What I am writing applies to more than just Ethiopians; whenever I write about culture, history or injustices related to my birth land, it is germane to humanity as a whole. After all, we are all interconnected, what robs one of hope is the same source that steals joys from billions throughout the globe. Likewise, the pathway to redemption for one nation is the same walkway for those who suffer throughout the world. So read these words I present to you, regardless of your nationality, ethnicity or identity, as one that applies equally to your culture and community irrespective of the borders and dialects that separate us.
I write this as a preface to something that has been bugging me for quite a while. I am sure a lot of my fellow Ethiopians think I make a mountain of a molehill when I criticize people for the words they choose to call themselves and our nation by extension. It’s one thing to adapt and learn other languages–after all, I am writing this article in English. But it’s a whole other matter when we choose to pervert our culture and bastardize our heritage by calling ourselves insulting words given to us by others and renaming profound aspects of our custom by mimicking the customs of the very invaders who tormented our ancestors.
Take for example the flag of Ethiopia. When I was searching for the picture you see above, I Googled the word “bandira”–I’ll be damned if the first page of Google was not populated with pictures of endless Ethiopians holding up our sendek alema. Let me put this into a stark perspective, bandira is an Italian word for flag. Sendek alema is the Amharic word for our flag–there are more Ethiopians waving our flag and presenting it as a bandira than there are Italians doing that for their flag! Let that sink in for a minute. You see, our sendek alema was the rallying cry for our forefathers as they united in order to repel the Italian army in the battle of Adwa. Our ancestors bled and died so their children would not submit to the Italian bandira. Anyone who betrayed their nation and joined the Italian side was branded a banda (traitor)–a banda was one who bowed to the bandira.
What our forefathers died to prevent, their future children would erase; the present generation of Ethiopians now gladly submit to the bandira by calling our sendek alema a word that was the casus belli of Adwa. It is a point of pride for Ethiopians to go around proclaiming “we have never been colonized!” Nothing but empty pride and bravado; kura becha as our people say it. We let ourselves be colonized by compliance as we go around calling ourselves habesha and calling our sendek alema bandira. What imperialists could not do with guns, the children of Ethiopia have accomplished by way of “education” and chasing western acceptance. Every day, Ethiopians take a machete to our culture as they hack away at a three thousand year history of a biblical nation each time they refer to themselves as habesha and bow before bandiras.
This is what happens when a people are led not by wisdom but by negligence. What I am writing about has real life consequences; when we vacate the field and don’t own our narratives, our narratives are written for us by others. Go to Twitter and type in Ethiopia and you will see more non-Ethiopians than Ethiopians telling our stories for us. In more cases than not, these narratives display us in a most unkind light. Yet type in habesha and you will see a flock of unwitting Ethiopians gloating that they are habesha not understanding that the word habesha was the most egregious of insults given to us by Arab invaders. I love Arab people and love their culture, but I do not take kindly to ANYONE insulting me and I’ll be damned if I take insults that are given to me by others and wear it as some sort of badge of pride.
There is a video on YouTube where an Ethiopian man was being beaten savagely as he was being asked what he was. He insisted and said he was Ethiopian, a bunch of Saudi thugs bludgeoned him to a pulp as they kept saying he was habesha. The brave man refused to relent, to his dying breath he said that he was Ethiopian and refused to call himself habesha. He knew something that most Ethiopians have no concept of—he knew how reprehensible that word is. He had a love of his nation that was more than just empty pride. This type of courage and knowledge is sorely missing within the diaspora of Ethiopians and the “educated” lot back home. So busy chasing assimilation and modernity that they end up erasing the profound history of our nation.
How many times does the word Habesha appear in the bible? Don’t bother to Google the answer–that would be exactly ZERO. On the other hand, the word Ethiopia appears in the bible more than ANY other nation. Did you know by the way that Ethiopia was once the entire continent that is now called Africa? Colonizers have erased the significance of a continent of humanity’s birth and renamed it to honor a brutal monster worse than Hitler by the name of Scipio Africanus. Egypt likewise a made up word by the Greeks, “Egypt” is actually northern Ethiopia known as the land of Kemet.
For anyone who is tempted to say that the word “Ethiopian” is a Greek word that means burnt face, ask yourself how could the Greeks have named us when Ethiopia existed before Greece was a nation-state? Can I assert that I named my father and mother? If I travel to Ireland and subsequently write a best selling book titled “Irish means potato face”, does that make it so? But who has time for common sense, what colonizers could not do to the only speck on the continent of Ethiopia they could not conquer we now sadly call Africa, the children of Ethiopia have taken the baton and colonized ourselves with ignorance and indoctrination.
It’s sad really, when I was a child–after being teased mercilessly for my accent in third grade–I took to the mirror each day to practice saying “the” instead of “zee” in order to fit in. Within a few months, I washed away any trace of my accent and in the process I did a pretty good job of adopting the English language. Alas, I did this at a tremendous cost. I now barely speak Amharic and I have no accent at all—I lost a big part of myself trying to fit in with others. I speak and write about the commonality of humanity all the time and how we are all one people regardless of our differences. But my stance is not an endorsement of uniformity and conformity; humanity is best when we all retain our uniqueness while we understand our oneness.
I challenge all of you from now on to stop using these words like habesha and bandira and respect your heritage which our ancestors fought and died to keep intact. I specifically call out singers like Teddy Afro, Jacky Gossee, Abbey Lekaw and the rest; your music is powerful, you are the ambassadors that speak for us and the teachers that reach our children. Use your music to reclaim our story from mercenaries and to teach the masses about true pride–pride based on our culture and heritage. The same goes out to teachers, politicians and anyone who has a voice in our community, for God’s sake stop erasing our history by accepting the indoctrination of colonizers.
We live in the age of protests and perpetual grievances as people keep looking outward trying to find redemption from external sources. Little do many know that the worst form of enslavement is not one that comes with chains on the feet and arms but one that shackles the mind with ignorance and self-hatred. You can protest and march from here to Jakarta, it won’t do anything to change how you view yourself if you keep understanding your history and significance through the narratives of someone else. Stop being victims and be victors or else you will be forever the property of someone else. We Ethiopians defiantly held out against colonization in the 19th century, can we not muster up the valor of our ancestors and lead the fight against the colonization of globalists who are bleeding the world? Many people quote Psalm 68:31, but few understand it. It is time for us to quickly turn our hand to something greater than self-gratification instead of giving our hand to those who intend nothing but harm and bondage for humanity. #Ethiopia #SendekAlema Click To Tweet
There is a reason I decided to name this publication the “Ghion Journal”. The river that has been renamed to the Nile by a British explorer has always been called the Ghion River by those who actually know lived next to it for centuries. The Ghion River is the second river mentioned in Genesis in the bible and validates our nation as a blessed and significant land.
These bankrupt western imperialists came around and renamed the Ghion River to the Nile and now give credit to John Hanning Speke for “discovering” the source of the Ghion River. Sure must have been breaking news to Ethiopians who discovered a lost and starving Speke, nourished him and pointed him to the source of the Ghion.
Yesterday I wrote about the pernicious ways Christianity was co-opted by Constantine and how Iyesus was painted over using the image of Cesare Borgia. Do you know how pathetic it is that in the same place where Christianity was first accepted 280 years before the Roman empire chose to invert it, Ethiopians are now bowing before an anti-Christ figure named Borgia and accepting the indoctrination of the Catholic church which has been one of the main leeches sucking the continent of Ethiopia dry to this day.
How can we even have the nerve to say that we were never colonized as we worship a Roman idol and we disregard the history of Christianity in our own nation and instead flock to the picture of an Italian plutocrat who was everything that Iyseus spoke against? A nation without a foundation crumbles into the abyss, this is why our generation of Ethiopians worship shisha more than they honor their heritage. Veni, vidi, vici—they finally colonized our nation by turning children against their own mother Ethiopia.
“None but ourselves can free our minds” ~ Bob Marley
This is how histories are erased and people are made irrelevant. Stop playing into the hand of colonialists by calling ourselves what they call us in order to marginalize us and our nation. When a people lose their history, they become a people without a vision. A people without a vision perish. This is why they placed a demonic pentagram on our cherished sendek alema, they are trying to make us perish by erasing our very history from the bible and history books.
“A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.” ~ John Henrik Clarke
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.