WHY THE HABESHA COMMUNITY NEEDS TO SEEK JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN

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A friend once told me an allegory that would forever stay with me. He said, “Imagine a room full of toxic in the air. In that room are African Americans, they have been there for hundred of years trying to stay alive. They can hardly breath; their lungs are exhausted from the toxic. But in that room is also a door that leads to a room with clean air. The African American’s have been pulling on that door as long as they have been in that room, they pull, even though they can hardly breath. They have managed to open it over the years, but just enough so that only an extremely small amount of them get through. Then, African Immigrants come into that room. With toxic free, fresh lungs, these African immigrants are able to pull and open the door the African Americans have loosened. After the Africans reach the room with clean Air, they ask, ‘we came in and opened the door, how come African Americans can’t do the same?”

We Africans, we Habesha’s (A term that refers to people of Ethiopia and of Eritrea, not all people from these countries identify with the term, Oromo people, an ethnic group in Ethiopia also do not typically identify with being habesha although this message is also for them) like to think that we are different from people like Trayvon Martin. Perhaps we are in the sense that he was a person born in America of African decent (African American), and most of us were born and spent most of our lives in a completely different country across the world. We also at times place ourselves on a higher level than African Americas. We think that we, coming directly from Africa, are better than, more respectful than, more educated than the African American people in America. You can argue this is not the case, however, I know what I hear at gatherings, I know the Amharic, Oromo and Tigrinya terms mothers, fathers, and peers use when referring to African Americans. I know the shame a Habesha person might bring to the family if they were to have intimate relationships with African Americans. I know the preference of white friends vs. Black friends for our children- I know these to be true in the community.

I have news for you my sisters and brothers- when we chose to move to America, when we chose (although some of us were refugees) to pursue a life in the country of equality, freedom, and opportunity; we chose to join our fellow black people in the nation. That means we get to access the opportunities African Americans have fought for. In this nation, we get to receive equal opportunity, education, and a life that African Americans have marched and died for. We need to be grateful for this, not only say “God bless America” but commend the black leaders and the black people of America for overcoming injustice and continually fighting for their rights through out history so that we can one day live, prosper and raise our children in a country that does not have institutions that (openly) discriminate.

You see, although we are ethnically different from African Americans and many of us from each other, we are all black. It does not matter what texture your hair is, it does not matter if your skin is a little lighter or darker because at the end of the day we are the black people of this world. So when Trayvon Martin, a young man, a young BLACK man is profiled, followed, and killed with out committing a single crime, we need to be extremely concerned. And then when his killer is found not guilty and gets to resume his life as a free man, we should be livid. We need to be sad, we need to be angry( angry is healthy- it seeks change to eliminate it), and we need to cry like we would if Trayvon Martin was a young man from our own community. A man like Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin, would not have cared if Martin were African American or African, or east African or West African. He saw a black young man walking and he used his blackness alone as a reason to follow him. It could have easily been one of your sons, one of your brothers, and one of your friends

There is no doubt black people in this world are divided. Since colonization, Europeans have used our aesthetic features, our class or land to dived us from one another. This is still done today through tools like Media. For example, the media portrays Africans in only one way- hungry, poor, with out civilization. Then the media portrays African Americans also in one way- as thugs, drug dealers, and people with out respect or dignity. So then, when African Americans and Africans look at the media they are not able to relate to one another and carry what the media portrays a group to be into how they perceive one another in the real world. We then create divisions within ourselves; we create our own communities (which I am not saying is bad) and use those communities as crutches so that we do not interact with one another.

I heard a Habesha peer mention that all her mother said when she heard of Trayvon Martin’s death is that he should not have been wearing a hoodie.

We need be concerned about the wellbeing of young black men in America. This includes young black African American men, Ethiopian men, Oromo men, Eritrean men, East African men, West African men, etc. We need to express our grief that we have lost a young black man and are losing young black men everyday our own neighborhoods like St. Paul Selby, Cedar Riverside, and North Minneapolis! We need to drop the negative perceptions that we have of African Americans and start looking at them as our brothers and sisters, as the people who made it possible for us be in America today and people who have been dealt a history of inequality, injustice and racism in America. We need to unite, especially in this time of injustice. We need to join the demonstrations happening in our communities. I beg you, please, please, open your mind, open your heart, and see this young man as your own. Join the cause, make a difference, and continue to unite even after this great tragedy loses its momentum. It is not enough that we turn on CNN, we shake our heads at this tragedy, and move on.

The African American community needs us, especially at this time, and we owe them.

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A Day of Love- Violence Against women and Social Media on Valentines Day

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Every year for the past three years or so, on February 14th- Valentines Day, I see this picture all over social media. People comment, “Like”, laugh and move one. And every year I am angry, I am disgusted, and just disappointed. The caption in the picture is interpreted in English as ” Happy Valentines Day”.

Valentines Day, in the United State and other parts of the Western world is an unofficial “holiday” where people express love for one another through gift giving, art, etc. What always intrigues me the most about Valentines day is how actively U.S children participate in the holiday, they usually bring cards and candy to school and exchange gifts with their friends. They believe in this holiday just as much as they do in holidays like Christmas, Easter, Ramadan. I asked a young girl what valentines day is to her yesterday at a community center and she told me “A day of love, duh!”

Hmmm…so this picture takes the idea of Valentines day, “a day of love”, and turns it into a sick, sarcastic joke by incorporating it onto a violent image of a man hitting a woman. Because the caption is an Amharic, one of the languages of Ethiopia, I am interpreting both the man and the woman in the image to also be Ethiopian. And the following statistics and comments is specifically about violence against women in Ethiopia and Ethiopian diaspora, however violence against women is prevalent in every society and culture all over the world.

I am all for humor, I am all for critiquing ourselves by laughing at ourselves, but I say this with every cell in my body when I scream THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY OR HUMOROUS ABOUT THIS PICTURE.

The violence that is committed against women, women of color, Black women, African women, Ethiopian women is not a joke to laugh at.It is real. It is serious. It is happening every minute of every day. The Patriarchal structure in Ethiopia’s society and culture results in violence against women. The United Nations describes violence against women as “An act of gender-based violence results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” The type of violence displayed in this image is domestic abuse. A study of domestic violence in Ethiopia done by the World Health Organization showed that 71% of ever-partnered women experience either physical or sexual violence. Of these 71 %, 19 % have been injured, injuries included bruises, sprains, dislocations, injuries to eyes and ears, fractures and broken teeth. Of women who have ever been pregnant, 8 % experienced violence; they have been punched or kicked in the abdomen. In 98% of violence against pregnant women, the perpetrators were the fathers of the child the women were carrying. The statistics can go on and on, but even with out statistical evidence, there is nothing more real to me about this world then the prevalence of domestic violence against women, especially in my home country of Ethiopia.

And you might be thinking, “Chill..its just a picture, its just Facebook, its just a joke.” But Facebook is the new way human beings socialize. Facebook and social media influences the way we interact, think, and for a lot of us, Facebook shapes our day. The fact that someone took their time to make this post and how fast it was shared is a shame. Images likes suggest taking violence against women lightly and do nothing to end it .Every time we come across a picture or a joke like this, our minds start to get used to seeing this type of violence. By humoring violence against women, we dehumanize the women who experience violence. And when we dehumanize these women, we perpetuate the violence committed against them.

Question everything, nothing is as simple as it looks. Think about this picture- it’s far from simple, its propaganda to continue a disgusting part of the Ethiopian culture.

Happy Valentines Day.
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Learn More, the following are the facts I have stated in this post and more academic material to help us learn more about violence against women/ Ethiopian women.

“BBC News | AFRICA | Ethiopian Women March against Violence.” BBC News – Home. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .

Birkti, Hiwet. “Female Genital Cutting” University of Minnesota. November, 2011. Guest Speaker.

“CEDAW: Country Reports Ethiopia.” Welcome to the United Nations: It’s Your World. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

“Ethiopia-The Role of Women.” Mongabay.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .
Kedir, Abbi, and Lul Admasachew. “Violence Against Women In Ethiopia.
” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal Of Feminist Geography 17.4 (2010): 437-452. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.

“NGOs – We & Others » Blog Archive » The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association EWLA.” NGOs – We & Others. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .
“A Study on Violence against Girls in Primary Schools and Its Impacts on Girls’ Education in Ethiopia.” Ministry of Education& Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 2008. Web. .
“WHO | WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against

Tigist Hailu.Formal and Informal Responses to the Recurring forms of
Violence against women in Ethiopia. Reflections. Documentations on the Forum on Gender.No.2. Heinrich Boll Foundations, Regional Office Horn of Africa. Addis Ababa ,Ethiopia.2000.

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An Open Letter to my Grandfather: Dear Ababa, I’m Coming Home

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This is an open letter to my Grandfather, his name is Tadesse but we all called him Ababa, which is Amharic for grandpa. He passed away a week before Christmas, two years ago.He was my best friend and my favorite person in the world. I am returning to Ethiopia after thirteen years of being away, I have worked very hard to see my country again. This is a very special moment in my life, one that I feel is vital for me to complete my childhood and transition into a woman. When I think of Ethiopia my grandfather is the first one that comes to my mind, I loved him so much, so why not write a letter to him and share it with you all. From my heart to yours, I give you Dear, Ababa I’m Coming Home.

Please refer to the list of words I marked with * to see their English translation.

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Dear Ababa,
I’m coming home. Who knew i could speak to you again after you passed, I guess the tragedy of death is relative to those who believe life stops after it occurs. I miss you, did I mention that. I know you come and visit me in dreams and I appreciate it, my grandfather, the lion, the Ambessa*, the intellect, the only one who I believe always made sense in the family. And you still do, this is why I am writing you this letter Ababa*, I’m coming home and I want you to be the first to know how I feel, how nervous I am, I am coming home. I’m coming home? I’m coming home, I’m finally coming home to Ethiopia.

First, let me tell you I remember many things. From the last words our neighbor spoke to me, “make sure you eat a lot of sweet patotoes in Kenya” to the roses Emaye* watered in her garden. I remember the bridge in Gola Micheal* , the one that was always “under construction” and my sister and I always had to cross under it, skipping from rock to rock, to get to our school. I remember the Paste* with Shai* that Emaye used to give us, I remember Lemlem who took care of us, I even remember our beloved Eritrean neighbors who were forced out their homes but before, who I played endless hours of foot ball with. I remember the way our home looked, separated rooms with the mad bate* being the place to be since all of our food was prepared there. I remember eating exactly three times a day, being thankful for every bite I took, competing with everyone for gurshas* and then going to my bestfriends house to see if I can compete with her family too. I remember the crisp air of Addis Abeba, the merkato market place, how if I had 25 cents I could buy bananas and if I was really lucky, I had double the amount to buy one for Mimi by bestfriend. I especially remember Beta Christian, our church. I remember going every morning with an empty jug so I can bring you sebel, holy water, so your eye sight could be better. But even with an impaired vision, you always saw me as clear as the sun shine filled days in Addis. Ababa, don’t think I forgot the peanuts you used to bring me from your days out at the park, or the piggy back rides i used to give you, you thanked me so much I thought I was super girl, to this day you make me feel super.

Yes, I remember many things, small and big, I have pictures, films in my head of what I left behind, of what I have carried with me all of these years in America. But Ababa, I am nervous to return. I am so scared that I’ll be a stranger in my own home. I am nervous that the language and culture has evolved with out me and I am scared that I am going to judge the conditions that I was born in. You see, I am an American just as much as I am an Ethiopian now. I have went to school in America, befriended American people, live an American lifestyle and pledged to the American Flag. Can I be both? I feel like I am both. I am nervous but anxious to see how these two identities will affect my experience in my country.

Besides having adapted an additional nationality, I am also educated now, you would be so proud if you were alive. You always told mommy to do whatever she had to do to send us to school, and you should be proud of her, she did. She worked multiple jobs and raised us all by her self and took care of us, just as you took care of her, she is a woman version of you, I am so lucky to have her. I have three more semesters before I finish college, and every step of the way, I am thinking of you.

But how will my education-about the world- politics- government- society influence my views of my country? Will I understand what I see because I have read about it or will the intellectual material mean nothing when put into practice? Will I be upset at the things I did not know when I was younger? Will I express my emotions? Will I be allowed to?

Will one month be enough time for me to re-learn Ethiopia?

But I do know one thing for sure, I love my country. I have worked hard to keep every part of my Ethiopian culture a large part of who I am. I speak Amharic even when others laugh at my pronunciation and I wear Habesha kemis* every chance I get. So Ababa, if there is one thing i am not nervous about is me hating Ethiopia or my Ethiopian people. This I know and this I believe.

I promise to visit your burial site, I have missed you so much, you are the one man in this world that has given me the love and support that I take with me everyday. Mommy misses you too, please continue to be in our hearts, minds and spirit. Please be with me in my journey to Ethiopia Ababa, I will go home and wait for you to come with peanuts and ask for a piggy back ride. I will sleep in your room and ask as many questions as I can about the man you were, I hope to one day be half the human being you are. I will kiss Emaye for you and cherish your home that I grew up in. I love you more than life Ababa.

I’m coming home.
-“Lula”

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*Ambessa-Lion
*Ababa-Grandpa
*Emaye-Grandma
*Gola Michael- The neighborhood I grew up in Addis Abeba,Ethiopia.
*Paste-Fried dough served in Ethiopian Cafes
*Shai- Tea
*Mad Bate- Kitchen
*Gursha- a tradition in which Ethiopian people feed each other during meals
*Habesha Kemis- Traditional Ethiopian dress
*Lula- my grandfathers nick name for me

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Women Changing the World One Community at a Time: Hawi Awash

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Hawi Awash. A Senior in high school but her imagination, creativity, and compassion shows us all that age ain’t nothing but a number. From a young age, Awash has always dreamed of helping children who face and live in economic disparity. She and her family lived in several East African countries and she knows first hand, how hard life can be with out the basic needs of survival. Instead of turning her head away from her people and working on her self and her own needs when she came to the United States, Awash has chosen to give back to Africa.
At the age of fifteen, Awash organized an event for charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Through this non-profit, she helped raise 8,000 dollars for children in East Africa that have HIV/AIDS. Awash was also crowned Miss Teen Africa 2012 and Diamond Doll Beauty Queen 2012. These titles give her opportunities to host community events and empower youth like herself. Awash is currently working on a virtual campaign, “Life In a Glass”, she is working with Charity Water again to fundraise just in time for the holiday season.
There were many women I could of chose to start the series of posts about women who are changing the world, one community at a time. However, I chose Awash because of her age, her past, and her bright future. She is still a teenager, the only time when it is socially acceptable to focus only on oneself and worry about the world later. However, Awash, at such a youthful age has chosen to worry about the world today and even more inspirational, to do something about it. If she can do it, than why cant we all? It is young women like her that gives us hope that the future of East Africa is in caring hands.
Awash lives by a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, ““The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

If you would like to know a way to contact Hawi Awash for professional reasons, you may write in the comment box below and we will pass on your message.

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Why Should you Continue to Follow East African Girl? VIDEO!

Check this Video out. In the comment box below, let us know what you would like to read, know more about, and see on this site. Thank you!

How Beauty can lead to Genocide

This

Miss Ethiopia 2009, Melat Yante 4

Can Lead to This.

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Believe it.

The picture I have posted above is of an East African woman and the second, young boys dead in the Rwandan Genocide. 

The Rwandan Genocide. Where did it stem from? A Genocide that took the lives of  800,000 people, how did its begin? Who planted the ideas of a superior race into the minds of the Rwandan people? And why does it continue in Congo today? Here is how Beauty leads to Genocide.

Author and Journalist Philip Gourevitch in the the book We Wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be Killed with our families Stories From Rwanda tells us the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide Gourevitch explains to the reader how one of the root causes of Genocide was the “difference” in the appearance of Hutus and Tutsis. This is called Racial Science.  I am quoting this book through out this post.

The Hamtic hypothesis founded by Englishman John Hanning Speke in 1863 says that “all culture and civilization in central Africa had been introduced by the taller, sharper-featured people, whom he considered to be Caucasoid tribe of Ethiopian origin, descended from the biblical King David, and therefore a superior race to the native Negroids.” ( 51) Basically, white looking Africans will introduce civilization to black looking Africans.

Speke kept a journal, Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, this journal was devoted to and used biblical references to explain why dark Africans are inferior to the white human being. In a journal called Fauna he says, “…take man–the true curly-head, flab-nosed, pouch-mouthed negro…How the negro has lived so many ages without advancing seems marvelous, when all the countries surrounding Africa are so forward in caparison...the African must soon either step out from his darkness, or be superseded by a being superior to himself.” (52)

So while in Africa, Speke discovered a “superior” set of people. these people had “Fine oval faces, large eyes, and high noses, denoting the best of blood of Abyssinia( Ethiopia).” During this time, it is important to note that The tutsis were a tribe in Ethiopia. Speke liked these peoples bridged noses- he labeled them lost christians and suggested with training they can be superior like the English people.

“Few Rwandans would deny that the Hamatic myth is one of the essential ideas by which they understand who they are in this world.” (53)

So this is how the story goes. After Speke, there was justification among Europeans to enslave, colonize and rule over the dark man. After European powers held a conference in 1885 to divide the African states which they would colonize, ethnic groups were designated a state to which they did not have a say in belonging to. Rwanda was awarded to East Germany and soon after WWI, Belgium colonized Rwanda.

Colonization takes strategy, Europeans did not simply come into Africa with guns and try to enslave the people. No, they came in calm, smiling, “worked” with the current leaders to attain what they want. In Rwanda, Belgium used the Speke analysis of the dark man to name Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic groups, differentiate the two by having scientists measure their noses, and administered Tutsis to be their chiefs. They encouraged Tutsis to exploit and degrade Hutus and placed one group above another. Rwanda wasn’t Rwanda anymore, it was a country where the law of the land declared Tutsis better than Hutus.

Long Story short, in 1957, a group of the” inferior” race, Hutus, published the Hutu Manifesto which argued for a majoritarian democracy- embraced the Hamatic myth- argued the Hutu people were the original the rightful leaders of the nation since bridge nosed Tutsis were from Ethiopia. They wanted their country back. decades later, 800,000 Rawandas would be killed so Hutus can Rule Rwanda again.

all of this because one white man liked one persons nose better than another persons nose.

I write this post not to only share the history of the Rwandan Genocide, but to show you, how labeling something more attractive than another can lead to preference, which as seen above leads to tragic events such as genocides. East Africans from countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are often praised for their Eurocentric beauty. But should we proud that we were labeled beautiful by a white scientist that caused ethnic conflict and deaths of thousands of people? Should we proud that this very notion is what justified slavery, and rape of  women, in North America 300 years ago? Is it fair to leave out our sisters in these countries that were not praised by Mr. Speke? You tell me, are East African women now colonized through prostitution in placed like Dubai? Is it colonization that leads dark women to bleach their skin in hopes of making it lighter? Do we perpetuate and use Spekes lies  in our personal lives? We need to ask and answer these questions for

 beauty leads to Genocide and it has the power to lead to Genocide again.

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Post Coming soon about this

“Ethiopian girl Ethiopian girl with yo long curly hair and yo big ass booty Reading all them pro black pro female books
Just let em let em know that you ain’t no groupie”

The Foundation of a Home

East African home

On any given day, when you walk into an East African home, you are welcomed with open arms. Mothers will ask you if you are hungry, you might say no, but you will be given food anyways. You might come out that home smelling like incense, coffee, or spices. And more than likely, you will be invited back.

I would like to welcome you to your virtual home. This blog was inspired by the recent (actually very historic) fascination of East African women especially in the hip hop industry. I came across young women identifying with the term East African girl on their social media accounts, quoting artists like Drake and admiring models and women in videos because they too are East African. And I thought but we are more than our looks, why is there a fascination with soft curls and a carmel complexion when that description is only part of our identity and a description of a fraction of our women. Do these young women know the implication behind what they are quoting? What they are praising?*

*East African women in Hip  Hop will be the post following this one

So from that inspiration, came more ideas. We want a place dedicated to all things related to East African women. We have yet to specify the countries we will cover because we expect to work with brilliant women to share with you their views, we are going to make this blog as representative as we can by incorporating bloggers of different backgrounds . We are open to ideas although we will touch upon beauty-philanthropy-conflict-music- change- history- current events in the South and West. all things we feel is relevant at the time to me, to you, to us.

We will have guest bloggers to give a diverse voice to this blog. We will also highlight East African women and girls creating and implementing change in their communities so we can continue to inspire and learn from one another.

So it is my hope that you come into this home we are building. We are the mothers who want to welcome you and place views, ideas, questions on your plate. It is going to be respectful yet fierce, and every opinion will be challenged. Come in, and leave the door open.

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