Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
The room is dim and some people in the crowd have a drink in their hand. Conversations pause as the voice of a young singer pierce the air. He was nervous, but the words came out naturally. The guitar playing, all eyes on him, he began to feel more comfortable on stage, and in that moment he felt as if he could do this for the rest of his life.
Emad Tawadros moved to Bayonne, NJ from Egypt in 2009 as a 17 year old, joining his parents who moved to the U.S. eight years before. While his parents were getting their children’s papers to come to America legally, Tawadros stayed in Egypt with his sister, Mervat, her husband and their two children, Karen and Steven.
“I was only 12 years old when my brother in law passed away by a heart attack, I had to be the man of the house from that point on,” said Tawadros.
Around that same time is also when he began to sing. Focusing more on classical and contemporary music in Arabic, Tawadros had a decision to make when moving from Egypt: stay and sign a contract with Music One, a record company, or move to America and have his singing career put on hold. He moved to America. He now sings in bars and open mic nights in the Bayonne area.
“The day I moved to Bayonne was the same day I got hit by a car and the driver was also Egyptian,” said Tawadros without being able to hold back laughter.
In Egypt, there are no crosswalks as there are in the United States, therefore, people just walk across the street even when there is traffic coming. Fortunately he was able to walk away without any injuries.
When he came to America, his uncle enrolled him in high school as a freshman, despite being 17 years old. Therefore, he found the classwork to be easy. Because he was a 19 almost 20 year old as a junior, he was told he would not be able to continue as a high schooler and would have to get his GED because he was a lot older than his classmates.
“It took me three years to finally do the GED program because I was more focused on working and money was the only important thing to me at the time,” said Tawadros. “If it wasn’t for my girlfriend, I probably still wouldn’t have it.”
“I had to really push him to get the GED, I would have to go with him to take the exam or else he would forget or get there late, which happened countless times,” said girlfriend, Taline Agamy.
Tawadros obtained his GED in the fall of 2015 and is going to start taking college courses in the fall of 2016.
Meanwhile, his singing career is taking off in the community.
“He’s really known among the Egyptian community in Egypt and in other countries for his music,” said Agamy. “He’s been in music videos for Egyptian Christian music.”
When he isn’t singing for the public in bars, he sings in the privacy of his own home or his family’s. His friends’ mothers would always want to hear him sing because of how incredible his voice is, according to Tawadros.
Besides being a singer, he also plays soccer for his church in a Coptic league which is part of other Coptic Christian churches in the New York/New Jersey area. His church is Saint Abanoub & Saint Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church in Bayonne, NJ.
But being Egyptian and a soccer player in America isn’t as complicated as it is in Egypt. In Egypt, according to Tawadros, your religion determines whether or not you will make it to the big leagues, because Egypt is predominantly Muslim.
“When I tried out for the National Egyptian soccer team, I passed all of the practices. To find out someone’s religion in Egypt you can tell by their name,” said Tawadros. “But because my first and middle names can be considered either Christian or Muslim, the coaches couldn’t tell which one was my religion. But once they found out my last name was Tawadros they knew I was Christian, so they denied me to play on their team, even though I was the best player that tried out.”
Religion among Egyptians in New Jersey doesn’t play as big of a role as it does in Egypt, according to Tawadros. Although there are rare incidents of fighting, including a recent shooting involving a Muslim and a Christian Egyptian in Jersey City.
According to city-data.com, Bayonne has the highest population of Egyptians born in Egypt in the United States.
For Tawadros, living in the U.S. means he can pursue bigger dreams, including getting his singing career back on track. He can be seen in a music video for his church from Egypt that has become popular among the Egyptian community, according to Agamy.
“I don’t know when I’ll live in Egypt again so I can’t keep telling myself that I always have that record label contract if I do return,” said Tawadros. “I’m going to start focusing on it a lot more seeing as I’ve been living in the United States for many years now.”