American Mosaic: Video interviews with local immigrants

Jan 26, 2011

Today's guest will be Arkan Haile, an Eritrean immigrant who is running for D.C. Council.

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Meet Arkan Haile

Coming to America

Mission for D.C.

Arkan's run for office

How often, if ever, do you find someone criticizing you because you have not, in their opinion, experienced life as an American urban African American to the degree that other candidates have? To me, it does not matter, as everyone has had a unique life and one should judge who people are and their policies when voting. Yet, in recalling how there were some people---not many---who used to claim that Barack Obama "wasn't Black enough" when he was running for President because grew up in Hawaii, I wonder if that opinion has died down or if some of that opinion continues.

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In This Chat
Arkan Haile
Arkan Haile was born in Eritrea, a small country on the Horn of Africa that at the time was a province of Ethiopia. In 1975, his parents came to the US so his father could Economics at Colorado State University. They did so on a painful condition: that their three young children (Arkan was the oldest at four) remain behind as insurance against defection.

In 1978, against the advice of his father, his mother returned to Ethiopia, at great risk to her life, for her children. In December 1981, after a three-year struggle that included a dangerous passage into Sudan, on foot and mostly at night to avoid detection, they were reunited as a family in Ft. Collins, CO.

Their journey to America came to a happy end but their American journey was just beginning. They were the only black family in the mobile home community in which they settled. Arkan was ten and didn't speak a word of English. Snow was a foreign concept.
Annie Gowen
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