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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on getting involved.