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

February 9, 2010

Doing Big Things: Eri-United

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 10:35 am
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As mentioned in our recent post – there are a lot of Eritreans and Ethiopians doing big things in the Diaspora.  We frequently post young people’s work on our Facebook page, but we will now also feature people here on our blog. 

The first feature in this series goes to 24 year old Tedros Ahferom.   Here he is doing big things: 

Who are you?

Tedros Ahferom  24 years old. www.EriUnited.com is the site that I have made.  I have also Eri-united on facebook and the Dutch version of Facebook called Hyves. Our main goal is to bring the Eritrean community as much as possible closer to each other.

At the sites you have the ability to chat, listen music, watch video’s, talk on forums, join polls and more things. At this positive way, we want to interact with our ‘brothers and sisters’. 

We are trying to keep all the sites updated, that’s the reason why 3 other friends are helping me out. Without them I could not do it. 

 

Where do you live?

in Holland, Rotterdam

 

What Big Thing did you do?

I designed a Eritrean soccer shirt myself and with help from a supplier I made them.

 

Why?

Because there are not good looking Eritrean soccer shirts. And there are many sportive Eritrean people.  Main reason for designing this shirt was because, I want something all Eritreans can be proud of. 

 

How did you come up with it?

I saw many t-shirt that were made. But I wanted this one to be special and I thought lets make a soccer shirt instead of a normal t-shirt with standard text or picture on it. There has never been a Eritrean soccer shirt made, so I was starting to ask some friends if it would be a good idea. They said it would be a great idea, and they were all excited about it.  And after that I began to set it up.

 A message from Tedros and Eri-United:

 Eri-United presents: The long expected Eritrean soccer shirt.

Are you like every Eritrean person that is proud of his nationality, and you want to show this to everyone.

We can give you now this opportunity by wearing the Eritrean soccer shirt.

When Eri-United designed this shirt we wanted to use the flag and the colours and bring this back on the shirt.

You can also find the colours on the sleeves of the Eritrean soccer shirt. The shirt is made of Extreme Fiber, this is the same substance that big clubs have.

A substance that is moisture-regulating and is 100% breathable.

Available in the sizes: 128, S, M, L, XL and XXL. (Limited edition, so be quick.)

The Eri-United soccer shirt is available for the fantastic price of  € 35, – !

 

You can order this shirt by emailing to Tedros@eriunited.com or visiting http://www.eriunited.com/.

 

November 4, 2009

African Vs. African American Vs. Black Vs. Habesha – “What” Are We Again?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 12:27 am
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marathon runnermarathon winners

Background info:  For those of you not into sports or who are disconnected from the Habesha community and somehow missed it, two Habeshotch won the NY marathon this past Sunday.  Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu and Eritrean born runner  Mebrahtom Keflezighi were the female and male winners respectively.

Mr. Keflezighi immigrated to the U.S. at age 12 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998.  He represented the U.S.A. in this race as well as during the 2004  Olympics where he won the silver medal.  According to Wikipedia, the silver medal was the first placement by an American in the event since 1976 and the NY marathon win represents the first American win since 1982.

To the point of this post:  So a colleague and I have a twitter account (we call ourself “cultural health”) and recently gained a follower who has a blog by the same name as our twitter account.  He asked if we would be interested in writing for his blog and so I went to check out his page.  The first time I saw it I was quickly drawn in and enjoyed what I saw.  Then yesterday I took a look again and saw his latest post is called “African American Wins NYC Marathon.”  I had this immediate viceral reaction and I actually said out loud, “He’s not African American!!!!!”  And with that I was drawn in to the long standing debate of culture bound racial constructs…a debate that no one side will ever win just because it is just that…a “construct”:

con·struct: n. (knstrkt):  1. Something formed or constructed from parts.  2. a. A concept, model, or schematic idea:  a theoretical construct of the atom.  b. A concrete image or idea: “[He] began to shift focus from the haunted constructs of terror in his early work” (Stephen Koch).

The problem with “A concept, model, or schematic idea?”  Each person could potentially define it differently.  For example:  ask 5 people to describe the construct of love and you could get 5 different answers.  Since love is not an actual physical thing that everyone can look at and which exists in of it’s own right each person can have a different view of what it is.  Now if you had 5 people looking at the same table they are likely going to give you 5 very similar descriptions.  However like love, race (as scientists have shown) is a social construct rather than a concept that exists in it’s own right.

As controversial a construct as race is, I am not sure why I was surprised when I got to work, opened up the New York Times online and found this article on how many Americans are rejecting the title “American” winner for Mr. Keflezighi.  Here are some of the words cited by the article:

The online postings about Keflezighi were anonymous. One of the milder ones on Letsrun.com said: “Give us all a break. It’s just another African marathon winner.”

A comment on The New York Times’s site said: “Keflezighi is really another elite African runner by birth, upbringing, and training. Americans are kidding themselves if they say he represents a resurgence of American distance prowess! On the other hand, he is an excellent representative of how we import everything we need!”

In a commentary on CNBC.com, Darren Rovell wrote, “Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”

Keflezighi said on Monday that remarks about his heritage were not new. “I’ve had to deal with it,” he said. “But, hey, I’ve been here 22 years. And the U.S.A. is a land of immigrants. A lot of people have come from different places.”

The NYT article presents these reactions as racist but I am not sure that all people who agree with the above do so based on racist views.  Let me share my experiences.  I am American by papers but I would never consider myself American despite culturally being so assimilated that I could “pass.”  I remember being in Sri Lanka in 2005 and being asked where I was from.  My first instinct was to say Ethiopia but I quickly learned to add that I currently reside in the U.S.A.  It was interesting to note the questioning looks turn to nods of understanding when that last bit was added because they knew what “Americans” look/act like but had no idea what an “Ethiopian” was supposed to be like.

So here we have it.  Many Americans don’t consider him an “American” runner, both Ethiopians and Eritreans herald him  gladly despite his official citizenship status, but politically correct society says he has to be seen as an “American” athlete.

As this book project continues to ask – who is it that gets to define you again?

September 1, 2009

Looking for “Home”: Experienced By More Than the Habesha Diaspora (Part 2)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 4:38 pm
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confused___by_mushy_pea

Reply to:
Subject: A split mentally
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 21:11:28 -0500

As your sister I find it extremely easy for me to relate to your situation…
I moved to Georgia the same time you did, but for some reason my experience in high school caused me to think greatly in the direction that you are as well. When I lived in Miami, I feel like I was in the prime of my life, not because I was young, and had a blast, but just as a person. I was ignorant to the problems of the world and the issues of culture mixing. You know what they say it is sooooo much better to be ignorant. But I feel this ignorance brought me peace and clarity. While living in Miami, I am sure you can attest to this, we fit in. I never thought about how well we fit in until I didn’t fit-in in Georgia. We were all just from Miami and we all shared similar cultures. We all kissed each other to great one another no matter where you were from, and everyone understood us when we would talk about our families, or how we would celebrate our holidays (we spend new years with our family).

Yes it was beautiful to live in ignorance. Now after living in Georgia for five year (I can’t believe it has been so long, I need to get out) and go back to Miami, I notice things that I had never noticed before; and this highly perturbs me. When I walked into (NAME’s) house this Christmas, the first thing I remember thinking, “her house is sooooo Mexican”. Why hadn’t I realized this before? Is it better that I notice now, and realize her cultural differences? or was it better that I never noticed and just said she was my friend that I would bike ride with?

I guess, unlike other places in the states, Miami has created its own culture, which tends to be quite lending and comfortable to Latinos. Allowing immigrants or first generation Americans claim a culture with out the need to stick to their own. The solid lines that are drawn in other places I think are due to ones comfort level with the mainstream culture. Latins feel comfortable (at home) in the mainstream culture in Miami. This also explains why so many of my “gringo” friends from palmetto have moved north of Miami to places such as Palm Beach… because they were not feeling comfortable in the mainstream culture.

This explanation can also be used to analyze relationships…

Although I feel that living in Georgia has corrupted my mind, I would never give this experience up. Why you ask? It is because I was placed out of my element… dropped into a situation with nothing comforting, nothing recognizable. And when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. When you are challenge with differences, whether it be in culture, food, morals, political views, that is when you define yourself the most. When the most contrast if visible and you mold yourself to how you want to be or just simply make modifications. As a person you become stronger and more knowledgeable about why you think the way you think and the positives and negatives to how you are.

You are having yourself discovery period in nyc, while I have been having it in UGA. I have learned great things about myself and of others, and why these southerners are soooo weird. I say learn, learn as much as possible, bc not only does it widen your horizons but it makes you stronger.

Finally, to touch on the subject of relationships. Yes we do tend to flock to our own, and why? Because that is where we feel comfortable, that is where we feel home. Why do you think you feel so comfortable around people you can speak Spanglish to without thinking twice on if they are going to understand? Maybe bc that is what we speak at home. Why do you think I liked dating (Name)? it felt like home… so much like home sometimes I felt like I was turning in to mom…wanting to cook some gnocchi and take care of him. When you meet that special person, not always, but most of the time you will want to marry someone similar to you bc you tend to feel comfortable and homey in those situations. Don’t you want to feel like “home” when you start a family?
When it comes to learning about other cultures… living in the language community I see others doing this quite often. open minded Georgians fall in love with the Latin culture and completely immerse themselves in it. All these girls have all dated Latino men, and the only Latina, me, is the only one who hasn’t. funny, huh? I commend these girls, bc they are trying to broaden their world, but I truly feel they will never fully grasps the culture completely. They were not raised in the same situations, speaking Spanish, with the same morals, or culture. No matter how much you read about it or speak about it, they will never reach it. living it is completely different than learning it.

in conclusion… as your advice: learn, learn and become strong and confident in who “you” are, then don’t worry about the rest, bc you will know when your person comes along, no matter where he is from or what he looks like, just as long as you can see “home” with him.

hope it makes sense…

Looking for “Home”- Experienced by More Than the Habesha Diaspora (Part 1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 4:27 pm
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confused___by_mushy_pea

Because the question around “who am I” have been my companions since leaving Ethiopia at age 4.  Since that point whether we were fighting or they were consoling me these questions have been my constant companions.  These are things I thought about often and when I found others who who related to this sense of homelessness it was a breath of fresh air. Recently I found such an interaction I had by email in 2003.  A friend who is half Italian and half Venezuelan (she was an undergrad college kid at the time) forwarded me an email between her and her older sister. Does this sound familiar to you at all? The first half was written by the older sister and the second half (which I will put in a follow up post) was written by my friend:

Subject: A split mentally
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 21:11:28 -0500

Below is something I wrote…I was just thinking and decided to put my
thoughts on paper…I’m curious to know how all of you feel as well….

I overheard a friends saying that she went to South America and experienced something she has never experienced before. Mind you, I have been going to Venezuela ever since I was a baby, so I was quite interested to see what she would say. It’s ironic to have a servant do everything for you but very nice at the same time. I know it’s demeaning, but it was nice not having to make my bed, clean my clothes, or get a drink of water before bed time because there was always one waiting for me it was nice being served. I questioned myself and realized that I to had the same experience when I went to Venezuela but never suspected it was weird.

I was speaking to a friend of mine from Yemen about finding a companion. So I explain to him that there are certain qualities that I look for in a man. To my surprise he could not relate since back home he is not allowed to date, instead the perfect mate would be found for him by his family. This young man has had the opportunity to study in the United States, and he has had to mold his lifestyle to live like an American. He has changed the way he dresses, the way he speaks, and the way he lives he does not wear the clothing, he does not bow down and pray at the temple 5 times a day, and he speaks to women! Quite shocked, I learned that in Yemen men do not speak to other Muslim women (with exceptions-sisters and mothers). When I asked him if he would like to marry here or in Yemen, he said back home. But why?

We that live in the US live in a very diverse environment, surrounded by cultures and languages from around the world, gifted with the ability to learn firsthand about how life is elsewhere. But does this awareness separate us? Does it cause us to question ourselves, our morals, our teachings, whom we are and where we come from?

I am Venezuelan-Italian, born and raised in the United States, brought up in a Catholic Church with Catholic morals and teaching and yet with such definition, I still face uncertainty. Being able to travel and grow up in diverse societies, has allowed me to learn about my culture and the ones that surrounded me. But it has also caused me to question myself and my surroundings. The more I see and experience, the more I separate myself from what I was brought up to be. I am neither Venezuelan or Italian or American, I have lived differently, think differently, and have grown up differently therefore I am a mixture and then some! Exposure and knowledge has allowed me to live beyond my barriers and feel the separation that I live amongst.

I currently live in New York, the big apple, the city of the world where everywhere you turn there is a different language being spoken. But then you see groups, defined groups of culture, language, color and lifestyle- is it fear of experiencing something new or is it the fear of losing oneself?

As animals, we tend to be attracted to beings that are similar to ourselves, meaning we tend to be attracted to someone that was raised like us, same social level, and the same ethnic background it’s just a lot more simplistic, more comfortable, and less chance of being rejected from society. So, back to the previous question; is it fear of experiencing something new or is it the fear of losing oneself?

But wouldn’t it be great to learn something totally new, learn how others think, feel, and live? Wouldn’t it be nice to share ones uniqueness with another unique being, be totally intrigued about all the differences that both of you posses? It’s an adventure, a discovery of another soul, a learning experience, discovering a beauty in someone else totally different from you. We all have different ways of thinking, different ways of how life should be; which is influenced greatly by our surroundings. So wouldn’t it be a great challenge to learn about this difference and still be able to care and love someone totally opposite of you? But wouldn’t this also be very difficult to accomplish?

I was told that one never stops learning, and that is how I want it to be. Life should be a learning experience and what would be the best teaching is to understand someone else. We are complex animals; scientist cannot even figure us; therefore that would be the greatest challenge of them all. It’s good to try different foods, travel to new places, talk to different people and live an adventure.

So don’t you think that living in such a diverse environment has made it a lot more difficult for us to find people or that one person that suites us? Life just becomes confusing, do I stick with what I know or do I try something new?

I think the best solution in any kind of relationship is to love that person entirely, as a whole not only in pieces

PS: Please reply I would like to know what you think?

August 31, 2009

Sample Writing

Just for discussion, inspiration, etc. I thought people could share work they have done in the past. These are just for sharing and will not be considered for the book (those will need to be formally submitted.) Book submissions of course do not have to be exactly like pieces here:

Here is a piece written by my sister Liya:

ethio kids on stage

spaceball

Habeshannete Kurate- on being Ethiopian
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8:56pm

My colors bleed together
behind this distorted glass
a dimension of my self
stuffing towels into cracks
to fend off shinkurt, berbere
until it is time to feast on
“Erre”… “ewa!”
no licking fingers at this table
no singing at this table
no eating alone at this table
No one left behind
at this table
decorated in elaborate Meskeloch
a luxury woven into everyday
jewelry, hats, shirts, bedsheets, art
everyday.
You musn’t forget Egzihaber Yimesgen
Until the cross burns a place in you
You see the cross at the road between
here and there pointing with all its fingers
Left and Right and Heaven and Hell
Egzihaber Yirdachu, Ye Hagere Lijoch
They will dance a place into eternity
Laugh and praise their way into history
Break bread
at a Crossed place

August 25, 2009

Have you voted for Miss Africa USA?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 3:34 pm
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Hello world!

It is true! I am auditioning to become the next Miss Arica USA! The pageant will have young women from all over Africa involved who can probably relate to a lot  of the things we are trying to capture in this book project! It’s going to be a blast. Plus, the responsibilities of Miss Africca USA are as amazing as the prize. Not only do they give a $2500 scholarship, but Miss Africa USA will also lead several humanitarian efforts to raise support for education, womens’ issues, and children in Africa.

But neither Miss Eritrea or Miss Ethiopia can do it without your help. Voting counts as 10% of the judging so please take the next 30 seconds and vote online right now! Just visit: http://www.missafricaunitedstates.com/countries.htm. My name is the 4th one in the 2nd box called “VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE CONTESTANT”, Liya Endale. Just check the box by my name and click on ‘vote’. Thank you so much!

There are 5 Habesha contestants. To vote for them also, just hit “Control” and “F” at the same time. A search box will pop up either at the top right or bottom left of your screen. Type in a name and hit enter. It will take you straight to that contestant. They should be highlighted in green or blue at the bottom left of your screen. The names of the other Ethiopian girls are Sofia Bushen, Nesanet Loffe, Mehrete Girmay and the names of the Eritrean girls competing are Jordana Burrs and Senayt Gaim. Good luck ladies! And for everyone else, thanks for your support!

Liya

July 23, 2009

Are you familiar with Zewdy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 6:22 pm
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Read our piece on abesha.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 6:19 pm
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Click here to read it…

…so, what do you think?

June 26, 2009

More Talented Young Habeshoch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Habesha Diaspora @ 8:41 pm
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http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/clips/sisterly-talent/1129039/

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