I meet guests from all walks of life. You name it. Personal contacts. Friends of friends. Conference. Social Media. It’s amazing how people I’ve met through social media.
Marti Tesfaye is one of those people. Her Instagram led me to her website aptly titled The Black Expat Family, which documents her family’s move from the U.S. to live in Ethiopia. Like Lori Tharps, Dana Saxon and Jessy Bernard, Marti and her family made the decision to move to the country of their ancestral roots during the pandemic. Marti (like her husband ) are both Ethiopian- Americans so you can imagine there’s all kinds of interesting layers having hyphenated identities.
Given her ability to vibrantly capture her family’s journey (as well as a few others), I wanted to dig a bit deeper into her backstory because it seemed like a full circle moment. While she had never lived in Ethiopia before this move, she reminds me of Lea Wright and Whitney Osei who both returned to countries of origin after a life started (and lived) in the West.
In this episode, Marti shares her story of growing up in the 80s/90s in the New York metro as she navigated both her East African and American identities. We definitely bond over how it wasn’t always cool to have an African identity as a kid back in the day, and how things have thankfully changed. She also discusses the pivotal, societal moments that encouraged her and her husband to leave their successful, professional life for the country where their immediate family had emigrated from decades prior. And we dissect the ways her own move mirrors and differs from what her family experienced going West.
Clearly, her story is in progress, but there’s so much to glean from what she’s experienced thus far.
EPISODE CONTENT | HIGHLIGHTS:
Her early years spent in Queens as a child [4:08]
Reflections on the immigrant experiences of her parents moving West in the 1980s [7:38]
The “coolness” to have an African identity now [than it was back in the 80s/90s] [15:29]
The driving forces behind moving to Ethiopia [23:34]
What happens when you think you’re fitting/blending in but you’re still American [34:05]
The optimistically realistic advice she gives when asked about moving to abroad [51:44]