Tadias’ 20 Favorite People of 2008

By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 29, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Here are our 20 favorite people of the year that we interviewed and/or featured their work in 2008. The numbers are not rankings of their achievements. We look forward to 2009. Happy New Year!

20) Selam Mulugeta (Former Obama Campaign Staffer)

Ethiopian-American Selam Mulugeta worked as a staff member for President-Elect Obama’s successful 2008 campaign for the White House. Ms. Mulugeta, who formerly served as a Congressional staffer and Special Assistant to Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), founder and Chair of the Congressional Ethiopia and Ethiopian American Caucus, served as a Field Organizer for the Obama/Biden campaign in Northern Virginia. Obama won the state on November 4th, 2008, becoming the first Presidential candidate from the Democratic party to do so in more than 40 years. Read more about Selam Mulugeta.

19) Bekele Geleta (The New Boss at Red Cross)

Ethiopian-born Bekele Geleta, 64, was appointed Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2008. Mr. Geleta previously served as General Manager of International Operations for the Canadian Red Cross. He spent five years in prison in Ethiopia, but later served as a Cabinet Minister and the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan. He went to Canada as a refugee in 1992 with his wife, Tsehay Mulugeta, and their four sons. He started a new career in humanitarian work in Ottawa , serving with Care Canada, Red Cross and other organizations, which eventually led to this current prestigious post. Read our interview with Bekele Geleta.

18) Beejhy Barhany (Founder, BINA Cultural Foundation)

Beejhy Barhany (pictured above with her husband at the Ethiopian Millennium celebration concert at Joe’s Pub. on Saturday, May 31, 2008), is the Director of BINA Cultural Foundation and the chief coordinator of the 2008 Ethiopian Millennium Events Series in New York, which included a concert, an art exhibition, a film festival and an interfaith panel discussion. Tadias Magazine congratulates Mrs. Barhany on a successful series of events.

17) Chef and Author Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, is best known as the co-owner of New York’s finest Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. After having excelled at the Swedish side of his culinary heritage, Mr. Samuelson traveled extensively throughout the African continent, and shared with us some of the most profound lessons that he learned about Pan-African cuisine. He culminated his journey with his award-winning book, The Soul of a New Cuisine, and a new African Restaurant. Read our interview with Marcus Samuelsson.

16) Haile Gerima (Award Wining Director)

Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima (pictured above left with Tunisian Culture Minister Abderraouf Basti) scooped several international awards in 2008 for his new film “Teza”. Tadias Magazine congratulates Mr. Gerima on his well deserved recognition. Read More.

15) Yohannes Gebregeorgis (CNN Hero)

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2008, was recognized by CNN for his remarkable efforts to bring free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of children in Ethiopia, including the country’s first Donkey Mobile Library. Mr. Gebregeorgis, 59, was born in Ethiopia and came to the United States as a political refugee in 1981. He eventually put himself through college, earning a graduate degree in library science and worked as a Librarian in San Francisco for nearly two decades before embarking on his current project. He currently lives in Ethiopia. Read our interview with Yohannes Gebregeorgis.

14) Getatchew Mekurya (king of Ethiopian saxophone)

The legendary saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya stole the show at a historic concert on August 20, 2008, at Damrosch’s Park in NYC. “The concert closed with a gripping performance by Mr. Mekurya, the king of Ethiopian saxophone…” noted a columnist for The New York Times, and we couldn’t agree more. We likewise salute Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete, who both performed at the show. Read more.

13) Aida Muluneh (Photographer)

Photographer Aida Muluneh, whose current exhibition is being hosted by Berlin’s Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (through November 1st, 2009), established an NGO in 2008 to train a new generation of African photographers to compete in the global media industry while reshaping the image of Africa to reflect their personal experiences. Read More.

12) Dr. Ebba Ebba (Founder, Gemini Health Care Group)

Dr. Ebba Ebba (above left), founder of Gemini Health Care Group, a non-profit established to provide health care to Ethiopian children, hosted two notable events in 2008: a health care forum in July at George Washington University and a fundraiser in Atlanta to benefit the building of a children’s hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read more.

11) Philipos & Sara (Queen of Sheba Restaurant in New York)

Philipos & Sara of the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in New York demonstrated why crowds are flocking to their midtown Manhattan eatery at the first Annual Choice Eats tasting event organized by The Village Voice in 2008. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant was one of thirty-three favorite restaurants of Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, author of Secret New York. Sietsema has reviewed more than 2,000 restaurants in the last 14 years and this year’s Choice Eats covered samples from all corners of the world. Read more about this event.

10) Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru (The Ethiopian Nun Pianist)

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, the 85-year-old Ethiopian nun and renowned classical pianist and composer, performed at a sold out benefit concert for the first time in 35 years in June, 2008, in Washington, DC. She captured an eager audience, along with seven young performers who shared the stage with her. Read more.

9) Artist Assegid Gessesse (“Memory Tourist”)

Assegid Gessesse exhibited his spirited mixed media prints in 2008. “I am a memory tourist,” Gessesse says referring to our favorite print entitled ‘Addis Abeba’ – a vivid collage reflecting architecture, the urban/rural dichotomy, and use of space. Read More.

8. Teodross “Teo” Avery

What does Teodross “Teo” Avery have in common with jazz giants Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval? They all have graced the stage of The Blue Note, one of New York’s legendary jazz clubs. Teo, a talented Ethiopian-American musician is carving his own niche in hip-hop jazz. He has recorded and collaborated with powerhouse musicians including: Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Shakira, Wu Tang Clan, Ethiopian artists Abegaz Shiota and Henok Temesgen, and Amy Winehouse. Films such as Love Jones, Brown Sugar and Beauty Shop also carry songs he has either written or produced. His own lyrics entitled New Day New Groove and My Generation capture the proactive, idealistic and determined energy of his generation. Read the interview with Teo Avery.

7) Zelela Menker

Zelela Menker’s OP-ED pieces on Tadias in 2008 advocating for the election of Barack Obama generated a healthy discussion. We first met Zelela Menker while covering an Obama rally in New York on Feb 2, 2008. Zelela was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in Critical Social Thought with a concentration on Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy. Read More.

6) Kedist Geremaw (Obama Organizing Fellow)

Kedist Geremaw, a health care administrator in Washington, D.C., was one of the 3,600 individuals who were selected and trained as an Obama Organizing Fellow during the summer of 2008. Mrs. Geremew has accomplished much as an Obama Organizing Fellow, and the creativity, dedication, and optimism that she and her colleagues displayed was inspiring, commendable, contagious, and has our respect and recognition. Read more about Mrs. Geremaw.

5) Abaynesh Asrat, Founder & CEO of NNN

Ethiopian-born Abaynesh Asrat was recognized with “The Sojourner Truth Award” in 2008, which is given each year by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Abaynesh is a member of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia in 2007, which took place as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium.

4) Professor Donald Levine

Professor Donald Levine’s thoughtful and insightful opinion articles during the Presidential Campaign of 2008 was much needed and appreciated by our readers. He is a colleague of President-Elect Barack Obama from their teaching days at the University of Chicago. He is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and his research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education. Read More.

3) Professor Ayele Bekerie

Dr. Ayele Bekerie ‘s scholarly papers on historical topics, such as the story of St. Yared, the great Ethiopian composer, choreographer and poet, who lived in Aksum almost 1500 years ago, was one of the most popular articles among our readers. Ayele Bekerie, an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University, is the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” (The Red Sea Press, 1997). Bekerie’s papers have been published in scholarly journals, such as ANKH: Journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations, Journal of the Horn of Africa, Journal of Black Studies, the International Journal of Africana Studies, and the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies. Bekerie is also the creator of the African Writing System web site and a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “ONE HOUSE: The Battle of Adwa 1896-100 Years.” Bekerie’s most recent published work includes “The Idea of Ethiopia: Ancient Roots, Modern African Diaspora Thoughts,” in Power and Nationalism in Modern Africa, published by Carolina Academic Press in 2008 and “The Ancient African Past and Africana Studies” in the Journal of Black Studies in 2007. Bekerie appears frequently on the Amharic Service of Voice of America and Radio Germany. He is a regular contributor to Tadias Magazine and other Ethiopian American electronic publications. His current book project is on the “Idea of Ethiopia.” Read More.

2) Ted Alemayuhu (Founder & Chairman of USDFA)

Ethiopian-born Ted Alemayuhu (pictured above right with friends – Russell Simmons left – at Cipriani Wall Street on October 17th, 2007), is the Founder & Chairman of U.S. Doctors for Africa (USDFA). He was one of the featured keynote speakers at the 2008 Health Disparities Conference at Columbia University. Mr. Alemayuhu is preparing to host the gathering of over 20 African First Ladies for their first-ever U.S.-based health summit on April 20-21, 2009, at the RAND Corporation in Los Angeles. Read More.

Editor’s Note: The numbers are not rankings of their achievements. We honor each person listed. Happy 2009!

12 Responses to “Tadias’ 20 Favorite People of 2008”

  1. 1 tibarek Dec 29th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I am honored to be a person of the year. I never won an award in my life. I am really happy. I never thought I would win such a great award. Amasehgunalo! Love, Tibarek

  2. 2 fesseha atlaw Dec 29th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Good selections…Keep up the good work, Tadias!

    I nominate you as the top “Multi-Media News and Views Resource for Ethiopians in the Diaspora”



  3. 3 Lili Dec 29th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Wonderful selection! Congratulations to Tibarek and all the great people listed!

    Tadias, you are my favorite. I second Fesseha, you guys are the best! Please keep up the good work!

    Happy New Year!

  4. 4 Dr.Ethiopia Dec 29th, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    A nice list to put together. I must say I had no knowledge of the few people in here.

    What I found to be most astonishing is the #1 selection. It is all sweet and dandy to put her on the list and precisely for the reason that had followed it. But I must say, I would have given it easily to my hero, as well as CNN’s, Yohannes Gebregeorgis.

    His impact both in Ethiopia and through the exposure of the media is one that would empower countless human beings, and mainly Ethiopians. His achievement is a stand out in this amazing Ethiopians’ list.

  5. 5 Monica Ephrem Dec 29th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Mazel tov (congratulations), Tibarek and Beejhy! Proud of you both!

  6. 6 Just a Thought Dec 30th, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Dr. Ethiopia – I think all folks on the list are deserving of recognition. And the #1 pick doesn’t mean that others are less so. This is a list of favorites, not list of the most accomplished. We have much to learn from the young as we do from those who are educating them.

    Wishing you a happy and prosperous new year.

  7. 7 mahlet Dec 31st, 2008 at 5:49 am

    This is my honest opinion… as a proud Ethiopian that lives in the U.S. i have to say this… most of these people were chosen because they did something for another country which should not matter to Ethiopia. most of these people were chosen because they worked for Obama. so what!! that did not do anything for our country all it did is give these people names. the people who deserve this name are the doctors who are listed above…

    Don’t get mad at me i am just posting my view… but if you have any thing to say to me you are welcome to write back with your comments.

  8. 8 Alula/Australia Dec 31st, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Refreshing and inspiring to see such a diverse and accomplished list of Ethiopians in the diaspora. As someone who has lived in Australia for over 20 years, and as proud father of 3 Ethiopian-Australian children (the oldest is a teenager), I am especially amazed by the first generation of Ethiopian Americans and their deep love and connection to their roots. For example, people like Selam Mulugeta. who was born in the United States from Ethiopian Parents. People like Dinaw Mengistu, the highly acclaimed Ethiopian American author, etc. We are so proud of you! But this must also come from strong parenting by their immigrant parents who traveled to America in the late seventies and sacrificed a lot to raise these bright children with love and respect to their heritage while succeeding wherever they maybe and in whatever professional work they are involved in. These parents are witnessing their beautiful fruit. I heard the number of first generation Ethiopians attending Ivy league schools in America like Harvard is increasing every year. One of my sons, who is eight, wants to own a bank when he grows up. My fatherly wish is that I hope he goes to Wall Street.

    Congratulations to everyone on the list. I hope my son will be on Tadias’ favorite list one day.

  9. 9 Ola & Tomek/Poland Jan 1st, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Congratulations and all the best for 2009 !

  10. 10 Teodross Avery Jan 2nd, 2009 at 5:02 pm


    Thank you for including me in your Top 20 list of Favorite People. It’s an honor to be recognized by the Ethiopian community and especially by your online magazine. All the best in 2009.

    Teodross Avery

  11. 11 tibarek May 2nd, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    I am Tibarek’s mom, known as Jilly, in our extended family. She is an extraordinary little girl, savvy about people, caring and giving, insightful about ways of the world one might not expect of an 8 year old, new to America. Last week, she met the Senator from Washington State and later told me that now she knows one of the eleven women senators. This morning, when I talked to her about the replacement for Justice Souter, she immediately thought the new member of “the Supremes” should be a black woman. She is the future and she and her friends will continue to change the world for the better. I treasure the love and generosity we have always received from our Ethiopian friends here and in the home land.


    jilly vexler

  1. 1 Tadias’ 20 Favorite People of the Year » AtlantaHeadlines.com Pingback on Jan 19th, 2009 at 11:23 pm
Comments are currently closed.
















Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.