Good Bye Eritrean Cultural Civic Center, Washington D.C: My Fond Memories of You
The Eritrean Cultural Civic Center is a home away from home for the Eritrean Diaspora in the Washington, D.C. area (Photo credit: Mussie/Awet N Hafash)
Good Bye ECCC, Washington D.C: My Fond memories of you.
By Michael Seium
Since opening its doors in 1989, the Eritrean Cultural & Civic Center located on 6th and L streets NW, Washington DC has become a landmark in the Eritrean community throughout the world as a place where people of all ages can come to learn, grow, and have fun. Placed on a prime location in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I first embarked upon it when coming home from college right before Eritrea’s independence. Then when I moved to be near family in 1993, it served as a place where I built a long term relationship with its atmosphere as the best and biggest Eritrean community gathering place, I had ever witnessed at the time next to Eritrea. Following soccer games we would spend hours upon hours sitting among friends chatting, eating and socializing while also learning about the latest news and cultural updates that allowed us to be closer to or people, community, and Country.
I will attempt to recall some of my fondest memories in this article as this place has meant so much to our diaspora community for over 25 years. While our ECCC was not your typical community center where people got public services, it gave us a sense of pride as our home away from home. It played a huge role in making sure that ERITREANS had a place where they can share information and exchange ideas that allowed people to get services or network to get jobs. It was home to our large services industry community as well, including our fathers & brothers who spent their lunch hours there supporting the community center by spending their hard earned money.
It served as a place where Eritreans had their meetings for the many diverse groups within our community. As a member of the many organizations, I spent quite a lot of time meeting people there and sometimes complaining about being there all day, but in the end it was well worth it. One of my fondest and best memories of the ECCC is when in 1998 after the border war that was waged on our people; it became a safe haven for the many wandering minds and for information related to the war. I recall people during the weekday coming from work and spending the entire night into the wee hours of the morning following the situation back home. Before ERI-TV was being transmitted in the USA it served as a place where we got copies of news on tape to be watched at the ECCC.
The ECCC also served people from everywhere. When Eritreans came from the diaspora or even Eritrea itself to Washington DC, the first place they wanted to go to was not any of the famous memorials but the ECCC statue which stood as a place of importance in their hearts and minds. It connected them with loved ones while it also introduced them with new friends. There are even people who met there for the first time that have tied the knot and have created families. The ECCC was simply the place where everyone was accepted and treated with dignity. Even some people who are working against Eritrea today have had some good times at this place which served as a repository for all Eritreans and their guests in the diaspora.
I am sure this sacred place has many other fond memories and if everyone wrote their own memories, a book can be written about it. It is to be recalled almost every Eritrean Govt. official that comes to the USA did not leave DC without stepping foot at the ECCC.
While the ECCC has had its bad times as well, it always withstood the test of time. 27 years is not a joke and for me it was a majority of my youth. After travelling all over the USA for work or other places, I always wanted to come to the ECCC upon my return so that I can have my incredible cup of Cappuccino. I have brought many American, and other nationalities to test the Eritrean food and see a little bit of our culture over the years and many people by virtue of being there have made themselves honorary Eritreans.
It was a place where Sunday’s were busy after the church crowd came to have lunch and may be attend a meeting or simply watch ERI-TV or the NFL in the fall. It was also a place that probably has served as one of the longest BINGO centers in our area. The Thursday and Saturday Bingo crowd will be so sad to see this place closing.
After our demonstrations we gathered at the ECCC and built a strong camaraderie amongst us. We Eritreans are indebted to the ECCC and while it is sad to see it go, we should also be proud of the many accomplishments that it helped us achieve. Our Tigrinya classes for the youth, our many other hidri training programs and practices, our Coffee ceremonies presented by our mothers & sisters and the many other activities that took place at the ECCC will forever go down in history as an amazing accomplishment because all of these activities were the extended arm of keeping our ERITREA strong and giving our people HOPE that we stand head to head with them. “HADE LIBI, HADE HIZBI”………
There were also times when the ECCC also faced obstacles and we overcame those obstacles. Most of all the times when the ECCC had problems the community came through to make sure it did not affect our UNITY. Growing up in the DC metro area it definitely had a huge impact in my life, like many others who can vouch for it. I even recently took my little ones for a last Picture opportunity so that they can one day tell their children that this is where my dad and my Eritrean community use to hang out while growing up in the metro DC area.
In Conclusion, I want to emphasize that, “when God closes the door, God opens a window.” and so with a new community center coming to an area near us, I hope that we as a community will continue to do the work we had been doing through our many different organizations. We also need to transition into a real strong community that can benefit from the great experiences we have gained while also learning new ways of dealing with our local community and leave a LEGACY for future generations to come.
Thank you ECCC & Awet always to the HAFASH!
By Mussie/Awet N Hafash
ECCC (ቤት ጽሕፈት) has been a second home to many Eritreans residing at Washington area. Even though we are relocating to different better and bigger place it is hard to say goodbye to this place. To me, ECCC never been felt a restaurant or community center rather it is a family place. Every time I go there, I feel like I am in Asmara. Even if you go alone, someone joins you and another person comes then becomes a group. The best part is when you see kids running and playing around just like it is their house. I know many couple who met there who now have a beautiful family. I am sure most of you have so many memories at ECCC. You could write a book about ECCC. I am waiting someone to write a good article. Tears tears a lot of tears. There is a farewell party tomorrow night and come say goodbye to ECCC.
Photos below are courtesy of Mussie/Awet
Good Bye Eritrean Cultural Civic Center, Washington D.C: My Fond Memories of You Reviewed by Admin on 12:01 AM Rating: