“Born in Ethiopia. Raised in Virginia. Transformed into an artist in Detroit.”

That’s how Mike Ellison sums up his journey as an internationally recognized artist and humanitarian, touching lives from Africa to America.

Better known as MIKE-E, the Detroit-based musician is the child of New York-natives Bob and Diane Ellison. Bob, who was the first Black journalist to serve as president of the White House Correspondents' Association, worked as an educator in Ethiopia in the 1970s. Nicknamed “13 Months of Sunshine," Ethiopia became the birthplace of MIKE-E. Although the family relocated to Virginia when the boy was only two years old, Bob and Diane wanted to ensure their son would always remember his roots. They would always tell him stories about his birthplace and make him promise to one day visit again. Diane would also have a special name for her son, calling him her "Ethiopian child."

“That meant a lot to me because, as Africans in America, our history has been hidden from us,” MIKE-E told Blavity. “That really gave me a sense of identity and purpose.”

As an adult, MIKE-E delivered on his promise by going back to his birthplace. The artist visited historical Ethiopian sites, such as Lalibela, and used the scenic sites to record a music video for his hit song “Everything Will Be Alright" in 2004. The song, which sends a message of hope, took off with the help of an Ethiopian entertainer named DJ Phatsu and a television host named Jehmal Ahmed.

“Six months later, by the time I got to Ethiopia for my second trip, the whole country knew the song,” the musician said. “Kids came out of the Blue Nile singing my song. It brought me to tears.”