do not want to exclude anyone from this project which centers on inclusivity. Further, I have the deepest respect for all of my East African brothers and sisters and, for these reasons, my sister and I have decided to change the name of the book from “Neither Here nor There: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Habesha Diaspora” to “Let the Horn Sound: Perspectives on Identity by the Young Ethiopian and Eritrean Diaspora”.

Do you think this was the right decision?

Much love,


April 7, 2010

Update on the Book Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 10:30 am

For those of you who may not know, my sister and I created this blog centered around our latest book project. We collected submissions from Ethiopian and Eritrean Americans throughout the U.S. (and Canada) about what it means to be young and Ethiopian/Eritrean in the States (and Canada). We are currently wrapping up the review process and I must say, I am so incredibly moved by the quality of submissions. We have such a strong voice as a community and I can not wait until this book is finished so every one can hear what we have to say.

I am also excited at the amount of interest this project has garnered globally. Ethiopians and Eritreans in countries as far as England and Australia have asked to submit projects for this book as well. With an extension approval from our publishers now granted, it is likely that we will send out another call for submissions globally. Though this will likely add at least 6 months to a year to the publication, I am so excited because this means we will have a product that is so much more encompassing of the Ethiopian/Eritrean Diaspora.

I’m stoked. And you should be too. 🙂


Back in the Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 9:31 am

An iron sits on a century old base made of old metal in front of our fire place like an ornament. But this is no regular iron. The handle, still containing bits of the orange paint which must have been brilliant so many years ago,  is made out of wood with indentions carved for your fingers to rest comfortably as you press your weight into the cotton dress riddled with creases. The shell of the object is rusted on the sides, but the bottom is as sleek, cool and silver as the hood of an unpainted bobsled. The hull, an empty compartment, can be reached by sliding aside a latch, opening the entire top half of the object. This is where my grandmother would place the hot coals to heat up the iron as she pressed the clothes of her 13 children.

In 2006, I went to my grandmother’s house before she passed. This three bedroom home with walls made of cow manure and a roof made of rusty tin was painted white with green shutters and had a natural way of keeping the hot air outside that our modern air conditioning systems can not compare to. The hardwood floors had withstood decades upon decades of heavy traffic from hundreds/thousands of people and perhaps rogue farm animals. My grandmother, in her 80’s and rapidly deteriorating from cancer, still worked. She carried tubs of water from a well outside, chased chickens and milked cows. Constantly in a state of motion she maneuvered this antiquated scene as though she controlled every blade of grass, falling leaf and boulder. This way of life was alive in her energy.

I was asked if I wanted to put kibe (butter) in my hair and I politely obliged though I can’t stand the smell of the concoction as it mixes with the heat and sweat of your scalp under a plastic bag wrapped tightly over your head overnight. But the process did not start until the next morning when I was called out to help milk the cow; a massive thing which lumbered about the yard munching and billowing all day and occasionally trying to fit it’s fat body through the small side door. It was not unusual to sit on the couch to turn around to her gargantuan brown eyes and cud chewing jaws flapping in your face. Next, we poured the milk into what appeared to be a wooden drum shaped like a bulb. I was told this drum was actually some kind of root, hollowed out to store liquid and grain. This tub of milk, which I could only carry with both hands, was strapped to me using a long shawl and I was instructed on how to sit, cross-legged, in the hut behind the house, made of stick walls and a straw roof, and rock back and forth until the milk sloshed to a certain beat: “SLOSH-THUNK-thunk-SLOSH-THUNK-thunk-SLOSH”. After 45 minutes I passed this arduous job on to the farm hand who had kept me company. He must have been out there for hours sloshing and thunking. But, the next morning, they poured the contents of this tub into my hand. Amidst the butter-milk which I recognized by the pungent odor, there dropped a bit of the familiar substance I used to cook macaroni and cheese with at home.  I carefully spread it into my hair, realizing for the first time how valuable this stinky stuff really was.

Today, all over the world, this age of technology continues to transform our lives and push this old way of life further and further into history. I am, indeed, impressed with the fact that I can write blogs for people to read instantly all over the world, play video games with people in China and watch 3-D movies in my living room. But the ones who deserve the accolades for these modern marvels are far removed from the average citizen who lazily utilizes them until he become so complacent that he stops being impressed with technology all together. In the old way of life, equally as impressive in my opinion, the accolades go to every single person in that society. Every one works hard to accomplish the same tasks we accomplish today, taking hot baths, ironing and making clothes out of cotton balls. Growing food, building houses and painting. These everyday tasks come about through the collective effort of the community so every child grows up learning that he has a valuable place in his world and that working hard is the only option.

In my opinion, technology is very impressive. However, what impresses me most is the old way of life which actually instills values into people and can not be taken away by the depletion of natural resources or a technological crash, does not cause global warming, and will enable humanity to survive “real” life if that day ever came once again.  Because, trust me, there is nothing real about living life vicariously through a television screen and consuming products which are composed of so much artificial junk to make them last and look pretty that the actual nurturing portions have been eliminated. Chicken nuggets aren’t supposed to be shaped like animals, people. Strawberries aren’t supposed to be the size of oranges and apple juice/drink sure as hell isn’t supposed to be green.

April 5, 2010

Another Job Opportunity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 12:58 pm

Sharing another job opportunity I recently heard of. Again, this is not a company I am affiliated. I just happened to receive this as part of a listserve I am on:


Civil Engineer


1. SOLICITATION No : 663-S-10-002

2. ISSUANCE DATE : March 19, 2010


4. POSITION TITLE : Civil Engineer

5. MARKET VALUE : GS-14 ($84,697 -$110,104)



8. AREA OF CONSIDERATION : U.S. Citizens, US Resident Aliens, Permanent Residents,

9. SECURITY CLEARANCE : Employment Authorization




The Mission’s Office of Health, AIDS, Population and Nutrition (HAPN) is one of the largest office within the Mission. HAPN is responsible for programs in tuberculosis, maternal-child health, malaria, HIV/AIDS and family planning/reproductive health. HAPN’s average budget exceeds $270 million, with $200 million for HIV/AIDS. Cumulatively, HAPN intends to expend over $50 million on construction and renovation activities. Coordination of Ethiopia’s infrastructure program is complex and includes other USG agencies, other donors, and several Government of Ethiopia (GOE) ministries. The U.S. Government provides considerable support through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). As part of this support, USAID will construct new health centers, renovate existing health centers and build or expand commodity warehouses. In addition, USAID provides technical assistance to assist Ethiopia’s public sector in planning, constructing and maintaining health facilities. The United States is the largest bilateral donor to Ethiopia, and USAID manages the vast majority of this USG support. The Mission has sector programs in economic growth, agriculture and trade, assets, livelihoods and transitions (including a large food security program), health, education, democracy and governance. A major Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) program is also part of the Mission portfolio.


The Civil Engineer will be based in USAID Ethiopia Office of Health, AIDS, Population and Nutrition (HAPN) in Addis Ababa. The Civil Engineer will be required to travel throughout Ethiopia to conduct site visits to satisfy reporting requirements in conjunction with quality assurance and project acceptance inspections for ongoing contracted work. During field visits to work sites, at times the Civil Engineer may live and work in rustic conditions.

The Civil Engineer will participate in the planning, design and execution of new construction, renovation and improvement projects, providing engineering expertise and guidance, analyzing contract plans and specifications to identify problem areas or potential problems with planned construction and activities, and making recommendations to resolve problems. In addition, the incumbent will serve as a Quality Assurance Representative performing contract administrative functions with responsibility for the quality assurance and inspection of construction projects for compliance with plans, specifications, acceptability of materials, methods and workmanship, and required safety and labor law regulations. Projects may include, but are not limited to general vertical construction of health centers, and commodity warehouses. The Civil Engineer will be housed in HAPN and will report to the HIV/AIDS Team Leader, or his/her designate.


The incumbent will have the following specific duties and responsibilities:

1. Scheduling and coordinating inspection visits and all logistical and equipment support requirements with contractors and key partners, including the Ministry of Health/Public Health Infrastructure Development (MOH/HKID) Project Management Unit (PMU), regional and zonal engineers, and district officials responsible for maintenance and operations. This will include requests for information, materials, equipment, security personnel, and transportation assets per guidance from HAPN and in accordance with established procedures.

2. Assisting in the development, scheduling, and execution of field site, quality assurance inspections by completing documentation of deficiencies noted (both written and photographic) and by completing and submitting reports to higher officials regarding the status of contracted work and in accordance with established designs, engineering practices, workmanship, and safety and environmental protection requirements.

3. Receiving and reviewing field project reports for completeness of established requirements, and completing daily administrative and operational reporting requirements for submission to higher officials.

4. Gathering and reviewing contract documents, project costs and fee estimates, and daily project status reports for contracted work, processing automated program progress and status reports, obtaining and validating original and contractor submitted bills-of-materials, and maintaining and validating a current list of contracted work projects detailing their status and cumulative costs with regards to the status of bills of materials purchased and expended.

5. Tracking and compiling all project reporting and documentation requirements to include the receipt and filing of project designs, as-built drawings, test data, engineering field and analysis reports, all design and contractor bills-of-materials, and all project close out and facility acceptance documentation.

6. Attending all required meetings, scheduled events, and conferences related to assigned program and project activities. This will involve interacting with national, regional, zonal, district and other local government and community officials regarding facility/project completion and modification issues, including inspection, security, maintenance, operations and logistical support requirements.

7. Anticipating requirements, monitoring operations, taking actions to keep operations on track, managing the flow of information, making timely recommendations, coordinating operations with other relevant officials and engineering staff elements, and synchronizing and maintaining the continuity of operations within assigned areas of responsibility. This may involve development of agreements with GOE officials to ensure that Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) 611(e) requirements are implemented.

8. Identifying required actions, making decisions and recommendations, and executing activities as they pertain to assigned areas of responsibility, and providing timely information, assistance, and recommendations to HAPN Office staff and USAID Mission Management.

9. Continuously monitoring operations as well as the actions of outside forces that could potentially disrupt or desynchronize program efforts. This includes working to identify unforeseen obstacles and problems, implementing measures to reduce their effects whenever possible, and reporting problems and recommendations to HAPN staff when situations exceed the incumbent’s ability to control or influence them.

10. Continuously conduct risk management to identify hazards affecting plans and operations, and recommend control measures.

11. Effectively manage time and resources within assigned areas of responsibility, to include the synchronization of program activities with those of the USAID FSN Construction Specialist, the USAID/Washington Office of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade/Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/I&E) unit, and other supported teams and agencies as appropriate.

12. Supervise the USAID FSN Construction Specialist.

13. Obtaining, providing, and processing input and recommendations from staff members, and establish, monitor and control timelines, and identify critical operational events affecting operations.

14. Provide daily input and advice to his/her Supervisor regarding all matters pertaining to proposed, planned, and ongoing contracted work and activities, and the completion of other activities as assigned by the Supervisor and/or the Contracting Officer.

15. Develop relevant sections of the PEPFAR Country Operational Plan (COP) and other relevant program documents and reports as needed.


I. Education (10 Points):

An advanced degree in civil engineering is required and the candidate must be a registered Professional Engineer (PE).

II. Prior Work Experience (50 Points):

A minimum of 15 years of pertinent professional experience of which at least ten years must be at the senior civil engineer level. Three or more years of overseas experience are required with experience in Ethiopia or other Sub-Saharan or developing country settings desired. Demonstrated experience in establishing relationships with key public sector, donor and private sector stakeholders is essential. Specific experience in U.S. Government agencies or international donors managing infrastructure projects is highly desirable.

III. Knowledge Skills and Abilities – all required (30 Points):

An in-depth knowledge of international building standards and practices is required. Knowledge of USAID policies, regulations, methodologies, and documentation is desired. A good knowledge of Ethiopian economic and political conditions is useful but not required. Demonstrated expertise in civil engineering – design/management of construction activities and quality assurance is required. S/he must have project management, implementation, design and evaluation skills, and the proven ability to identify problems and develop creative solutions, as well as demonstrated good interpersonal skills, and demonstrated ability to work effectively in a team environment and to solve problems in a technically-sound manner.

IV. Communication Skills: (10 Points)

Excellent English verbal communication skills, tact, and diplomacy, and the ability to establish and develop productive working relations with key stakeholders are required.


The term of the contract will be for two years from on/about June 1, 2010 (earlier if clearances can be completed) to on/about May 31, 2012 (unless otherwise agreed). Within 2 weeks after written notice from the Contracting Officer that all clearances have been received or, unless another date is specified by the Contracting Officer in writing, the incumbent shall proceed to Addis Ababa to perform the above services which may be extended upon mutual agreement and subject to satisfactory performance and availability of funds. The salary range for this position has been established in the GS-14 range. The actual salary of the successful candidate will be negotiated depending on qualifications and previous salary history, but will not exceed the top of the range. In addition, the Mission has a 25% Post Differential allowance. FICA and federal income tax will be withheld by USAID.

F. Position Elements

a) Supervision Received: The Civil Engineer will work under the direction of the HIV/AIDS Team Leader or his/her designee. S/he will develop a personal annual performance plan, in coordination with his/her supervisor, and will be evaluated annually on the basis of the performance plan. The Civil Engineer independently plans and carries out the work, selecting technical and managerial approaches and techniques to be used, and informs the supervisor of progress and significant challenges and remedies. Regular consultation with other members of USAID’s HAPN Team is expected.

b) Available Guidelines: Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAR), Automated Directives System (ADS), Mission Orders and Mission Notices.

c) Exercise of Judgment: Excellent judgment is critical to successful performance by the incumbent and to successful implementation of USAID/Ethiopia’s construction program. S/he must be able to negotiate sensitive issues with GOE officials and other partners and to analyze and solve difficult problems related to program formulation and implementation. The Civil Engineer must be able to provide rapid independent analysis of problems, issues, and opportunities as they arise, and make recommendations to senior management. S/he must be able to review and appraise the quality of reports, evaluations and other technical services procured by USAID. Considerable reliance is placed by USAID on the judgment of the Advisor to make critical program decisions.

d) Authority to Make Commitments: The incumbent has no independent authority to make resource commitments on behalf of the U.S. Government.

e) Nature, Level, and Purpose of Contacts: The Incumbent must provide consistent, credible and diplomatic representation of USAID to high level GOE, donor, and other partner contacts for technical, policy and program management issues related to Construction. S/he will have frequent contacts with high level officials of the MOH, donors, and other partners to facilitate smooth functioning of systems for USG financed constructions. S/he will negotiate with MOH and other partners at State (Deputy) Minister, National Program Director and program manager level on the implementation and monitoring of USAID- or PEPFAR-funded activities, and will advocate to ensure that Health construction issues are taken into account in MOH budget and strategic plans. S/he will negotiate and coordinate with GFATM, GAVI, GAIN and others as needed for HIV- and health-related activities. The Engineer will represent USAID/Ethiopia with multi-lateral donor coordination bodies and in defining donor technical, policy and program support to the MOH and other Ministries.

f) COMPLEXITY: The Civil Engineer will be responsible for tracking contractor performance with regards to projected completion dates, the receipt and validation of cumulative project and program costs, gathering all project documentation for contracted work and funded projects, and ensuring the completion of all administrative and reporting requirements. This will include receiving and reviewing field project reports from contractors for completeness, compliance with established requirements, and assisting in the development and completion of all in-progress and final project inspection and reporting requirements. The incumbent will prepare internal Mission documentation supporting project planning and implementation and will assist with internal and external reporting to meet USAID/Ethiopia, USAID/W and U.S. Embassy requirements. The Civil Engineer will be responsible for managing the contracts/grants, addressing the Health construction requirements of USAID/Ethiopia’s and coordinating with multiple public and private agencies and organizations. The need for decisive leadership in managerially complex and often sensitive, high pressure situations requires that the incumbent exercise good judgment and tact, and operate with substantial responsibility and authority.

g) POST ENTRY TRAINING: The Civil Engineer may receive on-the-job training regarding PEPFAR, USAID and USG policies, procedures and regulations, including the Automated Directives Systems (ADS) and Mission Orders. S/he will also receive training in USAID project management and implementation, and auditing and financial management when available and as needed. The Civil Engineer will receive mandatory training as a Cognizant Technical Officer (CTO) and become certified for that function.

h) Medical and Security Clearance: The selected candidate must be able to obtain a USG employment authorization level security clearance and a Department of State medical clearance.


1. Benefits

(1) Employee’s FICA Contribution

(2) Contribution toward Health & Life Insurance –72% of Health Insurance Annual Premium (not to exceed $20,339 for a family and $7,266 for employees without dependents) –50% of Life Insurance Annual Premium (not to exceed $500)

(3) Pay Comparability Adjustment–Annual across the board salary increase for USG employees and USPSCs

(4) Eligibility for Worker’s Compensation

(5) Vacation & Sick Leave

2. Allowances* (If Applicable): As a matter of policy, and as appropriate, an offshore USPSC is normally authorized the following allowances:

(1) Post Differential (Section 500)

(2) Living Quarters Allowance (Section 130)

(3) Temporary Lodging Allowance (Section 120)

(4) Post Allowance (COLA)(Section 220)

(5) Supplemental Post Allowance (Section 230)

(6) Payments During Evacuation (Section 600)

(7) Education Allowance (Section 270)

(8) Separate Maintenance Allowance (Section 260)

(9) Danger Pay (Section 650)

(10) Educational Travel (Section 280)

* Dept. of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR) (Government Civilians Foreign Areas).

3. Other Benefits: Additional benefits are available for individuals hired from outside Ethiopia in accord with the AIDAR, Federal Travel Regulations and Standardized Regulations, e.g., international airfare from place of residence, R&R, international shipment of personal effects, unaccompanied baggage allowance, consumables allowance, POV Shipment, Repatriation Travel, furnished housing and educational allowances for dependent children.

G. FEDERAL TAXES: USPSCs are not exempt from payment of Federal Income taxes under the foreign earned income exclusion.


For initial consideration:
1. OF-612 or SF-171

Upon advice by the Contracting Officer that the applicant is the successful candidate:

2. Contractor Employee Biographical Data Sheet (AID 1420-17)

3. Contractor Physical Examination (AID Form 1420-62).

4. Questionnaire for Sensitive Positions (for National Security) (SF-86)

5. Finger Print Card (FD-258). **(Available from the law enforcement offices or in USAID/Washington).

The list of required PSC forms above can be found at:


Qualified individuals are requested to submit a U.S government OF-612 which is available at the USAID website , or at Federal Offices. Alternatively, the old SF-171 may be submitted in lieu of the OF-612. All application forms must be signed and dated prior to transmittal.

Applicant’s detailed CV and a cover letter of application should also be included.

All applications should be submitted electronically to

To ensure consideration of applications for the intended position, please reference the solicitation number on your application and as the subject line of cover letter. The highest ranking applications may be selected for interview. Applications must be received before the closing time and date in item number three of this solicitation. Applications received after that date and/or time may not be considered.

ACQUISITION AND ASSISTANCE POLICY DIRECTIVES (AAPDs) PERTAINING TO PERSONAL SERVICE CONTRACT (PSC): AAPDs contain information or changes pertaining to USAID policy, regulation and procedures concerning acquisition and assistance. A number of AAPDs pertain to Personal Service Contracts. Please refer to the USAID website to locate relevant AAPDs. Additionally, AIDAR Appendix D or J also applies to PSCs and can be found at:

Points of Contact

1. Robert Appiah, Executive Officer, USAID/Ethiopia, E-MAIL:

2. Wondwossen Bekele, HR Specialist:

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