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Ethiopians in Temescal see hope in Obama

on October 7, 2008


OCT. 7 — As one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in Oakland, Asmara is a popular gathering place for Ethiopians in Temescal’s business district. Tonight was no different, as the Telegraph Avenue restaurant and bar drew in a steady stream of Ethiopian men who watched the second Presidential Debate over a glass of wine or beer. All kept their eyes fixed to the screen, with barely any conversation. Despite their intensity, they couldn’t help but erupting in laughter a few times in response to Senator John McCain.

Asmara is a popular Ethiopian restaurant in Temescal

Asmara is a popular Ethiopian restaurant in Temescal

After the debate, the praise for Senator Barack Obama was high, but the men insisted it was not because of Obama’s African roots. “He is working for middle- and lower-income people,” said Desalegne, 38, who imports beer and mineral water from his native Ethiopia and who immigrated to the United States 18 years ago. “I’m one of those people, so by voting for Obama, I’m voting for what is best for people like me,” the Oakland resident said.

Ethiopian native Abetu Melaku Guale, who lives in Oakland, agreed. “I like how Obama is for the middle class,” said Guale, a 46-year old MBA student. “I like his economic plan and view on health insurance — I also believe health insurance is a right, not a privilege. This country needs a change – we’re in financial turmoil. On top of that, we have more enemies than we had the last 10-15 years, so we need to renegotiate with world leaders. We need to see America is willing to work with other countries. We can’t be police to the world.”

When the debate was over, a few lingered to watch post-debate analysis, but most left quickly in seemingly good spirits.

Patrons watch the debate at Asmara

Patrons watch the debate at Asmara

“This is a good election — it’s different from what I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Desalegne. “A lot of people can see hope in the future, especially those from different countries. If you have hope, you can be what you want to be. And when you have hope, you can try.”×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg|×225.jpg

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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