“Interview with Father Araya Mebrahtu” by Ellsa Mebrahtu

Elisa MehbratuMy father was born in a small village of Godahgode in the northern part of Eritrea. Eritrea is a small nation along said the red sea. His exact date of birth is unknown as is some others that grew up around that time as well, but he assumes that his birthday is January 1, 1960 upon his arrival to America. My father has been through many ups and downs in his life and was happy enough to share some of his amazing stories with me.

Growing up in a family with ten kids, my father was one of the oldest in his family so he is the most respected in his house. Even till this day that same respect is still inflected and being one of the oldest he had to look after his younger siblings. They looked up to him so he had to set a good example for the rest of them. One way he showed his younger siblings a good example of a role model was by going to school every day and making sure that they went as well. There was only one school that everyone attended. The school was somewhat of a distance from there house, so they had to travel a little journey. When arriving home from school, him and his brothers helped there father tend the farm for many hours. With little food to eat the family would all sit down together and enjoy the food that there mother made for them after a long day of work and school. Once my father finished primary school he wanted to enlist into the military to help his country in the war against Ethiopia. Sawa is the name of the military training camp where all the men and women who were old enough to join and serve went as well. After enlisting you have to go through several hours of tough basic training for several months then off to the war.

Once my father finished his training he was officially an Eritrean soldier and was proud that he could serve his country and help lead them on the path of victory. When in the war my father had the best and worst times in this life. He made many new friends within the war and some are still his friends till this day. On the other hand he lost many friends and also one of his brothers as well. This war lasted for thirty years and my father was fighting for a few of those years until he got shot three times trying to save some soldiers that got captured a few days early. A few soldiers and my father went into the prison and busted them out and almost making it out safely my father was caught in the crossed fire and got shot three times in the chest. Luckily he survived because the bullets went straight through his chest and did not hit any main arteries. Then the troops carried him to safety and had him checked by the medic. They were surprised that he was still alive because his wounds were so severe. Shortly after he was released he went home to recover then instead of reenlisting he moved to Sudan to live with some family and started working in a factory. My father was longing to come to America and start new and better life so he can make more money and send it back home to his family. Furthermore, my father was looking for a sponsor to bring him, my mother, and one of my uncles as well. He knew of my mother for many years and then one of my family members decided to arrange their marriage. My parents had a small wedding and have been married for over 25 years now. The shortly after, they found a church who would sponsor and bring my parents to America where they could start a family in a better circumstance than they were raised in.

Before coming to America they had to take classes teaching them the language, the history of America, and teach them the way of American culture. Upon arrival to a whole new world for my parents and uncle, they stayed with some lovely people from are church that greeted them with open arms. They stayed with them for a few months and then they helped them get their own house and car. These wonderful people took them under their wing and help my parents understand a whole new life. After getting settled in they decided to start a family: so they had their first son by the named of Amanual, then two years later had their first daughter Luwam, then two more years and they had their second named Awet, and lastly two more after that they had their last daughter Ellsa. My Dad when back to school and got his associate degree at College of the Sequoias while my mother stayed home and took care of the children. While going to school my father worked at Food Maxx to support us and a few families back home. The burden of taking care of his family in America and back home in Eritrea was put onto my dad. After getting his associate degree he could not find a better job, so he just stayed at the one he has now. He gets paid a fairly a good amount to support us and also are family back home in Eritrea. My parents always push us to do well in school so we can get well paid job so we do not have to struggle like they did.

My father worked mostly graveyard shifts so he was working late hours and slept most of the afternoon. Even though he had this busy schedule, he always had time to pick me up from school and also help me with my homework. My father is unlike the false and hurtful stereotype that media portrays of African American men being absentee and deadbeat dads. There are some men and even women that are not doing their jobs as a role model for their kids. What they need to do is set a better example for their kids by staying home and helping them with their homework and even doing something as small as having dinner together to and asking them how their day went. Not all African Americans are going down that same path that media portrays them. For example, my father is not what America’s idea of a “typical African American man” is nowadays.

The benefits of growing up in a different country is that you’re not surrounded by this negative image that media portrays African Americans.  The way they show us on television is as if we are a joke. They need to show more positive African American roles on TV so young kids and look up to them and want to be like them when they grow up. When young kids watch television and all they see is rappers and gangster that’s all they know and look up too. The meaning of being a strong black man is not all the superficial stuff you see on television, but a real strong black man is a father that provides for your family and also spends quality time with them as will.

Interview between myself and my Father Araya Mebrahtu

Me: So Mr. Mebrahtu where did you grow up at?

Araya: I grew up in a little country called Eritrea, I lived there for 25 years of my life then moved to America with my lovely wife and started my life in a whole new world.

Me: Tell me about how it was growing up, like in your teenage years?

Araya: Growing up in a small town Godahgode in Eritrea was peaceful, you knew everyone and if you needed help with anything the whole town was there for you. After finishing school I joined the military as a teen and fought in the war against Ethiopia.

Me: How long was the war with Ethiopia, and how long did you serve in the war?

Araya: The war with Ethiopia was a 30 year war and I was a part of the war for a few years until I go injured.

Me: Where did you get injured?

Araya: In the war I was shot 3 times in the chest. They said that if the bullets didn’t go directly through me I would have died and you guys wouldn’t be here (speaking to me).

Me: What happened after getting wounded in the war, and what did you do after you left the war?

Araya: After getting wounded I was released were I recovered at home. Then instead of reenlisting so I moved to a nearby town with a family member and started to work in a factory.

Me: What happened after moving to a new town?

Araya: I lived in Sudan for a couple of year then I was introduced to my soon to be wife though a family member, and later on we had an arrange marriage with plans on moving to America.

Me: When did you and your wife come to America?

Araya: We came in the year 1986 right before my oldest son was born.

Me: Anything else?

Araya: Just stay in school and get an education so you don’t have to struggle like we did.

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