No, I’m not an amnesic but its a question that is at the core of the question, “Where are you from?” As anyone who is reading this probably knows, this happens all the time. My answer varies depending on the context, typically it’s from the Bay Area or Eritrea. But why?
When I reflect on what defines me as a person it is a few small elements. It was the disposition of the people and community that I was born into (around the local University) and what was happening in the Eritrean community at the time. Well so obviously I was born in the Bay Area so it is obvious why I identify as a person from the Bay Area. But clearly I was not born in Eritrea, why do I call myself an Eritrean?
Well, for one both of my parents are Eritrean (their home villages are in Eritrea). So am I Eritrean just because my parents are? Well according to the law, yes, I am thus an Eritrean national. But this doesn’t necessarily compel my identity. Is it who I grew up with (mostly other Eritrean-Americans) or where I spent my summers (only after Independence)? No, what it really comes down to is a feeling of shared history and struggle. Of course this particular identification is unique to me, others identify as Eritrean for entirely other reasons.
The ways people identify as Eritrean are varied but the one thing we all have in common is a particular connection to a land defined on the East by the Red Sea, the South by Ethiopia and Djibouti and to West by Sudan. One thing I feel that everyone who identifies as Eritrean must recognize though is that the way in which we individually identify as Eritrean cannot be exclusive, in other words, what makes us fundamentally Eritrean is where we can trace our heritage from, not what language we speak, god(s) we pray to or where we were born.
At the core, we all believe in a freely independent Eritrea blazing a new path forward.