“I came from a different world, Ethiopia, a place where I wasn’t made to feel like I was held back by anything… There, I’m the majority, and I never had to live or behave like I was a minority…,” says Eyerusalem Girma Zewdie.

NEW YORK CITY, NY (The Brooklyn Reader)―In 2002, when Bed-Stuy resident Eyerusalem Girma Zewdie arrived to the United States from her native Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, as a Diversity Visa Lottery winner, she was a wide-eyed 18-year-old ready to pursue what she believed was the “American Dream.”

Fast forward 15 years and Eyerusalem, by all accounts, has experienced more in her decade-and-a-half in America than many might experience here in their lifetime. She has modeled several times at Lincoln Center during Fashion Week, attended FIT to launch her own line of handbags, attained a degree in public affairs from Baruch College, served as an intern at the state capitol in Albany, as well as in the City Council; volunteered as an activist on various social campaigns, and then worked on Wall Street at a public relations firm.

Today, Eyerusalem Girma Zewdie is a changed woman from the time she arrived on America’s shores– not only due to maturity but, also, her experiences in politics have led her to see America through quite a different lens. She has always held great pride in her African Roots. But like many immigrants of color who come to these shores with high hopes, she has learned over time the peculiar and idiosyncratic existence known asbeing black in America. Quite a different thing.

“At first I did not notice it; I thought everyone was just living happy and attaining the American dream,” said Eyerusalem. “But when you break it down, and if you look at it closely, you see that here, there are levels to who can attain happiness and who is held back in this country, and for different reasons. So in a way, it is difficult.

“I came from a different world, Ethiopia, a place where I wasn’t made to feel like I was held back by anything. Ethiopia is a country that has never been colonized. There, I’m the majority, and I never had to live or behave like I was a minority. So spiritually, I’m free.

“But living and trying to survive here gave me a chance to see how being in this country can make you feel a totally different way about your value as a black person. And so I wanted to do something to remind people that their value is internal, not external, and that everyone has a right to love themselves and be free.”

Continue reading this story at The Brooklyn Reader
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