In Pictures: Harlem Rekindles Old Friendship With Ethiopia

Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III (right) of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem on Sunday, November 4, 2007. (Photo by Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

November 6, 2007.

New York - Members of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church congregated together on Sunday, November 4th to describe their recent travel to Ethiopia and to brainstorm ways in which they could play a meaningful role in the nation’s economic and social development.

It was the first time that the group had met since their return from their historic trip. The church sent 150 delegates to Ethiopia this fall as part of its bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium.

The meeting officially opened with Abyssinian members presenting an appreciation gift to Reverend Butts – a photograph of Haile Selassie, which they believe to be the Emperor celebrating the 25th anniversary of his reign. The photo had recently been purchased in Addis Ababa, after having been discovered lying covered in dust in a back room at one of the local shops (souks), according to church members who presented the gift.

This photograph of Emperor Haile Selassie was presented by Abyssinian members as an appreciation gift to Reverend Butts. (Photo: Tadias)

Reverend Butts thanked the members and reiterated how much he enjoyed his stay in Ethiopia. “We are focusing on Ethiopia,” Butts said, “because our church is named after this nation. We also believe that Ethiopia is the heart of Africa. What happens here may be replicated elsewhere on the continent. It is the seat of the African Union.”

Raymond Goulbourne, Executive Vice President of Media Sales at B.E.T. He is already thinking about purchasing a home in the old airport area of Addis Ababa and starting a flower farm business with Ethiopian partners. (Photo: Tadias)

Adrienne Ingrum, Publishing Consultant and Book Packager, chats with Tseday Alehegn, Editor of Tadias Magazine. Ms. Ingrum is working on a proposal to create a writers cultural exchange program. (Photo: Tadias)

Both local Ethiopian media and the U.S. press, including Tadias, Newsday and the New York Times had given press coverage to the congregation’s two-week spiritual journey. While in Ethiopia, Reverend Butts received an honorary degree from Addis Ababa University. The celebration included liturgical music chanted by Ethiopian Orthodox priests, manzuma and zikir performed in the Islamic tradition, and Gospel music by the Abyssinian Church Choir.

Jamelah Arnold, member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia. (Photo: Tadias)

The Abyssinian Church members visited schools, hospitals and NGOs in addition to touring towns and cities in Northern Ethiopia and Addis Ababa.

As they discussed various charity work, Reverend Butts encouraged the group to brainstorm ideas on how to make the maximum impact through volunteer work guided by the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Reverend Butts also shared the invitation that he had received from the Ethiopian Government to make a second group trip back to Ethiopia with the intention of meeting business men and women with whom they could start joint business ventures.

“We should think about the economic impact that our trip has made – we have invested close to $8 million dollars and we focus not just on charity but also on developing business opportunities.”

A spokesperson from the Ethiopian Mission to the United Nations addressed the group and mentioned the recent reorganization of Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, which now includes a “Business and Economy Department” that focuses on joint business ventures.

Ethiopian-American social entrepreneur Abaynesh Asrat (middle), Founder and CEO of Nation to Nation Networking (NNN), accompanied the group during their Ethiopia trip. (Photo: Tadias)

In addition, an initiative to involve more youth in volunteer work in Ethiopia was presented. Possible charity work suggested by the Abyssinian Baptist Church members included providing soccer uniforms for a team in Lalibela, assisting NGO work in setting up mobile clinics, aiding priests in their quest to preserve and guard ancient relics, creating a writers cultural exchange program, providing young athletes with running shoes, and improving education and teacher training.

Reverend Butts reminded the audience that civic participation is also another avenue that the church could focus on.

“Our ability to influence public policy – this too will be a great help to Ethiopia,” he said.

“We should write our congressmen and senators and let them know that we’re interested in seeing economic and social projects with Ethiopia’s progress in mind.”

Brenda Morgan. (Photo: Tadias)

Sheila Dozier, Edwin Robinson, and Dr. Martha Goodson. (Photo: Tadias)

Reverend Butts thanked his congregation for sharing their ideas and experiences and expressed his hope to once again make a return pilgrimmage to do meaningful work in Ethiopia. Perhaps, even set up a permanent center from where the work of the Abyssinian Baptist Church could florish from one generation to another.

In 1808, after refusing to participate in segregated worship services at a lower Manhattan church, a group of free Africans in America and Ethiopian sea merchants formed their own church, naming it Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of Abyssinia, the former name of Ethiopia.

In 1954, former Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I, presented Abyssinian’s pastor, Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., with the Ethiopian Coptic Cross. This cross has since become the official symbol of the church.

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3 Responses to “In Pictures: Harlem Rekindles Old Friendship With Ethiopia”

  1. 1 AS TAdesse Nov 6th, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks for a very interesting story. The photograph of Emperor Haile Sellassie was at the 25th anniversary of Ethiopian Airlines.


    AS Tadesse
    North Wales, PA

  1. 1 African American & Ethiopian Relations at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Aug 10th, 2008 at 4:56 am
  2. 2 African American and Ethiopian Relations at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Aug 11th, 2008 at 2:02 am
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