Friday, September 10, 2010

How Many Are We?

By: Samuel M. Gebru*

I was recently discussing with my Director of Development at the Ethiopian Global Initiative about the truly unknown number of Ethiopians in the Washington, D.C. area and in the United States and throughout our diaspora.

Of course, not knowing how many of us are out there is a huge disadvantage. Not knowing how many Ethiopians there are in the United States can hinder our work at the Initiative but also as a larger community; aggregating data, attracting corporate donations for nonprofits and creatively starting up businesses with successful marketing plans can all be difficult when there are no strong numbers.

For us, being able to say that the Ethiopian Global Initiative strives to represent and serve as a catalyst for X amount of Ethiopians in the United States can be really important when we meet with Coca Cola, for instance. The Coca Cola Company actually used Amharic as one of its five international language campaigns during the Beijing Olympics on their soda cans. This didn’t happen by chance that Ethiopia was included as one of the five languages it used. It was a strategic marketing tool by the company; additional to the fact that Ethiopia is a Black African nation with its own alphabet and numerical system.

In a thinking-out-loud type of moment, what if an independent census was conducted by the Ethiopian Global Initiative to count how many of us actually live in the United States? A daunting project that would be long-term and ongoing with the goal of getting the most accurate number of Ethiopians in the United States is what we’re getting at.

Since many Ethiopians, and immigrants in general, come to the United States from countries that have repressive governments they tend to shy away from political and civic involvement in this country for that same fear. As a result, some Ethiopians might not report and represent themselves, might not complete the census and as we all know some Ethiopians are very well undocumented to live here.

If the Ethiopian Global Initiative conducts a nongovernmental, nonpartisan and grassroots census of all Ethiopians in the United States, many Ethiopians would embrace the idea and report and represent themselves. Bear in mind that the U.S. Census asks if you're Black/African American, and not if you're Ethiopian, so we have our Ethiopian Embassy in Washington saying 200,000 of us are in the Washington, D.C. area but we have U.S. authorities saying 30,000 of us are in the Washington, D.C. area. Which one is it?

It is important that the entire Ethiopian American community embrace this, should an independent census occur. Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, cultural groups, political groups, media groups, women’s alliances, youth clubs, sports teams, doctors, taxi drivers, academicians, parking lot attendants, injera-makers, business owners, students, parents, children, politicians, Amharic-speakers, Tigrinya-speakers, Oromiffa-speakers, Gambellas, Afaris, Harraris, Somalis, all would have to be involved to make this happen; from funding the project to carrying out the project to providing vocal support.

So, who’s ready?

*Samuel M. Gebru is President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative and a Political Science student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. You can contact the Initiative at for more information on getting involved.


  1. AS long as not involving in politics, I am in this & willing to contribute what I'm capable of. By the way, it's a brilliant idea...Go for it, bro!!!!


  2. Samuel,

    Great article but I highly disagree with you statement that " was a strategic marketing tool by the company..."

    First off, a large organisation like Coke will not run national campaigns and spend millions of Dollars to target people who don't account for even 2-4% of the population, even if you were to include other Africans. This is would be less than strategic.

    I believe, it is rather The Coca-Cola Company's festive way of celebrating the Olympics and further wanting to show that they are a true global brand. What you saw in the Olympics was a collection of their localized products coming together and forming a union, much like their 60 or 70's tv Ad.

    I believe Coke's selection of the Geez script which you mistakenly labeled Amharic is strictly due to the fact that other African writing systems do not exist or are at least not widely used to label Coke's products.

    Coke Company was therefore obligated to use the Geez writing system to represent the continent of Africa for their Olympics collection.

    I enjoyed the ambitious correlation however, and still hope we can get a true Ethiopian census in the USA.

    1. Mr. Leul Yohannes,
      You live under illusion, a symptom many finish their entire life. Who the heck do you think you are that Cock would celebrate your heritage. It is a blood sucking corporation does not move an inch with out strategic advantage of raising its profit. You also seemed to be a victim of the disease of "disagreability"that many of us live with. Geaz did not came about to be with out prior some other language, but once it did , it is not called by the language it derived from. Same is true with amharic, tigrigna...etc The letters used under Cock are amharic as we know them now. Dont you know that any language can adapt words from other language, and once it did that word/s is equally fall under the language it adapted?
      We have a disease, we always have find something to disagree. Find somethings you agree and work together on that.


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