“It’s almost like a Wakanda to me!”

By Sabrina Solomon

Our guest for today is Dwayne Darnell Martin, an assistant film director, from the U SA. He’s been here with his crew to shoot for a documentary film. Here’s a brief chat about his observation of what Eritrea truly is.

It’s really nice to have you here, Dwayne. Welcome back to Eritrea. Let’s start with your documentary production house. What triggered you to work on Eritrea?

When I first came out here, when I started doing research and told people I was coming, they warned me against coming. They were saying a lot of horrible things. So I had some hesitations. I thought I was a well-read person and studied pretty well, but I never heard about the country and its background. So I thought it was odd. When I first came to the country, it was totally opposite from what people said. It was warm and welcoming. Everyone was happy; I saw nobody down, upset or mad. It was just very interesting and I thought that if I had that experience maybe other people should know about it. So it’s more out of curiosity.

What was the narrative you heard about Eritrea before you got here and what difference did you see?

I had some reservations about coming here just because of the negative media coverage. But I talked to people and asked all the right questions and that’s not the perception I came away with. I asked very pointed questions and people were very open and they gave me direct answers. It was a 180 degree difference from what I saw on the media.

From what you have observed, can you tell me why the world has been so unjust to Eritrea?

I think Eritreans just want to have self-determination and mark out their own future. I think they are being villainized to a certain degree because they have been a beacon to the rest of the world of how to have self-determination and how you stand up against colonial and imperial powers. They don’t really give people motivation to rise from their own countries to take control of their own narratives. They rather do like they did to some other countries and just reap their resources and extract them from the people. When anyone stands against that and defeats them, that’s not something they want to expose and bring to light. I don’t think Eritrea is any different from or any worse than anybody else. In fact, the women’s empowerment, women’s equality and their different cultures all in one unified people; it’s almost like a Wakanda to me. I have never seen anything like this in America. The Christians, the Muslims and all the different ethnic groups put that to the side and respect their culture. At the end of the day, they have one unified culture. People from outside would love to come and divide and conquer, but that’s impossible because there’s so much unity here.

I’ve heard you visited different cities and villages of the country, including colleges and hospitals. What did you notice about the social service facilities?

They were all professional and they were all staffed with people who are very passionate. They had the most modern equipment, most modern medicine and nobody paid anything. The doctors were trained here in the country, which is another good thing, and it was amazing. Everybody had an opportunity to participate, nobody was left out. People didn’t have to travel to the city center to get treatment. They have made sure the clinics were available for people in the communities. So everybody had access. They also had referral services. You can start in your local district and if you had a larger problem they refer you to the bigger hospitals. Everybody was passionate.

It’s wonderful for a country that has been in war for decades to want to educate every person, to make sure that they are taken care of as far as health is concerned. It’s just beautiful and shows the idea of the community that you want to represent to the world. It’s phenomenal, it’s impressive and it should be the standard for every country. You are still building from the ground up but you want to make sure that you dedicate resources to the people and that’s just beautiful.

We live in a small corner of Africa. But the peace and security we have is unmatched. What have you observed firsthand about the peace and security in Eritrea?

It was totally peaceful. I didn’t see any places with guns; I didn’t see any check points. Everybody just walks nonchalant, nobody’s worried about anything. I saw kids playing in the streets. They seem that they have total freedom, total safety. And women walking by themselves at night, it’s a beautiful place. I mean I live in a nice neighborhood back at home but I don’t know if my kids go play as freely. I’m not sure about the surrounding areas, so it seems more free here than back home. Nobody gets pulled over by the cops; it’s all one people. Back at home you see cops every ten minutes, good or bad. Out here, it’s not even needed. It’s peaceful, I feel totally safe.

What’s the overall impression you’ve got from the Eritrean people in general? Have they met your expectations?

They surpassed my expectations, everybody was very humble, very nice. The people are very peaceful. The first thing somebody told me was ‘welcome home, brother’. They didn’t know who I was and where I’m from, they could tell I was an outsider and they said welcome. Nobody made me feel out of place, I felt nothing but warmth and acceptance.

Nipsey Hussel is from my community. He motivated the community with principles I think he learned here about self-determination and perseverance, and I think that’s why he is so popular and well received. He had messages aside from rap; it was more about taking control of your community and ownership. That’s why people like him and respect him and that’s why his legacy still continues today.

I want to encourage people to see it for themselves and to maybe take a visit because it’s very easy from a distance to believe the things on the media and everything has a spin for a reason.

You’ve come here on more than one occasion. What changes have you seen?

When I first came here there was still some tense situation with Ethiopia. Since then they’ve made peace and people are happy to make the peace and that’s been the focus.

Thank you again.