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.

Marti Tesfaye sitting and facing camera in close shot.

It was probably when I went to Ethiopia for the first time at 11 years old and that was just a game changer for me. I finally got to see the culture, the country, the people as what they actually are in real life form and not in the version the U.S. kind of sold. In the U.S. version it was very “We are the World” and famine and poverty. And South Park jokes and none of that was attractive…. But the trip to Ethiopia when I was 11 is where I had such a good time. It was just such a different experience and it caused me to fall in love with who I'm and where I come from.

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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]



You can find Marti on her Website or  Instagram.

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