Mr. Perdue Apologizes After Mesgana Controversy

Above: Norman Perdue at the Mesgana Dancers New York
Premier. The event was held at NYU’s Skirball Center for the
Performing Arts on Sunday, August 13th, 2007. Photo by
Maki for Tadias Magazine.
www.MakiLive.com. MySpace:
makilivecom.

BY STAFF WRITER

New York – Norman Perdue, a former photographer for the Utah Jazz and founder of the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, the caretaker of the Mesgana Dancers, apologized on Sunday following a Tadias article that raised questions about the kids dizzying travel schedule and his failure to acknowledge the support of the Ethiopian-American community in New York.

“Due to a huge oversight on my part I failed to recognize, on the stage, all the individuals and businesses that had a part in the New York City stop of the Mesgana Tour”, he said in a comment posted on the Tadias blog.

“I publicly apologize for this mistake on my part and would hope that we can move on positively from this time forward.”

Although the apology did not address the children’s busy schedule, it was welcomed as a positive first step in the right direction.

“It is a welcome news in healing the rift with the Ethiopian-American community”, said Meron Dagnew, member of the NYC premier coordinating committee.

“But, at the end of the day, the safety of the children is the number one priority, and I hope COEEF will make the appropriate adjustments to make sure that they are treated properly.”

Ethiopia Reads, another non-profit organization led by the celebrated children’s author Jane Kurtz, which also benefits from the tour, said mistakes were made in over scheduling the children and it will be corrected.

“It’s true that some early legs of the tour were intense — probably too much so”, said Laura Bond, Ethiopia Reads’ director here in the US, who represented the organization at the NYC and New Jersey performances.

“In the future we will not schedule more than two performances in a row. That’s a lesson learned.”

The Mesgana Dancers, who performed in Colorado this weekend, have eight more shows in their sixteen cities U.S tour.

The young girls are scheduled to perform in St. George on August 24th and on August 29th in Murray, Utah, the hometown of the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund.

Related Links and Tadias Stories:

Hot Shots: Mesgana Dancers in Harlem
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Mesgana Dancers Arrive in New York
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Ethiopia Reads
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Mesgana Dancers
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The Children of Ethiopia Education Fund
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Controversial Mesgana Dancers Tour Continues in Colorado this Weekend

Aug 17th, 2007

BY STAFF WRITER

New York - The dark light concealing the stage brightened slowly, traditional music flowing gently; a group of beautiful Ethiopian princesses appeared. Walking out in small graceful steps, they started dancing delicately. The audience roared into loud applause.

Less than twenty four hours after they performed for 800 people in Washington. D.C., the Mesgana Dancers dazzled a diverse audience in New York City with an exhilarating display of youthful artistry.

The spectacular presentation at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts showcased a mosaic of Ethiopian culture, music and dance in an inspiring performance that kept the audience on its feet.

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Photo by Philipos Mengistu

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Photo by Philipos Mengistu

The New York premier was the third event for the young dancers’ sixteen cities U.S tour.

Sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines, the aim of the tour is to raise money for the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund, a Utah Based organization founded by Norman Perdue, a former photographer for the Utah Jazz.

Concern Raised Over The Kids Busy Schedule

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Norman Perdue with Mesgana Dancers in New York. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

The dizzying travel schedule, however, is showing signs of stress and fatigue not only on the young dancers, age 7 to 13, but also on the adult chaperons of the group.

Mr. Perdue told the audience in New York that the kids are “tired and groggy”.

The children had to wake up at 3:00 A.M on Sunday (few hours after their performance in Washington, D.C.), to catch a plane to New York. Their busy morning schedule included a promotion appearance at the the Abyssinia Baptist Church. The troupe’s itinerary also listed the Riverside church as one of the kids destinations. After few hours of rest, they were back on the road for their 7 PM show.

Mr. Perdue, who ordered the kids to be “quarantined” (in his words) at the COEEF safe house in Addis Ababa in order to clean them up in preparation for their U.S. tour, enjoys telling American audiences that the kids have fallen in love with McDonald.

“Their favorite food is McDonald’s Happy Meal”, he said during his stage appearance in New York.

On Sunday, August 13th, however, the only happy meal the kids seemed to enjoy was an Ethiopian food provided by the Ethiopian-American community in New York, which the children were observed devouring on the city sidewalk outside the theater after their performance.

“Clearly they are very tired and hungry”, said Meron Dangnew, member of the NYC premier coordinating committee, who helped feed the young dancers. “They told me that they didn’t even have enough to eat that day.”

“These kids are not machines, they need to be treated like children”, she said.

Lack of sleep Blamed for Lack of Recognition of the Ethiopian Community

At the conclusion of a breathtaking performance by the Mesgana Dancers, Mr. Perdue handed out gifts of Ethiopian scarves to select non-Ethiopian members of the group that coordinated the NYC premier, but failed to acknowledge Ethiopians and the generous support of the community.

He told Tadias Magazine that exhaustion is to blame for his insensitivity.

“I am very tired, I don’t know what happened”, he said. “I am exhausted.”

So too are Ethiopian members of the NYC coordinating group and Ethiopian-American business owners who gave generously and even hosted the Mesgana Dancers and Mr. Purdue in a show of traditional Ethiopian hospitality in New York.

Philipos Mengistu, owner and Executive Chef of Queen of Sheba restaurant (who attended the show), hosted the Mesgana Dancers for a free lunch at his mid-town eatery. Mr. Perdue and his wife Ruthann were present.

Mr. Perdue and his wife also attended a dinner for the Mesgana Dancers hosted by Etiye Beke of Merkato in Harlem. Her restaurant also provided the food for the VIPs reception at the SKirball center for the Performing Arts.

Meron Dagnew, member of the NYC coordinating group, was in charge of arranging hotel and transportation for the young dancers. Her other responsibilities included flyer design and distribution, reaching out to the Ethiopian community, and accompanying the children during their historic tour at The Harlem Dance Theater.

“Really, this is lack of sleep”, Mr., Purdue said. “I will make sure to recognize them in other cities”.

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Lunch at Queen of Sheba. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

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Lunch at queen of Sheba. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

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Etiye Beke greets the kids at Merkato. Her restaurant also provided the food for the VIPs reception at the Skirball center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

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Meron Dagnew with the kids at Merkato. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

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Mr. Purdue at Queen of Sheba. Photo by Steve Dyer of VicRae Inc.

52 Responses to “Mr. Perdue Apologizes After Mesgana Controversy”


  1. 1 Meron Aug 17th, 2007 at 2:46 am

    Dear Tadias,

    After reading your article, I was very relieved to see that I was not the only one to feel that these amazing kids welfare is at risk. As one of the people who worked closely with the kids to help organize the NY show, I have been a witness to the positive impact this organization has done as well as to its weakness. I think it would behoove those in charge to learn from their mistake and move forward in the positive interest of these kids. However, my hope of a positive change was extinguished when I received a phone call from Serkaddis, the Ethiopian Chaperon of the Mesgana Dancers, early this evening. She called fuming over this Tadias article and accused almost all NY Ethiopians of conspiracy to stop a good organization such as COEEF from doing its job. The only thing I can say is that these beautiful little ladies are doing a great job in showcasing their country’s culture and way of life, in my opinion better than any adult, and I think they deserve to be protected and treasured from any kind of exploitation and harm from which ever direction its coming from…

  2. 2 ethiopian living in usa Aug 17th, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I am socked that you this article failed to recognize this wonderful man who is traveling with kids all over the US to help children of Ethiopia. So what if he failed to mention the names of restaurant owners who participated in providing meals for the kids. This article is not written to show the talent and effort of young girls who are trying to fundraise for their schools back home. It barely mentions the cause of this tour nor does it give credit for 12 brave young girls. It is true that the girls are tired, who wouldn’t? Is this article an advertisement for the restaurants in NW?

  3. 3 Lynda Aug 17th, 2007 at 9:09 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Surely you cannot consider this responsible journalism! It appears more out of some petty vindictiveness. Let’s see if this reply makes your column or if it is censured. How does anyone know besides someone who was with them how these kids were treated? Were their chaperones interviewed for this article? Were the kids interviewed? The kids made one appearance at one church in NY on the morning of their performance–The one your magazine said had a connection to the Ethiopian community. Then went back to their hotel to rest and eat. How do you know the kids did not eat on arrival–were the kids asked if they ate? Had they’d been asked you would have found they ate the minute they arrived in NY, had lunch prior to their performance. Your friend feeding them on the street was done out of her “thinking” they were not fed. However, I question even this, since her aunt catered the event, I’m sure she was aware that she could and did take a tray into their dressing room to assure that they would eat, so there was no need to feed them on the street.

    I was at the NY performance and I heard Mr. Perdue thank the entire Ethiopian community as well as your magazine. While he may have mistakenly omitted someone, this could have easily been handled with a list provided to Mr. Perdue as is normally done. I am sure they were all tired, they had just finished a spectacular performance.

    As I followed those young ladies the following day, they slept in late, waking up at 1pm, had breakfast provided by the Perdue’s, went on a shopping adventure in NJ, went to Toys R’ Us and ate at Planet Hollywood all at the expense of Mr. Perdue. As I as with them 80% of their time here, I’d be more than happy to talk to you or any of your readers who may have any concerns about the care of these children. As a mother of three, I would never be associated with anyone or anything that would cause to do harm to children.

    Was anyone who was with them during their stay here interviewed besides the one woman who is upset that after she volunteered to work with this project asked to be paid $3,000.

  4. 4 Yonas Aug 17th, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I was one of many fortunate Ethiopians to be treated to the magnificent Mesgana dancers in George Washington university last Saturday and beside the joy and excitement I felt for indulging on the talent of these little children of Ethiopia, I was devastated by the fact that they were being used and manipulated in such inhumane manner by the so-called humanitarian Americans. Clearly, the coordinators seem to be eager and willing to take these kids all over US to generate as much money as they can. In the process, the welfare of these kids isn’t being given due attention even when it comes to the basic travel arrangements. The 11 children are being put up at any volunteer’s house in cities across America with no real comfort when they return from a hard day’s work. Surely, one understands the position the kids are in today is probably better than their living condition prior to receiving educational support from this charitable organization. However, such humanitarian involvement shouldn’t warrant an exploitation of these poor children by dragging them all over US to the point of exhaustion and fatigue.

    The name given to the tour “Mesgana” is also very much questionable as these kids are only indebted to their sponsors who pay for their school tuition fees. They don’t owe a gratitude to the Ethiopian, American or Ethiopian American community. Hence, I’m having problem understanding the reason why these kids are being dragged around the world to say thank you to a paying audience.

    As an Ethiopian, I feel anger when I see innocent little kids of our nation being used to generate money to advance one’s vision. Today’s professional singers don’t have such tightly scheduled concert tours as it’s a tiring and exhaustive experience even for the adult who’s in best mental and physical condition. I can only imagine what these children could be going through when they have to perform back to back routines and travel hundreds/thousands of miles in their little undeveloped bodies. And it’s beyond me how such undermining act of our Ethiopian identity takes place in front of our eyes and we have no formidable voice to raise a concern. Lack of recognition of the helping hands of the Ethiopian community in New York by the coordinators clearly demonstrates the motive for the tour is anything but to show gratitude. Poor Ethiopian kids are victims of physical and sexual abuses inside the country. The latest money grabbing scheme by the so-called charitable couple is an insult to an already suffering issue of the nation.

    “YABATEH BET SIZEREF ABREH ZEREF” Yibalal

    Yonas

  5. 5 From Tadias Editors Aug 17th, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Editor’s Note:

    The Mesgana Dancers tour also benefits Ethiopia Reads, another non-profit organization founded in 2003 by Yohannes Gebregeorgis and led by the celebrated children’s author Jane Kurtz. The group establishes libraries in schools in Ethiopia and has published many books in Amharic.

    Tadias Magazine had contacted Ethiopia Reads for comment. Laura Bond, Ethiopia Reads’ director here in the US, represented Ethiopia Reads at the NYC and New Jersey performances. The following is her comment on behalf of Ethiopia Reads.
    ——————

    From Ethiopia Reads:

    Thank you so much for the support Tadias Magazine has lent to the Mesgana
    Dancers Tour. We know that you worked hard to help spread the word about the
    girls’ recent performance in New York, and that exposure in Tadias really
    helped get the word out. I’m also glad to hear that you enjoyed the
    performance.

    I am aware that there are some hurt feelings about who was and who was not
    formally thanked from the stage at Skirball Center. I’m also aware that
    there are some conflicts between the two groups that helped organize the NYC
    performance, none of which have anything to do with the Mesgana Dancers,
    COEEF or Ethiopia Reads. I do regret that an evening so full of joy and
    celebration ended on a sour note. Judging by the multiple standing ovations
    the girls received, the audience really loved the show. It certainly was an
    oversight not to thank those who extended such effort on behalf of the
    girls. I feel it is worth noting that no list of local supporters was
    provided by the local volunteer committee. In every other city, the local
    volunteer committee has been mindful to let Norman Perdue know who should be
    thanked, so that no one is unintentionally overlooked.

    As Jane explained, because both Ethiopia Reads and COEEF are grassroots
    organizations, we rely heavily on volunteer effort. In each city, volunteers
    have helped make arrangements for food, lodging, meals, publicity and many
    of the other elements involved in such a complicated endeavor. There are
    literally hundreds of people across the U.S., both Ethiopian and
    non-Ethiopian, involved in making this tour successful. We hope that those
    involved will derive the greatest reward from knowing they were part of
    something that will ultimately benefit children in Ethiopia, as well as the
    individual girls who participate in the tour. While formal recognition is
    always nice, this project is a labor of love for everyone involved. I ask
    you to consider that even the girls’ primary caregiver, Serkaddis, asks us
    not to mention her name as part of the performance because as she reminds
    us, “It’s about the girls.”

    I was with the girls in NYC and New Jersey. I was with them backstage as
    they ate their dinner before the show, and also on the sidewalk, when Meron
    brought out leftovers as we waited to load the vans. To my observation, the
    girls ate because food was presented to them, not because they were
    famished. The following day, they slept until 11, played, rested, watched
    TV, took a van tour of Times Square and enjoyed a relaxed and celebratory
    dinner at Planet Hollywood. It’s true that some early legs of the tour were
    intense — probably too much so. In the future we will not schedule more
    than two performances in a row. That’s a lesson learned. It is a demanding
    schedule, but there is a healthy balance of work and play. In Colorado, for
    example, they’ll perform just twice in six days. The girls are being cared
    for by an Ethiopian woman, a young Ethiopian man and three Ethiopian
    teenagers who feed and clothe them and put them to bed at night. I can
    assure you there are being well cared for, and their happiness and
    well-being is the primary concern.

    If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me. I look
    forward to your article and to returning to New York City in the near
    future. Ethiopia Reads has made some wonderful friends in your city.

    Best,

    Laura Bond

  6. 6 Haime Aug 17th, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Wow! This is disturbing. Thank you Tadias for exposing this insanity. This is what responsible journalism is all about; you see something, you say something.

    What the hell were they thinking? They think they can disrespect the community and get away with it, especially while they parade our children to beg for money. This is New York, baby. You can’t get away with this kind of b—st without facing the consequences. The only way out of this quagmire is for the guy from Utah to issue a public apology to the Ethiopian-American community and assure Ethiopians that the kids are being treated properly.

  7. 7 Taye from L.A Aug 17th, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    what, what, what??? “Mr. Perdue, who ordered the kids to be “quarantined” (in his words) at the COEEF safe house in Addis Ababa in order to clean them up in preparation for their U.S. tour,”. What? did I read this right? “quarantined”??? This is crazy and unacceptable. Can the authorities investigate this group in Ethiopia?

    Yes, Zeraf, Zeraf, Zeraf is in order.

  8. 8 Marie Ann Gaston Aug 17th, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    As a parent I am always concerned when I see young children paraded around to raise money for events (even those for their own good). From reading the article I understand that Mr. Perdue himself stated that the kids were “tired and groggy.” This alone makes me question why the chaperones and organizers cannot take the children’s safety into consideration instead of making such an announcement to their audience, as if it is supposed to be taken lightly. Neither do I find his explanation of why some people, who incidently are part of the very community he claims to be helping, so easily forgotten. Does he really need a list of names to remember the people that volunteered for his organization? Is his organization so large that he needs to be reminded to name those who fed him for free? As already mentioned it is a few dedicated volunteers who did much of the work, so it can’t be THAT difficult to remember these names. I find it distateful and arrogant to make such a public comment to a magazine, that “lack of sleep” on his part conveniently made him forget the very people he relied on. As for the lady who posted that she chaperoned the children 80% of the time (Lynda), shame on you for totally bypassing the fact, that as your organizer mentioned, left the children “tired and groggy.” As a parent I know that 7 year old kids should not be waking up at 3am to go anywhere, much less to raise money for your organization. You GOTTA BE KIDDING!

  9. 9 Meron Yasir Aug 17th, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Dear Sirs,

    As an active Ethiopian and member of the Riverside Church, a supporter of Ethiopia Reads, COEEF and other charitiable organizations, I am very upset and what has been communicated by your magazine. Your facts are dangerously and devisively incorrect and false. They never came to our church, because it would have been too much as Mr. Perdue informed us. Last year I traveled to see the dancers in two cities and both times they were treated with care and respect.

    I also noticed that your magazine is listed as a supporter or sponsor, what is your role in thanking our community? Does it have to come from the stage? I also know that there were other New Yorkers who contributed and were not mentioned and none of them complained but did it out of love and care. Is this article some way of lifting your readership at our community’s expense? These are good people, as I am sure you are.

    I was at the show as was my family. We talked with the children and the people associated with it. The girls seemed to enjoy it all. What a beautiful performance we were fortunate to see and be a part of. Let us stop this now and I thank the people of COEEF and Ethiopia Reads and all the sponsors involved including those who support these girls in their education. You may feel free to print this.
    ——————

    From Tadias Editors

    Dear Ms. Yasir,

    Thank you for contacting us. We would like to express, first and foremost, that as a media organization it is our sole responsibility and duty to cover stories as they unfold, not just from one popular opinion but from all perspectives.

    That said, we have covered this issue from more than one angle on more than one occassion. The first article published was largely drawn from the perspective of the organizers and the chaperones. It covered the children’s historic trip to Harlem. We note that the organizers had submitted an itinerary to Tadias Magazine that listed Riverside Church as one of their destinations.

    The second article, likewise, featured our reporter’s first-hand observations of public comments made by Mr. Perdue in New York, which included an admittal that the children were “quarantined” before their trip to the U.S., and that on the evening of their New York performance the children were described by Mr. Perdue as being “tired and groggy.” These are factual observations, and such public commentaries have unfortunately caused concern among the Ethiopian-American community.

    In addition, Tadias Magazine has contacted Ethiopia Reads for comments, and their full statement has been published. The comments of chaperones and members of the NYC coordinating committee have also been published.

    Thank you for taking the time to write to us. We wholeheartedly agree with you that both COEEF and Ethiopia Reads have made a difference in the lives of Ethiopian children, and we have shown our support as media sponsors in promoting the U.S. Tour. As an Ethiopian-American magazine, however, it would be inauthentic for us to ignore the complexity of this issue by simply portraying only the opinions of the organizers and their supporters.

    We have written our stories after having interacted at length with the organizers, the sponsoring businesses, the children, and the volunteers. We will continue to follow the story as it unfolds.

    With Best Regards,

    The Editors

  10. 10 Haile Aug 18th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you Tadias for a great report, as always!. It seems to me what we have here is a simple and honest misunderstanding between Mr. Purdue and the Ethiopian community. Yes, it is possible that he was genuinely tired and forgot to thank the Ethiopians. But, if he is a decent and honest man, he would issue an apology to those that he offended. If Mr. Perdue has any understanding of Ethiopia, its history and its people, he should know that “pride” is the corner stone of being Ethiopian. It is very clear that he was treated nicely and generously by the Ethiopian community in New York. But it is also very clear that he did make a mistake of alienating the Ethiopians that supported him. So, just say I am sorry and let’s move on. At the end of the day, it is about the girls not about Mr. Perdue. Be a bigger man and apologize. Otherwise, mark my word, Ethiopians don’t forget when it comes to matters of “pride”. If arrogance prevail, one more mistake, and you will be out of business, at least in Ethiopia.

  11. 11 Pat Syverson Aug 18th, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I agree. I was at the show and indeed the dancers were spectacular! As I looked around the room, I was one of the minority (along with Mr. Perdue) in the audience. I would say at least 85% of the the people in attendance were Ethiopians. I came to learn about the show through Tadias Magazine and were invited by an Ethiopian friend. If my memory serves me right, Mr. Perdue did not recognize a single Ethiopian on the stage, that was a topic of discussion among my Ethiopian friends after the show. I am sure he is a great guy (his work through the dancers speaks for it), but there might be an unconscious arrogance at play here. If an apology is the least he can do to alleviate the hurt he caused, then I encourage him to do so!

  12. 12 Gedle Aug 18th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Dear Haile:

    What an exellent analysis you have commented. Eventhough I felt it was a bit aggressive or excessive towards the end, I felt that it was the best comment I have read on this particular subject. But I do have one more comment to add: If we Ethiopians are willing to do the job, no one like Mr. Purdue would dare leave his photography profession to help poor Ethiopian kids. We are like the dog that chains itself and then comlain because it is not free to chase the cats and neighborhood dogs that gets into its territory.

    Yegna neger endiaw Zim new Bayasabid yastetal ber bergido kefto lemin gebu bilo malkes

  13. 13 Yehasab Aug 18th, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    I have a big question to whom it may concern whether these young innocent unsuspecting children are proselyted by the people who handle them. I hope it is not what I am suspecting; if that is the fact, I do think these people who handle the children did not come to Ethiopia to help them. Rather they are robbers of the children’s culture and faith. Please let us know about the situation if the people who handle the children are influencing young innocent children from their own identity. If these people are in a mission of proselyting in to their protestant religion by denying the children’s faith and religion, then I think it is a crime to humanity and its identity.

  14. 14 Ye-ager Lig Aug 18th, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I attended this event thinking like most people taht I was doing something good for the future of Ethiopia. But, unfortunately, I came to learn the darker side of the event through good sources, and we Ethiopians must be vigilant about distinguising between the foreigners who come to help out of altruism and those who come with alterior motives that is dishonest and disrespectful to our culture and identity.

    So I want to begin by addressing dear LYNDA frst:
    There is more to the story than you know. First, though the couple appear nice, they are not the most sensitive kind and they can be quite harsh to the girls as I have heard of an incident then witnessed one myself.

    Second, the board members are all Mormon, and they recently voted out a wealthy Jewish member who was helping the organzation from New York.

    I did notice that Mr. Purdue did not thank any member of the Ethiopian community here in New York. That includes Meron Dagnew, who was instrumental in helping to organize the show.

    Let us not forget the famous quote regarding Western missionary workers and Africa–one hand with the Bible, the other with the gun; and though Mr. and Mrs. Purdue may not have guns, though they may feel that they are doing good work–in fact, “God’s work”–for the little Ethiopian girls, one has to question the real drive behind a people whos religion, especially, tolerated racist ideology and practice until 1965. I want to ask the Purdues of the world: Do you come to Ethiopia to learn and be awed by our ancient history, unique culture(s) and strong sense of identity? Or are you coming to claim our beloved country for yourself by inticing the poor and the hurting into your interpretation of God because of your economic position? (As if the Ethiopians knew nothing about God in the first place.)

    Dear readers, Mr. Purdue may be speaking the truth when he says that fatigue got in the way of him forgetting to thank us Habeshas. However, it’s the sub-psyche; the sub-conscious state of things one ought to pay attention to. Because inwardly, Mr. Purdue feels not only in the position to help educate Ethiopian children (our future) financially, but to ultimately educate them spiritually as well. And that sprituality is Mormonism, a religion which has redirected Christianity from Israel to upstate New York–(no joke)–in order to accomodate their narrow-minded world-view. That kind of “help” will only lead to the further division within our beloved country; and young Ethiopian girls trying to tell their proud parents that Mormonism is the way to be a “Christian” is the last thing we need.

    I know Mr. Purdue said that he doesn’t eat Ethiopian food because it “doesn’t agree with him”. Well, if he doesn’t like any of our endless variety of food, then he ought to sit with his American junk happy-meal and begin to, at least, read of our history–in Amharic.

    To quote a good Habesh friend, “they are messing with the wrong Africans!” Because as divided as we Ethiopians may be, when it comes to outsiders meddling in our business and sense of identity, we will unite and defend ourselves–the Ethiopian way, with an Ethiopian smile.

  15. 15 MGSG Aug 18th, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    I was also at George Washington university last Saturday. As much as I enjoyed the show, I was also worried about the girls being little overworked for their age?

    But they seemed they were enjoying it. It may be odd for us because we also stay in our parents house at the age of 40. But here in US, Kids have as much energy as Mesgana girls. They are full of energy. The difference is that this one is organized and they are all having proper food, and rest on time. Whereever they are, they are not going to stop from wasting their energy by running or fussing or playing on the ground. Because they are kids. It is good to be concerned, but, come on friends, who are we to judge by siting in our mansion doing NOTHING except saying Zeraf. Of cource, as always, we have to give constructive comments .

  16. 16 H. Gebre Aug 18th, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Dear Tadias Staff Writer,

    I missed the opportunity to watch Mesgana’s show here in Washington, but my friend had been keeping me posted of their performance. I love these beautifull children who make excellent representation of Ethiopia’s rich and diverse culture wherever they go. I am also proud to see the support of many Ethiopian organizations and individuals, including TADIAS. At the same time their support should not be taken for granted. I am glad that TADIAS was able to point out that fact. While the big picture is to support needy children back home, it is important to give credit to those who contributed to the success of the program. No body should be taken for granted. Good job TADIAS.

  17. 17 Bemnet Aug 19th, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Thanks for the active participation of all the megazine editors and the organizors of this great cultural event. I am glad to read the comments of such a civil and active part of the Ethiopian, as well as American, community in a positive discussion about an image building event for Ethiopia. Last but not least, lets try to give the benefit of the doubt to the people running the tour. As long as they do not harm the children, who are probably as happy doing what they are doing, lets not be pushy about the whole matter.

  18. 18 Hanna Aug 19th, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for raising this very important issue Tadias Magazine and for some good analyses above. I also enjoyed the Mesgana show and the positive messages in DC. However, all my enjoyment turned to sadness when I saw these precious Ethiopian kids being let out in the hallway with table and chair to give autograph to each audience who purchased the poster. And every person receives a signature of all nine girls. After such a hard work, I could not believe that was any fair other than being abuse. I have asked a family who attended the NJ show and how it went regarding the signing of the autograph? It was very harsh and very crowded. I heard the show was sold out. So who would want his/her child to be treated in that manner. It was very hard to watch. Just because they are children, there energy should not be taken for granted. I also noticed and heard that Mr. Perdue was shocked to see so many Ethiopians in Washington DC, who came to support the show. He said “he was not expecting Ethiopians”. As well as being overwhelmed by a good cause, it is a must to be critical and observant.

  19. 19 FANA Aug 19th, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    To the Editors:

    I can not believe what I am reading here. And very disappointed.

    Mesgana Dancers had their second show in Atlanta. I was one of the Atlanta volunteer organizers. I was very lucky to have met and gotten to know these wonderful little girls by name and spent an unforgettable time with them for three days. And I saw how Mr. Norm took care of them. We had to cancel some plans because Norm said they need to rest. Plus, always he made sure that each one of them are okay and are fed well. These people are doing what most Ethiopians are not doing or even give a thought to: Changing one single kid’s life, let alone 800 kids.

    Did you get time or chance to interview or talk to these girls? You may find the right answer from them…it is so easy to blame anyone for one simple thing they do, rather than appreciate one good thing they do. Like, why now acknowledge Ethiopians…What did these Ethiopian people do to get acknowledgement? If so, that is something else, but it should be for their own satisfaction, happiness and for the kids. Why do they expect the world to know about what they did? How many of you went to Mr. Norm to thank him for what he is doing? So please, think positive and be thankful for any good job people do and do not discourage especially people who do what you can’t do or do not want to do!! Don’t just look for little things to blame or complain.

  20. 20 Joe Kassa Aug 19th, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    I am very puzzled by what we are saying about Mr. and Mrs. Purdue. I was fortunate enough to talk with Mr. Purdue while he was in Atlanta to promote the show. From what he was talking he seems to be very sincere and genuine. Actually, it was suppose to be the so called Ethiopians job to do what Mr. Purdue is doing. Instead we are standing on the side and complain every time someone does well for our Ethiopian Kids. Please stop complaining and be grateful once in a while. What if he forgets to mention some Ethiopian names? He is there for the kids not to promote Ethiopian businesses. If those Ethiopian volunteers expected a recognition during the show and are offended by not hearing their names, I will thank you for Mr. Purdue. Stop whining let other do what you have no gut to do.

    Atsera wey sew Atasera
    joe

  21. 21 Norm Perdue Aug 19th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Dear Readers:

    Thanks to all who have responded to the article regarding the Mesgana Tour. Due to a huge oversight on my part I failed to recognize, on the stage, all the individuals and businesses that had a part in the New York City stop of the Mesgana Tour. I publicly apologize for this mistake on my part and would hope that we can move on positively from this time forward. I would like to thank the following for their part in making the New York City stop a success:

    Tadias Magazine, Liben and his staff, especially Meron for all her help and hard work along the way. Queen of Sheba and Merkato Restaurants for the delicious meals for staff and kids, Uptown Bookstore, Grey Line Tours, Dean & DeLuca, Kristin at the Deauville Hotel, Sheraton Hotel at the Meadowlands, Steven Dyer (photographer), Kolfe (our patient driver), Rowland for his video of the event, Shawn Kingston, and Al Roker of the Today Show.

    I do want to mention that I did publically recognize and thank all the people in New York City at the SOPAC event in South Orange, NJ on 8/14 before a sold-out crowd of close to 500 people.

    We sincerely do appreciate Tadias Magazine for the support of the show and judging by all the positive comments after the show, a good time was had by all.

    Norm & Ruthie Perdue
    Children of Ethiopia Education Fund

  22. 22 ms Aug 19th, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    These days, some of you Ethiopians are making a habit of using our own proverbs to degrade ourselves. It is now almost a fashionable thing to use revolting cliches and attack anything decent, anything Ethiopian. It is now hip to jump on someone who maintains we are people of great tradition and wealth. You say we should never think we come from a ‘lemlem’(green) place and we are unique.

    When you desperately want to fit in, when you become a sucker just trying to look ‘advanced’ and ‘different’, what will end up happening is loosing the default respect we are offered as people.

    Now, when it comes to the matter at hand, all the magazine and its supporters are doing is just protecting our kids, and our future. Some writers here accuse them of not doing and talking…what a falasy! They helped you see the kids, they are now helping you see what may be going on in their lives. Right or wrong, they are doing something…

    I was there at the performance(in NYC ). I am not saying, as humans, there cannot be no errors made by them (the magazine or its people)…yet, I happen to think they are right.

    True, we may be sensitive because of our image. But our image or our possible jumpyness should not be used to distract from what could really be happening.

    We Ethiopians have not come this far without what some of you now consider to be unjustified pride and flawed identification with ancient might. That may be a big topic for another discussion. Are some of you defending someone whose ears seem to be deaf to some of the most important questions: are the kids ok? Are you sorry you ‘forgot’ to mention these names?

    If he doesn’t offer an answer to these questions, all we have left will be our assumptions that his agenda is indeed sinister and well planned.

    Finally, is there any better way of showing someone that you really don’t respect him or her other than by simply ignoring their cries(justified or not)?

  23. 23 Gudu Aug 20th, 2007 at 1:22 am

    I know that we failed ourselves. We all are directly or indirectly responsible for what is happening to those kids. I think we all have to be reborn to change a generation mess that our country is going through. We are one of the poorest nation in the world and No man is going to deny that. If you ask me, you and I are the reason why.

    However, Regardless of what we are and how our selfishness made us to be the real Ethiopians that we failed to be, we shouldn’t allow our kids to be victimized by the white empire, self-claimed Mormons.

    It is obvious that these people have their own agenda. If any man on earth fails to recognize that then I think you have a problem of knowing who you are as a person. We all have our own hidden agenda whenever we decided to do something.The agenda could be fame, money or religion but there is always something.

    I believe in this case, as I can clearly see, these people are not really there to help the kids rather to benefit themselves. That is why the kids are not getting the appropriate cares they deserve.

    Finally, I would like to advise the people who are involved to stop being too selfish and to be careful with the little princesses of Ethiopia. If you don’t, someday someone will expose you. The lord is always watching and you will never escape his judgment.

    And YES Tadias thank you for covering all sides of the stories.

  24. 24 Abba Gasha Aug 20th, 2007 at 10:16 am

    I am great full to Tadias publishers interest about this tour and the young Ethiopian girls. Regardless of what these people are trying to do in Ethiopia, one needs to understand where these people are coming from.To remind everyone on fo the Mormon history, these so called christian church did not allow men or women of black color to be involved in their church service until the mid 1970. That was when they said God told them the time has come for them to accept blacks in the church service and a postal worker from Utah left his work to become a deacon. They actually believed blacks and women were created to serve white people. Think about it. And we Ethiopians practiced Christianity and Muslim religion for longer than they have known us.

    ” Bere hoy’ Bere hoy’sarun ayehena gedelun satay “

    Remember this wise quote and stay on guard we are down to day but we will be back

  25. 25 Kiki Aug 20th, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Dear Tadias,

    I would like to address this issue as an African American who was at the show invited by an African American who helped to organize the event. It was a beautiful event and was attended by mostly Ethiopians. You guys came out in full force to support it which is so commendable. But may I give you insight from my culture. Most people who do good, do it not out of recognition, but from the heart. Because I say this, we may appear to you perhaps less “proud” about the recognition as the Ethiopian Community. However, this is not about the Ethiopian Community. I did not see that you mentioned that African Americans who were not mentioned as well or some of the others not of Ethiopian decent who were not recognized like the young African American woman from the bookstore or the people who sponsored the tours, the radio stations, etc. None of whom were upset by the omission. Why the slant of “Ethiopian” disrespect? Why not just say there were “many” businesses or individuals not recognized? What does this cause? My understanding is that all supporters were given VIP passes, when we receive this type of gratis, we take it as thanks. I understand Ms. Meron, who did a lot of work, was not acknowledged and should have been so I understand if she is upset. Yet, I have a concern with this as well. It appears that a lot of the damaging words are coming from Ms. Meron. If before the show Ms. Meron had these concerns about the treatment of the girls, why did she continue to support it up until the very end of the show; I even saw her smiling on stage? I certainly would not have. I think there is more to this than is reported. Perhaps something personal, now at the expense of these children. Who really is using them? This all reminds me of that old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Though this is an Ethiopian news report, perhaps you may want to be as fair about what you report as you are asking of Mr. Perdue. I agree with the woman who says, your magazine as a sponsor is just as responsible. Why did you or someone from your magazine that felt so strongly about recognition, not take the stage and thank everyone who may have been missed?

    K

  26. 26 Kiki Aug 20th, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Perhaps their schedules were tight, this is not unusual nor does it make it right, yet they did look healthy and happy. Concern for the children I can understand and would encourage to stay on the minds of everyone, but when I look objectively, it seems to be more.

    K

  27. 27 lemma Aug 20th, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Dear Readers;

    People just understand the reality. For the cause of helping others they are working hard. This is coordinated by a gentle American; in this big nation.

    Ethiopian-Americans are complaining about unrecognition, thanks etc. Who should be thanked first: the helper or the taker? These organizations are for helping others in Ethiopia, if they execute such things genuinely; we should thank him, Mr. Perdue in New York too for his holistic activity and should not expect the reverse.

    We have to understand too that the Ethiopia-American community is established and developed here by the genuine support of the American government and American people. it is enjoying all the freedoms and developments associated with it. Hence, roaring on Americans is “yagoresutin eji menkess”. Pride is another thing which comes from the so called history, thousand years civilization, but abject povery, hunger, war and gosegninet currently.
    That is the reality. It is not the Ethio-Americans went to Ethiopia and stretched a helping hand, it is Mr. perdue. You are running to blame a helpers hand sitting comfortably after you swallowed the big bonanza of help from America.

    I am just tired of to thinking what miserable and complex people we Ethiopians are!!!

    lemma

  28. 28 Kiki Aug 20th, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    My mother told me not to write, but as many of you do, I feel that I have to. She was one of the organizers of this event and I am very upset by what is being said.

    As a child model/actor, my mother was ALWAYS aware of my needs. If “she” felt I was doing too much, even when I thought I wasn’t, she would not let me do it. In entertainment there is a lot of work, but also as kids when we like doing something, we have a lot of energy. She has adopted my little brother and is the most caring individual I know. As I watched her work on this project she was always diligent of the care of these children, making sure their time was spent with equal play, rest and work. How dare anyone who doesn’t know her judge her. If you did, this would not be an issue. I can’t speak for what happened in other cities, but this one I can. If she says these people took care, then they did. My mother is the most kind, fair and outspoken person I know and would never bow down at the expense of anyone.

    Tadias I understand that when someone suspects something harmful, one must speak up, and as reporters it is your job, as a son, so it is mine. My hope is that healing can and does come to all our lives, that we appreciate and acknowledge anyone that does good and that we all live from my mother’s favorite saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and that we all become that village. I don’t need anyone to respond to me, I know my mom and now I hope you do.

    Lamarr

  29. 29 Womble Aug 20th, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    It is amazing to see such a noble person work for our country. However, those who have done nothing at all criticize him. It was Mr. Perdue who took them from their humble houses and from their poverty to the privilege of going to school and even coming to the US to raise funds. Bravo, Mr. Perdue! We appreciate what you are doing. We will follow on your footsteps. Don’t listen to those selfish critics in NY which are upset because you did not mention the few coins they threw. That is because they did not know from the start it was their responsibility to look after their own children. They criticize you for what you have done. You left your comfortable life to help these children. I apologize to you for all these selfish people of mine. They don’t represent all of us. God bless you, Mr. Perdue. Keep it up.

  30. 30 Kiki Aug 20th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    one more thing, my girlfriend is right, this is personal. Personal to me.

    Lamarr

  31. 31 Pat Syverson Aug 20th, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Let me jump in again. It is over, folks. Mr. Purdue has taken the high road and apologized. I commend him for his courageous act. I congratulate Tadias Magazine for reporting on this issue and giving all of us the opportunity to discuss the matter. Yes, indeed, the pen is more powerful then the sword. Frankly all publicity is good publicity…the Mesgana Dancers are going to have a great tour as result of this article. Tadias Magazine raised two important questions: The kids busy travel schedule and the failure to recognize the support of Ethiopians. Mr. Purdue apologized and said that it was an oversight on his part not to have recognized the Ethiopian Community. Mr. Purdue’s apology is an undisputed fact. Ethiopia Reads, the other organization acknowledged that the kids were over scheduled and it will not happen again. The comment from Ethiopia reads is undisputed fact. Tadias has done its job. It was fair and balanced.

    How wonderful that Tadias has criticized the organizers when it saw fit. How wonderful that Mr. Purdue on behalf of his organization has apologized. How wonderful that Ethiopia reads has issued a comment (on this blog) agreeing with the Tadias report.

    What could be more American than the freedom and power of the press? Once again, congratulations Tadias Magazine.

    Now, let’s shift the focus to the girls. They are beautiful, talented and full of bright future!!

    .

  32. 32 Frew Tibebu Aug 20th, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    It is typical of our culture to look for the negative, and lose site of the “big picture”. People that have not lift up a finger to do anything good in their life, charitable or not, should not open their mouth in criticism of noble individuals like the Perdue’s who are giving themselves as gifts of kindness, out of their pure heart to make a difference in the lives of many children in Ethiopia. If they happen to leave out some names, failed to acknowledge some individuals or businesses for their contribution or achievement, I am sure they will come forward and apologize. They are decent people, they are not in the business of disrespecting or discounting any achievement. We got to remember that the organization is in its infancy and they have a lot to learn. This is only the second year for the tour.. and I am quite sure they make the necessary adjustments to address the childrens welfare as they travel from city to city. Norm & Ruthann are special people who choose to live by giving their time & talent to the Children of Ethiopia. This is not their ticket for retirement…stop the cancer that some of you are spreading about them, without knowing any detail about their life and their sincere devotion to live this way.

  33. 33 Fifi Ayalew Aug 20th, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Dear Lemma,

    Relax my friend. You seem to eager to please. America belongs to all of us. Don’t get confused. Ethiopians are not mere immigrant group here, we are very much part of main stream America. We are students in the top educational institutions in this country. We are lawyers, artists, doctors, soldiers, bankers, fashion designers, Musicians, real estate agents, insurance agents, FBI agents, cops, security gurds, grcoery baggers, cashiers, millionaires, crack addicts, drug dealers, gangsters, yes, even farmers, and much, much more. We are Ethiopian-Americans. Our children are born and raised here. It is a matter of time before an Ethiopian kid born raised in GOOD OLD U.S.A runs for the presidency. I don’t know where you are, but perhaps you should move to the East Coast so you can enjoy freedom in your own community. You seem too sacred! Relax, friend, America belongs to you too!

    Now, to the matter at hand, apology is issued and it is over. As Mr. Purdue said, let us move on positively.

    Don’t want to bring the dark days of Rodiney King, but, I can’t resist, “Can’t we all get along”.

    Is you crazy? Lemma lomi bela

  34. 34 Tazabi Aug 21st, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Woche Gud!!!! I was hooked on reading all the comments, coming back to Tadias’s site to see if there is a new comments… I thank Tadias for that!! And the Editor. I love what Fifi’s ideas and thinking… after observing everyones thinking, I think I fit in her catagory.

    To Lemma: “I am just tired of to thinking what miserable and complex people we Ethiopians are!!!” I agree we Ethiopians are complex, but don’t get it twisted by generalizing everone is misreable.

    Hummm, Maybe you are missreable and you need to get out of your depression state to be located in the East Coast!!! Fifi was right about you!

    To Fifiye: I love your last words… Lemma lomi bela! LOL

    It’s like that old say’n “Abebe Besso Bella” I received a NEWS Flash Text message from Addis… and it said “NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH! ABEBE BESSO ALBELAM ALLE” LOL

    Tazabi

  35. 35 Tazabi Aug 21st, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    BTW: Suggestion to TADIAS Magazine, I think you should start…
    HEBESHA U GOSIP ONLINE! (HUGO) It will be a hit. :-)

    T.

  36. 36 Yonas Aug 23rd, 2007 at 8:42 am

    My question is, if all of these kids have individual sponsors who are paying for their school tuition fees back in Ethiopia, why are these kids coming to the US to say thank you? Who is the recipient of their gratitude? the paying audience? Being Ethiopian and proud of these little kids’ performance is one thing but understanding the real reason behind their American tour will help us solve the issue subjectively. Unless we feel confident that there is a legitimate reason for bringing these under age kids to raise fund for the couple’s organization, all other exchange of words and apologies are irrelevant. I strongly believe that the couple are exploiting these kids for their own advantage. Raising money through working under age children should not be treated lightly. Because of our country’s disadvantageous position, please do not overlook the most fundamental arguement which is the exploitation of under age children. Children should be nurtured and cultivated!! Children should not be responsible for advancing one’s ambition!!! So, I urge my fellow Ethiopians to look into the criminal aspect of the issue before you start to suck up to the so-called humanitarian couple.

    Yonas

  37. 37 BT Aug 23rd, 2007 at 11:15 am

    YOANS : there is always benefit. Weather the organization benefits or not, these kids are getting benefit too. I see two things in this organization: First, they are showing our wonderful culture, which most Americans don’t know about us except the bad side of it. Second, somehow and in someway they are attending school.

    Yoans, how many of us are helping even our neighborhood kids who can’t afford to pay $5 Birr per month to go to school? Forget about the remote area, vary uncomfortable area were this kids are? Honestly when we go to visit every abasha from our neighborhood, if we pick one kid to help pay his or her school and food, it may cost $25 dollars a month, that is nothing, if we think about it to help. But nobody wants to do it. Instead when we go for a visit some of us act we did not come form there…so called Americanized. We don’t have time even to visit our poor cousins who live outside of Addis because we don’t want to travel outside the city. That is how we are.

    Yoans, come’on, you know these things, so please live this guy alone. He is changing kids life. If he is doing it to benefit himself, then good, he can benefit 1000 time. If you care about the kids, let us do something . But if we can’t do anything for this poor kids, let others do it, please. Let us act on it, let us do something for our country. $20 per month saves life.

    Betam ysaferal…wey ansera…blalew sera mekenat.
    Berhan

  38. 38 Dawn Aug 23rd, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Yonas and others who are upset in the Ethiopian Community. As a mother, I would like to say that I can appreciate your comments, but I feel that more research should be done before you judge so harshly the good that is being done. I have developed a great love for the Ethiopian culture and people and it is due to what I have seen from Norm Perdue. I became a sponsor of a child in Axum four years ago and recently visited her there. I loved the people I met and saw what is being done for the children there. Mr. Perdue has a great love for Ethiopia and he takes individuals like myself over there to the schools to meet children and work with them. This was a life changing experience for me that was worth every penny. I feel that he has really opened a door to help educate people here in America of what good we can do to help others and share the love with others. I honestly have to say that I did not want to leave Ethiopia because the people I met there were so wonderful. I am sure you are all wonderful people as well, and I understand the concerns everyone has about the girls. These girls are so amazing and I love them all very much. I have spent the last two days with them… no performances.. just swimming, sleeping, eating, having girl parties and lots of fun! They are happy, healthy, and they do get tired when they perform, but so do many other performers. If you could get to know Mr. Perdue and see how much he loves these children you would be amazed. He knows them all by name – I am talking about the nearly 800 girls that he has in schools throughout Ethiopia. Please know that I have witnessed the love first hand and also seen with my own eyes that all money is being used for the good of the students that I have met, hugged, and fallen in love with in many schools throughout Ethiopia.
    God Bless,
    Dawn

  39. 39 Lecia Aug 23rd, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I would like to say something about Norm and Ruthann Perdue, who I know personally. I worked with Norm for several years and during that time he was trying to get the COEEF organization going. He put in his 40 hours a week took all his vacation time to travel to Ethiopia to interview girls for the program, He would spend hours after work putting together information packages to get sponsors to send these little girls to school (nearly 800 at this time I think) All Norm talked about at work was how beautiful the people of Ethiopia were, how talented the little girls in the program were, what a great thing it was to send the sponsorships to the girls so they could have this education. Then in December of 2006 I actually had the opportunity to go with my daughter and Norm to Ethiopia, everyday we went to school after school where the little girls in his program were attending school. Norm would sit down with the school administrators and talk about how each and every girl was doing. Norm, knows every girl in the program by name, he would make sure that every girl that was being sponsored was attending school, if he found one that had not been to school for a while he would go find their family and find out what was wrong. Norm has brought several of these little girls to the U.S. for medical care, one girl couldn’t hear and Norm worked tirelessly to find the doctors that would operate on her, now she hears fine and is back in Ethiopia attending school and doing very well, another little girl had her foot run over by a car and it was very damaged and she was becoming crippled, Norm again found the doctors and he went and got the little girl and she spent months living in his home with Norm and Ruthann (who is a nurse by profession) the little had several surgeries and is running and playing now. The one thing I know to be true is that Norm and Ruthann LOVE the PEOPLE of Ethiopia.

    I also helped transport some of the girls around last year and yes they do get tired and yes they did eat happy meals, but they are little girls and I did hear “are we there yet” but they played they had rest time, they met many friends. And they all loved to collect the happy meal toys they got with the happy meals that they ate maybe 3 to 4 times a week, but these girls also had plenty of Mango’s, (they love them) and other fruits and vegetables to eat. And when Norm was getting the group together to come this year, all the ones that came last year wanted to do it again. Oh and at the end of the tour they go to Disneyland and play on the beach in California.

    Thanks for allowing me the chance to comment.

  40. 40 Nancy Aug 25th, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    As I read all of the comments I am amazed at the varying perspectives. I was one of the organizers of the Chicago show and feel the need to respond to the negativity directed toward the Perdue’s, their efforts and their imperfections as human beings.

    We were with this group for 3 days. We had a team of volunteers in Chicago who arranged food, lodging, activities and welcome celebrations. I can guarantee that in Chicago they had plenty of time to rest, relax, and enjoy themselves as the young children they are. We spent a glorious day at the beach where they swam, played in the sand and engaged with other families. We took them to the Chicago Children’s Museum where they had a blast playing games, playing with water and doing art projects. We took them to a small water park where they played with other children and delighted at being young girls. We went to extraordinary efforts to provide lodging accommodations that kept the entire group together. Through the generosity of families in our area, they had access to not only Ethiopian food but a variety of foods that were fresh and of good quality. All without public acknowledgment.

    We had an itinerary planned and tailored to their needs. The Perdue’s were vigilant about their rest requirements and in fact, asked if we could change one of our planned activities so the girls could have a more relaxed day. We provided lunch for them immediately following the show and the girls had water breaks. They had one performance in their three day visit.

    What astounds me is the level of animosity toward a couple who is doing their best and giving their all to provide good in this world. What they have taken on is no easy task and I wish people would appreciate that at the very least. It is a difficult job to arrange airfare and visas for 17 people! It is a difficult job to coordinate a sponsorship program and travel to and from Ethiopia several times a year! It is a difficult job to dole out your own money and not see a return. Thankfully they don’t see this as a job, but a privilege.

    The Perdue’s make no money off of this tour. They gain sponsors for children and the money that is raised goes toward purchasing books, hiring teachers, buying supplies and in the long-term, building schools. COEEF relies on volunteer efforts, on people willing to give without the need for recognition. This is a selfless mission on all of our parts to raise awareness and provide ways to educate children.

    The girls love what they are doing. They have every right to say, “no” to being a part of the tour. They are given an opportunity to travel, meet people, experience some of the best that America has to offer and to represent who they are…beautiful, strong and bright young Ethiopian children. They help raise Ethiopia to something beyond HIV and poverty. They represent hope and a future generation for Ethiopia.

    I would hope that people can forgive a man for not saying “thank you” for something that should be given freely and not in effort to boast one’s self or business. Mr. Perdue has to attend to a thousand details and be responsible for a group of young girls on a tour. We made him aware of those who gave and we sent out thank you notes on his behalf. We supported him without expectation of anything in return.

    Mesgana is not a title given to imply that the girls should be grateful. It is a name given by the Perdue’s to reflect their gratitude to Ethiopia and all it has done for them.

  41. 41 Elias Endale Aug 25th, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Dear Nancy, Lacia, and Dawn,

    First, I would like to address the brilliantly talented staff at Tadias Magazine. God bless you! You are the definitive Ethiopian Diaspora magazine, and thanks a million for a great job and for giving us this stage to discuss this important issue. You are also a bridge between Ethiopia and the United States and the Ethiopian-American community and the larger American community. Simply, You are our voice and we are proud of you!!!

    I learned about the Mesgana Dancers through Tadias. I attended the show in Washington, D.C. and I loved it! These girls are cute and simply amazing. As an Ethiopian, I was touched and even cried more than once. Indeed, they are ambassadors of Ethiopian culture. I especially adore little Sofie, what a talent!

    Now, I would like to address Nancy personally and I hope she will respond back. It is incredible to me to how she easily overlooks and dismisses the fact that Ethiopian Businesses who sponsored the project and the hard working Ethiopian volunteers were not recognized. She outright dismisses the community’s concern as a cry for vanity. Give me a break! Do you think that corporate America will sponsor a project without some form of acknowledgment, either in the program, or in some printed material or from the stage? Of course not! It is a standard procedure in all public events to acknowledge sponsors. We hear it all the time: “This event is brought to you by the Generous support of Coca Cola”, “We would like to recognize Nancy, Lacia, and Dawn for their tireless work in putting this event together”, “our sponsor for the evening is Google”, etc, etc.

    But, of course, when Ethiopians ask for recognition, then, it is a cry for vanity. Why should there be a different standard for Ethiopian businesses? They are in the business of making money too, just like any other American business. They play by the same rules and pay Uncle Sam in the same manner. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to legitimately promote their businesses? Why should they be denied the opportunity to be recognized publicly? There is absolutely nothing wrong in promoting your business by sponsoring various projects, weather it is Mesgana Dancers or your neighborhood after school program.

    I am sure you know, as much as I know, that there is no free lunch in America. The fact is Mr. Purdue wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He had a free lunch at Queen of Sheba and Merkato, but completely forgot to recognize the hand that fed him. In the mean time, he goes out on the stage and promotes McDonald’s Happy Meal. Give me a break. McDonald’s didn’t even give him a penny. It is Ethiopians who gave him the money. Do you really think that’s playing fair? It would have been much simpler, honest, and respectful to say: “Thank you Queen of Sheba, Thank you Merkato” and all the other business and even encourage the audience to visit these establishments.

    Nancy, Lacia and Dawn seem to be on an image rehabilitation campaign for Mr. Perdue. There is nothing to rehabilitate here. Unfortunately for them, they seem to be running behind schedule. Mr. Perdue has apologized and has taken responsibility for his oversight. Ethiopians are forgiving and god fearing people. He has been forgiven.

    Now, the point should be that this irresponsible mistake should not repeated again. So ladies, stop being apologist for the person that has already said he had made a mistake. We all know that the Perdues are good people, their work speaks for it. You don’t need to convince us that their intention is noble. But sometimes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Perdues are not saints, they are human beings, they have made a mistake and they have apologized for it.

    The big picture is that they can not afford to alienate the Ethiopian-American community, period. Anyone who misses this very important point is either delusional or blinded by arrogance.

    Love & Respect
    P.S. McDonald’s Big Mac turned 40 today. Happy birthday Big Mac!

  42. 42 Nancy Aug 25th, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Mr. Endale I’m not sure there could be anything that I could say that would ease your discontent. You seem to be making an argument for business and corporate America. Something that this program is less about. We were focused on providing our audience with the best possible show and bringing forth a message of inspiration and hope for young girls in Ethiopia. Our goal was to raise money for education. We sought sponsors who were willing to lend their support free of condition and who wanted to give to this cause because they felt it important. We did so quite successfully.

    I don’t know how things were handled in D.C. but in Chicago we submitted the names of all of our sponsors to be acknowledged in the Mesgana program. Additionally, we sent out personal thank you notes to all of the people and businesses involved in supporting COEEF and the girls during their stay in Chicago. We understood this as part of our responsibility when we solicited donations. Mr. Perdue personally thanked the Ethiopian restaurant staff for their generous donation. They were the only Ethiopian business that made a contribution for which he was very thankful.

    We were given many monetary donations free of any terms of acknowledgment. Believe it or not many businesses and people are quite content with giving freely to a cause they wish to support. I would suggest that if a business is going to make a donation expecting public acknowledgment that this be made clear at the time the donation is made. Ethiopian airlines made this agreement with COEEF which is why there is an audio-visual presentation at the show’s intermission. If some one is going to give with the expectation of something in return, let them ask for it. Not all people are business minded.

    Most importantly, you enjoyed the show and appreciated the girls. I was touched that so many Ethiopians at our Chicago event reacted in the same way that you did. Having the girls come to Chicago was a gift to the Ethiopian community, our family adoption community and to the many neighbors and friends who now know the joy that exists in Ethiopia. We are thankful to COEEF for doing the work so that we can all celebrate Ethiopia.

  43. 43 Elias Endale Aug 26th, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Dear Nancy,

    Thank you for the clarification. I am relived to know that in Chicago you submitted the names of all the sponsors that should properly be acknowledged. I am delighted to know that Mr. Perdue had duly thanked the Ethiopian businesses. That’s wonderful! kudos to you and your fellow volunteers. Bravo, Chicago!!

    Now, let us not change the topic at hand, I am not sure if you have read the article and the comments carefully. Please allow me to bring you up to speed: The discussion is about the New York show, not Chicago. The controversy happned in New York, not Chicago.

    You have not answered the meat of the question. Don’t you think they should have followed your lead and recognized the sponsors in New York as well?

    Where is the beef??

    Kind regards,

    A.E.

  44. 44 Helen Aug 26th, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    To those who are complaining about this organization, it looks to me like the issue is complex. Instead of judging this guy, let us get up form our comfort zone and do some thing for our poor kids. If we think about it, changing the life of the poor is very easy. If you can’t do it, then leave those who are doing it alone.

    Oh one other thing, if you are really concerned about your country, let us ask why our Lucy (Dinkinesh), the world’s most famous fossil and Ethiopia’s tourist attraction, is traveling in the U.S.? Who is benefiting from her tour ?

    Abet men yshalenal beknat ymenmot hezb wey anrda ansrda.

    h

  45. 45 Carol Aug 27th, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Hello:
    I too was one of the organizers for the Chicago event of the Mesgana dancers. I have extensive fund raising experience and would like to add my thoughts to this discussion knowing that I can speak, in some cases, from the perspective of what I witnessed here in Chicago.

    Fundraising is a necessary evil for private education anywhere in the world. To imply that these talented dancers are being paraded around to enhance the profits for the white empire, corporate America, religious conversion, etc. seems a stretch. I did not witness any of this type behavior while they were in Chicago.

    Regarding the children’s welfare. As I organized the meals, lodging, and activities for the group I can state that they were well fed, rested and allowed plenty of free time. If the group was eating happy meals, this is an American experience and as a parent of 4 children, one of them Ethiopian-American, I admit we eat there from time to time. As I organized every single meal while they were here in Chicago, I suspect that that may have eaten out if a volunteer did not step forward to provide a meal so alternative arrangements had to be made and out of COEEF’s pocket.

    I found the Perdues to be very open to our suggestions. I would suggest in the future that anyone that would like to discuss their ideas, areas of improvement etc. do it directly with Norm and Ruthann Perdue. As this is a grass roots organization, I am sure the Perdues would welcome the sharing of our time, treasure and talent to enhance or improve this organization. It is easy to criticize. It takes a better person to suggest improvements and to actually do something about it. The involvement of Ethiopians could be a fantastic addition to COEEF. I hope that some of the Tadias readers will offer to get involved!

    Finally, and most importantly, I found the show to be just spectacular! The dancers touched the hearts of everyone they met in Chicago. I hope that this is just the beginning of dialogue to ensure the viability of this organization to assist students in need in Ethiopia and other African countries. Get Involved!

    Respectfully, Carol

  46. 46 Bethelehem Sep 8th, 2007 at 2:27 am

    I was in Palo Alto and the kids are amazing. They made me even more proud of who I am. Ethiopians please stop embarassing with you not well thought out compliments. ahunman yihe internet yemilut neger tefeterelachu zim bilachu mezelabed hone. We don’t appreciate anything. We always like to pick on what somebody is trying to do. I have no objection if people raise their concerns about the children but can we be a little modest and try to make our point in a more constructive way instead of trying to trash what this person is trying to do? He is a human too. He could make mistakes. He stepped up and tried to do something we should do for our children. Teddy Afro yimetal bitibalu sint shih sew tesebsbo yigibesebesal. I have nothing against that b/c I believe in supporting any Ethiopian who is trying to make it to the top but we should also support other causes esp. children who are our future. In today’s show I could say more than 95% were Americans. They believe in this cause more than we do. egna yeminakew sew sisera malazen bicha new. Don’t get me wrong. I know so many good Ethiopians and don’t want to put everyone in the same basket. The problem is with those who don’t do a single s*it but complain. Mr. & Mrs. Purdue I’d like to thank you for what you do for our children and hope you take these compliments positively. I am sure doing what you do for these kids, God has also given you the courage and strength to take whatever comes in your way and make the best out of it. your admirer

    sostu silasewoch libona yistun.

  47. 47 berhan LA Sep 12th, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I am with you Bethelehem. Whoever claims to be upest about this organzation, it is very embaressing. it is all about complex. They think they are concerned about kids or about Ethiopia, no it is not true. If they concerned about it, then do something.

  48. 48 Adamu LA Sep 22nd, 2007 at 6:05 am

    I read through all the comments and I would like to thank Tadias Megazine to be the intermediary. i think this will help more Mr. perdue, the organization and on the other hand the participant of personal view.

    In some ways I felt exactly the same way like other participants, it’s more personal than the real issue of giving immediate help to the needy at that particular moment.

    Mr. purdue as photographer his life experience speaks for itself, some how I believe when he encountered HIZB LE HIZB(cultural group of eighties) video, he thought he might use it to cast the younger girls to help to raise money for his organization, which is clever thought but, HIZB LE HIZB musical group was national treasure, it was organized and performed by Ethiopians, it’s very poweful cultural musical band during eighties.the group did not visit USA because of ideological difference between eastern and western block and it’s foriegn to Americans but, it’s been shown in all over Europe.

    I do not think Mr. Perdue aware of that, every thing I am hearing from his non Ethiopian supporters is culture shock, not being open minded, look “I do this for you, you should be greatful behaviorally.” I do not think they understood what the comments from the other viewers very well, I think this is eye opener for both sides to learn and make adjustments.

    If you are an Ethiopian do something to help Ethiopian causes, if you are an African friend want to be part of African life, be different than what happened earlier in history and then we all can grow. when you do something to people, actually you do it for yourself. I think if Mr. Perdue involve Ethiopian stage comedian/stage personality to introduce the girls so that he would not be at the fore front, everything would workout fine. honestly, when i saw you in LA on the stage frequently in the middle of 99.9% poor people as some may think, and mentioning about your booth and your family, automatically, i said, Oh God!, another sales man. but i read the Megazines and skeptical like the other commentators, May be we sometimes come from the worst racist place in the planet, but we do tend to reverse that by doing something that fulfil our empty self, it’s human nature. I like people who confess, it’s hills the wound of others, and it’s about relationship. good job!, with few adjustments, you will be alright, it’s a learning process

  49. 49 Adamu LA Sep 22nd, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Before and after ww2, when the English were looting the left behind Italian factories, the Americans Swedish, Mexico and others supported Ethiopia. nursing schools and the Ethiopian airlines are a good example of that.I think Ethiopian theater would be greater help to COEEF, involve!involve!…….

  50. 50 Norm Perdue Dec 5th, 2007 at 2:45 am

    Now that several months have gone by since the Mesgana Tour and I can now reflect back on what we all experienced. The girls were amazing and touched the hearts of thousands of people all over the U.S. Because of the efforts of these girls over 100 new students started school in September from Debre Birhan to Awassa. And we are still getting new sponsorships every week as a result of the tour. We appreciate all the positive support from the comments of those who witnessed the performances and met the Mesgana girls and had their hearts touched. And to those who were critical to us and our intentions I thank them also, as it helped us to learn and make adjustments for future tours. No, we are not perfect, but in our eyes the girls were. In traveling all over the U.S. with 17 in our group, everything did not always go as planned, and it was stressful at times, but overall the girls had a great time. It was not all work and no play. Activities included swimming in Lake Michigan, visit to Times Square in New York, Coca Cola World in Atlanta, Lincoln Memorial in DC, visit to Dance Theater of Harlem with Arthur Mitchell, swimming in Denver, horseback riding in Salt Lake City, river raft ride down the Colorado River in southern Utah, visit to Disney Studios in Burbank, and Disneyland (their favorite), and California Adventure, and the beach in California. It was the coordinated efforts of thousands of Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians all over the U.S. The highlight of the whole trip, for me was the performances at the Ethiopian New Years shows in San Jose and Los Angeles. I truly felt the joy of the Ethiopian-Americans in the large crowds and it was fun to see the young Ethiopian children trying to immitate the girls. This tour was all about bringing the beautiful culture of Ethiopia to all the people of America, Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian. What a better way to do it than through the Children of your beautiful country. I saw the Mesgana girls in Addis in mid November and their parents all thanked us for giving their children this opportunity. All the girls asked, “Can We Come Back?!” Thanks to ALL who helped us around the country and hopefully we can do it again next year.

  51. 51 meskerem Oct 12th, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    First of all thank you for your concern about the Mesgana Dancers.

    You might not know me, but I am one of the sponsored girls. Mesgana Dancers are coming here to raise money for the other girls who are back home in Ethiopia.Norm Perdue is really a great guy that have changed my life. I have known him for about 7 years now. I met him when I was ten, since then I dreamed all the time about studying in USA. Thanks God, I am here now fulfilling my life dream. There are more than 1000 sponsored girls who were being helped by the COEEF. It is a really great opportunity even for the Mesgana Dancers to come here and share their culture. Don’t you guys fill proud on what this guy is doing? Helping the girls to get educated. Sorry guys, I was so mad when I saw this story, but I am so happy to tell you guys how each and every part of the 1000 girls life is changing right now.

  52. 52 Mike Goodsell Dec 23rd, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    My wife and I were COEEF sponsors for many years. After falling on hard times and not being able to sponsor, I wanted to find my old friend Norm Purdue. Searching on the internet I found this thread, and I read with dismay as Norm was vilified by those who appear quick to judge.

    “Mr. Norm” as the villagers called him when we visited there, is the most humble, caring, Christ like man I have ever had the privilege to know! To have a man such as him cast as anything less than a saint is heartbreaking to me and to my wife.

    How people like Norm can give so much without getting anything in return is beyond my understanding. And how some people can so carelessly judge and and lay blame is also beyond my comprehension. May God bless Norm Purdue.

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