It was a Thursday. I woke up to the sounds of neighborhood roosters (my new alarm clock), gathered my things, and proceeded to my morning stroll through our top view neighborhood to catch a ride to work. All the while, ignoring stares at my fire red rain boots and smiling to myself because I couldn’t believe I was really back in Ethiopia.
In a span of thirty minutes my smile disappeared, I had accidentally stepped in a big puddle of chika (mud), and gotten into a “friendly” argument with my taxi driver. He couldn’t understand why I left America for Ethiopia – apparently saying I wanted to serve my country was not a fitting answer. Then, I slipped on the front steps of my office building with everyone around me reaching out and yelling “ayezosh!”
“It was only 9:30 AM. Not the day I was expecting.”
I entered our building’s elevator wet, cold, and frustrated. I walked, or rather ran, straight to my cubicle, opened up notes on my laptop and journaled my frustrations out before my co-workers could catch a whiff of my sour attitude.
As I was typing, I came across a quote I had previously recorded in my personal journal months ago:
“The brother or sister you think is being regressive could be being progressive in a way you can’t yet understand…” – Toure, author of Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness?: What it Means to be Black Now
In that very moment my entire mood had changed. Something clicked. Why? I realized that this is Ethiopia in a nutshell, and if I was going to make it these next couple of months I would need patience and some serious understanding.
My first week here I suppressed trying to understand or question how things operate in Ethiopia, in hopes of blending in and not seeming too foreign. I didn’t want to be the girl asking why this and why that – I wanted to feel as if I was in touch with everything. I subconsciously thought that if I didn’t open my mouth, I could get by without seeming like a privileged American. Instead, doing this led me to my boiling point, aka Thursday morning with Yonas (the taxi driver who was just not buying my answer about why I was in Ethiopia).
That particular day taught me a lesson. I learned it was okay to ask, to examine, to disagree, to feel – because while Ethiopia is mine, it isn’t mine at the same time. The only way I can really get to know this country is to take the time to understand, and broaden my thinking on how my brothers and sisters, who I may assume are regressive, are progressive in a way I can’t understand.
“I learned it was okay to ask, to examine, to disagree, to feel – because while Ethiopia is mine, it isn’t mine at the same time.”
Stay Down Blaze Up is super excited to be media sponsors for the #AMIExperience Conversation & Cocktails event to take place June 2, 2016! For more information please see below and hope to see you all there.
Am I The Experience: Conversations & Cocktails
Digital Storyteller Nadia Marie, Lifestyle Brand Royal Dynamite, and International DJ Collective Tagsoundz brings you an experience of Cultural Dualism
Washington, DC, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2016—On Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 Nadia Marie, Tag Soundz and Royal Dynamite bring you The Am I Experience“Conversations & Cocktails”, a fun filled nostalgic event taking you back to the days of your African and American bi-cultural childhood. The social mixer is an event that comes off of the national film tour and recently Viacom screened documentary “Am I: [Too African to be American or Too American to be African?],” a film which highlights the complexities of growing up as African & American navigating through both worlds simultaneously.
“You have to be dedicated to doing it. You can’t just do a face mask once a month and you can’t just drink two glasses of water every four days expecting results…” -S.G.
According to a 2016 Beauty Industry Analysis Report, just last year the beauty industry generated 56 billion dollars in revenue. It is no secret that Americans are obsessed with beauty and quite honestly I have no shame in admitting – I, too, am obsessed and I am here for it!
In honor of my obsession I would like to shout out my two favorite tools in beauty: YouTube and the Instagram community. With these two outlets, you are only one click away from a fierce contour and a couple seconds away from a flawless eyelash application. You might be laughing but I am sure if you check your search history you too have stalked the big names in make-up to learn how to apply BEN NYE banana powder without looking dusty. It is okay, we all have!
But, have you ever noticed that the majority of these make-up artists already have perfect skin? I get so frustrated when I am watching Ms. AaliyahJay lay her foundation on a smooth canvas and I am looking into my magnified mirror at pimples galore. I’m supposed to get those exact results after watching your tutorial? How sway?
But have no fear, esthetician Samara George of SKYNbySamara aka the “skin whisper” is taking beauty to a deeper level. I linked up with her this past Friday to discuss her skin regimen, her new business, and how she is making her mark in the beauty industry. Below you will find our in depth conversation. Enjoy.
(Side note: If you are not sure what an esthetician is – it is your lord and savior in beauty heaven. They are professionals who specialize in skin and skin care.)
[Q] What is your full name?
[A] My name is Samara George and I am the owner of SKYNbySamara.
[Q] How did you come up with the name SKYNbySamara?
[A] I’m an esthetician, so I am all about skin care, and I wanted people to know of the jump what my brand deals with. I, also, included my name so that people would know the person behind the brand and I spelled skin with a y instead of an I (SKYN) so that I could invite people to ask about it and learn more about what I have to offer.
[Q] How did you get into skin care? Did you have formal education or training in the field?
[A] I got into skin care because both of my parents own a beauty school. It offers cosmetology, nails, and an esthetician program, etc. and I just really took to skin care. I started reading into it, getting to know the ins and outs of it, and I fell in love with it. I just want to be able to help both men and women know how to take care of what is underneath before they put anything else on top of it. As far as my formal education, I attended Morgan State University and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Television Production. So, I have a background of being in front of and behind the camera as well as a background in PR/marketing which has helped build my brand (through YouTube and Instagram) as I know how to market myself and to get my name out there.
[Q] How has social media impacted your start-up?
[A] Social media has definitely helped get my name out there. I already had a semi-good following on IG but by using hashtags that people can click on daily, I’ve noticed an increase in my followers from different skincare companies to different spas and salons from Arizona to Korea. It’s amazing how one social media outlet can get my name around the world without me having to put money out there or travel anywhere.
[Q] As far as brands, Sephora and MAC are dominating the beauty industry and women and men are spending tons and tons of money on the latest and greatest. Do you have any recommendations for people who are interested in achieving better skin? Are there things people should be looking out for before spending money?
[A] I would recommend getting a consultation with an esthetician or visiting a dermatologist. It is important you know and understand your skin. Everyones’ genetics is built different so, what works for one person will not always work for the next. A lot of products are being endorsed by make-up artists who already have flawless skin and they probably don’t even use the products they endorse or know what is in the products themselves. With that said, I like to stay on the natural side of skin care.
[Q] You mentioned you are a fan of natural products, is that something we should be expecting from SKYNbySamara in the near future?
[A] Yes! I am in the process of creating 100% natural products. Everything from coconut oil, Shea Butter, to other pulled oils…I am actually working with someone right now to make this happen. I want people to know they don’t have to spend 1,000 of dollars to achieve amazing skin and that they literally can use everyday things around your house.
[Interview Break and transition to audio. We apologize about the background noise.]
Want to meet the fabulous Samara George and learn more about SKYNbySamara?
“All jokes aside, to the outsider looking in the Habesha* community is huge but for the average DMV Ethiopian/Eritrean person you are only one cousin away from knowing everyone.”
According to a Migration Policy Institute report on the Ethiopian Diaspora, there are about 251,000+ Ethiopians living in the United States and roughly 35,000 call the DMV home.
Let that sink in. 35,000!
What 35,000 basically means, PEOPLE, is if you work or live in the DMV area you are bound to: know an Ethiopian, have been mistaken for an Ethiopian, and/or have had Doro Wot with that off-white spongy bread we call injera at some point in your life – it’s inevitable.
Now what those numbers, also, translate into for the members of the community is: a strong network, a loyal audience/fan base, and a diaspora that will go hard for you at the drop of a dime. So it makes sense why so many Ethiopians/Eritreans immigrate and permanently reside in the DC metropolitan area – it is damn near the Horn of Africa itself.
Keeping those stats in mind lets get back to the purpose of this article because I bet you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Ras Nebyu’s video shoot from this past weekend…let’s first start with the built in family factor/strong network.
Cue Future’s “I don’t give a f— if they were real sisters…cousins.” *
When interviewing Ras Nebyu’s manager, Beteley Solomon, on his personal involvement with the project and why he supported the emerging artist he said: “Not gonna lie that’s my cousin…I heard his main song “Washington Slizzards” which was like the first hit and I heard “Futuristic Black Man” and “Capital of Hate” and I was like yo he can spit.
He also expounded on how he helped expose the artist to different audiences: ” [Beteley] I was president of a couple orgs at College Park and I started bringing him out to a couple of shows and people liked him and from there I was like why not get involved you know what I’m saying? That’s family.”
That same familial loyalty carried over when I spoke with Loh, the creative director of the “No Love” video, who happens to also be the little cousin of Nebyu and Beteley.
Not only did she get creative freedom with the project but the guys encouraged her to explore her own music further and to gain some exposure. (Another solid example of how the diaspora supports its’ own.)
As the shoot was winding down, I also had the chance to speak with Ras Nebyu’s manager Jerms Logic and one of Washington Slizzards’ starters and artist Adonay G. These two really highlighted how the diaspora and culture has influenced Nebyu’s music and how our generation is really making a wave in the arts.
Click below to hear Jerms input:
One could argue that this isn’t really the diaspora coming together but rather family taking care of its own but at the end of the day the numbers don’t lie – Nebyu is gaining momentum and it is not just his family supporting him but his extended “cousins” in the diaspora looking out.
*Future reference: (Why this phrase is so relevant to our community: the word “cousin” is so diluted in the Habesha diaspora that sometimes you may or may not be related but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because you are a member of a tight knit network and you might as well embrace it.)
This past weekend, I attended the taping of the single “No Love” with every intention of siting down and interviewing the musically inclined Ambessa* himself: Ras Nebyu. Just five minutes into production, I realized there were two stories here – not one.
So, with that being said this article will be a two part installation. The first, obviously, highlighting the artist Ras Nebyu and his video shoot and the second examining the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora’s role in going hard for its’ members and contributing to the arts.
Meet Ras Nebyu
“I need everyone to go upstairs…”
“Wait, lets do that one more time…”
These phrases and more were in rotation, this past Saturday, as Ras Nebyu and his team directed scenes for the filming of his song “No Love.”
When I arrived, I walked right into a creative whirlwind. Girls hovering around the door, kitchen filled with the necessary libations, people running up and down the stairs, camera man working on lighting, and Nebyu’s song pumping through the sound system. Everything about the atmosphere, screamed house party but the twist here was everyone was working.
Having debut back in April of 2015, the song “No Love” was produced by Casito Del Fresco and mixed by Arckitech. When asked what the song meant Nebyu had this to say:
Basically…”No Love” is about young adults going through relationships and their variations of no love – so whether it’s being heart broken or being the heart-breaker it’s a song from different perspectives. The video concept adds a little comedic twist….like a romantic comedy. [The comedic twist he is referring to is Filmon “Gergish” Yohannes, an Eritrean-American comedian who participated in the video.]
After listening to the lyrics and watching Nebyu perform the song it was obvious that he’s not new to this. With more than 20+ tracks under his belt, a couple sold out shows, and a faithful fan base accompanied with his hardworking team the “Washington Slizzards” – Nebyu is putting on for his city.
Much of Nebyu’s influences can be attributed to his desire to stay true to his culture which is an amalgamation of both Rastafarian and Pan-African philosophy. (Being a part of the large DMV Habesha network has also been a major factor in his musical career – a factor to be later examined.) His music is a blend of, what Africology Media best described as, “socially conscious content and leisure listening.” Nebyu’s “woke-ness” is probably most visible in his hit song “Washington Slizzards” and is reaffirmed by his Manager Beteley Solomon who says “you’ll never find Nebyu insulting women or just rapping about anything.” (Which, to me, is to be praised in a world where a lot of our jams are plagued with raunchiness and catchy hooks that make no sense. No shade here just facts, my friend.)
To listen to “No Love” see SoundCloud link below and for all things Ras Nebyu visit these links: Facebook, SoundCloud, and you can find him on social media by searching @RasNebyu. To book him or connect with his management please email: Rasnebyubiz@gmail.com.