For those of you who may not know, on this day THREE years ago, I stopped going by my nickname “Bella”.
And many have asked me why I even went by that name in the first place and I’ve been trying to be respectful of the people involved and not disrespect them but I believe now it’s time to be honest, and tell the story, without names of course.
When I first arrived to the states from Ethiopia when I was 10 years old, my fourth grade teacher, an elderly white woman, pulled both me and my mother aside and said - “I don’t think she should go by Yeabsera”
And my mother and I confused asked her why, and she hesitated and said - “Honestly it is very ‘African’, and I know the students will make fun of her, I know I would have if I were their age.”
My mother, shocked, while I was confused instinctively said: “They can call her Bella, it’s a family nickname but we can use that here I guess.”
And that’s when the identity crisis began. I had to deal with many racist comments about Africa and being Ethiopian, from being called “an african booty scratcher” to answering questions: “Aren’t Ethiopians starving or something? Why are you so big?” I had to withhold my identity. And with that MY name.
My beautiful name, my biblical name, my everything.
My name is Yeabsera, it will never be Bella again. And after two beautiful years of being called by my real name, I can tell you all that I’m so happy and so proud of my Ethiopian and African heritage. And for every person who calls me Yeabsera, it shows me that you respect and are proud of my heritage as well. And for that, I thank you so very much!
Happy Three Year Anniversary!
Yeabsera Semere Mengistu is a junior studying Political Science at the School Of Public Affairs with minors in both Women, Gender, And Sexuality Studies (WGSS) and Communications. As a member of the Class of 2021, this will be her second year working with AUSG Women’s Initiative team. Passionate about her “Three P Principles- People, Photography, and Politics”, Yeabsera is a multi-issue organizing Womanist Activist and Artist. Serving as the Photographer/ Videographer for WI in her past, she now serves as the Creative Director for the organization. Yeabsera is currently doing research on the intersectionality of Gender, Race, and Politics and hopes to continue doing research as an aspiring Professor. Raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and residing between Cambridge, MA and Washington DC, Yeabsera is very proud of her Ethiopian Heritage. She loves spending her time at local Ethiopian restaurants and Jazz Cafes in the DC area on her downtime either reading, drawing, writing, and or eating lots of injera!