Meet Rahel

19Apr07

Rahel , a pseudonym, is a first generation Ethiopian-American. She views the expatriated Ethiopian community in the context of a huge social network. And, as a member of that community she understands many currents that run through the community. Most notably, Rahel agrees with my hypothesis that Ethiopians move to DC for the social networking amongst Ethiopians. She claims that, “Once a[n] [Ethiopian] person goes to a place, [Ethiopian] people start flocking”. Rahel in no way owes me for this idea, it is something that has been reinforced throughout her lifetime.

Rahel’s uncle on her father’s side was cited by Rahel as one of the rare instances she had heard of an Ethiopian moving to the United States to a place without any other Ethiopians. Ironically, this caveat strongly reinforces the social network concept. After Rahel’s uncles took a teaching position at a large university in South Carolina, other Ethiopians followed. This man started a small community of Ethiopians within the town, and Rahel credits this to his mere presence.

But, to get back to DC, Rahel sees DC as a place Ethiopians started coming to in the 1950s in the service of the Royal family. On her father’s side, Rahel cites the influence of the Royal family being her Grandfather who originally came to DC for military training as a General in the Royal military. On her mother’s side, Rahel’s grandfather was a Royal secretary who dealt with press relations. Her assumption is that people originally choose to come to DC in the 1950s and early 1960s because they worked in the service of the Royal family and came in connection with the embassy and other government positions. This will require some deeper digging to piece through.

What is clear from Rahel’s descriptions is that her family and the families that she knows have been very tightly intergrated into a community in DC, and that community continues to accept people from Ethiopia. Rahel’s father presently owns a building as real estate and also runs a pharmacy. Many of his employees are people that came to the US through the Diversity Visa Program, and in the building he leases to a fellow Ethiopian who also employs many recent immigrants to the US from Ethiopia.

The strength of the community that pulls so many people in also holds them close, as Rahel notes with the mixed emotions that come from being held so closely. Rahel’s description of the hold that Ethiopians have on particular DC services indicates the closeness of the community. As a college student who is separated from her community by being pulled into the university’s social scene, Rahel finds herself with a slightly different persona, in some sense, with her school friends than with just her family. But, her family is never far. She claims that when she wants to go clubbing, where she might desire to step outside for cigarette, protecting her activities from her parents is a key difficulty. She knows that any one of the cabs that pull up outside of the clubs are likely to contain people who are close to her parents. And, she has returned home to have her parents discuss being sighted at a club by a member of the Ethiopian community. So, now, she must disguise herself with hats to avoid being detected and being forced to have awkward conversations with her parents about going to clubs.

Ethiopians continue to flock to the DC community to be with their fellow Ethiopians, and families like Rahels are bringing opportunities to people that are going through the rough immigration process that they remember so well.

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3 Responses to “Meet Rahel”

  1. 1 lin K.

    Interesting post.

    I think you should further explore the networks. How do people find out where other Ethiopians are? Perhaps you can look at how people get their information. Rumor? Gossip? Direct Communication? It’s really an interesting phenomenon if you think about it.

    She claims that, “Once a[n] [Ethiopian] person goes to a place, [Ethiopian] people start flocking”.

    Inquire further about the nitty gritty of how the flocking process starts. It might teach you more about how humans get information.

    While you think about the process, maybe you want to think about whether as people begin to flock to a location…. do they have preconceived notions of what to expect? Does this correlate with what they heard?

    There’s alot here.

  2. It’s interesting that Ethopians have been so successful in D.C. yet a search of google scholar showed up primarily articles on Ethopian immigrants to Israel. Some of those articles are pretty interesting
    Is it possible though that ethopians group together for finacial reasons? Ethopians in Toronto create loan pools hence social draw aside, it’s easier for an ethopian to start a business in an area where other ethopians are willing to help them out with loans. etc.

  3. Hi, after reading this amazing paragraph i am as well glad to share my knowledge here with friends.


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