Are Ethi’s for Obama & Is Harlem Obama Country?

By Staff Writer

New York – U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother told Reuters that her grandson is “full of surprises” and will come back from defeat in New Hampshire’s primary to become the first black U.S. president.

“I know my son will be number one because he is very bright,” Obama’s grandmother said from Kenya, where a contested election has led to riots. “He keeps a lot of secrets and is full of surprises. I am very confident he will win the race and become president.”

Just a week ago, Senator Barack Obama’s commanding victory in Iowa grabbed the attention of the world, and it seemed that Americans were being swept away by Obama’s promise of change.

Obama’s dramatic triumph has fired the imagination of Americans of all stripes and political beliefs. Whites, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans – men and women, young and old – Democrats, Independents and Republicans are all beginning to think out loud that maybe – just maybe- we might be ready for the first black President.

Left – Obama’s Kenyan grandmother. Right – Senator Barack Obama meets his grandmother Sarah Hussein Obama at his father’s house in Nyongoma Kogelo village, western Kenya, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2006. (AP Photo)

Even the Kenyans downsized their violence to cheer for Obama. According to Time Magazine, one of the more remarkable stories of the Obama campaign has been playing out behind the scenes as Obama has been working to calm things down in his grandmother’s homeland, where a disagreement over ballots have led to riots and instability.

Obama called Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice On January 1, the day after violence rocked the Kibera slum in Nairobi, where hundreds have died in rioting over disputed presidential elections. Rice returned the call the same day and Obama spoke to her on the road from Sioux City to Council Bluffs, Iowa. She asked him to tape a Voice of America message.

The Kenyans apparently got the message. Presidential challenger Raila Odinga, who says President Mwai Kibaki rigged polls to win re-election, was quick to claim that Obama was his cousin. But, Obama’s uncle made a slight correction. “Odinga’s mother came from this area”, he told the press. “so it is normal for us to talk about cousins. But he is not a blood relative.”

Obama’s father was born and raised in a small village in Kenya, where he grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British. Obama Senior later won a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and pursue his education in America at the University of Hawaii. It was there, during their school years, where Obama’s parents met. His mother was also a student there. The two separated and Obama’s father eventually returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982. Obama grew up with his mother in Hawaii, and for a few years in Indonesia. Later, he moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1983.

“Of course, it’s not just in Kenya where Obama has cousins in high places”, writes Joshua Keating on a blog by the editors of Foren Policy. “Vice President Dick Cheney is also a distant cousin of Obama, according to his wife Lynne.” “There is always a black sheep in the family,” Obama joked at a recent campaign speech. “It doesn’t help that you put my cousin, Dick Cheney, in charge of energy policy.”

Obama is hugged by his American grandmother Madelyn during high school graduation ceremonies. His grandfather is at right. Source:

And what do Ethiopian Americans think about all this? Meaza Siraj from Minnesota posted the following description on the Ethiopians for Obama, a community blog on the Obama ’08 official campaign website: “More than 2000 people were able to attend in this cold winter weather… when it comes to Barack, no excuse is good enough to stay behind. His vision to this country is something you wouldn’t miss. His dream is the people’s dream. His campaign is a movement for change.”

“With a ballot, not a bullet, Iowans took a shot at the status quo and delivered a might blow for change—a shot that is being heard around the world today,” writes another supporter.

Under the headline Why I am voting for Obama?, a blogger, with the alias VA4Obama, on the Ethiopians for Obama site shares his enthusiasm: “While there are some offering immeasurable experience in this art of scorched earth combat, Barack Obama offers a chance to break free from the experience of discontent and replace it with the novelty of hope…”

And back at home in our neighborhood….people respect the Clintons here in Harlem, where the Clinton Foundation is located. But New American Media recently posted an article which included the following editor’s note:”If Harlem’s opinion still matters in the African American community, this groundview snapshot shows Sen. Barack Obama pulling ahead of New York rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.”

Their headline said it more precisely: “Obama Has Harlem Locked.” Harlem is Obama country.

Stay tuned for Ethiopian American diaries from the Obama campaign trail.

6 Responses to “Are Ethi’s for Obama & Is Harlem Obama Country?”

  1. 1 Tina Fisseha Jan 10th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Obama is my inspiration! This is not only about electing the first black president. It is about electing someone who is the most qualified presidential candidate. His educational background in political science and international relations, his constitutional law teaching experience, his public service record, and his Senate experience all show that Obama is the most seasoned candidate who can bring about much needed change in American politics.

    Obama has succeeded in bringing to the voting booths what has been said to be the largest group of young first-time voters in history. His optimistic speeches have washed away the paralysis, cynicism, and apathy of voters and his clear stance on the issues: better education, universal health care, environmental friendly energy bills, ending the war in Iraq, closing down Guantanamo, and building a better foreign policy face to the world all show that in this defining moment we are the ones who have to step up to the challenges of the 21st century by voting for those who best represent the interests of our generation. We are generation hope. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

    “Yes We Can!”
    “Si Se Puede!”

    and ofcourse he reminds us of MLK’s words still relevant today: “The time is always right to do right”

  2. 2 zak Jan 29th, 2008 at 8:48 am

    It is not in the self interest of Ethiopian Americans to vote Democrtic. I used to be A Democrat until I checked some serious facts.
    1. Ethiopia and Africa fared much better under Republicans than Democrats at the helm in The US. GW Bush has literally doubled and quadrupled the Aid, given to Ethiopia. The Aids related assistance to Africa is unprecedented, it was nil during Clinton and now has reached billions of dollars and about 250 thousand Africans, including thousands of our Comaptriots, owe their lives to GW Bush! The reason being Democrats are afraid of being called Nigga-lovers by Republicans everytime they attempt to help Africa, by the right wing media, specially Talk shows where as Bush or future Republicans won’t face such scrutiny.
    2 if it were not for Clinton who packed and left Somalia after Black Hawk Down ( lack of vision) Republican Bush would have stayed put until the Mission was accomplished. They almost finished off the insurgents then according to experts who were interviewed about the facts on the ground during those dark days. Had that been achieved at that time, our boys wouldn’t have to be entangled in Somalia these days as it would have gotten its house in order.
    3. Hailesellasie wouldn’t have faced such a demise had there been a Republican in the White House. Mengistu would have been addressed by Republican Hawks during the days after the Massacre of the 60 after the Meskerem Coup of 1974. Thanx to the Wuse Carter, Ethiopia was lost with all the upheaveal in our lives.
    4. There is now way i see myself voting fro Mrs Clinton who visited Asmara and not Ethiopia. The Rwandan Genocide occured under the watch of the Clintons-
    this being the other reason.

    5. I hate the liberal Welfare system which has made the African American family disintegrate. Who else but The Demicrat Party to blame for tht!

  3. 3 Berhan Jan 29th, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    The irony of the comment of the brother above is the fact he hates the “liberal Welfare System” yet finds joy in the “Aid” given to Ethiopia. I myself agree with you on the fact that I am not a slave to the Democratic Party, but, I like Obama. He is capable of connecting the freedom loving sprint of most Americans, to the policies of the administration. He also happens to be a co-sponsor of HR2003.

    Obama 08!

  4. 4 zak Jan 30th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Now I know he is a cosponsor of HR2003, he will never get my vote. For all practical reasons, HR2003 is Wuchale II as it puts Ethiopian sovergnity under the control of wacko Payne. As much as I have reservation about the Addis Regime, I hate to give up on Ethiopian Sovergnity! Shame to those, who reside confortablly in the West, while advocating the cut of vital technical and other kind of assistance to The Poor in Ethiopia.

    Berhan, I am afraid you cannt compare Welfare, to the tune of trillions of dollars (which was given to Blacks to wreck their family to the AIDS related assistance to Africa. Blacks got choice in this country_ there were ample jobs in the USA at the time when Democrats instituted the massive welfare system. The result of which has been 2 out of three Blacks are born out of Wedlock) to the long overdue substantial return of stolen treasures of Africa ( tht is how I define the Aid given the Continent). Just the fact tht the West was paying peanuts to our coffee for centuries is a good example of tht theft!

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