Habeshas: It’s Our Time


By Noah Tesfaye, Staff Writer

Hi! My name is Noah Tesfaye, I’m from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and no, my family does not starve. Most of us don’t live in shacks, although some of my family does, and we do not have AIDS. As a student of a particular minority group in this area, I struggle to understand the necessity that I must explain who I am, where I’m from and what Ethiopia is like to everyone I know.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are countries that do suffer from poverty and severe corruption, but that does not define who we truly are. We are the only African country that was not colonized by Europe and we are the home of the Ark of the Covenant. We are the origin of human beings and home to that food you eat and leave five star reviews on Yelp about because Mark Zuckerberg went there.

Being Habesha, Ethiopian or Eritrean means you’re part of a culture of resilience. We’ve overcome the Italians, fought against communism, and we are still fighting today for true democracy throughout both countries. I mean, when your uncle has arguments with your Eritrean grandma about how one of her “friends,” Isaias Afewerki, is a dictator putting his people through human rights violations equal to North Korea. There is no shortage of arguments between Eritreans and Ethiopians, and among Tigrays and Oromos and Amharas within Ethiopia itself.

But being Habesha here in the 21st Century, and now in 2018, there are more people who are mainstream who are representing our culture in ways I could have never thought possible. There’s the most famous Habesha in the world, the guy who shares my last name, Abel Tesfaye, better known as “The Weeknd,” who just released his EP three weeks ago and is taking over R&B and pop with his moody, dark tunes. There’s also an Eritrean you may know named Tiffany Haddish, a comedian who starred in “Girl’s Trip” and hosted SNL last fall. Do you know someone named Adam Aminé Daniel, known as “Aminé,” a rapper from Portland with a gold album and a song named “Caroline” that has over 300 million plays on Spotify?

These people are not just citizens who are from Habesha descent; they are people who embrace this culture I’m so proud to call my own, never shying away from expressing their heritage. Abel used samples of the Ethiopian Beyoncé and Aster Awok, and Tiffany Haddish wore an Eritrean dress to the Oscars.

Ethiopia is shown as a place where millions are starving and dying on the news. We’re going through serious government conflict, and we are struggling to find ourselves as a nation. Yet, we are more than that. We are a group of people who have had parents who have struggled to work their way up in the western world to make a name for themselves. We love to make arguments out of nothing and drink any coffee except Starbucks. And we are working our hardest to make a name for our culture, and remind the world, we are more than just the famines or a destination for the humanitarian trips your volunteer group or church take. We are more than our internal conflicts and growing pains into democracy. We are Habesha, and we are not going anywhere.