November 10, 2014

Celebrating Eritrea in Oakland

Guest Post by Dr. Samuel Mahaffy

My two visits to Oakland, California this year were celebratory events. They were also both opportunities for me to interact with and get to know the great Eritrean community in Oakland.

I came to Oakland this summer, first as an invited guest at the Western U.S.A. Eritrea Festival 2014. My interaction with the Eritrean community was rich and full. With generous spirit, I was treated to warm hospitality by the Oakland Eritrean community. I was able to renew some of these friendships when I returned to Oakland this past month. I came back to Oakland at a time when there was dancing in the streets, celebrating the successes of the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. In these days, there were no cultural divides in support of the favorite baseball team.

My family has always found the Oakland and San Francisco area one of the best places to visit. The diversity of cultures, languages and communities makes gives a sense that this is where ‘the world meets’ in the USA. Getting to know a number of Eritrean families in the greater San Francisco area affirms what an important contribution Eritreans living in the region bring to their communities.

I met professional Eritreans from all walks of life. They have built successful businesses in Oakland and surrounding communities. I met Eritreans who are health care providers, involved in the legal and natural resource professions, and are serving as teachers, university professors and caregivers.

Without exception, the Eritreans I met take great pride in their Eritrean heritage. The rich cultural traditions of Eritrea have definitely taken root in the Bay area. The Eritreans in the Oakland and San Francisco Bay communities are generous in giving back to their communities here in the U.S. They value their citizenship in the U.S. and support the country here that has made a new home for them.

Having grown up in Eritrea myself, the Eritrean community in the U.S. will always hold a special place in my heart. I find affinity in their journey to the U.S. from Eritrea. It was a journey I made myself at the age of sixteen. I understand the shared loyalty that appreciates how many opportunities are opened up in the U.S. for families from Eritrea and yet always values the rich heritage of the Eritrean people.

I encourage you to get to know your Eritrean neighbors in Oakland, California and surrounding communities. You will find them to be a warm and hospitable people, quietly making a difference for good. The family values brought over from Eritrea are strong. The food from Eritrea is extraordinary! There is nothing so beautiful as an Eritrean wedding or cultural event. Eritreans know how to dance and celebrate!

I thank the Eritrean community in Oakland for being so welcoming of me. I thank you for the contribution you make in giving back to the community that has welcomed you in. Oakland is a better community because of you.