In a city like Washington D.C. that has a large Ethiopian American population, it is a controversial radio personality that may just make the biggest symbolic impact. Tewodros "Teddy" Fikre, a D.C.-based popular internet radio host is on the verge of announcing a run for the U.S. Congress in the eighth Congressional District in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The idea of even making such a bold attempt places the young and ambitious entrepreneur in the historical journey of Ethiopians, as he becomes the very first to try such a daring feat.
The 37 year old Ethiopian-born, Virginia-raised entrepreneur and community organizer knows the challenge he has before him; however, he takes solace in knowing the story of Barack Obama. He admires President Obama and his great political journey. Teddy knows all too well that Obama started from a place of obscurity. In his often imperfect Amharic, Teddy has been preaching -- every night on his popular blog and radio show -- about the virtue of being engaged in American politics to a population that is transfixed mostly with Ethiopian politics.
In the great mass of Ethiopians, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S., Teddy sees great potential for America's newest immigrants, and a potential powerful voting block in the mold of the Cuban-American community.
For his efforts, and his often inflammatory tactics he uses to drive home his message, Teddy has proved to be a wedge issue among Ethiopians. In his radio show for instance, he has defended progressive issues such as gay rights, burned the current flag of Ethiopia (which he sees as needlessly divisive), and has often times opened his own struggles with depression to prove a point or two.
For the John Hopkins graduate, electoral politics is nothing new. In 2008, he was part of the Ethiopians for Obama group that registered thousands of Ethiopians to vote -- many for the very first time. In the endless stream of Ethiopians who voted in 2008, he saw the possibility that the Ethiopian dream can include being a member of Congress as well as president of the United States.
Teddy is currently writing a book on his immigrant's journey, as well as the universal issue of identity struggle among immigrants which he plans to publish in 2013. His family moved to the United States in 1983, while Teddy was only seven, leaving a comfortable middle class life in Ethiopia behind in order to escape the clutches of a communist and dictatorial government.
His father was a public servant with Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, and his move to the United States produced unexpected professional misfortune that is perhaps shared by many African immigrants all over the western world. His father could only attain blue collar jobs such as being a taxi driver and working as a security guard.
For the seven-year-old Teddy, this new paradigm was a radical change that affected his confidence. At school, he was often bullied and taunted for being a "fat Ethiopian." To add insult to injury, he was not fully accepted by the Ethiopian community either, partly because he does not speak his native language, and has different outlooks on life. The African-American community never totally accepted him either because he looked or sounded a bit different. It seems that Teddy was truly an "Invisible Ethiopian" -- which happens to be the title of the book he is currently writing.
Eighteen years to the day the family moved to the United States, his father died of cancer and that devastated the young man -- thus the seeds of depression and "the blues" were planted in his psyche.
"Depression has been with me for as long as I remember; she has been ingrained in my genes passed down from generation to generation," Teddy wrote in his blog. He continued how "I often state that nobility is earned, but our last name is the only thing inherited. But upon further examination, I have found this fact to be baseless because it seems that depression and other maladies are inheritance we are bestowed even if we don't want them."
What does the radio host, author of hundreds of articles and poems, and social marketer want to see happen with all his efforts on behalf of his Ethiopian American community? "Imagine if we decided to cooperate! If we did, I swear not one child in Ethiopia would die of neglect and malnutrition. That is my greatest goal in life, to interconnect with all these activists and get them to start working with each other instead of working against each other.
Yeah I know, that is an audacious goal, but hey, if America elected a black man to be president, I know one day Ethiopians will realize that they are better-off being united than working apart and against each other."
He just might be on something great, even if most may not realize his talent or the potential difference he could make for his community. Time will tell if Teddy will be as successful as the "guy with big ears and funny name," however, he is making, like it or not, a groundbreaking work with his powerful voice as both a candidate and radio personality.