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Q&A With Filmmaker Jessica Beshir: ‘Faya Dayi’ Screens at AFI in Silver Spring, Maryland

Next month on October 01, 2021 Jessica Beshir will participate in a Q&A session with the audience following the screening of her documentary 'Faya Dayi' by the American Film Institute at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Photo via Linkedin)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 23rd, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — One of the marks of a successful movie is the lively conversations and reactions it generates among its audience as Filmmaker Jessica Beshir’s Sundance-premiered Ethiopian film Faya Dayi continues to do on social media and other forums.

Next month Jessica Beshir will participate in a Q&A with the public following the screening of her documentary by the American Film Institute at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“A film ten years in the making, Faya Dayi was conceived by director Jessica Beshir as an act of reconnecting with the Ethiopian homeland she left at the age of sixteen, when her family fled to Mexico to escape the chaos and oppression of the Mengistu and Derg political regimes,” the announcement notes. “Later, in 2011, during one of her return trips to Ethiopia, Beshir began collecting observations and impressions of the country by shooting footage that told the stories of several Ethiopians and the social, religious, and economic forces influencing their lives.”

The press release adds: “Among those forces was the ascendency of khat [ጫት ch'at] as a national cash crop. A plant with hallucinatory properties that has been traditionally harvested and chewed for ritualistic purposes, khat was, in Beshir’s youth, one of many lucrative crops bolstering the Ethiopian economy. But in the intervening years, climate change, along with other factors, had forced farmers to grow khat to the near exclusion of all other plants, and its excessive presence in the country increased recreational khat usage among the younger generations. Climate change had also dried up lakes, while economic necessity and political tumult had forced people living in rural areas to look for new prospects overseas or in the capital city of Addis Ababa.”

In explaining her experience of cinema while growing up in Ethiopia and what led her to become a filmmaker Jessica recalls that she was raised in a military camp located adjacent to a Russian military base in Harar. “In the Russian camp, there was an open-air movie theater,” she rememberers. “Us kids dug a hole under the barbed wire and snuck through it to the movie theater.”

She continues: “We’d go there every night to watch Russian films—mostly war films that were meant to elevate the morale of the Russian soldiers stationed in Ethiopia. One of our friends was trained by the Russians to project the films. He would change the reels of the films in the back of a Land Rover, and his leverage with the other kids was that if you were nice, he would show you how he changed the reels. Before that, it never occurred to me that movies were actually made by people. Seeing something of the magic of how movies are constructed, and experiencing the communal aspect of moviegoing, made me feel less alone and transported me during a time of war and trauma. I gravitated to filmmaking in large part because of that.”

Jessica shares that after returning to Ethiopia from many years in exile it was not her original intention to make a film about ጫት ch’at. “I returned to reconnect to my family, especially my grandmother, who was getting very old. And in reconnecting with family and friends, I noticed that everything in the country now revolved around khat, which had always been around but not in such an all-encompassing way. What had changed was that all of the country’s social and economic life centered on this drug, and I wanted to ask why this was and why so many people were medicating themselves.”

Blow is the rest of the interview with Jessica Beshir courtesy of the American Film Institute and AFI Silver Theatre. Faya Dayi will open at AFI on Friday, October 01, 2021. Organizes note that proof of vaccination –or– negative Covid PCR test is required for entry. You can learn more and purchase tickets here


Faya Dayi. (Courtesy photo)

Interview With Filmmaker Jessica Beshir about ‘Faya Dayi’

What do you remember about your childhood and early adolescence in Ethiopia, and how did those memories inform the conception of Faya dayi?

I remember everything that happened up to the time I was sixteen and my family left Ethiopia. My generation reached adulthood a lot sooner than we otherwise would have because we grew up during a cold war. My father was director of a military hospital—war was ever-present, and that couldn’t help but shape our outlook.

In returning to the country many years later, I didn’t set out to make a documentary on khat. I returned to reconnect to my family, especially my grandmother, who was getting very old. And in reconnecting with family and friends, I noticed that everything in the country now revolved around khat, which had always been around but not in such an all-encompassing way. What had changed was that all of the country’s social and economic life centered on this drug, and I wanted to ask why this was and why so many people were medicating themselves.

What was clear was that the country was in a state of decay. There was new infrastructure in Harar and other cities, but mostly the country was falling apart due to the misrule of an oppressive governmental regime. And that regime had also limited freedom of speech, which led to people’s retreat into private worlds. Even after this regime faced protests and was ultimately unseated from power, there was a huge disillusionment when substantial change did not come about.

So, there was a desire for khat, due to its ability to foster a state of insularity, but then many factors influenced the rise of khat as a cash crop. Climate change altered which crops the farmers were able to cultivate, and inflation made it impossible for the farmers to cultivate coffee and other crops. Before, khat was relegated to the Harar region, but now its development had spread to the rest of the country, so my filming concentrated on the farms and land in Harar, around the area where I had grown up. I felt it was important to be very specific—there are more than eighty ethnic groups and languages in Ethiopia. The specific Oromo identity in Harar—I’d never seen that reflected on film, and I wanted to transmit the people’s intonation of language, their cadences. This was crucial to the overall tapestry of the film.

To what extent did you predetermine or spontaneously arrive at the film’s sounds and images?

When I began shooting, I had a specific intention for what I wanted—one that would allow for multiple possibilities that could reveal themselves in the editing room. And I was excited to discover those possibilities, those forms. For example, I knew I wanted to convey a sense of interiority, but through evocation rather than through a direct telling. I also wanted the locations I shot to speak through images. One was the labyrinthine space of this close walled city, Jugol; another was comprised of the vast farms. I wanted the vastness of the farms to correspond to the vastness among the experiences I shot, with different people having different experiences within the same geographical space. I thought, If voices were to emerge from these farms, what would these voices say?

In conversations with my editors, I conveyed that the film’s form should be alive, that it should have its own mode of expression. At times this form didn’t always make rational sense, but it was transmitting something—something more elliptical, perhaps. This elliptical mode was probably influenced by the oral tradition of storytelling with which I grew up. Oral tradition is about the journey and all the things you see and experience before you arrive at a narrative destination. I wanted the structure of the film to be like an octopus, where one story strand was like a tentacle, and if something occurred in that strand it would reverberate throughout the entire body of the film.

Faya dayi took ten years to make. How did that decade-long process start, and what were some of the major milestones along the road toward completing the project?

The first thing I wanted to do upon my return to Ethiopia was to spend time on the farms. My grandmother is not a farmer—she lives far away from where I filmed—but there was a certain kinship there because I was listening to her language, the Oromo language. I met most of the farmers by spending time with them at a café that was owned by a friend. That’s how I started talking with them and learning about the khat farms. I also befriended the children of these farmers, and over the years of shooting I saw and recorded the way these children became political and participated in the peaceful protests, in 2014–15, against the government. That was an invigorating leap in the filming process, in seeing these kids come of age and getting involved in what was occurring throughout the country. A major moment in the shoot was seeing the drying up of the lakes. The first time I saw this, I couldn’t take it. I was heading down in a van to Haramaya, and I asked the driver if we could stop to take a picture of this sacred lake, and when we did, it wasn’t there—grass had grown over it, cows were herding there, it was gone. There was always new information I was obtaining and through which I learned about the changes that were unfolding throughout the country.

Another one was interviewing a university professor who did his PhD on khat studies, who had spent his whole life with and around this plant. He doesn’t appear in the film, but one thing he said stuck with me, that once in a while a visiting professor from the West would teach at the university for a few months and then a while later would publish a study on khat. All of a sudden, he had to read about khat from out there. What I picked up from that was: Where’s our voice in this? I wanted to do justice to the story of the people who live here, their stories and their dignity. Khat came from a religious, ritualistic practice of imams, just like peyote for the shamans. It’s not just a plant for kids who want to get high.

What research in the areas of politics, sociology, religion, and myth informed the production of Faya dayi?

A lot of the time I spent during my return to Ethiopia involved research. My friend’s grandfather, who lived in the labyrinthine city, was the one who first spoke with me about khat’s roots in the Sufi tradition. And not just in a religious sense but also in a social sense—it was what united people coming back home from work to have lunch, since they would chew khat and then go on with their day. It provided a boost of energy for people like farmers, who performed physical labor. It was a means to an end, but now it’s become the end itself, especially for the youth.

From my friend and her grandfather, I met several Sufi imams. These imams who you see in the film, I spent a lot of time learning from them about Azurkherlaini, about whom Ethiopians have their own individual perceptions. That myth is so alive in the people’s imagination and thought process, it’s alive in the recitation and prayer of the imams. I wanted to somehow visualize the various conceptions of Azurkherlaini, and, to get to that interiority, I wanted to represent the people’s reality on the ground as opposed to casting some weird guy who looks like Azurkherlaini.

How did you achieve the film’s distinctive black-and-white cinematography?

I knew I was going to shoot in black and white, but at times I questioned myself about that, because khat is a green leaf and obviously that wouldn’t come through in black and white. But in the end, I decided to go with black and white because so many elements of the film refer to light and darkness. For example, the fable of Azurkherlaini talks about “the black” and the darkness of night—there were all of these dichotomies in that myth that could be evoked through black and white. Plus, the nature of khat and the trade of it, and many of the film’s stories, contain the sides that black-and-white photography evokes. I wanted to focus on the interiority of the people in the film instead of the potential sensationalism of the subject of khat, and so the dreaminess of the cinematography evokes the people’s frustration, dread, loneliness, impotence, resignation, and so on. •

If You Go:

For showtime and dates please visit AFI Silver Theatre.

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Spotlight: In NYC ECMAA Hosts Ethiopian Day Picnic, Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Photo: Courtesy of the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 15th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — As the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the organization announced that it will host its popular annual Ethiopian Day Picnic on September 19th in New York City — marking its first live public event since the pandemic.

In a newsletter ECMAA said the gathering this month is a symbol of our capacity to recover from difficulties and persist as a community. “Resilience and perseverance are not valued highly enough [and] we don’t celebrate managing challenges and still standing and growing,” the press release said. “We will celebrate this and ECMAA’s 40th anniversary at the annual Ethiopian Day Picnic.”

The announcement added:

In 1981, a group of refugees who felt that they could decided to gather and figure out how to help those who’ve newly arrived. In 2021, we’re Ethiopians of significantly varying backgrounds living in the tri-state area still creating a community while we rush and struggle through day to day life in New York City.

We’ll get together as a full community in this large setting for the first time since March of 2020…We celebrate still standing after many ups and downs for ECMAA from its inception, we celebrate still standing as a we face a global pandemic that forced us to separate and yet still grow stronger in support of each other, we celebrate our place of birth or heritage even as it struggles with multiple challenges that can shake us, we celebrate the flowers that still bloom, our children that still grow and our community to keeps working at being a resource to the community. We celebrate as we also mourn the losses our community and our country has sustained. We’re long-distance runners – marathoners who keep going despite the challenges that come our way. We are ECMAA and invite you to come honor our past, celebrate life and solidify our future.


(Photo: Courtesy of ECMAA)


(Photo: Courtesy of ECMAA)

The Ethiopian Day Picnic will take place on Sunday at Sakura Park in Manhattan. Organizers urge participants to be respectful and abide by current CDC guidelines in regards to COVID-19. “Although the picnic takes place outside we advise everyone to maintain social distancing and wear masks when not eating or drinking,” ECMAA said. “We all want to have fun and be safe.”

According to the program scheduled activities at the family-friendly outdoor event include fun and games featuring Sem Ena Werk quiz for adults while children “enjoy some dancing and tunes, catch up, with old friends, challenge the kids to tug-of-war, but make sure you’ve met someone you’ve not met before and have some cake.”

If You Go:

Ethiopian Day Picnic,
Sunday, September 19, at 2pm in Sakura Park in Manhattan.
More info at www.ecmaany.org

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Real Estate in Ethiopia: Q&A About KEFITA with CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE

In the following interview with Tadias, Dietrich E. Rogge, the CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE, a German-based developer, discusses their new state-of-the-art condominium development called KEFITA under construction in Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 6th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopians in the Diaspora are receiving growing opportunities to invest in real estate in Ethiopia. Some of the new high-rise buildings — mostly in Addis Ababa (built by both local and international developers including from Asia, America and Europe) — offer international standard amenities while incorporating local architectural styles as well as easy access to shopping, transportation and other daily necessities.

In the following interview with Tadias, Dietrich E. Rogge, the CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE, a German-based developer, discusses their new state-of-the-art condominium development called KEFITA under construction in the kebena area (officially known as the District of Signal), one of Addis Ababa’s oldest neighborhoods.

“It is our vision that KEFITA shall be a best-in-class real estate development combining international best practices while also being a genuinely Ethiopian building both in terms of design and amenities,” Dietrich told Tadias. “What we highlight with KEFITA that makes it uniquely Ethiopian is the facade.” He added: “If you look at the building closely, it mirrors the interwoven nature of the tibeb, the traditional garment of the Ethiopian cultural dress. Along with that, the building is covered with living plants indigenious to Ethiopia. Our hope is to create connectivity among both Ethiopians and international residents at KEFITA. And with that, create long-term value for all its owners.”


The KEFITA building under construction in Addis Ababa by ROCKSTONE Real Estate. (Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

As Dietrich noted when he first traveled to Ethiopia about a decade ago, he immediately “fell in love with the country, its genuine culture, the warmth of its people and the metropolitan character of its capital, Addis Ababa.” He shares: “Until then, my own exposure to Ethiopia had been limited to meeting a very friendly Ethiopian through mutual friends while I was studying and living at MIT in the US from 2000 to 2002.”

In addition to incorporating modern international designs with Ethiopian architectural sensibilities, the KEFITA building also is set to become the first such residential building in the country to receive the green building certification.

Below is our full Q&A with Dietrich E. Rogge, CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE Real Estate

TADIAS: Dietrich, thank you so much for your time. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, how you were introduced to Ethiopia and what led you to work in Addis?

DR: Thank you so much for having me today Liben. I appreciate having this interview and being able to introduce myself to you as well as your audience. To give you some context, I am based in Munich Germany. I started ROCKSTONE in 2013, today we have 3 offices – Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich – in Germany, and by 2018 we expanded into Lisbon in Portugal and thereafter Madrid in Spain to diversify into other European countries. Still, I had the genuine desire to expand further internationally, and Africa was my top priority. Next to diversifying my business, the drive into other countries is on a personal level very much driven by my own fascination for travel, countries and authentic cultures. Fortunately, one of my closest friends and also now business partner in ROCKSTONE ETHIOPIA had been living and working in East Africa for over 10 years. We decided to explore real estate business opportunities in East Africa. When it came to where to start, he immediately pointed to Ethiopia. When I first arrived in Addis, I understood what he meant. I instantly fell in love with the country, its genuine culture, the warmth of its people and the metropolitan character of its capital, Addis Ababa. Until then, my own exposure to Ethiopia had been limited to meeting a very friendly Ethiopian through mutual friends while I was studying and living at MIT in the US from 2000 to 2002.


Dietrich E. Rogge, CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE Real Estate. (Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: Please tell us about the KEFITA building project and the inspiration behind it?

DR: It is our vision that KEFITA shall be a best-in-class real estate development combining international best practices while also being a genuinely Ethiopian building both in terms of design and amenities. What we highlight with KEFITA that makes it uniquely Ethiopian is the facade. If you look at the building closely, it mirrors the interwoven nature of the tibeb, the traditional garment of the Ethiopian cultural dress. Along with that, the building is covered with living plants indigenious to Ethiopia. Our hope is to create connectivity among both Ethiopians and international residents at KEFITA. And with that, create long-term value for all its owners. On a business level it quickly became clear to me that, similar to other metropolises – i.e. Berlin, Lisbon or Los Angeles – around the world, there is also a housing crisis in Addis. That’s because each year large cities attract more new residents than they are able to build new housing along all segments of the market. There are also a couple of specific reasons why this dilemma exists in Addis, namely, lack of trust in the real estate market, lack of building quality, and lack of foreign capital. Next to addressing these specific reasons by forming a very strong team together with our local partner Bigar, and US-based private equity firm Cerberus, all of whom have a long-term interest in Ethiopia, we defined a clear strategy.

TADIAS: KEFITA is located on Embassy Row in the District of Signal, which is one of Addis Ababa’s oldest neighborhoods. How did you choose the location and what do you like most about the area?

DR: That’s a great question, and I am happy you are asking since choosing the right location is obviously a centerpiece of any real estate development and it is entirely fair to ask a foreigner his view on Addis. We initially looked at locations in Bole and Old Airport, which are the more recent traditional neighborhoods for high-end residential developments in Addis. We carefully studied how Addis is expected to develop over the coming years in terms of density, traffic, schools, retail, security and leisure. Signal is well positioned to outperform other parts of the city over the coming years in terms of its quality of life due to its proximity to the city center, great schools, improving infrastructure, and best of all, Mount Yeka with all its outdoor activities.


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: In addition to incorporating modern international designs with Ethiopian architectural sensibilities, the KEFITA building also is set to become the first such residential building in the country to receive the green building certification. Can you share what that means and how it fits with the city’s long-term plans for environmentally conscious developments?

DR: Sure, and let me happily expand on that subject since it is very important to us. As we discussed earlier, integrating best practices into Kefita on all levels is one main driver of our product and development process. From the very beginning, our entire design process has been driven toward green-conscious living. Next to reducing the carbon footprint of the building, specific measures include using local materials as much as possible, minimizing electricity consumption, collecting rain water and managing waste. Among others on the building side, that includes superior structural and fire safety design and a range of Kefita specific amenities for our community. A green building also best ensures the long-term value of the investment. I would really like to emphasize this last point since return on investment and building quality go hand in hand. Next to its location, the long-term value preservation or increase in value of any real estate is driven by the longevity of its design and construction quality. If the structure has flaws or moisture permeates into the building or energy consumption is inefficient or sound insulation is not taken care of just to name a few, then these issues obviously have a negative effect on the long-term value of any real estate. Hence our building standards we believe are a very strong signal to send to the Ethiopian real estate market and will help elevate the overall standard and building quality of new buildings in the future.

TADIAS: Where are you now in terms of the construction stage and when will the building be completed?

DR: We received the building permit last year, completed the underground construction in 2020 as well, and started with the actual building construction early this year. KEFITA is on track to be completed in 2023 for all residents to move in. The completion date is very important to us since on-time completion is a huge problem in the market and it translates into a lack of trust in developers. Therefore we have created a financially very strong team, started construction only once the design was completed and the entire construction contract had been awarded. In addition, our best practices approach extends into the purchase agreement which protects buyers on various topics as well as states binding delivery dates.


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: How can people in the Diaspora buy property in the building? What’s the process and requirements?

DR: From the start, the Ethiopian Diaspora had always been in our minds as a key customer segment for KEFITA. We know that we are well positioned to serve that segment. We believe that our product is a good balance between Ethiopian authenticity, a modern building in terms of quality, technology, services as well as sustainability. Last not least, it fits all rental criteria of the International community in Addis. All of these is what the Diaspora has in mind but struggles to find as an investment opportunity. The prerequisite for owning real estate in Ethiopia requires an Ethiopian Origin ID, also known as the Yellow Card. All of our Diaspora buyers will need to provide a copy of their ID as well as Passport to initiate the sales agreement. The process involves meeting and talking with one of our sales representatives, learning our different offerings for apartment types, identifying their mode for financing, either cash or through one of the Ethiopian banks, and finally signing an Apartment Purchase Agreement. If based in Ethiopia, prospective buyers can reach out to Lily Mesfin, lm@rockstonere.com. For those based in the USA and abroad, reach out to Nya Alemayhu at ny@rockstonere.com.

TADIAS: Can you tell us more about the various apartment sizes and price ranges?

DR: We have 100 apartments ranging from 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom at approximately 1,000 square feet to a full floor penthouse at 6,500 square feet. In between this range exists 2 bedrooms + 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms + 3 bathrooms, and 4 bedrooms + 4 bathrooms. Some of our 2 bedrooms are convertible to 3 bedrooms, as well as some 3 bedrooms that can be converted to 4 bedrooms. All of the apartment types aside from the 2 bedrooms + 1 bathroom are designed with a helper’s room, as is common in most Ethiopian residences. The pricing ranges from $280,000 for a 2 bedroom + 1 bathroom apartment to $2,100,000 for our crown jewel garden terrace apartment.

TADIAS: Is there a mortgage or payment plan available?

DR: We have a payment schedule that is contingent on construction progress. The initial investment is 25% and all subsequent payments are in alignment with construction progress. The payments are spread out about 3-4 months apart. If one seeks a mortgage, we can refer to a few banks based in Addis Ababa so that prospective buyers can make the best decision as to what suits them. There are nuances with financing new construction projects in Addis Ababa and also which type of currency is used. Our sales team can also help illuminate this process more deeply. For a deeper inquiry, reach out to sales@kefita.com


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: What are your plans for future developments in Ethiopia?

DR: Although KEFITA is only our first project in Ethiopia, it won’t surprise you that we have a long-term plan for ROCKSTONE Ethiopia with more projects to come. These will obviously include additional residential developments but we are also looking into offices, logistics, and retail – commercial real estate. We very much believe in strong and lasting Ethiopian growth and want to happily be part of that over the coming years.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience here in the United States and beyond?

DR: On a personal level, my experience in Ethiopia has been wonderful and I am very fortunate to have come close to and made friends with Ethiopians over the past years. These relationships have evolved into great friendships. I really look forward to having more time for traveling within the country and enjoying all its treasures and beauties. Last but not least, I also hope to come to the US very soon to present KEFITA in person and likewise, I invite you all to meet our team and myself whenever you are in Addis.

TADIAS: Thanks again, Dietrich, and wishing you all the best from all of us at Tadias!

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Remembering Alemayehu Eshete: Ethiopian Music Legend Passes Away at 80

Born in 1941 Alemayehu Eshete rose to fame in the 60s, matching his Ethiopian heritage against jazz improvisation and soulful appeal...Multiple reports from Ethiopia have confirmed the passing of Alemayehu Eshete. (Getty Images)

Clash Music

Ethiopian artist Alemayehu Eshete has died, it has been reported.

Born in 1941 the singer rose to fame in the 60s, matching his Ethiopian heritage against jazz improvisation and soulful appeal.

Performing with the famed Police Orchestra in Addis Ababa, Alemayehu Eshete enjoyed his first hit ‘Seul’ in 1961 before forming his own Alem-Girma Band.

Releasing 30 singles across a 15 year period, Alemayehu Eshete became one of the defining Ethiopian artists of his era – at one point dubbed the Ethiopian Elvis.

Political shifts in the country substantively altered the cultural climate, but a new generation of crate-diggers – spurred on by the Ethiopiques compilation series – embraced his music.

Writing, recording, and touring until the very end, multiple reports from Ethiopia have confirmed the passing of Alemayehu Eshete.

Ethiopia: Popular Ethiopian Music Legend Alemayehu Eshete Dies (Allafrica)


Legendary Ethiopian singer Alemayehu Eshete, 80, died in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

Nicknamed “the Ethiopian Elvis”, the musician died of a heart attack shortly after he was admitted to hospital, bringing to an end a musical career that spanned four different political epochs in the country.

He had, five years ago, undergone a heart surgery in Italy to fix blockages in arteries. This forced him to limit his performances.

Born in 1941, the singer was one of the most popular musicians to emerge in the early 1960s. He also played modern Ethiopian music.

Eshete highly influenced Ethiopian modern music through his outstanding pieces that were loved by many. He was actively involved in Ethio-jazz music from the 1960s.

Compose songs

He was among the first Ethiopian singers to compose songs in English and other foreign languages.

“Temar Lije” or “My Son, You Had Better Learn” is one of his popular songs that motivated many to acquire modern education.

The popular song is still used by Ethiopian parents to discipline and counsel their children, and to raise awareness on the importance of education.

In 2015, the song won an award in Germany.

He also won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in Ethiopia. His stylish dress code and hairstyle made him popular among the youth in the 1960s and 1970s.

Eshete was one of the first musicians to record music to vinyl in Ethiopia.

Since his death, his colleagues and fans have continued to send messages of condolence.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said: “I’m saddened to hear that Alemayehu Eshete, a role model for many singers, has passed away.”

“Ethiopia will always be honored in his works. Those who worked for Ethiopia will not die, but will rest in glory,” the Prime Minister added.

Timeless tunes

Selam, a Swedish Independent Cultural Organisation, which has an office in Addis Ababa, also paid tribute to Eshete: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Alemayehu Eshete. Known for his best timeless tunes, ‘Temar Lije’ and ‘Addis Ababa Bete’, Eshete was one of the most popular legendary Ethiopian singers. Our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends”

Born and raised in Jimma, Eshete who was fascinated by Hollywood films. He attempted to go to Hollywood with his friend at a younger age.

He started his journey to Hollywood with his friend with a hundred birr ($ 2) he picked from his father’s pocket. However, before he could achieve his goal, he was caught at Eritrea’s Massawa Port and sent back home. He loved Rock music.

He played much of the English vocals of American vocalists Pat Bonn, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.

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A Local’s Guide to Ethiopia: Q&A With Anna Getaneh, Founder of African Mosaique

Former model Anna Getaneh is the founder of African Mosaique, an international fashion house based in Addis Ababa. (Photo: Anna Getaneh by Michel Temteme)

Condé Nast Traveler

Anna Getaneh worked as a model in New York and Paris before eventually settling down in Ethiopia. Now, as the founder of African Mosaique, a high-end boutique and fashion incubator set in her elegant childhood home in Addis Ababa, she’s a champion for Ethiopian textiles and craftsmanship.

This interview is part of The World Made Local, a global collaboration between the seven international editions of Condé Nast Traveler in which 100 people in 100 countries tell us why their home turf should be your next destination.

How would you describe Addis Ababa, and Ethiopia, in your own words?

Addis Ababa, surrounded by beautiful mountains, is so unique in that it’s both old and new, ancient and modern, traditional and contemporary, all interwoven in harmony. There is often the smell of fresh coffee—it’s the leading national drink, and on every corner you’ll find the finest coffee being served. Street sounds are numbed by the prayer hymns from the churches or mosques.

Tell us about your connection to Addis Ababa.

I always had this nagging sense that I would come back. I have been coming back and forth for many years; each time I came there was a sense of connection and deep attachment, and every time I left I felt deep sadness, a void. And today there is nowhere else I would rather be. It’s been great for the kids, too, to connect with their culture and learn the language.

What should we do if we had 24 hours in the city?

Kategna and Kuriftu Entoto for great local food in a modern setting. For casual dining, Five Loaves, Effoi (great pizza), Asa Bet, and Gourmet Corner. Do Fendika for music, drinks, and art; there’s always an exhibition. If you like markets, Shiro Meda is the best for textiles and traditional clothing. I recommend staying at the Hyatt Regency: They are literally in the heart of the city, by Meskel Square, with great food, ambience, and locally inspired interiors and uniforms. To relax, hit up the newly built Entoto Park, with 17 restaurants, cafés, an adventure park, camping area, biking lanes, and a spectacular view of the city. Finally, go to Addis Fine Art for great local artists, and Jazz Club at Ghion Hotel for great jazz.

A happening neighborhood to check out?

Piazza, the old city center, is always bustling, with narrow streets, small cafés, and jewelry shops. If you’re looking for big-city lights, the Edna Mall area is the happening place, with streets filled with restaurants, hotels, and bars.

Give us the elevator pitch: Why should we all travel to Ethiopia (when we’re able to)?

It’s an ancient country that has so much to offer: The new generation of Ethiopia wants to be recognized for its rich and deep-rooted culture, its unique and historic role in Africa, its wildlife, the food, the art, and the music. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Follow Anna Getaneh on Instagram @anna_getaneh

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Spotlight: New Ethiopia Film ‘Faya Dayi’ by Jessica Beshir Screens at Lincoln Center in NYC

The two-hour documentary (Amharic, Harari, and Oromiffa with English subtitles) is a visual poetic reflection by the U.S.-based Ethiopian Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir on the ceremonies and process of consuming one of Ethiopia's most profitable farm products, khat (ጫት ch'at). (Courtesy photo).

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: August 31st, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This week Jessica Beshir’s award-winning new film ‘Faya Dayi’ will open at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The two-hour documentary (Amharic, Harari, and Oromiffa with English subtitles), which was released last year to enthusiastic international reviews, is a visual poetic reflection by the U.S.-based Ethiopian Mexican filmmaker on the old ceremonies and process of consuming one of Ethiopia’s most profitable farm products, khat (ጫት ch’at), a leaf chewed for centuries for religious meditations.


(Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

According to the press release Director Jessica Beshir will participate in Q&As following the film’s showing on Friday, September 3rd and Saturday, September 4th.

The announcement notes:

In her hypnotic documentary feature, Ethiopian-Mexican filmmaker Jessica Beshir explores the coexistence of everyday life and its mythical undercurrents. Though a deeply personal project — Beshir was forced to leave her hometown of Harar with her family as a teenager due to growing political strife — the film she returned to make about the city, its rural Oromo community of farmers, and the harvesting of the country’s most sought-after export (the euphoria-inducing khat plant) is neither a straightforward work of nostalgia nor an issue-oriented doc about a particular drug culture. Rather, she has constructed something dreamlike: a film that uses light, texture, and sound to illuminate the spiritual lives of people whose experiences often become fodder for ripped-from-the-headlines tales of migration. A Janus Films release. A New Directors/New Films 2021 selection.

For in-theater screenings, please review the Film at Lincoln Center in-theater safety and health policies here.

If You Go:

For showtime and dates please visit filmlinc.org.

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The little-known history of how Harlem fought to save Ethiopia from Italian dictator Mussolini

More than 20,000 protestors including both Blacks and sympathetic Whites  showed up in the streets of Harlem, New York on August 3, 1935, to demonstrate against Mussolini’s decision to take over Ethiopia. Some 10,000 people also demonstrated in Chicago, according to records. (Photo: Black people in Harlem volunteered to take on Italian dictator Mussolini/Image via YouTube)

Face to Face Africa

When the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, or the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, began in 1935, it raged on for seven months, ending in the military occupation of the African nation. That was Italy’s second attempt at invading Ethiopia. While the rest of Africa was under colonial rule after the infamous partition by European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884, Ethiopia was then a sovereign nation with a formidable army and a strong monarchy.

A few years after the division of the continent, the Italian Kingdom – which had obtained Eritrea and Italian Somalia as its African territories – wanted to add Ethiopia to its kingdom on March 1, 1896. But it failed after the defeat of the Italian army in the Battle of Adwa which is also described as the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The battle fought near the northern town of Adwa in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region is the first victory by an African country over a colonial power.

It left a very sour taste in the mouth of Italy so it decided to take revenge in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War (1935 – 1939). Led by Italian leader Benito Mussolini, Italy was successful in that war but not without strong Ethiopian resistance under the leadership of Emperor Haile Selassie I. And many thousand miles away, a Black American community in the U.S. also volunteered to defend Ethiopia when no one else would.

More than 20,000 protestors including both Blacks and sympathetic Whites showed up in the streets of Harlem, New York on August 3, 1935, to demonstrate against Mussolini’s decision to take over Ethiopia. Some 10,000 people also demonstrated in Chicago, according to records. This was amid the Great Depression when it was hard for many to find work and even food. Yet, Blacks in the U.S. were ready to fight for Africa’s last sovereign nation which they saw as their true ancestral homeland and which was for them, a symbol of redemption in the diaspora.

Harlem, which would become popularly known as the Black Cultural Mecca famous for its great jazz clubs, African-American arts, culture, and heritage, was just emerging from its own Renaissance when the war in Ethiopia began. The Renaissance among other things served as a means of achieving equality and civil rights through artistic expression. When news broke that Italy was taking over Ethiopia, Blacks in Harlem, who were loud in resistance and who saw the African nation as an ancient cradle of civilization, were outraged.

Thus, they volunteered to take on Italian dictator Mussolini. Apart from protesting, thousands of them signed up to go and fight for Ethiopia. They were however stopped by the State Department, which threatened jail, adding that the U.S. should only offer medical relief.

But one brave African-American aviator was able to make it to Ethiopia. John C. Robinson, who was recruited by the Ethiopian government to lead its air force, sailed over with the cover story that he was an aircraft dealer, according to one account. Robinson would train many Ethiopians to fly and fix aircraft before returning to New York in 1936 where he was given a hero’s welcome. He later became known as the Father of the Tuskegee Airmen for his immense contributions to the aviation programs he started at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the early 1940s.

The “Walwal Incident” in December 1934 was the reason Italian leader Mussolini decided to invade the country. Walwal, an eastern city, sat near a border, where a clash between the Kingdom of Italy and Ethiopia led to the death of 150 Ethiopians and two Italians.

On the eve of the attack, Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie I ordered men from the country to assemble and defend its lands. Although his troops outnumbered Mussolini’s, many of Selassie’s men were armed with primitive weapons and even more had no experience with military operations.

Mussolini’s forces entered Ethiopia from Eritrea, yet they did not declare war. Selassie took the crossing of borders as an affront and ordered the first of his offensive maneuvers, yet he was continually outgunned by the more experienced and well-equipped Italians.

For the next few months, many cities fell to Italy and fell under the Fascist rule of Mussolini. The Ethiopian forces were spirited, however, doing their best to pluck off enemy forces. Mussolini used chemical warfare (pictured) after Ethiopian soldiers down an Italian air pilot, sending a message to Selassie’s army.

The following May, Selassie fled to Europe in exile and did so with the blessing of the Italians who could have stopped his progress. Widespread rioting and looting took place when Selassie took leave, which was quelled by the emergence of Italian forces. Perhaps because of the fatigue of war and the lack of Ethiopian governance, a truce of sorts took place in June.

On June 1, 1936, Italy officially joined Ethiopia with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The new state was known as Africa Orientale Italiana (Italian East Africa).

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Interview: The art of healing: Emanuel finds catharsis through creating on ‘Alt Therapy’

Canadian-Ethiopian singer-songwriter Emanuel. (Earmilk)

Earmilk

Every so often, an album comes out that feels wholly complete, timeless, and magical. Very few albums are on my list of “unskippables”, and Alt Therapy by Canadian-Ethiopian singer-songwriter Emanuel is one of them. A cathartic listening experience that is moving, intentional, and worthy of being played from cover to cover, Alt Therapy is a new album from the heart of Canada’s blossoming R&B and soul scene that every music-head from the North and beyond has their eye on.

Conceived from a basement in the outskirts of Ontario, Emanuel’s music has travelled across the globe, touching the ears and hearts of millions and even receiving a stamp of approval from prominent figures in entertainment like Kardinal Ofishall and Idris Elba. EARMILK caught up with the prodigy to discuss his creative process, the album’s reception, and his plans for taking “the damn thing worldwide”.

Emanuel took us on the biggest pilgrimage of his musical career yet: the inception his first body of work. With a release date slated for the onset of the pandemic, there were both opportunities and risks in the timing of Alt Therapy’s release. Yet, at a time when he couldn’t play any events or connect with fans on tour, Emanuel was able to create an intimate listening experience that millions of fans found solace in. His very first single, “Need You” received over 6.4 million streams on Spotify alone, propelling his talents to the front and center of playlists and billboards, and marking him as an artist who needed to be heard.

A fan of both the music and the album’s seamless rollout, I inquired about how the album came to be. “Alt Therapy was an album born in 2017 in a basement in London, Ont. From that date till the end of 2019 when I submitted the project, everything was relatively spontaneous. I am always very intentional about how I want my music to sound, I feel when creating an album, you have to plan all you can and pray lightning strikes…” Emanuel details. “I’m not sure how much you can plan for. The whole thing feels like a series of fortunate and unfortunate [events] with abounding grace that leaves me exactly where I need to be.” And it seems like Emanuel is indeed exactly where he needs to be. With the kind of reception most new artists could only dream about, Emanuel has skyrocketed from London Ont.’s best kept a secret, to one of the country’s brightest musical gems.

But the come-up was anything but hasty. Emanuel and his team have been grinding behind the scenes for years. Before “Need You”, Emanuel was building up a devoted circle of supporters, sharing moody tunes on his YouTube channel, and wooing fans at local shows with his insane runs. But Emanuel wanted his words to reach beyond the walls of concert venues, and when it came down to releasing his debut record, Emanuel decided to entrust Universal Music Canada for its official debut, explaining, “I believe it became a question of growth and being able to do what it takes to reach a larger audience. I understand that it takes a village to truly do something great. and I signed in the hope of finding that village in Universal Music Canada.” And it seems he played his cards right. Within months, Emanuel became a multi-million streaming artist who was quickly picked up in the States by Motown Records.

And yet, despite his obvious successes, the numbers and co-signs aren’t what makes Emanuel a class-act––it’s the heart behind his heart. “I want the music to mean self reflection for people,” Emanuel shares. “I want people to recognize Alt Therapy as healing music. Like some of the great musicians of recent past, I want the music [I make] to mark a positive shift in the collective consciousness of the people that listen to the music.” Like the album’s watercolor paintings, each song is handcrafted with artful mastery. Highly in tune with the emotions society has grappled with in current times, Alt Therapy’s lyrics have the power to uplift and unite. Tracks like “I Need A Doctor” embody the angst that comes with navigating life’s uncertainties, while “Black Woman” is a heartfelt ode of appreciation to Black women everywhere.

It’s one thing to take in the sonic excellence of the record and another to appreciate Emanuel’s thoughtful pen game: “My songwriting process is really simple. I love to begin a song by just listening to instrumentation or a beat live off the floor. When I find something that brings me feeling, I begin to freestyle. when I hear something I like, I track it and refine,” Emanuel shares.“I think the hardest records are the ones about subjects I might not be willing to be honest with myself about. There’s an internal struggle that ensues, and a song like “Magazines” is born.” With a remarkable gift of transporting his listeners into his world, Emanuel’s ability to tap into the universal sentiments of surrender is a rarity, and perhaps that’s the reason why so many listeners have found comfort in his music.

Alt Therapy is the perfect crafting of heart, spirit and soul. When praising artists who create with intentionality, Emanuel must be in the conversation. A true storyteller, he’s mastered the art of living and creating in bold colour, and inspiring us to do the same.

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Ethiopia In Pictures: Portraits of Workers in Addis Ababa and Jimma – By Redeat Wondemu

(Photography by Redeat Wondemu)

The Washington Post Magazine

Text and photographs by Redeat Wondemu

Work and Purpose in Ethiopia: A photographic journey

In 1950, Irving Penn — one of the giants of 20th-century photography — began taking photos in Paris, London and New York for what would be known as the “Small Trades” series. The project consisted of portraits of people in the clothes they wore for work.

I discovered Penn when I needed direction on what kind of photographer I wanted to be. His portraits have a rich tonal range, from the whitest white to grays to the blackest black. He used natural lighting, and it usually came from one direction, giving the photos a dramatic quality.

Penn’s approach has served as inspiration for my portraits of workers in Addis Ababa and Jimma, Ethiopia. I spent much of my childhood in Addis Ababa, the capital, then moved to Chicago when I was 13; in 2019, I moved back to Addis Ababa to begin this project. I found people to photograph — professional and skilled workers, street vendors, hawkers, criers — and asked them to come to my makeshift studio as they were. At first, they were very skeptical, as you can see by their inquisitive looks. Like Penn, I wanted to separate my subjects from distracting elements, so I had them stand in front of a blank background.

Penn spent more than two decades perfecting his photos. I hope to do the same. At a time when Instagram floods us with images, studying the classics helps me stay focused. Penn’s dedication to his work inspires me to perfect my portraits instead of feeling overwhelmed by the next cool photography trend.

For now, I am excited to be sharing these images with you. As the world has finally realized the importance of essential workers, there has never been a better time to think about and celebrate the people shown here — many of whom do work that is undervalued and overlooked.


An operating room nurse.


A shoeshiner.


A veterinarian.

Read the full article and see more photos at washingtonpost.com/magazine »

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Ethiopians Headline the Women’s and Men’s Elite Fields for the Boston Marathon

Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese and Mare Dibaba are among the star international female athletes competing in the upcoming 2021 Boston Marathon, while the men's elite category also includes Ethiopians Asefa Mengstu, Lemi Berhanu Hayle and Jemal Yimer. (Getty Images)

The Boston Globe

A pair of Ethiopian runners with the fastest men’s and women’s times in the field headline the elite runner entry list for the 2021 Boston Marathon that was announced Wednesday by the Boston Athletic Association.

Because of the pandemic, the race was postponed from April and will be run Oct. 11.

Nine women who have run faster than 2:22:00 will line up in Hopkinton, including Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese, whose 2:19:36 personal best ranks fastest in the field. Melese will have some tough competition from fellow Ethiopian Mare Dibaba, the 2015 world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.

Dibaba has broken 2:20 twice, running 2:19:52 in 2012 and 2015, but she has not run that fast since. Also, Edina Kiplagat of Kenya, a two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist who finished second at Boston in 2019, will challenge for the top spot.

American Jordan Hasay is familiar with the course, finishing third twice. She is the third-fastest US woman in history with a personal best of 2:20:57.

On the men’s side, Ethiopian Asefa Mengstu has the fastest personal best and the 23rd- fastest marathon ever at 2:04:06. Fellow Ethiopians Lemi Berhanu Hayle, the 2015 Boston champion, and Dejene Debela, who has run a sub-2:06, will join him. Berhanu’s personal best is just behind Mengstu’s at 2:04:33.

After much success over the half marathon and in cross-country, Kenya’s Leonard Barsoton and Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer will make their marathon debuts. Barsoton earned a silver medal at the World Cross-Country Championships in 2017, and Yimer owns the Ethiopian national record of 58:33 in the half marathon.

Eight of the top 12 finishers from the US Olympic marathon trials will compete in Boston, including Abdi Abdirahman, who finished 41st at the Tokyo Games last week.

In the women’s wheelchair field, course record-holder Manuela Schär of Switzerland is the favorite, but she will be challenged by five-time Boston champion Tatyana McFadden. Team USA Paralympians Susannah Scaroni and Jenna Fesemyer also will compete.

The men’s wheelchair field features four former champions: Daniel Romanchuk, Marcel Hug, Ernst van Dyk, and Josh Cassidy, who have a combined 16 Boston titles. Aaron Pike, who will compete for Team USA in the Paralympic marathon, also will be in the field.

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Spotlight: A New Documentary ‘Free Art Felega 5 – Disrupt’ Celebrates Ethiopian Artists

Organizers note that a virtual launch of the documentary 'Free Art Felega 5 - Disrupt' is scheduled for Sunday, August, 15th, 2021 featuring all participating artists. (Photos courtesy of Free Art Felega)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: August 11th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — You may remember our story last year highlighting a “positive and optimistic” art project amid the gloom of the COVID-19 era called Free Art Felega, an online space organized by German-based Ethiopian artist Yenatfenta Abate that gave Ethiopian artists, both in Ethiopia and the Diaspora, a place to gather and exhibit their work for audiences around the world.

This week organizers announced that they will release a new documentary film titled ‘Free Art Felega 5 – Disrupt showing “the result of six months of hard work from the 32 participating Ethiopian artists in times of CoVid-19, including the personal artist statements.”


Photos courtesy of Free Art Felega

The announcement added: “You will receive deeper insights into the motivations and thoughts of every participating artist and, very important, their way of finding their artistic identity.”

Organizers note that a virtual launch of the documentary is scheduled for this coming Sunday, August, 15th, featuring all participating artists.

If You Go:

A virtual launch: Documentary of Free Art Felega 5 – Disrupt
Sunday 15th August 2021 5 p.m. CET.
More info: www.freeartfelega.com

Related:

Spotlight: ‘Free Art Felega,’ A Virtual Ethiopia Exhibition by Yenatfenta Abate

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Spotlight: Meet Sammy Kahsai, the Ethiopia-Born Pro Soccer Player for Maryland Bobcats

Samuel Kahsai, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in the U.S., is a professional soccer player with the Maryland Bobcats, an American soccer team and academy based in Montgomery County, Maryland. (Photo: Courtesy of Goalden Generation Management)

Hyattsville Wire

Meet the Pro Soccer Player Who Grew Up in Hyattsville

Maryland Bobcats FC midfielder Sammy Kahsai got his start in Hyattsville.

Born in Ethiopia, Kahsai moved with his family to Hyattsville at age 7, playing soccer at Hyattsville Middle School and Northwestern High, where he led the team to its first county and regional title and state semifinal appearance since 1995.

“He was so talented, but there weren’t enough, or any, resources to help him elevate to the next level,” a representative for Goalden Generation Management who works with Kahsai, told the Hyattsville Wire. “So he had to take the long route using his skill and old fashioned grit, to hop from level to level.”

After graduating in 2013, Kahsai played for D.C. United’s youth academy, and broke records as a freshman at Washington Adventist University. He was named top midfielder while playing at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he graduated.

In 2019, he signed his first professional contract with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a second tier team, and the next year he moved to the Maryland Bobcats FC, a tier three team with the National Independent Soccer Association based in Montgomery County.


SAMUEL KAHSAI. (NATIONAL INDEPENDENT SOCCER ASSOCIATION)

Goalden Generation Management, which represents Kahsai, has put together a short documentary about his pro soccer career. You can see a trailer on their Instagram here.

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Tonight Whitney Museum of American Art Features Conversation with Marcus Samuelsson and Julie Mehretu

Both born in Ethiopia and now New York-based, Samuelsson and Mehretu have been friends for decades. Despite working in different fields, they hold each other’s work in the highest regard and have supported each other in their respective pursuits. (Whitney Museum of American Art)

Press Release

Whitney Museum of American Art

COOKING AND CONVERSATION WITH MARCUS SAMUELSSON, JULIE MEHRETU, AND RUJEKO HOCKLEY

Tuesday, August 3
6 pm

Online, via Zoom

During this special event, chef Marcus Samuelsson and painter Julie Mehretu, along with Rujeko Hockley, the Whitney’s Arnhold Associate Curator, will talk about art, food, and much more.

Both born in Ethiopia and now New York-based, Samuelsson and Mehretu have been friends for decades. Despite working in different fields, they hold each other’s work in the highest regard and have supported each other in their respective pursuits. Join us on Zoom and follow along as chef Samuelsson prepares a special recipe just for the occasion, which coincides with the final days of Mehretu’s mid-career survey at the Whitney.

Free with registration

REGISTER

This event will have automated closed captions through Zoom. Live captioning is available for public programs and events upon request with seven business days advance notice. We will make every effort to provide accommodation for requests made outside of that window of time. To place a request, please contact us ataccessfeedback@whitney.org or (646) 666-5574 (voice). Relay and voice calls welcome.

Julie Mehretu
Mar 25–Aug 8, 2021

For more than two decades, Julie Mehretu (b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) has been engaged in a deep exploration of painting. She creates new forms and finds unexpected resonances by drawing from the histories of art and human civilization—from Babylonian stelae to architectural sketches, from European history painting to the sites and symbols of African liberation movements. Some of Mehretu’s imagery and titles hint at their representational origins, but her work remains steadfastly abstract.

Comprising approximately thirty paintings and forty works on paper dating from 1996 to the present day, this mid-career survey of Julie Mehretu presents the most comprehensive overview of her practice to date. She plays with the parameters of abstraction, architecture, landscape, scale, and, most recently, figuration. At its core, Mehretu’s art is invested in our lived experiences, and examines how forces such as migration, capitalism, and climate change impact human populations—and possibilities.

Julie Mehretu is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition is curated by Christine Y. Kim, curator of contemporary art at LACMA, with Rujeko Hockley, Arnhold Associate Curator at the Whitney.

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Ethiopia Back on Top at Olympics: Selemon Barega Wins Gold in Men’s 10,000 Metres

Ethiopia's newest Olympic gold medalist Selemon Barega stood atop an all-Africa podium in the men's 10,000m final at the Tokyo Games on Friday. The 21-year-old joined Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Miruts Yifter in the club of Ethiopian legends to have won the Olympic 10,000-meter title. (Getty Images)

Reuters

Ethiopian Selemon Barega wins men’s 10,000 metres in all-Africa podium

Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega sprinted the last lap to beat world record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and win a shock Olympic Games gold medal in the men’s 10,000 metres on Friday.

The 21-year-old Barega powered down the home straight to cross the line in 27 minutes 43.22 seconds, ahead of world champion Cheptegei in 27:43.63.

Jacob Kiplimo, the youngest ever Ugandan Olympian when he ran the 5,000 heats in Rio as a 15-year old, posted a time of 27:43.88 to secure bronze in the first athletics medal event of the Games.

Barega, the 2019 5,000m world championship silver medallist who set the second fastest 10,000 metres time of the year in June, was applauded by the Ethiopian delegation as he smiled broadly on a victory lap with his country’s flag draped around his shoulders.

Cheptegei said he was experiencing mixed emotions.

“I have two feelings. “One is that I’m very happy to have won an Olympic silver medal today,” he told reporters. “But the other side of me is really not satisfied with the result because I came here expecting to win a gold.”

Cheptegei also admitted that 2021 had been tough for him.

“This year was really a very difficult year for me in terms of racing,” he said. “It’s the year that I have lost all the focus, all the belief. There was a lot of pressure and I was feeling it in every moment.”

Uganda’s Stephen Kissa acted as the early pacemaker before dropping out a little over halfway through the race.

“We had a plan for me to go ahead to make it a fast race,” Kissa told reporters. “I thought they were going to follow me but when I looked round they were not there.”

Cheptegei led briefly before dropping back into the pack and Barega seized his chance, moving among the leaders in the last third of the race before hitting the front with a surge on the last lap to secure his surprise victory.

Related:

Ethiopia Is Back on Top As Selemon Barega Is Golden in 2020 Olympic 10K Final

Tokyo Olympics: Men’s Steeplechase Gold Medal Odds Favor Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale

Ethiopia at Tokyo Olympics: How to Watch Track and Field Live

On Twitter, Cryptocurrency Fans Cheer Ethiopia at Tokyo Olympics

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American Filmmaker Ava DuVernay Launches A Masterclass On Narrative Storytelling Featuring Haile Gerima

Haile Gerima editing his upcoming documentary “Children of Adwa.” (Eurweb)

Eur Web

*A legendary filmmaker is teaching a five day workshop!

Ava DuVernay’s Peabody Award-winning arts and social impact collective ARRAY announced their inaugural masterclass with celebrated Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima. Applications are now being accepted until August 9 for the Los Angeles-based intensive workshop, being led by the legendary figure of the L.A. Rebellion film movement.

Liberated Territory: A Masterclass by Haile Gerima is a partnership between ARRAY and The Sankofa Film Academy divided into three parts: The Art and Craft of Screenplay, Cinematography, and Film Directing. Taking place at the ARRAY Creative Campus, the five-day workshop will explore the catalyst of storytelling and a story’s structure crafted from personal narrative accents. Participants will have an opportunity to dive into Gerima’s past notable work, including the ARRAY Releasing distributed title Ashes and Embers. Gerima is set to be honored by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with the inaugural Vantage Award as part of its opening gala in September 2021.

Applications are open to storytellers (experienced or emerging) working across all mediums, not just film. Artists who would like a deeper understanding of connecting their personal roots to narrative story development are encouraged to apply at arraynow.com/masterclass.

“Ava has always been a supporter of me and my work,” shared Gerima. “I come from a generation of filmmakers — independent filmmakers in the late 60s, early 70s – where making films about marginalized communities and people of color was not always accepted by mainstream audiences. It was important to Ava and ARRAY that this next generation of filmmakers get an opportunity to see my past work and to understand it. This Master Class is structured based on my personal practice, not only writing my own screenplays but also directing and editing my own films. Most of all, it demonstrates how editing my own films shaped my ideas of holistic filmmaking.”


Ava DuVernay (Photo: Diana King)

“Mr. Haile Gerima is the reason I was inspired to create my own film distribution company and he is, very simply, one of my heroes,” expressed DuVernay. “He disrupted the system long before anyone was willing to take notice and continues to chart his own path. Launching the ARRAY Masterclass program with Mr. Gerima is a surreal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to watch him in action as he shares his filmmaking expertise with the next wave of disruptive filmmakers at our liberated territory, the ARRAY Creative Campus.”

“Sankofa, which is an Adinkra term for ‘going back to our past in order to go forward’ provides the best description of this full circle moment for me,” explained ARRAY Vice President of Public Programming, Mercedes Cooper. “I first visited Mr. Gerima’s legendary Sankofa Video and Bookstore in 1999 while I was a student at University of Maryland College Park. I am beyond words and honored to collaborate with master filmmaker Haile Gerima and visionary Ava DuVernay to develop ARRAY’s first masterclass.”

About Haile Gerima:

Haile Gerima is a fiercely independent filmmaker and leading member of the film movement known widely as L.A. Rebellion birthed in the late 1960s. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gerima immigrated to the United States in 1967. Following in the footsteps of his father, a dramatist and playwright, Gerima entered UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, where his exposure to Latin American films inspired him to mine his own cultural legacy.

After completing his thesis film, the acclaimed BUSH MAMA (1975), Gerima returned to Ethiopia to film HARVEST: 3000 YEARS (1976) which won the George Sadual critics award of at the Festival de Cannes, the Grand Prize at the Locarno Film Festival and was the Official Selection As Cannes Classic in 2007 in Festival de Cannes. When Gerima’s legendary epic SANKOFA (1993, nominated for the Golden Bear of the Berlin Film-festival) was ignored by U.S. distributors, he decidedly self-distributed the film by tapping into African-American communities, resulting in sold-out screenings in independent theaters around the country. In 2016 ARRAY re-released his classic ASHES & EMBERS (1982), winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1983 Berlin International Film Festival.

In 1996, Gerima co-founded an independent film company for the production and distribution of films, which also houses the Sankofa Video and Bookstore, in Washington, D.C. Gerima continues to produce, distribute and promote his own films. He also lectures and conducts workshops in alternative screenwriting and directing both within the U.S. and internationally.

About ARRAY:

Founded in 2011 by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, ARRAY is a Peabody Award-winning multi-platform arts and social impact collective dedicated to narrative change. The organization catalyzes its work through a quartet of mission-driven entities: the film distribution arm ARRAY Releasing, the content company ARRAY Filmworks, the programming and production hub ARRAY Creative Campus and the non-profit group ARRAY Alliance.

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Spotlight: In NYC, the MET Presents Mulatu Astatke — Digital Premiere

Today in New York City The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with World Music Institute presents a Digital Premiere featuring Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke. According to the museum the concert was recorded at the MET on September 9, 2016. The JazzTimes called it “a spirited and entrancing set that spanned his career and spotlighted his gift for shifting fluidly between intricate, sinuous melodies and airy, atmospheric grooves.” (MET)

MET Museum

Known as the father of Ethio-jazz, composer and multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke rose to international fame in the 1970s and 1980s with his unique mix of American jazz and Ethiopian music, drawing comparisons to jazz giants Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. Forced off the road for a time due to the political situation in his homeland, he came roaring back in the 1990s, recording and touring as never before.

Astatke’s music begins and ends with improvisation and is the product of fearless experimentation. Experience the sounds, rhythms, and textures of this pioneer of Ethiopian jazz in The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing in a performance recorded on September 9, 2016, that JazzTimes called “a spirited and entrancing set that spanned his career and spotlighted his gift for shifting fluidly between intricate, sinuous melodies and airy, atmospheric grooves.”

Watch on Facebook or YouTube. Note: No login required.

If You Attend:

Digital Premiere—Mulatu Astatke at the MET
TUESDAY / JULY 27
7:00–8:40 P.M.
www.metmuseum.org

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Ethiopia at Tokyo Olympics: How to Watch Track and Field Live

Local time in Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern time and 16 hours ahead of Pacific time in the United States. As you’ll see in the examples of our must-watch races below, the time differences will make for some early morning or late evening viewing if you want to see events live. (Getty Images)

Runners World

Plus, our picks for five must-watch races at the Games.

Watching what you want when you want might not be simple, because NBC’s coverage will be spread across several of the network’s channels and properties, including Peacock, USA, NBCSN, NBCOlympics.com, NBCSports.com, and, for good measure, the NBC Sports app.

Also, local time in Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern time and 16 hours ahead of Pacific time in the United States. As you’ll see in the examples of our must-watch races below, the time differences will make for some early morning or late evening viewing if you want to see events live.

Your best bet to knowing what will be shown where and when is to check NBCOlympics.com daily. The schedule there will be regularly updated.

Women’s 10,000 Meters

Final: 7:45 p.m. local, Saturday, 8/7; 6:45 a.m. Eastern/3:45 a.m. Pacific


Getty Images

We try to use the word “epic” sparingly, but it’s fair to say this race should be one of the epic match-ups in any sport of the Games. The top two contenders: Reigning world champion Sifan Hassan of Holland, who ran 29:06.82 on June 6 to break the world record, and Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who broke Hassan’s record just two days later in 29:01.03.

The two met have met before at the distance, in the 2019 World Championships. There, Hassan seemed on another level from the rest of the world and easily handled Gidey’s attempt to break her over the final four laps. (At that meet, Hassan also won the 1500, an unprecedented double-gold haul in modern times.) But Gidey was 21 at that time, and now has another two years of international experience. Given Hassan’s prowess at 1500 meters, Gidey will likely try the same tactic as in 2019, a long drive over the last four or five laps. Hassan needed a 4:18 final mile last time to beat Gidey. Will they close even faster in Tokyo?

U.S. Trials champion Emily Sisson is unlikely to get caught up in Hassan-Gidey fireworks. But if the weather cooperates, she could threaten the American record of 30:13.17 that her occasional training partner, Molly Huddle, set while finishing sixth at the 2016 Games.

Men’s Marathon

Final: 7 a.m. local, Sunday, 8/8; 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific, Saturday, 8/7


Getty Images

A day after the women’s marathon concludes—another highly-anticipated event that takes place at 6 p.m. Eastern on Friday, July 30—the men’s marathon is the final running event of the Games. This race is either one of the most predictable or most unpredictable.

On the predictable hand, there’s the defending champion, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, the most accomplished marathoner in history. Did you know that Kipchoge won a marathon in April in 2:04:30? Don’t feel bad if not—the world record-holder and only person to break 2:00 in any conditions is also the first person in history to make a 2:04 marathon unremarkable. Kipchoge has lost only two marathons since taking up the event in 2013.

On the unpredictable hand, consider: One of those losses occurred at London last October. Kipchoge not only lost, but, by his exalted standards, bombed, finishing eighth, more than a minute behind the winner. Kipchoge, age 36, suddenly seemed mortal. There’s built-in unpredictability concerning anyone’s body on marathon day—Kipchoge was undone last fall in London by a clogged ear.

Also, knowing who is in great shape is always difficult because the top marathoners race so seldom. That said, don’t be surprised to see U.S. champion and defending bronze medalist Galen Rupp vie for a medal. And most definitely keep an eye out for one or both of Kengo Suzuki and Suguru Osaka, who hope to give marathon-mad Japan hometown heroes to cheer for late in the race.

Read the full article at runnersworld.com »

Related:

On Twitter, Cryptocurrency Fans Cheer Ethiopia at Tokyo Olympics

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This Royal Couple Launched a New Media Company to Tell Stories Uniting the Black Diaspora

Prince Joel Makonnen, the great-grandson of emperor Haile Selassie, and his wife, Princess Ariana Makonnen, are on a mission to unite the Black diaspora, launching their new media company, "Old World//New World (OWNW)." "It was definitely inspired by my own life, growing up as a prince in exile," Joel says. (BOTWC)

BOTWC

A royal couple just launched a new media company to tell stories uniting the Black diaspora.

Prince Joel Makonnen, the great-grandson of the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, and his wife, Princess Ariana Makonnen, are on a mission to unite the Black diaspora, launching their new media company, “Old World//New World (OWNW).” Inspired by their own story, the media and entertainment company is dedicated to storytelling across various forms, focused on sharing powerful stories that unite and inspire the global Black diaspora.

The name of the couple’s Los Angeles-based media company is a homage to their wedding theme and echoes a sentiment they hope to bring to their projects.

“Ariana coined this statement during our wedding…old-world aristocracy meets new world charm…and it stuck with us. And so we thought the concept…which represents ourselves…we [thought it would be good for] all of our projects to have that same theme, with Africa and the diaspora coming together,” Prince Joel told Because Of Them We Can.

“We’ve always kind of thought of our relationship as a cool Old World/New world mix, taking what’s great, the history and tradition of the old world, and combining it with the innovation and freedom of the new world and we thought through a while about what we wanted to do next…and we decided that a media company would be close to our heart,” Princess Ariana added.

The company officially launched in 2018, focusing on acquiring projects and partnerships that aligned with its mission. Their first project, a children’s book entitled “Last Gate Of The Emperor,” was co-authored by HIH Prince Joel in partnership with Kwame Mbalia. The two are both Howard University grads and came together to tell a story for young children rooted in history that also had an Afrofuturist element.

“Last Gate Of The Emperor” follows a young 12-year-old Ethiopian boy who lives in a distant future, ultimately discovering his royal lineage, which gives him the power to save his city and his people. The story is loosely based on Prince Joel’s life, exploring themes of resilience, family, and bravery with a bit of fun and a whole lot of sci-fi.

“It was definitely inspired by my own life, growing up as a prince in exile. When I was born, there was a really bad revolution that happened in Ethiopia, and we happened to be outside of the country, so my family just couldn’t go back. As a child, I had to struggle, understanding what that meant. My family had taught me all this great legacy, but then also it impacted life, and we just kind of had to survive. And so I wanted to share that experience but in a children’s format,” Prince Joel said.

The book has already hit number one on Amazon’s bestsellers, and the Makonnens have no plans on slowing down. The mission of OWNW is to curate compelling stories that give new narratives to Africa and the diaspora, building a bridge to unite Black people across the globe and pushing positive Black stories to the mainstream.

“With the company, the goal is to tell powerful Black stories… Stories that are always from an empowered place, a place of agency, and it doesn’t mean that traumatic things don’t happen or the history is not complicated, but I think there is always a way to tell a story…that you come through trauma, that you’re resilient, even if it does happen. And then jointly, to really connect the diaspora in a way that we haven’t seen before,” Princess Ariana said.

Ideally, OWNW is looking to build inroads that help Africa feel more like home for those in the diaspora. While people are learning more and more every day, Africa still feels like a faraway concept for many Black people in the diaspora. Through these stories, the Makonnen’s are hoping to help people see themselves more and more.

In addition to the book, more projects are coming down the pipeline, including a biopic, a television series centered around the Ethiopian monarchy, and a romantic comedy based on the Prince and Princesses’ love story.

Currently, they’re looking to connect with all storytellers who may be interested in getting their projects out to the world.

To purchase “Last Gate Of The Emperor,” click here. You can also learn more about “Old World//New World” via their website or follow them on Instagram.

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Ethiopian Immigrant And UBS Top Advisor Hopes To Blaze Trail For More Diversity In Wealth Management

Araya Mesfin, Senior Vice President–Wealth Management, UBS Wealth Management (UBS)

Forbes

Name: Araya Mesfin

Firm: UBS Wealth Management

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

AUM: $763 million

Background: Mesfin, 45, grew up in Ethiopia and immigrated to the United States at age 14. After getting a degree in biology and physics from Berry College in Rome, Georgia he spent time as a tutor for private school students and working on fundraising with his alma mater. In his late 20s he decided he wanted a career change.

An interview with an advisor from Merrill Lynch, where he never end up working, piqued his interest in the wealth management field. In 2008, he started at Morgan Stanley in a rookie program before heading to UBS five years later.

Competitive Edge: For Mesfin his biggest advantage is his resourcefulness, built upon joining the industry with no resources.

Early in his career, without a large network, he started cold calling corporations. One on of those calls, a prospect said that many of the his colleagues were close to retirement and could use financial advice. In order to try to capture that potential client base, Mesfin created a spreadsheet, and in the evenings called every extension to get client names from voicemails. He would then follow up on this homemade lead list in the morning. In his first few years of work, he estimates he was working up to 200 hours a week.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenges in Mesfin’s career came early on when he faced lots of rejection, some he believes as a result of his race. With so much discussion around representation coming in the last year, he says many large firms have good intentions. However, the problem is that these conglomerates do not determine who is successful in wealth management.

“If you’re IBM and want to diversify your workforce, you hire more people of color and women, but an advisors success isn’t dependent upon their employer, it is dependent upon Mr. and Mrs. Smith hiring them as an advisor,” Mesfin says. “People only like to work with those they trust so they look to those in their network for recommendations and that’s how the cycle works. That’s why, in my personal experience, women and minorities have a harder time.”

Mentors: Edward Williams, the president of Baltimore-based RIA DEW Financial Management was the training manager at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney when Mesfin first met him. Mesfin credits his mentorship for setting an example that a Black man could be successful as a financial advisor.

Lessons Learned: While acknowledging that the United States in 2021 is far from perfect, Mesfin says that hard work and perseverance can still lead to success in this country.

“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when your back is against the wall,” he adds. “I had to learn English. Then I had to learn how to get clients because it was a matter of survival. I don’t know that my story is possible anywhere else in the world.”

Biggest Misunderstanding: The biggest misunderstanding Mesfin has with clients is around politics, with many people falling into the trap of allowing their political leanings to color how they view their portfolio.

Many of his progressive clients saw scary information on MSNBC over the last four years and spent the Trump presidency worried about the market and the same thing is happening with conservative clients watching Fox News under President Biden. Mesfin says this is all a product of outsize polarization.

Investment Outlook: Mesfin is extremely bullish on the markets, highlighting the accommodative actions of the Federal Reserve as well as pent up demand that reminds him the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918 which led directly into the roaring twenties.

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From Ethiopia to MIT: How Aspirations Become Actions for Mussie Demisse

From Ethiopia to community college to MIT, Mussie Demisse ’21 is on a mission to use his love of learning to solve big problems. Demisse grew up in Ethiopia, where he’d been involved in the Ethiopian Space Science Society, and when he arrived in Boston after high school, that childhood passion brought him to the MIT Astrophysics Colloquia. (MIT News)

MIT News

Minutes before finding out he’d been accepted to MIT, Mussie Demisse ’21 was shaking Governor Charlie Baker’s hand. Demisse was at an awards ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, being honored as one of the 2018 “29 Who Shine,” a select group of graduates from the Commonwealth’s higher education system who’d made an impact at their institution and in the community. For Demisse, Bunker Hill Community College, where he’d spent the previous two years studying computer science, represented both. “I really matured there,” he says, explaining that, at one point, he’d held three jobs at the college while also serving on student government and participating in various academic clubs.

Bunker Hill was also where Demisse got his first peek at the rigorous yet vibrant nature of an MIT classroom and began picturing himself in such an environment. In a linear algebra course, Demisse’s professor, Jie Frye, would regularly give out challenging quizzes that piqued his curiosity. “As kind of a motivator she would tell us this is the same quiz that MIT students take,” he recalls. “They’re learning the same material, so don’t beat yourself up, be proud of what you’re able to accomplish.” Demisse asked where his professor had gotten the MIT quizzes.

The answer wasn’t a secret connection, it turned out, but something called MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW). “She was one of my favorite professors at Bunker Hill,” Demisse says. “She emphasized that it’s possible for us to pursue our dreams — which isn’t as much of a thing, I think, in community college. There’s a lot of stigma, and I feel like that sometimes keeps people from applying to things. She was very intentional about making sure that we knew we could, and we should try.”

Demisse says OCW wasn’t the first time his interests had led him to MIT. But it was the final push he needed to apply to the school that he’d long set his heart on. Demisse grew up in Ethiopia, where he’d been involved in the Ethiopian Space Science Society, and when he arrived in Boston after high school, that childhood passion brought him to the MIT Astrophysics Colloquia. Learning that the colloquia welcomed members of the public to their weekly events, Demisse attended for a few months. Though he admits that he could understand only the first 10 minutes or so of every talk, he says, “I saw a part of MIT that was very much about advancing knowledge — done in such a supportive and cooperative way that I thought to myself, ‘Wow, it would be really cool if I could be a part of this community.’”

After the materials on OCW showed him he had not only the drive but the aptitude to turn this dream into a reality, Demisse began researching initiatives like MIT D-Lab, the lab dedicated to designing solutions for tackling poverty, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). “That’s when I said, it must be MIT,” he recalls.

Demisse graduated from MIT this spring with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. But before coming to Bunker Hill and embarking on the path that would lead him to MIT, Demisse longed for opportunities to apply himself in the ways that his linear algebra professor described — to turn his aspirations into actions.

Growing up, Demisse had witnessed the devastating effects of global inequalities like poverty. But Ethiopia was also, he explains, where he’d learned that, when you recognize a problem, it falls upon you to do something about it. When it came time to choose his major at Bunker Hill, Demisse had no shortage of motivation. He knew it’d have to be something that would allow him to serve not only the Ethiopian community but underprivileged communities around the world that share similar challenges. Computer science struck Demisse as the perfect intersection of his goals, interests, and abilities. “It’s kind of a claim of responsibility for the issues that I’ve lived through or seen people that I care about go through,” he says.

Through OCW, Demisse found another outlet to channel this desire to help others. “I became somewhat of an evangelist for OCW,” he says, remembering reaching out to friends in Ethiopia who were also looking for resources to make a difference in their communities.

“I especially targeted the ones that felt like they wanted more, but couldn’t get it,” Demisse says. “And it really made me happy to do that because this is the same complaint I had when I was back home — you acknowledge the problems you know you want to invest yourself in, and you know you can build the discipline, but sometimes you feel like there’s nowhere to exert that discipline, that motivation. And I think OCW and similar platforms really allow you to build your capabilities to do what you can to solve the problem that you think is most important.”

Demisse also credits OCW with preparing him for life as an MIT student. “I think professors at MIT have this way of highlighting how hundreds of years of knowledge was built out — this focus on intuition — in order for students to project into the future, for students to be the next discoverers,” he observes. “And in OCW I saw this. I began to grasp the importance of knowing more than just the facts. Coming to MIT, this was fostered so much more.”

At MIT, Demisse joined the African Students Association, where he found another community to inspire him. He participated in UROP, completing a project with MIT D-Lab, the lab that Demisse had dreamed of joining years before. He’s taken an entrepreneurship class that has given him the tools to think about building social ventures in Ethiopia. Demisse also joined the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Committee as an undergraduate representative.

Bringing insights from his own experiences to the committee, Demisse advocates for more student involvement in the future of OCW. If the goal of OCW is to capture and share with the world as much of MIT as possible, he explains, then engaging the student community is paramount. Demisse also emphasizes the need for OCW, and MIT more broadly, to continue pioneering the open education resources movement. Now that he’s graduated he plans to continue working with OCW, focusing on increasing collaboration with community colleges and increasing access to universities in Africa.

Ultimately, Demisse sees open education resources as a way to bring people hope — the same hope he felt when he opened the email from MIT Admissions offstage at the State House and saw the word “congratulations.”

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From Ethiopia Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week Comes to New York for Trunk Show

According to organizers the trunk show, which will be held at Silvana in Harlem on Saturday July 17th, 2021 is "a curated marketplace featuring some of the most exciting fashion designers and brands coming out of Ethiopia." (Photo courtesy of Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: July 14th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This week the Ethiopia-based Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week is coming to New York City for a trunk show featuring nearly a dozen Ethiopian designers and brands.

According to organizers the trunk show, which will be held at Silvana in Harlem on Saturday July 17th, is “a curated marketplace featuring some of the most exciting fashion designers and brands coming out of Ethiopia.”


(Image courtesy of HAFW)

The announcement notes that “over the past decade, HAFW has become one of the most important fashion events on the African continent, giving a platform for established and emerging fashion brands on its runways. With over 100 designers having participated at its events over the years, the organizers of HAFW hope to make this event an annual endeavor to further grow the expanding fashion industry in Ethiopia and Africa by creating linkage between brands and customers globally. Some of the exciting brands to look out for include: MAFI MAFi, Fozia Endrias, Meklit.Me, SHIMENA and Paradise Fashion.”

If You Go:
HAFW Trunk Show 2021
July 17th, 10 – 6 pm
Silvana in Harlem NYC
300 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026
silvana-nyc.com
Phone: (646) 692-4935
www.hubfashionweekafrica.com

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Spotlight: Meet Ethio-American Singer, Songwriter, and Producer Marian Mereba

Marian Mereba is an Ethiopian-American singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer. (Photo: Mereba attends the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California./Getty Images)

Tuko

Mereba: nationality, parents, height, songs, record label, album

Musicians get their inspiration from different things. Some are inspired by nature, the past, struggles and beauty, while others use day-to-day activities. Mereba has taken her music to a whole new level, as she can be described as an artist who thrives in discomfort.

Marian Mereba is an Ethiopian-American singer, songwriter, rapper, and producer. She is known for her association with Spillage Village, a group formed in Atlanta with artists like Earthgang, J.I.D, and 6lack. Some of her single hits are Late Bloomer, Planet U, and Bet.

Biography

Mereba was born on 9th September 1990 in Montgomery, Alabama, USA. She has not any information about her parent’s names. However, her mother is an African-American born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On the other hand, her father is Ethiopian.

Mereba gained interest in music at the age of 4. After completing her elementary studies, the singer joined Greensboro, North Carolina, for her high school education. She then enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

The singer transferred to Liberal Arts Women’s College Spelman in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2009. She sought to fully immerse herself in the legacy of the historically black women’s college. She graduated in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in English and a Minor in Music.

Career


Mereba performs at her Album Listening Party And Performance Celebrating “The Jungle Is The Only Way Out” at Urban Outfitters Space 15 Twenty. (Getty Images)

Mereba started writing songs while in elementary school. However, she began her professional career after graduating from Spelman. Mereba spent years performing in the Indie music scene in Atlanta. On 14th February 2013, she released her debut project, Room for Leaving, an extended play under her full name, Marian Mereba.

In 2018, she was signed by Interscope Records, where she released the singles Black Truck and Planet U. These songs, among others, appeared on her debut album, The Jungle is the Only Way Out, released on 27th February 2019. The singer has continued to release more songs and albums as encouraged by her mentee, Stevie Wonder. Here are the highlights of her music career and various releases:

Read more »

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Olympic Legend and Now Successful Businessman Haile Gebrselassie Warns West Not to Push Ethiopia

The two-time Olympic gold medal winner, now a thriving businessman, spent much of his 20-year career overseas and is now using that experience to his advantage. (Sky News)

Sky News

Nobody hands out golden medallions for achievement in the African business community but if they did, former two-time Olympic gold medallist Haile Gebrselassie would need additional room in his trophy cabinet.

The 48-year-old Ethiopian occupies a modest-sized office in a modest-looking building in the heart of the capital city, Addis Ababa, with a compact gym in the basement and a snack stall in the foyer.

But the former long-distance runner is something of a long-term visionary when it comes to meeting consumer expectations – and his secret is both a simple and extraordinarily difficult to realise.


Haile Gebrselassie competing in the 10,000 metres at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. (Sky News)

“We Ethiopians have always followed outsiders, the Europeans, the Americans and Asians and with access to social media we know everything about the world and people (here) want the same kind of life, the same attitude towards life and that is why (my business) is possible.”

In order to train and compete against the best in the world, Gebrselassie had to spend much of his 20-year career overseas, staying in hotels and using services that were unavailable in Ethiopia.

Upon retirement, he decided to try and offer 112 million Ethiopians the same sort of opportunities.

“When we built our first resort there was not so many people using these hotels and slowly people started to come along and experience the feeling of a vacation, the feeling of family time.

“Twelve years ago, tourists (made) 90% of the bookings but now 90% are (Ethiopians) travelling from Addis, bringing their families.”

Until relatively recently, Ethiopia was considered an economic basket-case but it has experienced high levels of growth in the decade leading up to of the global pandemic.

Poverty levels have been reduced and consumers have discovered that they had time and money to spend.

Realising that everyday realities were shifting, Gebrselassie decided to do something that many people – including members of his family – thought was absolutely crazy.

In 2004 he decided to the open the first privately-owned cinema in the city.

“(My family) said ‘eh, why don’t you give your money to poor people instead of spending it on nothing?’. But I said, ‘hey guys, I don’t know, this is my wish’.”

The former athlete built the Alem Cinema Hall behind the building he now works from and installed a modern screen with proper speakers and a bar-code ticketing system. But there was a serious problem with this venture. Nobody in Ethiopia made films.

“There were no movies to show at the cinema so I found a person who knew how to write a script and hired some of the actors and actresses and told them to make a movie.

“After that Ethiopian filmmakers went out and started to make movies, comedies, love stories and slowly people came in. (After a while) there was a big line to come and see them…. you won’t believe how many cinema halls there are in town now. I am just so proud to be the first one.”

The arrival of COVID-19 has not been good for the bottom line although Gebrselassie says that business has now begun to pick up. However, in a country like Ethiopia, the global pandemic is only one of a number of existential threats.

“In Ethiopia we have a lot of problems, with fighting, hunger, political instability and last year I lost two of my hotels.”

The death of a popular singer called Hachalu Hundessa sparked unrest in the Ethiopian region of Oromia, where he was widely viewed as a hero.

More than 160 people were killed in the unrest and property belonging to non-Oromos – who make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia – was targeted.

“Imagine, 400 people who work at the hotels lost their jobs and millions of birr (currency) was lost, like in half a day – burning is very easy.

“I spent five years to build these hotels but thanks to God, I have renovated one of the hotels. The other (hotel) was 100% burnt and that is a little bit difficult to rebuild or renovate.

“You see? Again and again, this country has so many problems.”

The biggest problem now faced by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, is the conflict in Tigray where his forces have been battling forces loyal to the region’s leaders, the TPLF, for the past eight months.

The government made a surprise withdrawal from the area’s biggest city, Mekelle last week – a move the prime minister said was based on financial and humanitarian calculations.

The United Nations says 400,000 people are “in famine” with another 1.8 million at risk.

Gebrselassie is member of group called “the elders” who tried to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict last year and he treads a careful line on this most emotive of issues, calling it “a war between brothers”.

But he asks the international community not to push Ethiopia too hard because he says its problems are bigger – and the political system more unstable – than the diplomats and the politicians realise.

“I think (there is) a lot of pressure in this country and in the west they have to be careful, be careful… if you keep pushing this way, the result will be very bad.”

Gebrselassie’s athletic career was defined in part by thrilling victories over the Kenyan Paul Tergat in two successive Olympic 10,000m finals. But present day problems now produce more anxiety for this remarkable entrepreneur.

“When I think about that time, my athletics career, I wish to go back to those days, running in the morning (for) two hours, sleeping the whole day, and one hour (of training) in the afternoon and lots of conversation and chatting with the manager, the coach and the physio. Three people, not 3,000 (employees). Now it is more complicated.”

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In Chicago, Campaign to Build Monument for Black Pilot John Robinson, Who Fought Fascists in Ethiopia

John Robinson of Chicago, circa 1935. The aviator did his part to fight fascists by joining Ethiopia's air force. He is often called the father of the Tuskegee Airmen. After World War II, Robinson returned to Ethiopia to train pilots and organize the country’s national airline — and it’s where he met his fate in 1954. He died following a plane crash in Addis Ababa. He is buried there a hero. He was 50. (Associated Press)

Chicago Tribune

Flashback: Black Chicagoan John C. Robinson Fought Italy’s Fascists as Commander of Ethiopia’s Air Force

As a mayoral commission evaluates dozens of Chicago monuments and statues deemed problematic, it will confront one memorial that has long been the focus of a dispute: the Balbo column in Burnham Park.

The honoree, Italo Balbo, attended Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition as Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s representative. Balbo was a fascist, a leader of the movement’s paramilitary Blackshirts, one of the men who planned the insurrectional March on Rome to install Mussolini as Italy’s dictator and, as colonial governor of Libya, a supporter of Italy’s forced annexation of Ethiopia.

Despite the outcry over Chicago’s recognition of him, the Balbo column remains in place, and Balbo Drive remains Balbo Drive. Perhaps it is time to contextualize Balbo, and there may be no better way than with a monument to a Black Chicagoan: John C. Robinson, commander of Ethiopia’s air force and the man credited with inspiring the Tuskegee Airmen.

“When he was a kid, he stood on the beach and watched the first ‘aeroplane’ land” in Gulfport, Mississippi, a childhood friend of Robinson’s told a local Mississippi newspaper. “Right then he was thrilled with the idea of flying.”


Left: A studio portrait of John Charles Robinson, nicknamed the Brown Condor, shows the pioneer aviator in his flying gear/Smithsonian Institution. Right: Aviator John C. Robinson, of Chicago, is welcomed home [after his return from Ethiopia] in May 1936. Editor’s note: This historical print contains crop marks and hand painting. (Chicago Tribune historical photo)

Robinson, who trained at the Tuskegee Institute to be an automobile mechanic, moved to Chicago in 1927 and soon opened a garage in Bronzeville on 47th Street near Michigan Avenue. He lived close by with his wife, Earnize.

He found ways to indulge his fascination with aviation and build his skills. He established the Brown Eagle Aero Club, a coed group of young African American aviation enthusiasts. He bought a kit for a build-it-yourself airplane and, with the help of friends including Cornelius Coffey, began assembling it in his garage with a retrofitted motorcycle engine. The group eventually moved the project to space at the airport in Melrose Park. Robinson’s contacts there led to his first training as a pilot, and he earned his pilot’s license just a few years after moving to the city.

Despite Robinson’s impressive drive and skills, the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University in Chicago rejected his application because it didn’t admit Black students. But that didn’t stop Robinson, who got work as a janitor there. He “was always cleaning classroom floors at lecture time,” absorbing the lessons and also taking notes off the chalkboard when class wasn’t in session, a friend told biographer Phillip Thomas Tucker. The school finally admitted him, and he graduated at the top of his class as a master mechanic in 1931.

Robinson broke the color barrier in other ways. He signed on as the school’s first Black instructor and taught the first all-Black class, which included Coffey. The university’s Black students would become pioneers in aviation and the seeds of the Tuskegee Airmen, the most-storied Black unit in World War II.

Robinson and Coffey teamed up to establish an airport in south suburban Robbins, where they instructed other African Americans in flying, though a brutal windstorm tore it apart. Coffey then set up his own flight school in the southwest suburbs; it trained some 200 African American pilots, many of whom served with the Tuskegee Airmen, either as pilots or in supporting roles. Robinson, for his part, was deeply involved in developing Tuskegee’s aviation program and is often called the father of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Robinson began waging his own fight against fascism much earlier. In 1935, he announced his eagerness to volunteer in Ethiopia, then under imminent threat of an Italian invasion, and drew the attention of Malaku Bayen, a relative of Ethiopia’s emperor. Robinson was granted an officer’s commission and the rank of colonel. He shortly took over as leader of the nation’s air force after the emperor kicked out its volatile commander. Italy invaded a few weeks later. Robinson fought Mussolini’s fascists for a little over a year, suffering wounds in warfare and earning the nickname Brown Condor.

As a Black flyer, Robinson was the subject of worldwide fascination. The African American press in America covered every exploit of the Florida-born and Mississippi-bred pilot.

The Tribune also took notice of his celebrity. In the summer of 1935, a reporter contacted his wife at his auto garage, which she was managing while Robinson was in Ethiopia building up its air force. “She got most of her information about her husband’s activities from the newspapers,” the reporter wrote. The Tribune’s knowledge was only a little more definite: “Recent dispatches from Addis Ababa have described him as chief of the Ethiopian air forces.”

The Ethiopians met the Italians bravely. In October 1935, Robinson gave the emperor “his first airplane flight in many years,” the Tribune wrote, so that he might “wave good-by to 8,000 well equipped troops riding to the northern front from Addis Ababa in American motor trucks.”

The Ethiopians were overmatched, however. The air force flew only a dozen or so aircraft, described in the Tribune as “mediocre scouting planes.” Italian forces acted with impunity. Italy’s air force bombed combatants and civilians with mustard gas, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Forced to keep his distance and fly as an observer, Robinson witnessed the Italian bombardment of Adwa, the site of an Ethiopian victory over Italy in the first Italo-Ethiopian War in 1896. “They caught the city asleep and unawares,” he told a news wire service, as reported in October 1935. “Many sought refuge at the Red Cross hospital, imagining they would be protected there. …. The killed and wounded were chiefly in the neighborhood of the hospital.”

Robinson returned to the United States after Italy won the war, exiled the emperor and annexed Ethiopia in May 1936. He received a hero’s welcome. At Municipal (Midway) Airport, the Tribune reported, the crowd broke through police lines to greet him. “He was showered with bouquets by girl members of the Challenger Air Pilots’ association, which Robinson organized.”

Officers with the Eighth Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard and members of the Chicago Society for the Aid of Ethiopia and the Chicago-Tuskegee club were also there to celebrate him.

Police escorted his motorcade to the Grand Hotel at 51st Street and King Drive, where the Brown Condor addressed a crowd of thousands from a balcony. Later, dignitaries including Mayor Edward Kelly toasted him at a dinner in his honor.

The next year, the Chicago Defender recruited the famed pilot to lead its campaign to deliver food and clothing to the victims of catastrophic Mississippi River flooding.

After his return from Africa, Robinson founded a school for aviation and automotive engineering in buildings at Poro College in Bronzeville. Poro’s president, Annie Malone, the cosmetics and hair care magnate, considered it a prestigious addition. Robinson barnstormed across the U.S. to promote it. The federal National Youth Administration took it over and designated it a training center for aviation mechanics, with Robinson as its administrator.

“Brown Condor’s Wings Pinioned by Desk Duties” declared a 1941 Tribune headline. The training center became another feeder into the Tuskegee Airmen.

After World War II, Robinson returned to a liberated Ethiopia to train pilots and organize the country’s national airline — and it’s where he met his fate in 1954. He died following a plane crash in Addis Ababa.

The Brown Condor is buried there, in Africa, a hero. He was 50.

Robinson is not commemorated in Chicago, his adopted hometown. Balbo has a street and a column. Perhaps a monument to Robinson might be commissioned, to be placed opposing Balbo in Burnham or Grant Park. What better way to underscore Balbo’s infamy than to contrast him with the heroism of the Brown Condor?

John Mark Hansen is a professor in political science at the University of Chicago.

Related:

Smithsonian: Two Black Aviators & Ethiopia

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A New History Changes the Balance of Power Between Ethiopia and Medieval Europe

For centuries, a Eurocentric worldview disregarded the knowledge and strength of the African empire. (Photo: St. George, late-15th or early-16th century, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, (Courtesy of the DEEDS Project)

Smithsonian Magazine

In early 2020, just as the scope and scale of the coronavirus pandemic was revealing itself, historian Verena Krebs went to spend a few months at her parents’ house in the German countryside. There, “next to fields of rapeseed and barley and dense old woods,” in her words, the Ruhr-University Bochum professor would wait out Germany’s lockdown. She wasn’t terribly worried about not having things to do though, since she had her book on the history of late medieval Ethiopia to finish up.

The good news was that she had already completed the full manuscript and had secured a contract with a major academic publisher. The bad news was more existential: She didn’t like the book she had written. Krebs knew her sources ran against the dominant narrative that placed Europe as aiding a needy Ethiopia, the African kingdom desperately in search of military technology from its more sophisticated counterparts to the north. But her writing didn’t fully match her research; it still followed the prevailing scholarship. Krebs worried that her interpretation of the original medieval sources was, in her own words, too “out there’” So, she hedged, and she struggled, and she doubted, and wrote the book she thought she was supposed to write.

And then, she told us, she did something radical. Instead of tweaking what was already written, she decided to do what good historians do and follow the sources. “I basically deleted the manuscript that I had submitted. And I just wrote the whole thing anew. I started writing in April, and I finished the whole thing by, I think, August.”

What emerged, published earlier this year as Medieval Ethiopian Kingship, Craft, and Diplomacy with Latin Europe, is a story that flips the script. Traditionally, the story centered Europe and placed Ethiopia as periphery, a technologically backwards Christian kingdom that, in the later Middle Ages, looked to Europe for help. But by following the sources, Krebs showcases the agency and power of Ethiopia and Ethiopians at the time and renders Europe as it was seen from East Africa, as a kind of homogenous (if interesting) mass of foreigners.

It’s not that modern historians of the medieval Mediterranean, Europe and Africa have been ignorant about contacts between Ethiopia and Europe; the issue was that they had the power dynamic reversed. The traditional narrative stressed Ethiopia as weak and in trouble in the face of aggression from external forces, especially the Mamluks in Egypt, so Ethiopia sought military assistance from their fellow Christians to the north—the expanding kingdoms of Aragon (in modern Spain), and France. But the real story, buried in plain sight in medieval diplomatic texts, simply had not yet been put together by modern scholars. Krebs’ research not only transforms our understanding of the specific relationship between Ethiopia and other kingdoms, but joins a welcome chorus of medieval African scholarship pushing scholars of medieval Europe to broaden their scope and imagine a much more richly connected medieval world.

The Solomonic kings of Ethiopia, in Krebs’ retelling, forged trans-regional connections. They “discovered” the kingdoms of late medieval Europe, not the other way around. It was the Africans who, in the early-15th century, sent ambassadors out into strange and distant lands. They sought curiosities and sacred relics from foreign leaders that could serve as symbols of prestige and greatness. Their emissaries descended onto a territory that they saw as more or less a uniform “other,” even if locals knew it to be a diverse land of many peoples. At the beginning of the so-called Age of Exploration, a narrative that paints European rulers as heroes for sending out their ships to foreign lands, Krebs has found evidence that the kings of Ethiopia were sponsoring their own missions of diplomacy, faith and commerce.

But the history of medieval Ethiopia extends much farther back than the 15th and 16th centuries and has been intertwined with the better-known history of the Mediterranean since the very beginning of Christianity’s expansion. “[The kingdom of Ethiopia] is one of the most ancient Christian realms in the world,” she says. Aksum, a predecessor kingdom to what we now know as Ethiopia, “[converts] to Christianity in the very early fourth century,” much earlier than the mass of the Roman empire, which only converted to Christianity by the sixth or seventh century. The Solomonic dynasty specifically arose around 1270 A.D. in the highlands of the Horn of Africa and by the 15th century had firmly consolidated power. Their name arose out of their claim of direct descent from King Solomon of ancient Israel, via his purported relationship with the Queen of Sheba. Although they faced several external threats, they consistently beat those threats back and expanded their kingdom across the period, establishing uneasy (though generally peaceful) relations with Mamluk Egypt and inspiring wonder across Christian Europe.

It’s at this time, Krebs says, that the Ethopian rulers looked back to Aksum with nostalgia, “It’s its own little Renaissance, if you will, where Ethiopian Christian kings are actively going back to Late Antiquity and even reviving Late Antique models in art and literature, to make it their own.” So, in addition to investing in a shared culture of art and literature, they followed a well-worn model used by rulers across the Mediterranean, and throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, by turning to religion. They build churches.They reach out to the Coptic Christians living in Egypt under the Islamic Mamluks to present themselves as a kind of (theoretical) protector. The Solomonic kings of Ethiopia consolidated a huge “multilingual, multi-ethnic, multi-faith kingdom” under their rule, really a kind of empire.

And that empire needed to be adorned. Europe, Krebs says, was for the Ethiopians a mysterious and perhaps even slightly barbaric land with an interesting history and, importantly, sacred stuff that Ethiopian kings could obtain. They knew about the Pope, she says, “But other than that, it’s Frankland. [Medieval Ethiopians] had much more precise terms for Greek Christianity, Syriac Christianity, Armenian Christianity, the Copts, of course. All of the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. But everything Latin Christian [to the Ethiopians] is Frankland.”

Detail from a manuscript made for King Lebna Dengel, circa 1520, Tädbabä Maryam Monastery Ethiopia. (Photograph by Diana Spencer courtesy of the DEEDS Project.)

Krebs is attuned to the challenges of being an outsider, a European rewriting Ethiopian history. Felege-Selam Yirga, a medieval historian at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, told us over email that Krebs has recognized that “Ethiopian diplomatic contacts with and perception of Europe [were] far more complex [than has been traditionally understood].” Yirga says that much of the study of late medieval Ethiopia and Europe “was informed by the colonial and [20th-century] fascist setting in which many … scholars of East Africa worked. While Ethiopian studies is awash in new discoveries and excellent philological and historical work, certain older works and authors remain popular and influential.” Indeed, these were points that Krebs herself emphasized—that following the footnotes back in time often led to dead-ends in scholarship produced in 1930s and 1940s Italy, under the thrall of fascism and entertaining new colonial ambitions that culminated in the country’s successful invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

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In Seattle, What Radio Host Gabriel Teodros Wants to Do This Summer

Gabriel Teodros. (Seattle Times)

Seattle Times

For this special summer section, we asked an array of notable locals what they are looking forward to getting out and going/seeing/doing.

Gabriel Teodros, KEXP Host
& Associate Music Director

This Southend Seattle native and radio host says his neighborhood’s residents who come from many parts of the world have taught him about resilience, and that home isn’t always a place. “Sometimes home is something you carry with you, sometimes you find it in people, and sometimes home is a memory.” He loves seeing all the ways his neighbors hold on to their culture and find new ways to survive and thrive with each other, rooted in the strength of all the places they come from.

The Station

A coffee shop on Beacon Hill that in many ways is the heartbeat of our community. Throughout the pandemic they’ve lent space for people to drop off and pick up food as they need, a shining example of what mutual aid looks like. So many of my fondest summertime memories in recent years also involve gathering with people around coffee at The Station.

Musang

Amazing Filipino food on Beacon Hill. Melissa Miranda opened her restaurant right as the pandemic hit, and she and everyone she works with were able to pivot and turn the restaurant into a community kitchen that gave free food to people, with no questions asked. But the food is AMAZING, and the space looks beautiful, but with COVID we have yet to actually sit inside to eat a meal.

Communion

I have loved Chef Kristi Brown’s food for the last 20 years, since being delighted anytime That Brown Girl Catering was at an event, or any time I was lucky enough to catch Kristi’s hummus stand at the local farmer’s market. Seeing her open her first restaurant in the Central District at the historic Liberty Bank Building is a dream come true, and like Melissa at Musang she was giving away free meals as a community kitchen for so many months during the pandemic. They both are heroes for real.

Cafe Avole

A beloved Southend institution that is now relocating to the Liberty Bank building next to Communion. I feel like I see my whole self anywhere that celebrates both Ethiopian culture and Hip-Hop culture, and Cafe Avole has been like a second home for since they first opened up. They have had the cafe and restaurant closed for most of the pandemic, but I’m so excited to see them open a new space and I can’t wait to get some of the best ful in the city again.

Cafe Melo

This is a new cafe recently opened by the hip-hop duo Fifth House (Hanan Hassan and Toni Banx), just one block east of the Liberty Bank Building. Anytime I see musicians I love open a space for community to gather around food and coffee I’m all the way in. And I hear the juices are amazing.

Hood Famous

Speaking of musicians I love opening spaces, Hood Famous is founded by Chera Amlag in partnership with her husband, Geo of Blue Scholars. Anytime I’ve been in to Hood Famous before the pandemic, it was a beautiful community gathering right in the heart of the International District. Also, I miss the buko pie so much. Amazing desserts all around, really.

Estelita’s Library

Estilita’s used to be on Beacon Hill, and I loved catching Edwin in there at random for conversations and seeing his incredible book selections. They are moving to a new space in the Central District, and I can’t wait to visit and see what grows

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A Mother’s Hope: Ethiopian Woman Returns to San Francisco to Seek her Lost Son

Photos of Maereg Tafesse and his mother Legawork Assefa. (Photo of Tafesse courtesy of Assefa / Photo of Assefa by David Mamaril Horowitz)

Mission Local

The 57-year-old mother from Ethiopia sat across from me on a recent June day. She was in San Francisco, she said, to again search for the son she last heard from in March, 2018.

This is her second visit to the Mission District, one of the last places, she explains, that someone remembered seeing him. One of the last places that gave her some hope.

“I lost all the meanings that I have for life,” said Legawork Assefa, a thin woman who shares her son’s photos. “You can’t imagine what it feels like, looking for your son in the streets of the U.S., where you don’t even know which street takes you where and how to come back to where you have started.”

But she refuses to give up, using savings from her job at an NGO in Ethiopia to cover the costs of three trips to the United States, hire private detectives and slowly piece together the story of her son, Maereg Tafesse. He was 24 when he went missing in early 2018.

An engineering degree and a desire to work with the homeless

Less than two years before disappearing, the 6-foot-2 young man pictured on the flyer in Assefa’s hand graduated from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

His mother is accustomed to describing him, and the photo confirms her memory: He is skinny with a receding hairline. He has tattoos of flying birds on his left wrist and a tattoo of some sort of box on his right.

His family and friends describe him as intelligent and kind-hearted — precisely the sort of young man who would earn a B.A. in mechanical engineering and then volunteer to serve homeless residents in Los Angeles.

“He’s always been consistent, in the sense that he didn’t just want to get a job and do the whole capitalism thing,” said Zuhair Sras, his close friend from college. “He said he’d want to join the Christian anarchists group in Los Angeles.”

He joined a group of volunteers at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, which operates hospice care for the dying, a hospitality house for the homeless, publishes a bi-monthly newspaper and generally opposes war-making and systemic injustice.

Members live together in a commune setting, with volunteer work covering room and board and bringing in a stipend of $15 to $25 a week. Tafeesse worked in the soup kitchen.

Jed Poole, an associate director who lived in the room next to Tafesse, said the young volunteer was like others who graduate and aren’t ready to jump into traditional work.

He stayed from September, 2016, to September, 2017, his mother said. Poole said that timeframe sounded about right.

Next, in October, 2017, Tafesse moved to the Seattle area, where he volunteered at Left Bank Books, which “specialize(s) in anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles,” according to its website. At one point he also volunteered at the Green Tortoise Hostel in return for shelter, Assefa said.

When he last emailed with his mother in March, 2018, Tafesse wrote about leaving the country, but five months later, Assefa confirmed that he had never left.

So, in September 2018, she flew to Seattle to find him. But instead, she only found small clues: that her son had checked out of the the Green Tortoise Hostel in February, 2018, and that he had texted Adrian Lambert, a worker at the bookstore, the day before he went missing to say that he was going to Sacramento and might return to Seattle again in the summer.

Assefa reported her son missing to the police department in Seattle, and detectives there said that they found Tafesse had been in Sacramento in 2018, a fact confirmed by Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud. Tafesse’s case as a missing person remains open, Michaud said.

Unable to locate her son, Assefa returned home to Ethiopia, but traveled back to the United States a year later, in October, 2019, to visit Sacramento and to canvas its homeless shelters. At a Salvation Army homeless shelter, she met Lee, who is homeless. He recognized Tafesse’s photo and reported seeing him at the nearby light rail station around a month before Assefa arrived.

The man wore clothes of Ethiopian style, Lee said. Like Tafesse, the man also also had a tattoo on his wrist.

Assefa’s search in 2019 next took her to San Francisco because a private detective told her that Tafesse bought a bus ticket from Sacramento to San Francisco on March 8, 2018. Sras, Tafesse’s college friend, also reported that Tafesse had talked about the possibility of moving to San Francisco.

In San Francisco, Assefa visited homeless shelters — flyers and photos in hand. One of the nonprofits she visited was Dolores Street Community Services.

Three workers there recognized her son, including then-receptionist Barbara Torres. She told Assefa in 2019 that, a week prior, someone who looked “similar” had made a landline call, asked for a shower and was later seen down the street.

Torres, the receptionist, confirmed this month that she and two others at the nonprofit had also remembered seeing Tafesse in the area in 2019. She added, however, that the man she saw looked “rougher” and “more rugged” than the one in the photos Assefa showed them, as if he had been homeless.

In March and April this year, two workers in Sacramento shelters also reported seeing a man who resembled Tafesse, according to Brittany Stevens, an investigator with Sacramento’s Gumshoe Detective Agency.

Why does someone disappear?

Tafesse’s mother, family members and friends are unclear why the young college graduate dropped out of sight. There was no history of mental instability earlier in his life, they said.

Allison McGillivray and her husband Sam Yergler met Tafesse when they were working at Los Angeles Catholic Worker. They said that, a month before he went missing, Tafesse visited them in Eugene, Ore., where they now live.

He took the bus and stayed for several nights to reconnect, McGillivray said. They parted on good terms, and have no idea why he would have gone missing.

Tafesse also regularly spoke to his uncle, Atlabachew Assefa, who lives in Dallas, and is the family member closest to him in the United States. A week or perhaps only days before he disappeared, they talked for 10 minutes and spoke of meeting in April or May of that year.

“I’ll call you next week,” Tafesse promised.

Shortly after, on March 3, 2018, Tafesse stopped communicating with everyone.

“I just don’t have anything. Really. I really don’t,” his uncle said. “I just want to say that anybody who’s seen him, anybody who has any information about this … the family is suffering.”

“We don’t have any clue, even if he’s alive or dead,” Atlabachew Assefa added. “We just need to know what happened to Maerag. That’s all. So, we beg everybody, ask everybody.”

June 2021

When she visits the city her son might have been in, Assefa always finds herself walking.

She tries to get a good view of people’s faces, especially those who are homeless.

Assefa suspects her son could be volunteering again or living on the streets, so she often visits and distributes his information at homeless shelters and community nonprofits wherever he’s lived or been reported in.

“Every time I see someone, I see him in them,” she said.

The San Francisco Police Department found no reports of Tafesse in its system. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing declined to confirm the presence of Tafesse in its system due to privacy concerns. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said it has no reports of Tafesse in its system.

Assefa asks that anyone who may have information relating to the whereabouts of her son contact her at legaworka@gmail.com or on Whatsapp at +251911231194.

The Seattle Police Department said that information on missing people should be reported to (206) 625-5011.

You can alternatively contact the San Francisco Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit at (415) 734-3070 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or (415) 553-0123 outside of those hours.

You can also contact the reporter, who will forward your message to Assefa, at david@missionlocal.com.

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Circus Abyssinia Returns to U.S. With New Show Inspired by Derartu Tulu

The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota announced that its 2021-22 season features the world premiere of the Ethiopian group's latest performance. (Photo: Courtesy of Bibi and Bichu Ltd)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: June 24th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — Circus Abyssinia will return to the U.S. next year with a new show inspired by Ethiopian Olympic legend Derartu Tulu.

The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota announced that its 2021-22 season features the world premiere of the Ethiopian group’s latest performance.

“We are thrilled to bring you a season that will inspire you, that will delight you, that will take your breath away and start extraordinary conversations,” the theatre’s artistic director Peter C. Brosius said in a news release. “We have been waiting for this moment and so look forward to seeing you all soon.”

According to the announcement, the show titled Circus Abyssinia: Tulu is “a celebration of athleticism that features feats of speed and flight, high-flying acrobatics, hand balancing and juggling backed by the beat of Ethiopian music. It’s inspired by the story of Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu, the first Black African woman to win Olympic gold.”


(Photo: Circus Abyssinia. Courtesy of Bibi and Bichu Ltd)

Meanwhile, Circus Abyssinia announced on Twitter that they will preview their show this week at Brighton Fringe, the largest annual arts festival in England and one of the largest fringe festivals in the world.

We’re SO excited to officially announce the debut of our new show at this year’s @brightonfringe! We’ll be performing TULU.

@CircusAbyssinia

Circus Abyssinia Promo from Circus Abyssinia on Vimeo.

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Rolling Stone on Motown Records’ CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam

“We’re back at a place where we have to create the new generation of superstars,” says the newly promoted label chief. (Photo: Ethiopia Habtemariam by Bonnie Nichoalds)

Rolling Stone magazine

This story appears in Rolling Stone‘s 2021 Future of Music issue, a special project delving into the next era of the multibillion-dollar hitmaking business. Read the other stories here.

To reinvent Motown Records, Ethiopia Habtemariam wants to start by going back in time. “I remember being a really young kid and seeing how massive acts like Boyz II Men were, and how that was indicative to what Motown was like,” Habtemariam muses, noting that in the Sixties and Seventies, the label was a formidable launchpad for black artists to become global superstars.

Back then, Motown really had everything — a film and TV division, a comics team. Habtemariam, who has just been promoted to the company’s CEO and chair after spending the past decade ushering the legacy label out of the shadows, first as a VP and then as president, has a vision to bring that cross-platform entertainment brand back.

Under her leadership, Motown will find new revenue streams for its 50-year-old catalog of hits from the likes of the Jackson Five and the Supremes, while also seeking to break fresh rappers and R&B stars. It’ll continue to court partnerships with hot new labels like Quality Control and Blacksmith Records, two important relationships brokered by Habtemariam that have brought Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Vince Staples, and City Girls on board. Hip-hop is the most commercially successful genre of music right now, and Motown is eager to take center stage in breaking the biggest rappers of tomorrow.

Habtemariam, an Atlanta native who started her music career as an intern at Atlanta-based LaFace Records more than two decades ago, is also well aware that she’s only the second woman, after Epic Records’ Sylvia Rhone, to lead a major record label — and so she’s got a second, unofficial job as a role model for the entire record business, which is undergoing seismic racial change for the first time in its own ranks. “I’m hoping this opens up the door for a lot more that happens for people that look like me, and have done the work, and deserve to grow to this level in their careers,” Habtemariam says.

In her new role helming Motown, she will also report directly to Universal Music’s CEO Sir Lucian Grainge, becoming one of only a handful of executives at the giant music company to do so. While Habtemariam doesn’t foresee hip-hop’s pull diminishing any time soon, she says the pandemic has underscored the wide swaths of music released every day online, and she expects a wider range of music to stick to the charts than before — meaning that Motown might expand its classic “Motown Sound” as well. “I think there’s going to be more cream rising to the top, great songs,” she says. “I don’t think it’ll be just one sound that dominates. People are looking for music that speaks to every bit of their emotions and what they go through.”

The seasoned exec believes the streaming era highlights, rather than threatens, the importance of labels to young artists. “It’s really competitive,” she says. “But our industry as a whole is in such a healthy place now. We’re back at a place where we have to create the new generation of superstars.”

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Obituary: Prof. Getatchew Haile (1931-2021)

Professor Getatchew Haile, a widely respected Ethiopian scholar best known for his work on the volumes of the Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilmed for the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, has died. In a statement his family announced that Prof. Getatchew passed away on June 10, 2021 at Mount Sinai Morningside hospital in New York City after a long illness. He was 90. Funeral services will be held this week. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

Updated: June 16th, 2021

STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF GETATCHEW HAILE:

Prof. Getatchew Haile passed away on June 10, 2021 in New York City after a long illness.

Prof. Getatchew’s groundbreaking achievements in Ethiopian Studies reshaped the field, and his dedication to his beloved Ethiopia was a source of global renown. He was widely admired for his courage and resilience in the face of significant personal challenges, while his generosity of spirit and joyful embrace of life endeared him to devoted family, friends and colleagues across the world. He leaves behind an enormous legacy and an equally enormous void that will be deeply felt.

Getatchew was born in rural Shenkora, Ethiopia in 1931. His was a modest upbringing that encompassed a period of upheaval and homelessness resulting from the Italian occupation. He was eventually able to enroll at Holy Trinity Spiritual School in Addis Ababa, and at the conclusion of secondary school went abroad for further study. He received a B.A. (1957) from the American University in Cairo, a B.D (1957) from the Coptic Theological College in Cairo, and a Ph.D. (1962) from the University of Tubingen, Germany (where he changed the spelling of his name from “Getachew” to “Getatchew” to ensure proper pronunciation by German colleagues). Upon his return to Ethiopia in 1962, he served briefly in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then taught for ten years in the Department of Ethiopian Languages and Literature at Haile Selassie I (now Addis Ababa) University.

In 1964 he married Misrak Amare, and the two soon started a family. They settled into a life of their choosing as eager members of a generation motivated to advance Ethiopia during a period of post-colonial excitement across Africa.

Their plans were upended in 1975, after the Derg came to power in Ethiopia. Getatchew served as a member of the short-lived civilian parliament, representing his province of Shoa, and in that role was an outspoken advocate for democracy and the separation of church and state. In October 1975, Derg soldiers attempted to arrest him for those views. In that attempt, he was shot and nearly died. Though he survived, he was left a paraplegic.

Thanks to the intervention of many friends, Getatchew left Ethiopia to receive medical care in England, and in 1976 made his way to the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. At Saint John’s, he became Regents Professor of Medieval Studies and Curator of the Ethiopia Study Center at HMML, where he was a valued leader and a beloved friend and colleague to many over four decades. Getatchew’s vast knowledge, collegiality, and numerous publications, most notably the volumes of the Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilmed for the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, created an impact on his field rarely witnessed in any discipline. His enormous contributions were well recognized by the wider academic community. Significant awards included the prestigious MacArthur fellowship (1988) (the “MacArthur genius grant”), the first Ethiopian and first African to receive the award; the British Academy’s Edward Ullendorff Medal (2013); election as corresponding member of the British Academy (1987), again the first Ethiopian or African to receive that honor; and board membership of many prestigious academic journals.

Outside his academic work, he was a tireless advocate for Ethiopia through countless articles, speeches and interviews, and as publisher of the magazine Ethiopian Register. He received many awards for this work, for example as one of the first recipients of the Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora’s (SEED) annual award (1986) in recognition of his great effort on behalf of Ethiopian culture and history and his struggle for human rights and the recipient of the Bikila Lifetime Achievement Award (2018). He was also a dedicated member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewadeho Church which he served in many capacities. Getatchew never let the challenges and constant pain of paraplegia stop him from full participation in life’s pleasures. He always said “yes” to every proposal, from travel for academic conferences to trips to visit family to sunset drinks on the dock of his beloved Minnesota lakeside home. He always answered calls for help and touched many lives as a result. He took joy in the successes of colleagues and mentees and burst with pride at the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. He appreciated beauty both natural and manmade (his Amharic penmanship was legendary). He was sentimental and cried at graduations, weddings and sometimes for no reason at all. He continually made new friends of all ages and from every conceivable background. Even in his final months, as he was slowly losing his fight against the inevitable, time with him left a visitor energized and uplifted. He was joyful to the end.

In October 2016, Getatchew and Misrak moved to New York City to be closer to their children and grandchildren. From his office in New York, Getatchew continued both his scholarly work and his advocacy for Ethiopia. His final speeches and interviews were given over Zoom – appropriate for a man who loved using the latest technology. He completed his final book earlier this year, and its posthumous publication will be fitting final punctuation to an extraordinary career.

If he had one regret, it is that he was not ever able to return to Ethiopia since departing in 1975. Among immediate family Getatchew is survived by his wife Misrak, his six children, Rebecca (Jean Manas), Sossina (Jeffrey Snyder), Elizabeth (Nephtalem Eyassu), Dawit (Tracy), Mariam-Sena and Yohannes, and ten grandchildren. He held his sisters in-law Hirut Amare and Martha Amare and his niece Teyent Germa especially close.

Getatchew was a deeply religious man, and in recent weeks he let it be known that he was ready to meet his Maker with the words of St. Paul in mind: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Yes, beloved husband, father, Ababa, brother, uncle, friend, colleague, mentor, our Wondim Tila, ye Shenkora Jegna, you have.

Prayer services will be held on Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Debre Selam Medhanealem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 4401 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis MN 55406.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, June 18, 2021, at St. John’s Abbey Church, Collegeville, MN, 56321. Visitation from 9:00-10:30am, followed by the service at 10:30am. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota (www.hmml.org) or to The Getatchew Haile Scholarship Fund at Ethiopia Education Initiatives (www.ethiopiaed.org), whose first project is the Haile-Manas Academy in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia.

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Marcus and Maya Samuelsson – Surviving the Pandemic and Finding Their Tribes

"Having a sense of purpose helped Mr. Samuelsson to design a new routine for himself and his family." (Photo by Angela Bankhead)

The New York Times

June 10th, 2021′

By Stephanie Cain

The chef Marcus Samuelsson would not have made it through the pandemic without the help of his community.

He says the support from his family, his Harlem neighborhood and his fellow restaurant workers made getting up every day have meaning. In the process, he fell even more in love with New York City.

“Why did it have to be Covid to create this sense of community?” Mr. Samuelsson said. “But that is something I choose to see positively out of a very, very, very difficult year.”

Mr. Samuelsson, 50, lives with his wife, Maya Haile Samuelsson, a fashion model, and their 4-year-old son, Zion, in Harlem, not far from his Red Rooster restaurant. When New York City went into lockdown in March 2020 and some residents decamped to second homes, the family stayed in their brownstone.

There was enough change to deal with already. As the founder of the Marcus Samuelsson Group, with 36 restaurants from London to Bermuda, Mr. Samuelsson was weighing options on how to proceed with his teams. For Ms. Haile Samuelsson, 39, all fashion work halted. Zion could no longer go to preschool or even the nearby playground.
After the initial shock, the couple began to acknowledge their privilege. For Mr. Samuelsson, that was realizing that he had health care when so many others living around him in Harlem did not. Ms. Haile Samuelsson wondered: How can I think about fashion when other people are fighting for hospital beds? The couple heard ambulances rush by all night.

Mr. Samuelsson saw the neighborhood fall into despair at a rapid pace. That was the motivation, he said, to turn Red Rooster into a community kitchen for Central Harlem. “It gave me purpose to get up in the morning, put on a mask and gloves, walk to Red Rooster, and feed 800 people a day,” he said. “I was back to being a chef again, something I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old.”

Read the full article here »

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Ethni & Serene Amsale: 17 Year-old Ethiopian American Twin Sisters Reflect on Their Culture

In the following essay twin sisters Ethni & Serene Amsale reflect on their Ethiopian culture. Born and raised in the U.S. the college bound sisters -- who live in Middletown, Delaware -- are set to graduate from high school this month. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Ethni Amsale

Updated: June 7th, 2021

Middletown, Delaware — My name is Ethni Amsale. I am 17 and a first generation, Ethiopian American. My twin sister, Serene and I were raised by our beautiful single mother. Our lives have been nothing short of full and bright. Throughout my lifetime, I have been blessed to have been exposed to my Ethiopian culture and background. I believe all should be judged by their character and how they treat others rather than their ethnic or economic background. This is most important.


Ethni and Serene Amsale at their home in Middletown, Delaware. (Courtesy photo)

However, I often remember feeling proud of my ethnic background when I went on car rides with my family listening to Ethiopian music. My mother would explain the lyrics to my sister and I, unveiling the message behind each tune. One song stands out to me Tikur Sew or “Black Man” by Teddy Afro was its title. The song is a tribute to Emperor Melenik II’s victory of a united Ethiopia against an Italian invasion specifically in the Battle of Adwa. It highlighted the role women played in the Ethiopian military, celebrating our success in resisting European colonialism. My mom tells us to listen for the lyrics ourselves and that this is one of the many reasons we feel honored to be Ethiopian. As I get older, I become increasingly exposed to a variety of literature, music, art, food, and dance representative of Ethiopia and I fall more in love with it. As a student in the American school system, I learn about history and become increasingly aware of the racial divide that exists. Although I do not fully understand it, I make an effort to research and analyze the reasons behind the socioeconomic disparity between African Americans and Whites that we witness today. The majority of African Americans who arrived in America hundreds of years ago through the transatlantic slave trade have been systematically disconnected from their roots. Many generations were born without the cognizance of their ethnic language, customs, social institutions, and achievements. They were forced to carry the name and surname given to them by their slave masters with nothing else to hold on to but the color of their skin and folktales. Unfortunately, this disconnect has caused an understandable frustration and a version of identity crisis in the Black community.


Ethni and Serene Amsale with their mother, Meseret Tamirie, at their home in Middletown, Delaware. Ethni is also pictured on the right. (Courtesy photo)


Ethni & Serene Amsale attending church in New York City with their mother and grandmother. (Courtesy photo)

I am grateful for the connection I have to my ancestors birthplace and its rich history. I accredit this to my upbringing and my eagerness to continue to learn in a system that would otherwise see me fail. Currently, I am a high school senior planning on studying Animal Science and Biology on a Pre-Veterinary Track. I have been accepted to several accredited colleges and am in the process of making a decision. I am also an aspiring model and hope to one day have the platform to advocate for environmental policies that would positively impact the ecosystem and animal rights. I am appreciative of the opportunities I have and look forward to serving Ethiopia and the global community. Ethiopia enate tinur le zelalem.

‘Ethiopian music as the soundtrack to my life’ By Serene Amsale


Serene Amsale. (Courtesy photo)

By Serene Amsale

I can imagine myself opening and closing my eyes, the light of the sun, or the highway flooding my pupils and then disappearing as my eyelids met each other. I was on a car ride, when my mother, Meseret or “Mimi” and my twin sister, Ethni would go on family trips. My Ethiopian, specifically, gurage mother would put on music, with a wide variety of Ethiopian artists. From Mohamood Ahmed to Gigi, to Teddy Afro. Ever since our first days on Earth, even if I couldn’t recall, I can hear Ethiopian music in the background of old home movies with us as babies.

Staring out of the window, looking at landscapes, cities, and eventually crossing states, with Ethiopian music as the soundtrack to these road trips, and essentially my life. I was able to pick up on words and use my mother as a human dictionary. “Ehe mindinew?”, I would say, pointing to a lamb or cow on a local farm. It is important to note that I am passionate about animals. Ever since I was little, I aspired to be a veterinarian or wildlife biologist.

At the age of 6, my sister and I decided in unison to become vegetarian, which my lovely, single mother fully supported. I would love learning what animals would translate to in the Amharic language. Soon after, I noticed myself understanding the language more, and the conversations my mom would have with relatives on the phone. I was able to articulate myself, which was very apparent to me on our most recent trip to Ethiopia in the summer of 2018. While I enjoyed reconnecting with family and friends, I also got a glimpse into the experience of animals in Ethiopia, particularly cattle and domesticated animals.


Serene and Ethni Amsale with their mother, Meseret Tamirie, pictured before their Prom night at their home in Middletown, Delaware. (Courtesy photo)


(Courtesy photo)

I noticed some were used in the prime of their lives and then deemed no longer valuable. They were left emaciated and lifeless on the streets of Addis Ababa and Hawassa, and everywhere in between, where we traveled. I am pursuing a higher education in biology and environmental policy. I will be majoring in those fields in the beginning of this fall semester. I will focus on veterinary medicine. I am confident I can rely on my knowledge thus far, and solid upbringing in my 17 years of life that being a human being is extraordinary but being Ethiopian is a true privilege.

I take great pride in being able to call Ethiopia my country of origin. It is a strong and determined lion, “anbessa” in a pride of lost ones, remaining independent through two Italian invasions, thus becoming the only uncolonized African country in history. Accordingly, the only African country with its own indigenous alphabet, “fidel” and diverse subcultures, breaking into over 80 dialects. The land is home to impressive geographic locations, from the Danakil Depression, the hottest point on planet Earth to the Great Rift Valley and Simien Mountains- by the way I loved doing a report on them in 5th grade- The mountains helped coin the phrase “The roof of Africa” for the nation. Retrospectively, notice our flag colors, green, yellow, and red, and countries across the continent, subsequently adopt them throughout history. The first, Ghana, in 1957, then, Mali, Cameroon, Benin, and Senegal, consecutively after that. These are not simply colors, but a symbol of indepence, peace, and a real possibility of freedom, not just hope. I aspire to emulate my mother’s principles, her open-heartedness, and ability to lead with the heart, and to be present, and accessible, non-judgement towards others, belief in herself, and strong-willed, graceful, and magnetic nature. Similarly, these are all elements of the wonderful nation where our roots lie, and leading with any one of those traits will surely lead one to a bright future. I am excited to embark on my life’s adventure, and eager to affect change in a meaningful way.

If you would like to share a similar story please send your submssion to info@tadias.com.

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ART TALK: Helina Metaferia’s Solo Debut with Addis Fine Art at 2021 Frieze NYC

Ethiopian American artist Helina Metaferia is an interdisciplinary artist working across collage, assemblage, video, performance, and social engagement. As a research based artist, Helina's work is informed by written and oral archives, dialogical art, and somatic practices. She is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow / Assistant Professor at Brown University. (Addis Fine Art)

Press Release

Addis Fine Art is delighted to announce its representation of artist Helina Metaferia in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Helina will make her solo debut with Addis Fine Art at this year’s Frieze NYC Online Viewing Rooms from 7 – 14 May 2021.

For Frieze NYC Online Viewing Rooms, Addis Fine Art will be showcasing a series of collage works and an accompanying film by Helina Metaferia. The works are a continuation of the series titled, By Way of Revolution, a celebration of the overlooked histories of BIPOC women’s labor within activism, and the generational impact of civil rights eras of the past on today’s social justice movements.

Her mixed media works are made with images sourced from archival research of historical activism, including Black Panther newspapers and civil rights era photographs. She then amalgamates these images into crowns of adornment upon portraits she has photographed of women who are involved in contemporary liberation movements. Previous collages include portraits of participants of her performance-as-protest workshops that she conducts nationally. Her most recent works draw upon the activities of the Black Lives Matter movement during the pandemic and showcase Black women activists in LA and NYC, including BLM founders and chapter leaders such as Opal Tometi and Melina Abdullah, and recently formed artist-activist groups, such as The Wide Awakes, Revival Resistance Chorus, and Blacksmiths.


HELINA METAFERIA, HEADDRESS VIII, 2020, Mixed media, collage, 88.9 x 88.9 cm (Photo: Addis Fine Art)

HELINA METAFERIA

Helina Metaferia is an interdisciplinary artist working across collage, assemblage, video, performance, and social engagement. Through a hybrid of media, Helina’s practise is concerned with exploring overlooked stories relating to the Black experience, mainly in the context of the West. She approaches this by centring Black bodies, mostly women, in positions of power and vulnerability to interrogate complex histories of systemic oppression, questioning how it informs personal experiences and interpersonal relationships. She is also influenced by her Ethiopian heritage, often drawing upon traditional African art sensibilities in her work, specifically the intersection of visual art and ritual.

As a research based artist, Helina’s work is informed by written and oral archives, dialogical art, and somatic practices. She is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow / Assistant Professor at Brown University.

Helina’s work has appeared in numerous institutional solo and group exhibitions including Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Detroit; Modern Art Museum Gebre Kristos Desta Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, among many others. Her solo exhibition, Generations will open at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in Autumn 2021. Helina’s work has also been supported by several artist residencies including MacDowell, Yaddo, Bemis, MASS MoCA, and Triangle Arts Association. She is also a participant of the 2021 Drawing Center’s Viewing Program. Helina received her MFA from Tufts University’s School of the Museum of Fine Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Learn more at addisfineart.com.

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Q&A: Liya Kebede on Lemlem’s Designer Collaboration With H&M

In a Q&A with Elle magazine Liya Kebede discusses her H&M designer collaboration, finding joy during a pandemic, and advice to “accidental entrepreneurs” like herself. (Photos: Courtesy of H&M)

Elle

Liya Kebede Continues Lemlem’s Sustainability Mission With H&M

Some people were born into entrepreneurship, others planned for it. Then, there’s Liya Kebede who considers herself an “accidental entrepreneur.” For most international supermodels, you can almost predict their trajectory—supermodel status, then brand ambassador, then beauty brand or clothing line will follow suit. But Kebede’s path wasn’t that clear cut. When she refers to herself as an accidental entrepreneur, she truly means the launch of her brand Lemlem was a mere coincidence birthed from a stroll through an Ethiopian market street.

“[Lemlem’s] designs share the story of the art of handweaving and amazing talent, diversity, and inspiration to be found in Africa,” she tells ELLE.com via email. During a walk through the Ethiopian market, Kebede noticed a group of traditional weavers struggling to sell their hand-woven garments. Given the name—an Amharic expression that translates to “bloom” and “flourish,” Kebede used her own money to build her team from the ground up to help the weavers do exactly that. Collaboration has been central to the brand’s DNA from its genesis, from employing weavers to combine traditional techniques and Western style, to designer collabs with Moncler, to Kebede’s latest trick: an H&M collection.

Launching today, May 6, in the US and Canada, Lemlem x H&M continues the mission-driven story of celebrating artisanship, creating job opportunities for traditional weavers across the continent. The collection features warm-weather staples (crop tops, caftans, dresses, jewelry and more) that marry H&M’s trend-forward aesthetic with Lemlem’s timelessness, doused in summer brights like yellow, orange, blue, and white. What’s more, H&M will donate $100,000 to the Lemlem foundation to continue providing opportunities for women artisans.

Ahead, Kebede talks her H&M designer collab, finding joy during a pandemic, and advice to “accidental entrepreneurs” like herself.

Joy was hard to find in the past year. How have you been making sure to celebrate joy in your life?

It has been a complicated year but also a time of reflection and learning. And I have found true joy in seeing the ways people have reached out to old and new friends offering support and caring for one another in this time.

A lot of clothing brands were birthed as a solution to a larger problem in fashion. What would you say was the problem Lemlem was created to fix?

Lemlem was created to share the best of the craftsmanship I grew up with at home in Ethiopia – and to help the incredible community of artisans there. That’s what motivated me and it’s the story of Lemlem. I never thought about having my own brand until I suddenly saw it as a solution to create sustainable jobs so traditional weavers from my country could make a good living doing what they love, channeling their incredible skill into the beautiful, modern collections that we sell around the world.

Where does the name Lemlem come from?

Lemlem means to bloom and flourish in my native Ethiopian language, Amharic. When our designer at Lemlem and I were first brainstorming – this name popped off the page at me immediately. Not only did it so perfectly reflect our story and our goals, but it was also a nickname my family used for my daughter when she was little.

How does the H&M x Lemlem collection continue this story?

The collaboration was about combining things we both love to create a joyful collection of beach and swimwear and accessories using sustainable materials.

When H&M approached you about this collaboration, what was the most important thing you wanted to bring to this collection?

From the start, we wanted to make a joyful collection that reflected the story and spirit of Lemlem– and this took on extra significance as we designed this together through the pandemic. We want people to jump to get every piece and have great times wearing them out and making new happy memories as we get out into the sun again.

Why did this collaboration make sense to you?

H&M has been at the forefront of doing cool collaborations with brands for years. So for Lemlem, it was a very exciting proposition to become a part of this. And we appreciate H&Ms incredible global reach. To be able to introduce our brand to the H&M community is a wonderful opportunity.

Where did you draw inspiration from this time around?

The beauty and strength of sisterhood—embracing things that connect rather than separate us—was the central idea that very much inspired me while designing the collection and the campaign.

What was it like designing in collaboration with a huge retailer like H&M versus how you operate on your own?

It was an incredible experience working with H&Ms teams and learning about their processes. When we first started planning back in 2019 I imagined that we would be in a design studio together, brainstorming, looking at fabrics, and fitting together. Designing the collection together virtually during Covid called on our creativity in a different way. We drew from our experience at Lemlem bridging the distance to work closely with our partner weaving workshop in Ethiopia. In the end, I’m so happy and proud of the group effort and what we were able to create.

What is the Lemlem x H&M guide to lounging?

Keep it loose! I love to size up and wear the trousers from our collection with a big shirt or caftan. That’s my repeat look at home.

Read more at elle.com »

Related:

Vogue: Liya Kebede & Her Daughter Bring A Touch Of Ethiopia’s Artisanship To H&M

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ART TALK: In A Thrilling Retrospective, Ethiopian-American Artist Julie Mehretu Maps A Radical New Path For Geopolitics

"The extraordinary vitality of these works is achieved by Mehretu’s artistic talent for abstraction, through which she channels her interests in political forces including globalism and migration. (The latter is tinged with personal experience. Her family fled political instability in Ethiopia, moving from Addis Ababa to East Lansing, Michigan, when the artist was a child.)- Forbes. (© Julie Mehretu)

Forbes

In A Thrilling Whitney Retrospective, Ethiopian-American Artist Julie Mehretu Maps A Radical New Path For Geopolitics

Before the world was home to Africans, Asians, Europeans, Australians, and North and South Americans, all lands were massed in a single supercontinent called Pangaea. And before Pangaea, the landmasses were conjoined to make the supercontinent of Gondwana. At the time, some five hundred million years ago, there were no humans, and the dinosaurs that were alive to watch the tectonic shifts leading to Gondwana’s breakup – a multi-million-year process – left no record of what they witnessed. Geologists have only recently mapped Gondwana by simulating plate tectonics in reverse. The artist Julie Mehretu has also charted Gondwana. Her version takes the form of a mural-scale painting currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a highlight of her impressive mid-career retrospective.

Mehretu is best known for paintings that have the superficial appearance of cartography yet are deeply disorienting. Since the 1990s, she has combined rigorous systems of geometry with symbols of her own imagination, often highly gestural, which articulate specific spatial relationships between unknown reference points. Titles such as Black City and Back to Gondwanaland sometimes hint at a subject being mapped or explored, but any modicum of certainty is undermined by other titles applied to similar canvases, such as Mumbo Jumbo.


Julie Mehretu, Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation, 2001. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 101 ½ × 208 ½ inches (257.81 × 529.59 cm). Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas 2013.28. © Julie Mehretu

The extraordinary vitality of these works is achieved by Mehretu’s artistic talent for abstraction, through which she channels her interests in political forces including globalism and migration. (The latter is tinged with personal experience. Her family fled political instability in Ethiopia, moving from Addis Ababa to East Lansing, Michigan, when the artist was a child.) Mehretu has creatively embraced the tension between abstract tradition and political engagement by evoking the ambiguous ways in which geopolitics maps onto the intercontinental landscape.

One of the most extreme instances of this technique can be seen in a mural she created for Goldman Sachs in 2009. Mehretu intended Mural to represent “a spatial history of global capitalism”, an ambition she set out to achieve by layering abstractions of global trade routes, historical stock exchange architecture, and corporate logos. The result is unintelligible in the sense of being irreducible, and thereby evocative of the irreducible complexity of the marketplace. Capitalism is depicted as a self-perpetuating system that repels reform through its inconceivable internal logic.

Taking a commission from Goldman Sachs to create this painting may be viewed as cynical opportunism – a shrewd way to make a buck on the wages of sin – or more charitably can be seen as a gesture of optimism: Situating the mural in the lobby of one of the world’s most powerful investment banking firms, where financiers would see it daily, might provide just the kind of unmooring required to awaken the need to reorient global wealth distribution.

Read more »

Related:

ART TALK: Julie Mehretu – A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. in NYC

Watch: Checkerboard Film Foundation presents “Julie Mehretu: Mid-Career Survey”

ART TALK: Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey at LA County Museum of Art

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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ART TALK: Rare Works by Modernist Skunder Boghossian Go on Sale in New York

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.” (Images: Skunder Boghossian, Union, 1966; The Big Orange, 1971/Bonhams)

Penta Magazine

Twenty works by Ethiopian modernist master Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian will be offered at Bonhams modern and contemporary African art sale in New York on May 4.

The paintings and works on paper, executed from the 1960s through the 1990s by Boghossian (1937-2003), have all been kept in his family until this auction. Estimates of the works range from US$2,000 to US$150,000.

Boghossian was born in 1937 during Benito Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia. He left the country to study art in London and then in Paris. In 1970, he emigrated to the U.S. and taught painting at Atlanta University and Howard University.

Boghossian was known to use bright colors to create superimposed dimensions of form and shape, inspired by Ethiopia’s long tradition of wall painting in churches and of illustrated manuscripts. He became the first contemporary Ethiopian artist to have works purchased by the Musée d’ Art Moderne in Paris (1963) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965).

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.”


Skunder Boghossian, The Jugglers (Bonhams)

Highlights from the collection include Union, a 1966 blue-color painting composed of forms of African symbolism and iconography, and The Big Orange, a 1971 canvas featuring various African animals and symbols. The two paintings are expected to sell for between US$150,000 and US$250,000 each.

Additionally, The Jugglers, a 1962 painting partially inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam (1902-82) is offered with an estimate of between US$70,000 and US$100,000. The two met in 1959 in Rome. In this painting, Boghossian took inspiration from Lam’s use of mysterious and primordial totemic images.

The collection is on view, by appointments only, at Bonhams New York galleries, from now until the auction on the afternoon of May 4.

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TIME: Sara Menker’s Gro Intelligence Among 100 Most Influential Companies

Time Magazine names Gro Intelligence, founded by Ethiopian American entrepreneur Sara Menker, among the 100 Most Influential Companies. (Photo: Time)

TIME

Sara Menker comes by her nightmares honestly. She was born in Ethiopia in 1982, shortly before a two-year famine resulted in the death of up to a million of her compatriots. Menker was too young to have firsthand memories, and her family was solidly middle class—her mother was a seamstress for Ethiopian Airlines, and her father worked in IT for the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa. Still, the famine left a searing impression on Ethiopian society and Menker, and the years that followed were marked by shortages and deprivation. Sugar was rationed, as was gasoline. Driving on Sundays was prohibited.

Her childhood imprinted a profound sense of how easily life can be disrupted by catastrophic forces, and the importance of preparing for looming disaster. That worldview and her commodities-trader background inspired Menker in 2014 to found Gro Intelligence, a startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help confront two of the biggest challenges faced by humanity: food security and climate change. “It’s about getting ready for disaster,” says Menker. “It’s about hedging for the downside risk.” The timing is excellent for a company focused on forecasting and managing climate disaster. In the U.S. alone last year, there were a record 22 climate-related disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each. In all, the droughts, cyclones, wildfires and storms combined for a staggering $95 billion in damage. With such headlines fresh in the minds of investors, in January Gro raised $85 million. Backers include prominent tech investors Intel Capital and Africa Internet Ventures (a strategic partnership between TPG Growth and EchoVC). Menker is one of the handful of Black female founders who have the potential to achieve unicorn status, the term applied to startups valued at $1 billion or more.

Gro Intelligence works with thousands of clients, ranging from big food companies like Unilever and Yum! Brands to financial institutions, including BNP Paribas and Wells Fargo, providing them with a host of data and analysis on the global agricultural ecosystem. Gro ingests and analyzes over 650 trillion data points from more than 40,000 sources—crop forecasts, satellite images, topography, reports on precipitation, soil moisture, evapotranspiration—to provide insights and forecasts into 15,000 unique agricultural products. Curious about how the African swine fever impacted the Chinese pork market and its subsequent cascading impact on global commodity prices? Gro has a model. Or how a threatened trucker strike over the cost of diesel fuel could impact sugar prices in Brazil? That too. Gro even created a climate-risk score to assess the future of 300 ski destinations. (Better conditions for southern hemisphere locales such as Patagonia and New Zealand; worse conditions for Japan, interior U.S. and Canada, and parts of the Alps.) The company also works with governments around the world on food-security issues, to help them adequately plan for reserves.

Hedging against the inevitable downside is second nature to Menker. “Basics matter a lot to me because we grew up on restricted basics, the whole country,” she says. That mindset made her well prepared for COVID-19: she opened a closet and discovered that she had “85 rolls of toilet paper.” That impulse instantly kicked in when she was still trading on Wall Street and the stock market crashed in 2008, setting off a global financial crisis. “The first thing I thought of was, I know what the end of the world looks like, and this is not it.” Back then, she called her parents, concerned about their food supply, only to learn that her mother had been quietly buying land in the country and empty shipping containers and keeping them filled with a multiyear supply of grain in case of an emergency.

Now, as corporations around the world are tripping over one another to make ambitious climate pledges, Menker is spending much of her energy laying the foundation for a new class of financial instruments to help companies hedge against climate risk. Regulators are increasingly calling for the introduction of such products. Both the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have recently created new senior-level positions to address the risk of climate change to the stability of financial markets. “Climate change poses a major threat to U.S. financial stability, and I believe we must move urgently,” Commodity Futures Trading Commission acting chairman Rostin Behnam said in March, calling for new derivatives that would help price climate-related risks. Gro already has an index that measures the severity of drought that could serve as the basis for one such instrument. Despite a huge appetite for such information, there is a dearth of good data to help investors take potential climate shocks into account.

That’s where Gro comes in. Menker “is creating the first real clean global data set on climate,” says Gary Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, who has a deep background in commodities trading. (Cohn, who was named vice chairman of IBM in January, served a stint as a senior economic adviser to President Trump.) “What Bloomberg did for bonds [aggregating all available information in one place], she is trying to do for climate,” says Cohn. Menker, a consummate networker, recently added Cohn to Gro’s board. He and Menker had a series of socially distant outdoor meetings in New York City during the pandemic. (The company was founded in Nairobi and also has a co-headquarters in New York City.) Cohn says after the two first met, Menker began calling him every other day for advice. “You don’t build a company without being tenacious, without having drive,” he said. “She doesn’t take no for an answer.”


TIME cover featuring Sara Menker. (Photograph by Joshua Kissi for TIME)

Menker moved to the U.S. to attend Mount Holyoke College in 2000. (She also has an MBA from Columbia.) At first she could not relate to the experiences of African Americans when they talked about racism. Once she’d been in the U.S. a few years, however, her experiences and the double standards she witnessed “beat the Blackness into” her, she says. When she went to Wall Street, after a brief attempt at trying to assimilate left her feeling miserable, “I did not try to fit in: My hair always looked like this. I dressed as I pleased. I brought my culture to work.” Menker is still close to some of her former Morgan Stanley colleagues, and she clearly revels in the bawdy camaraderie of the trading environment. (She recalls the advice a colleague once gave about a trading strategy, “Sell a teeny, lose your weenie.”)

Yet even with her years of training and experience, 2020 was particularly intense for Menker. As a commodities expert, she was early to spot the supply-chain disruption potential of the pandemic, and in February, she again called home, worried about basic provisions. It wasn’t just the pandemic that she was worried about. Ethiopia and other parts of East Africa were under siege from a devastating swarm of locusts, devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of the corn, wheat, sorghum, millet and barley that the region relies on for much of its food. Menker was overcome with painful memories of the impact of the 1980s famine and beset by vivid nightmares filled with dead animals and locusts.

She sent out an impassioned all-staff email to her fellow “Gronies,” and the company swung into action, building 11 models that estimated the total area affected by the spread of the locusts, and yield models for the five crops most affected. The company set up a #locustmodels Slack channel to sync and share information. The Gro team pored over satellite data to monitor and predict the path of the swarm to help figure out where best to deploy scarce pesticides, and worked with the Ethiopian government, on a pro bono basis, on how to ramp up food reserves ahead of a projected increase in global food prices.

Dorothy Shaver, global marketing sustainability lead for Unilever’s largest food brand, Knorr, says she initially partnered with Menker’s “big brain and big data” in 2018, on Knorr’s ambitious plan to first identify and then help develop a market for Future 50 Foods—foods that are nutritious, affordable, tasty, and that have a lower environmental impact than animal-based foods. Menker was a particular advocate for teff, a prized grain in Ethiopia, and also fonio, a quick-growing white rice substitute that grows in sub-Saharan Africa, requiring little water. Shaver calls fonio “a little miracle grain that never embarrasses the cook or the farmer.” After the 50 were selected, Gro analyzed each crop for a variety of factors, including current levels of production and possible impacts on local communities if Knorr’s interest led to a spike in demand.

Menker’s current big concern—“I have new nightmares now”—is rising food inflation as countries including Russia, Ukraine, Argentina and Indonesia raise taxes or limit exports on products like wheat, palm oil and corn to protect domestic supplies. Still, she is fundamentally hopeful. “If you think about so many of the world’s challenges today, it’s about this tension between ecological preservation and economic growth,” she says. “That tension doesn’t need to be there, and I’m hoping that one of the things that we do is find a way to reconcile that.”

Related:

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Q&A: Motown’s Ethiopia Habtemariam Is Ready to Fully Execute Her Vision

Ethiopia Habtemariam says she’s ready to use her newfound autonomy [as chairman/CEO of Motown Records] to fully execute the vision she had for Motown when she arrived. She has spent the last several months staffing up, and, she says, “creating a blueprint” for the label’s future as a global force in recorded music. (Billboard magazine)

Billboard

Motown’s Ethiopia Habtemariam Is Ready to Fully Execute Her Vision: ‘Stay Tuned

When Ethiopia Habtemariam was appointed chairman/CEO of Motown Records in March, she became the third woman — and only the second one of color — ever to hold the title at a major label. Her ground-breaking appointment also signaled a full-circle moment for Motown: It is once again a stand-alone label, with Habtemariam reporting directly to Universal Music Group (UMG) chairman/ CEO Lucian Grainge. (Previously, she reported to Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett, who retired at the end of 2020.)

Founded by Berry Gordy in 1959, Motown achieved unprecedented mainstream success through standard-bearers such as Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations. Over the years, its roster evolved to include The Jackson 5, Lionel Richie, The Commodores, Rick James, Boyz II Men, Erykah Badu and India.Arie.

Since overseeing Motown’s move from New York to Los Angeles as the label’s president in 2014, Habtemariam, 41, has led entrepreneurial ventures such as the label’s 2015 alliance with Atlanta-based Quality Control, which has yielded hits by Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Migos, City Girls and Layton Greene. Motown is also home to Blacksmith Recordings (Ted When, Vince Staples) and Since the 1980s (Asiahn, Njomza) as well as Erykah Badu, Kem, Tiana Major9 and Nigerian star Tiwa Savage.

During Habtemariam’s almost seven years at the label, Motown has logged 28 top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 from Lil Baby, Migos, Ne-Yo and others, as well as 28 top 40 albums on the Billboard 200, including projects from Erykah Badu, Kem, Lil Yachty, City Girls and Migos.

Motown’s market share has risen, too, growing from 0.4% in 2017 to 0.59% in 2020 to 0.85% so far this year, thanks to the success of Lil Baby’s My Turn. The Grammy Award-nominated rapper’s second album closed out 2020 as the most popular album of the year in the United States, with 2.63 million equivalent album units, according to MRC Data.

What’s significant about the label’s market-share growth in 2020 and 2021 is that it is largely attributable to recent releases. In the past, catalog has driven Motown’s performance, while current market share — essentially the performance of music released in the 18 months prior to the measurement period — averaged 0.14% from 2015 to 2019, according to Billboardcalculations based on MRC data. In 2020, however, Motown more than doubled that number to 0.32%, and as of mid-April 2021, its current market share was just shy of 1%.

Before joining Motown, Habtemariam began pushing against the glass ceiling in music publishing. She took her first full-time job in the industry in 2001 at Edmonds Publishing, where she worked as a creative manager. She moved to Universal Music Publishing Group in 2003, where she signed Justin Bieber, J. Cole and Chris Brown, and rose to president of urban music and co-head of creative.

She kept her publishing gig when she took on the additional challenge of relaunching Motown, initially as senior vp of the label, in 2011. She continued doing double duty after she was promoted to label president in 2014 and departed UMPG in 2016.

Habtemariam says she’s ready to use her newfound autonomy to fully execute the vision she had for Motown when she arrived. She has spent the last several months staffing up, and, she says, “creating a blueprint” for the label’s future as a global force in recorded music. Last September, Motown opened its first U.K. branch, headed by managing director Rob Pascoe, and in February revived its Black Forum label by reissuing Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1971 Grammy-winning album for best spoken word, Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam. On the music side, Motown’s 2021 release slate includes Migos’ long-awaited Culture IIIalbum as well as projects by two new signees, singer Bree Runway and hip-hop artist Elhae.

Moving forward, Habtemariam says Motown’s approach to A&R will be “signing talent that we think can be the next generation of superstars.” She adds that the label is looking for “career artists. It’s not just about one song or a couple of tracks here and there. There is so much music out there that you must find talent that you believe will cut through.”

How has your job changed now that you are chairman/CEO and reporting to Lucian Grainge?

When I was first approached about Motown, my vision was to return it to operating like a full-fledged stand-alone label and to honor the legacy of the talent that was on the label in the 1960s through the early 2000s. Lucian agreed with me, but at the time we were a team of just four people attempting to accomplish a very ambitious goal. We were part of Island Def Jam, and it wasn’t the right structure, focus and support.

What’s the size of your staff now, and do you still share services with Capitol Music Group and UMG?

I have a team of about 25. Everything is Los Angeles-based, aside from the U.K. office, and an A&R person in Atlanta. And we do share some services through Universal and are still using Capitol’s radio promotions team.

You’ve come a long way.

I now have autonomy and authority over our budgets, how we are developing our artists and building out the Motown team. I’m also thinking more holistically about global strategy for the company.

What is your vision for the Motown of today? You have a very diverse lineup of artists.

It’s about signing talent that we think can be the next generation of superstars — people we think will be career artists. It’s not just about one song or a couple of tracks here and there. And they can be at different stages in their careers. We now have a roster of talent, like Lil Baby with Quality Control, that we want to grow in a certain direction, and we want to build up the next new artists in the same way. There are a few signings that we’re working on now that are exciting, from established acts to artists in the early phases of their careers, like a Tiana Major9. There is so much music out there that you must find talent that you believe will cut through. And then you have to work alongside them to build out their vision, their brand, the story they want to tell and then make great records to support that.

Read more »

Related:

UPDATE: Motown Promotes Ethiopia Habtemariam to Chair & CEO

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Prism Prize Eligible Video: Liza – Rolla

Liza is an Ethiopian-Canadian R&B singer/songwriter from Toronto, Canada. Born and raised in Toronto, Liza grew up in a traditional Ethiopian household immersed with the Ethiopian musical culture. (FYI Music News)

FYI Music News

Liza is an Ethiopian-Canadian R&B singer-songwriter who blends her culture into her music. She makes bright rhythmic R&B hits and her single Rolla has catchy and progressive rhythms.

Noor Khan, the director for the music video, is an artist, director and producer at her company Noor Khan Productions. She is an alumnus of the University of Toronto, OCAD and the Maryland Institute of College Art.

Online publication The Fader’s Sajae Elder wrote about Rolla, saying: “The track breaks down the uncertainty of a new relationship, its lyrics pondering whether a lover is in a relationship for the right reasons. With effortless vocals over airy, string-heavy production, Liza explores what it means to stick around through the ups and downs of a relationship.”

Del Cowie, via Yahoo News, wrote, “In addition to the stylish throwback performance choreography and in accordance with the video’s nostalgic feel, the clip is replete with scratchy film footage and a Queen and Slim-inspired vintage car in which Liza and her romantic interest are out for a drive.”

The music video has vintage vibes; from light leaks and film frames to dark grainy shots. Liza appears in the video donned in all black on stage, in front of her name in marquee lights and red velvet curtains. The jazzy song also features choreography envisioning a drive in the car. The music video is accompanied by scenes of Liza and Josh Obra in the car laughing and having a good time.

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Spotlight: “A Fire Within” A New Historical Ethiopian American Documentary Premiers at Atlanta Film Festival

A new documentary film, A Fire Within, will premiere at the 45th Atlanta Film Festival with a special event outdoor “Drive-In” screening on April 30th at 8:00pm at the Plaza Theatre Atlanta. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: April 28th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This week A Fire Within, which is executive produced by Liya Kebede and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Chambers, is set to make it’s world premiere at the 45th Atlanta Film Festival with a special event outdoor “Drive-In” screening on April 30th at 8:00pm at the Plaza Theatre Atlanta. In addition, the film will also be available for viewing online.

The new documentary A Fire Within brings to life the dramatic and widely reported story of three Ethiopian women in the U.S. that played out in an Altanta courtroom in the 1990′s when one of the women Hirute Abebe-Jira sued a former Ethiopian police official named Kelbessa Negewo as the person who tortured her in prison during the ″Red Terror″ era in Ethiopia.

At the time the Associated Press reported that “the suit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows aliens to seek relief in federal court for human rights violations in other countries. According to the suit, Negewo commanded police forces in part of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa” during that period.

As the press release notes:

“A FIRE WITHIN recounts the remarkable coincidence when Edjegayehu “Edge” Taye, Elizabeth Demissie, and Hirut Abebe-Jiri, three Ethiopian women who immigrate to the United States after surviving torture in their home country, discover the man responsible for their torture is living in America and working at the same restaurant as Edge in midtown Atlanta’s Colony Square Hotel. In Ethiopia, Kelbessa Negewo was a government official who tortured and executed scores of civilians during “The Red Terror”. At the Colony Square Hotel, he was the dish washer.

After confirming Negewo’s identity, the women vowed to find a way to bring him to justice. Atlanta-based lawyers Miles Alexander, Laurel Lucey and Michael Tyler at Kilpatrick Townsend law firm, along with ACLU Director Paul Hoffman, took the women’s case pro bono. Their legal strategy would hinge on the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, a section from America’s first Judiciary Act. Since 1979 (Filártiga v. Peña-Irala), American human rights lawyers have used the Alien Tort Statute to bring cases against human rights violators. The film documents the women’s harrowing journey to justice, bringing them face to face with their own torturer in what became a historic trial in modern American human rights law.

“Making this film has been a powerful, humbling experience,” said Chistopher Chambers, director. “The resilience of these three women, refusing to be intimidated into silence by their abuser, relentlessly pursuing justice, while struggling to start new lives as immigrants and refugees, is nothing less than heroic. These women represent the best of what “American values” can and should be.”

A FIRE WITHIN is executive produced by Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede. Kebede is also an award-winning actress, former World Health Organization (WHO) Ambassador, women’s rights activist, and founder and creative director of lemlem fashion brand.

I was so touched and moved by this story,” said Kebede. “We don’t often get to hear about such stories — the “other” stories. The stories that do not get told. It is very rewarding to be a part of this film and to bring the story of these courageous women to light.”

A FIRE WITHIN was filmed using interviews, archival footage and narrative recreations in 10 cities across the globe, including Atlanta, Georgia; Ottawa, Canada; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, narrative recreations were filmed with a locally-hired, all-Ethiopian cast and crew.

You can learn more about the film and screening at www.facebook.com/AFireWithinDoc

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As Market for Their Artists Booms, African Galleries Expand to the West

Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul, the co-founders of Addis Fine Art, started out as art consultants in London while simultaneously running a gallery in Addis-Ababa, which they founded in 2016. Last year, Addis Fine Art joined Cromwell Place, the gallery hub in South Kensington. “We need to make sure this region is included in the conversations and narrative around contemporary and Modern art; there’s a huge gap,” Sile says. (Photo: Courtesy of Bandele Zuberi and Addis Fine Art)

The Art Newspaper

As the market for their artists booms, African galleries take control by expanding to the West

With outposts springing up from London to Los Angeles, dealers are putting their artists on the global map

The fates and fortunes of African artists have, until recently, been largely shaped by outsider interests. But now, as the market for these artists grows apace, African galleries are taking a firmer hand in their fortunes by expanding to the West.

The catch-all term “African art”—one created by Western auction houses and dealers—has proven to be a brilliant marketing tactic. A critical and commercial domino effect has been spurred by events such as the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair and seminal exhibitions like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? at New York’s Richard Taittinger Gallery in 2015. Curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, the show helped spread the appeal of African artists stateside. Seeing an area ripe for development, US and European galleries started adding African artists to their rosters and last summer, as protests over racial justice swept across the world, interest in African (or Black) art surged.

In the past five years, against the odds, a cluster of African galleries have set up outposts in Western art-world centres in order to have greater agency in the fortunes of their artists—and, no doubt, to try to avoid them being poached by larger rivals. Last year alone, despite (or because of) the pandemic, Ghana’s Gallery 1957 and Ethiopia’s Addis Fine Art opened in London, while Nigeria’s Rele Gallery launched a Los Angeles space. They join South Africa’s Goodman Gallery, which opened in London in 2019; the Ivory Coast’s Galerie Cecile Fakhoury, which opened a showroom in Paris in 2018; and South Africa’s Stevenson, which has had an office in Amsterdam for the past couple of years.


Galerie Cecile Fakhoury in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, also has a Paris showroom Courtesy of Galerie Cecile Fakhoury

“Being in Johannesburg was too far away; relying on fairs wasn’t really sufficient,” says Liza Essers, the owner of Goodman Gallery. Essers chose London because: “If you look at the colonial history of South Africa, it made sense to be in a place to challenge those historical power structures, to speak back.”

Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul, the co-founders of Addis Fine Art, started out as art consultants in London while simultaneously running a gallery in Addis-Ababa, which they founded in 2016. Last year, Addis Fine Art joined Cromwell Place, the gallery hub in South Kensington. “We need to make sure this region is included in the conversations and narrative around contemporary and Modern art; there’s a huge gap,” Sile says.

The right roster

The galleries have all made calculated bets with the artists they bring forward. Goodman Gallery works a wide remit, showing emerging and established artists from across the continent alongside non-African artists such as Hank Willis Thomas from the US. Addis Fine Art is more focused, showing contemporary and Modern artists from Ethiopia; its first (and so far only) London exhibition last autumn was of the Ethiopian Modernist Tadesse Mesfin—though nearly 70, this was his first European solo show.

Meanwhile, Gallery 1957 and Rele Gallery take their chances on young, raw talents. Victoria Cooke, the director of Gallery 1957, says its London gallery will be “an extension” of that in Accra—it opened last autumn with a show of the Ghanaian artist Kwesi Botchway, who is at the forefront of an emerging trend among young African artists who are resisting expectations that they must be political or didactic and instead concentrating on portraiture and scenes of black life. In its inaugural Los Angeles exhibition, Rele Gallery showed three promising Nigerian talents, discovered by its founder, Adenrele Sonariwo: Marcellina Akpojotor, Tonia Nneji, and Chidinma Nnoli. All touch on themes of family, womanhood and empowerment.

Kwesi Botchway’s Dark Purple is Everything Black (2020); Gallery 1957’s London space opened with a show by the Ghanaian artist Courtesy of Gallery 1957
The cost of doing business

Rele’s inaugural exhibition sold out within days and Essers reports that Goodman’s past few exhibitions have done well commercially, too. But running galleries on two continents is neither cheap nor straightforward. Works by African artists are often lower in price than their Western contemporaries—but rents in London, Paris and Los Angeles are steep and bills must be paid. “There has been growing interest in African artists from the global art market, which is of course throwing prices and market comparisons into the spotlight, but our focus has always been first and foremost our artists and our local audiences and collector base,” Cooke says. “We try to make our decisions based on this.”

Read more at theartnewspaper.com »

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African collectors are snapping up African contemporary art (Quartz Africa)

ART TALK: Tadesse Mesfin, Tsedaye Makonnen, Addis Gezehagn & Tizta Berhanu at Dubai 2021

Learn more at addisfineart.com.

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Lydia Assefa-Dawson Announces Campaign for King County Council in Washington State

Lydia Assefa-Dawson, a member the Federal Way City Council in King County, Washington [located within the Seattle metropolitan area] has announced that she is running for King County Council District 7 seat. According to her campaign Lydia, who is Ethiopian American, "pledges to bring leadership and perspectives as a housing advocate, person with disabilities, immigrant, and mom." (Courtesy photo)

Federal Way Mirror

Federal Way Councilmember Lydia Assefa-Dawson announces run for King County Council District 7

Lydia Assefa-Dawson formally announced her campaign to challenge 28-year incumbent Pete von Reichbauer for King County Council, Position 7.

Assefa-Dawson, in her second full term on the Federal Way City Council, believes it is time to take it to the next level in order to reflect the rapid demographic changes and economic challenges facing families in the district, which includes Federal Way, Auburn, Kent, Milton, Algona, Pacific, and unincorporated areas.

“It’s time for new experiences and perspectives to address the changing priorities of struggling families and small businesses in our region,” said Assefa-Dawson. “We have a worsening homelessness crisis, an economy battered by the pandemic, critical infrastructure and transit needs, and our criminal justice system remains burdened with bias and mistrust in too many communities. We can only expect to make needed progress on these and other issues with new voices and leadership.”

Assefa-Dawson has received numerous awards and recognitions for her dedicated service in the region from organizations including King County Housing Authority, National Association of Professional Women, City of SeaTac, the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Bridge Builders Award, and many more.

She points to her own story overcoming great adversity as her motivation to create opportunity and self-sufficiency for families across the region.

“I came to America from Ethiopia over 40 years ago seeking education and in need of medical care after a disability led to my legs being amputated as a child,” said Assefa-Dawson, who works as a Family Self Sufficiency Coordinator at King County Housing Authority, as well as an Economic Resilience Financial Educator and Coach for Survivors of Domestic Violence at the YWCA. “I went on to complete college and graduate school, and raised three wonderful sons, all of whom graduated from local schools. Having suffered housing insecurity and financial hardships along the way, I’ve dedicated my career to helping others receive the critical services and financial literacy needed to stabilize their own lives. I’ll bring these experiences – along with my work on the City Council – to support all the people of the district.”

On the Federal Way Council, Assefa-Dawson serves on the Parks, Recreation, Human Services, & Public Safety Committee and chairs the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. She served on the Federal Way Human Services Commission before her appointment to the City Council.

Assefa-Dawson serves on the Puget Sound Economic Development District Board, co-chairs the Regional Law, Safety and Justice Committee, and is Vice President of the Ethiopian Community Center. She previously served on the State’s Advisory Committee on Homelessness, with the Committee to End Homelessness, and the Best Starts for Kids Children and Youth Advisory Committee.

“The work I do every day at the local and regional level is directly related to building a strong economy, and more just and equitable communities for all,” said Assefa-Dawson. “I’m proud of my deep commitment to the people of this region, and hands-on experience helping small businesses, working for police reform and trust, and making sure kids and families have the opportunity to thrive.”

Committed to expanding economic opportunity in historically marginalized communities, Assefa-Dawson also co-chairs the Highline Forum, serves on the Equity Group with the Association of Washington Cities and the newly formed Equity & Inclusion Cabinet with Sound Cities Association, and is on the Governance Group for Communities of Opportunity.

“I’m committed to positive, equitable change that benefits everyone. Local families need a voice at the County Council – for jobs and mobility, for affordable childcare and healthcare, and for housing that is safe, affordable, and close to jobs and education,” Assefa-Dawson said.

Assefa-Dawson is launching her campaign with support from fellow local elected officials from throughout the region, immigrant and refugee communities and leaders, housing advocates, and others.

“Representing District 7, I’ll partner with stakeholders at every level, and ensure community has a voice on the King County Council,” said Assefa-Dawson.

Learn more at Lydia4KC.com.

Editor’s note: This is a press release from the candidate’s campaign

Related:

In Virginia, Ethio-American Meronne Teklu Launches Campaign for Alexandria City Council

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ART TALK: Julie Mehretu – A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. in NYC

Julie Mehretu’s engagement with the Gemini workshop began with a small drypoint etching created in 2008 to raise funds for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. Aptly titled Amulets – a good luck charm for the Senator - that print, along with another small-scale print benefitting the Guggenheim Museum published 2010, were Mehretu and Gemini’s equivalence of a “courtship.” (Photograph by Case Hudson)

Press Release

Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl is pleased to present Julie Mehretu: A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. on view March 25th through July 30th, 2021. This survey presents every edition that Mehretu has created in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L., the renowned artists’ workshop and creator of fine-art limited edition prints. The exhibition coincides with Mehretu’s mid-career retrospective on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was previously shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and The High Museum in Atlanta.

Mehretu’s engagement with the Gemini workshop began with a small drypoint etching created in 2008 to raise funds for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. Aptly titled Amulets – a good luck charm for the Senator – that print, along with another small-scale print benefitting the Guggenheim Museum published 2010, were Mehretu and Gemini’s equivalence of a “courtship.” Ever since, the artist has challenged the technical and visual limits of the workshop, with three monumental bodies of work. This exhibition provides a comprehensive look at Mehretu’s evolution as a dedicated and skilled printmaker, featuring Auguries and Myriads, Only By Dark, where the deconstruction of architectural imagery, maps, and diagrams are layered with abstract signs and symbols, and concluding with her latest series, Six Bardos, which utilizes layers of calligraphic marks, political graffiti, and colorful abstract forms.

Scholars have noted Mehretu’s longstanding engagement with printmaking, most recently by Leslie Jones, Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA, in the catalogue accompanying Mehretu’s retrospective. Jones contends that since Mehretu’s early years in graduate school at RISD, intaglio printmaking has informed the line quality present in her paintings. Oftentimes prints by artists are treated as somehow separate from the rest of the artist’s unique output; this is not the case with Julie Mehretu. Printmaking informs her paintings and the paintings inform her printmaking in a reciprocal and intertwined manner – explicitly in the use of screenprinting in her paintings, and implicitly in the way that printmaking forces a slowed-down deliberation and dissection of the personal mark-making for which Mehretu is celebrated. Mehretu states, “[it’s] in the printmaking that new things are invented, which I then want to bring into the painting and drawing,” and her insistence that her prints are included her many gallery and museum exhibitions is proof of this seamlessness. The technical parallels between constructing an image in layers, as is necessary with printmaking, and the way that Mehretu builds her paintings through a stratum of imagery that is blurred and transformed, underscores the symbiotic relationship between the two mediums.

Mehretu’s paintings are usually large scale, but all her prints up until Auguries in 2010 were modestly sized. In working with Gemini, she knew she wanted to make a massive etching. The solution to the technical difficulty of producing such a scale was worked out with Case Hudson, Gemini’s Masterprinter, and Auguries measures 7 x 15 feet in twelve panels, hung in a grid. The title alludes to the ancient Roman practice of interpreting omens from the study of avian flight patterns, and that reference is supported by the imagery – the dashes and daubs of spit-bite aquatint marks layered upon sweeping multi colored lines. Auguries, in its scale and visual complexity, cemented printmaking as an essential medium in Mehetu’s oeuvre. As Leslie Jones notes, “while references to architecture rarely appear in her prints, it is notable that diagrams – graphic renderings – form the basis of her paintings, while gestural marks – the language of painting – predominate in her prints. Mehretu’s printerly paintings and painterly prints suggest the intermediary nature of her practice overall.”

Mehretu’s second large-scale project with Gemini, Myriads, Only By Dark (2014), is comprised of four 81×45-inch panels, each with three sections of embossments determined by the size of the copper plates. Originally conceived when press-bed limitations necessitated the abutting of separate sheets to achieve the desired large scale (as was the case with Auguries), the workshop acquired a larger press which would eliminate any divisions. Nevertheless, Mehretu elected to maintain the aesthetic of the division, even emphasizing it with thin white embossments to evoke the kinds of folds found in an oversized map. All of the imagery – except for the portion that was spit-bite directly onto the copper plates – was created on tall sheets of Mylar. The color lines, created using Adobe Illustrator, came first, and guided the artist as she painted imagery on subsequent Mylars. The inking of the lines is “à la poupée,” in which multiple ink colors are hand-applied and blended on one plate to create a multicolor appearance within a single etched line, and the other imagery is printed in a range of silver, gray and black inks. Mehretu employed a variety of drawing techniques, including airbrush and transfers from the patterning of paper toweling which suggest a newsprint imagepixilation. The handprints and even some of the graphic “swipes” that are apparent on several of the panels are the result of Mehretu dipping her hands and forearm in India ink.

The mark-making is loose, dynamic, and dense with layers obscuring each other, evoking “primordial expression.” Jones argues that the verticality of Myriads is reminiscent of portraiture, which is further suggested by the title, (unfolding body map), of the left-most panel. Reading Myriads as progressing from left to right, an expansion and contraction culminates in the central white voided shape in (origin). Mehretu has continuously explored her own identity, migration, and ancestral/political connections to geography as an Ethiopian American through repetitive mark-making and profound use of erasure.

Following a small etching, Haka, donated to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, in 2014 and 2015 Mehretu and Gemini were asked once again to contribute editions, and examples of these are include in the exhibition. One, titled vertiginous fold, was given to FAPE for distribution to US Embassies worldwide, and one, titled Achille (epoch) benefitted Studio in a School, a visual arts organization partnering with public schools in the New York area. Complex and rich in their appearance, both measure 33×47 inches – a scale manageable for these two beneficiaries.

In 2017, continuing her desire to challenge herself and the Gemini workshop, Mehretu embarked on her most recent series of large-scale prints, Six Bardos. Influenced by a trip to the Mogao Caves in the Gobi desert, the title comes from the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy of the transition of consciousness from life to death. The titles of the six individual works, which follow the sequence of the Bardos, further the theme of migration and transformation present throughout Mehretu’s work. The prints are multi-colored aquatints, sometimes with as many as 31 different colors. Ink was applied “a la poupée”, requiring Gemini’s printers to reference a Mylar key that dictated the location of different colors on a single copper plate. Instead of printing by color separation, the colors are lightly dabbed onto the plate, resulting in a gradient of colors that blend the lines in a manner seemingly impossible in an aquatint. This extraordinarily complex technique, again overseen by Case Hudson, took three years to develop and complete. While four works from this series are comparatively modest in their scale (50×73 inches), two prints, Luminous Appearance and Transmigration are once again monumental, this time consisting of two abutting panels for a final dimension of over 8×6-feet. The profusion of colors and the mark-making has noticeably shifted in appearance from her prior projects, this time without the strict lines present in Myriads and Auguries to anchor the gestural strokes. The lines scribble and scrawl, forming recognizable shapes that dissolve, evoking stenciled graffiti on urban walls, sections of which appear to be partially wiped away, with marks that stubbornly refuse to be fully erased. Their immense visual complexity, as with all of Mehretu’s work, requires time to fully contemplate and comprehend. This process of looking, where the forms and ideas emerge slowly over time, creates a new kind of space for thinking about the possibilities of printmaking.

More info at WWW.JONIWEYL.COM.

Related:

Watch: Checkerboard Film Foundation presents “Julie Mehretu: Mid-Career Survey”

ART TALK: Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey at LA County Museum of Art

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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In Virginia, Ethio-American Meronne Teklu Launches Campaign for Alexandria City Council

“A lot of my family, a lot of my community in terms of the Ethiopian American diaspora that lives here — it’s really a hub for us and for our small businesses that I frequent often,” Meronne Teklu, whose immigrant parents moved to Alexandria following the downfall of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, said. “I’m excited to be a part of it, and I’m excited to do what I can to help our local economy.” (Alextimes)

The Alexandria Times

Candidate profile: Meronne Teklu enters council race

At 25, Meronne Teklu has worked as a tech consultant, nonprofit manager and advisory board member. She’s also launched her first campaign for Alexandria City Council.

Teklu said she doesn’t view her age as a drawback but rather as an opportunity to bring a fresh, multigenerational lens to the council.

“As residents of this community, we have an opportunity to serve at all levels. I don’t think it matters what your age is, gender identification, race identification, class — we all have that opportunity,” Teklu said. “I definitely don’t think [my age] is a negative thing; it’s more so ensuring that we have varying representation and perspectives that we bring.”

Although she was born in Alexandria and currently lives in the West End, Teklu grew up down the road in Springfield, having graduated from West Springfield High School. She said that, despite this, Alexandria always felt like home.

“A lot of my family, a lot of my community in terms of the Ethiopian American diaspora that lives here — it’s really a hub for us and for our small businesses that I frequent often,” Teklu, whose immigrant parents moved to Alexandria following the downfall of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, said. “I’m excited to be a part of it, and I’m excited to do what I can to help our local economy.”

Teklu currently works as a technology management consultant in Northern Virginia, where she aids clients from the public service to government sectors in designing and launching digital products. Teklu said this technology background helps her bring an innovative, “future-forward lens” to the table — something she feels is a principal ingredient in moving the needle toward data-driven, long-term change.

Her experience also includes mentoring students of immigrant backgrounds at the D.C. nonprofit IEA Councils on Higher Education as well as an advisory position on the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation, a nonprofit organization cofounded by her mother that focuses on poverty alleviation support in Ethiopia through fundraising and identification of vulnerable populations.

Teklu received a bachelor’s degree in Africana studies with a focus on computer science from the College of William & Mary. During her time there, Teklu and several peers created a media project called The Real William & Mary that published videos tackling issues related to inclusion on campus and centering minority student voices. The project’s aim was to foster conversations about ways to develop a diverse office and support programs like Pacific Islander and Asian studies.

The project spread through social media like wildfire, eventually capturing the attention of the community race relations task force and culminating in a newly implemented freshman year required course at William & Mary that examines social inequities in America.

“That only happens when you’re able to show others who are not part of your immediate community issue that, ‘Here are the perspectives. Here’s what we can do.’ And maybe that doesn’t happen immediately, maybe that’s a one month or two month or five year effort, but I think it’s amazing,” Teklu said.

Teklu said this experience not only played a role in demonstrating how perseverance leads to tangible social change — “I live and breathe the intersections of race, class and gender on policy and our general American history,” she said — but also in igniting her passion for equity.

Teklu said her primary goal is to connect Alexandria’s marginalized and underrepresented communities with city leadership. For Teklu, this demographic ranges from the voices of minority, low income and young people.

“I’m here to elevate those communities [through an] emphasis on equity,” Teklu said. “I’m approaching things from the lens of, ‘How can we be better for all of our communities, not just one particular one?’ How we can elevate diverse minority perspectives within that is something I’m very passionate about.”

According to Teklu, one crucial issue plaguing the city is its longstanding housing affordability crisis. With equity placed squarely at the heart of her campaign, Teklu said she always wants to support minority and immigrant tenants – especially during COVID-19 when many “disproportionately affected communities of color” cannot pay rent and need city support in eviction protection.

And it’s not just housing that COVID-19 has impacted, Teklu said. Another topic of interest for Teklu is lifting up the city’s youth, not only from an educational standpoint in schools but also through emotional and social support during the pandemic.

“We know it’s been quite isolating, so ensuring that they’re set up to thrive will be equally as important for council to work [on] with the School Board and the private school community as well,” Teklu said.

Although Teklu acknowledged that she plans to do “more digging” regarding the controversial proposed stream restoration at Taylor Run, she emphasized the importance of listening to grassroots organizations and environmental advocacy groups regarding the best path forward.

She also noted that while many arguments surrounding flooding in Alexandria are pointed at over-densification and development, she believes the root is more of an environmental issue.

“We know that we have a ways to go in ensuring that the city of Alexandria meets our environmental sustainability goals, and I think investing in long-term mitigation strategies against flooding will be key,” Teklu said.

Whether it’s rebuilding the local economy, supporting environmental justice, providing COVID-19 relief or investing in public modernization efforts, Teklu said the notion of equity for all should serve as a “north star” in every action City Council takes.

“I really do feel like Alexandria coming out of this pandemic has an opportunity to reimagine what it is to be a community and to be advocates of change,” Teklu said. “We have a lot of momentum to reimagine what it looks like to operate as a city, to incorporate technology and incorporate the perspective of young people in that – and to push for equity for all. That’s something that is very exciting to me.”

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ART TALK: Tadesse Mesfin, Tsedaye Makonnen, Addis Gezehagn & Tizta Berhanu at Dubai 2021

Tadesse Mesfin, Pillars of Life: My Sisters Keeper II, 2021, Oil on canvas, 165 x 170 cm; Tizta Berhanu, Rest in the arms of trust, 2020, Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm; Addis Gezehagn, Floating City XXII, 2021, Acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 122 x 122 cm; Tsedaye Makonnen, Astral Sea II, 2019, Acrylic mirror and fabric, 457.2 x 91.44 cm. (Photos courtesy of Addis Fine Art)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: April 9th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This month the 14th edition of Art Dubai took place at Dubai International Financial Centre featuring several artists from Ethiopia and the Diaspora including Tadesse Mesfin, Addis Gezehagn, Tsedaye Makonnen and Tizta Berhanu.

The Ethiopian artists were represented by Addis Fine Art — marking the fourth year in a row that the Addis Ababa and London-based gallery had participated in the global art fair, which was also the first major in-person group exhibition of its kind since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below are bios of the Ethiopian artists courtesy of Addis Fine Art:

TADESSE MESFIN B. 1953

Tadesse Mesfin (1953) is a giant of the Ethiopian art scene. He holds a unique position as both a figurehead of the Ethiopian modernist movement, and as a long-time educator through his role as a professor at the influential Alle School of Fine Art and Design in Addis Ababa. Among the generations of painters he has taught are Addis Gezehagn, Ermias Kifleyesus, Merikokeb Berhanu and Tesfaye Urgessa.

Mesfin’s latest work is a continuation of his ongoing series celebrating the women who work as small-holder vendors in markets scattered across Ethiopian cities, who can typically be found standing or crouched down with their agricultural produce scattered in front of them, hoping to entice the eye of potential customers. As a visual paean to them, Tadesse places their occupations and personae front and centre, and the viewer is encouraged to appreciate their importance to the communities they serve.

The paintings, at times, resist the limitations of perspective, with the distant figures appearing to float in space between those in the foreground, their forms often abstracted through loosely defined brush strokes. Only their regal, statuesque poses and facial expressions are clearly discernible. Mesfin has stated that his previous fascination with the West-African tradition of mask-making prompted him to create his own “Ethiopian masks” from the expressions found in the faces of the women occupying his canvases. Their pointed chins and captivating stares are a nod to West-African masks; however, the distinctly Ethiopian features give them their own unique appearance. Each figure is carefully weighted in these paintings with a methodical precision born of decades of practise. There is often a central protagonist who is the focal point, slightly off-centre in accordance with the golden section rules of proportion, counter-balancing the figures in the background.

Tadesse Mesfin’s artistic career spans more than five decades. His painterly style has been greatly influenced by his early education under Gebre Kiristos Desta, the pioneer of Ethiopian Modernism and from his seven-year stint in the USSR during the 1980s, where he studied architecture and sculpture in St. Petersburg.

TSEDAYE MAKONNEN ETHIOPIAN-AMERICAN, B. 1984


Tsedaye Makonnen. (Photo: The Artist and Addis Fine Art)

Tsedaye Makonnen is a multidisciplinary artist whose studio, curatorial, and research-based practice threads together her identity as a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, a Black American woman, doula and a mother. Makonnen invests in the transhistorical forced migration of Black communities across the globe and Feminism. Her work is both an intimate memorialization and protective sanctuary for Black lives. She is the recent recipient of a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, DC Public Library Maker Residency and Art on the Vine’s Savage-Lewis Artist Residency (Martha’s Vineyard).

She has performed at the Venice Biennale, Art Basel Miami, Chale Wote (Ghana), El Museo del Barrio, Fendika (Ethiopia), FIAP (Martinique), Queens Museum, the Smithsonian’s and more. Her light monuments memorializing Black womxn exhibited at the August Wilson Center and National Gallery of Art. In 2019 she was on the front cover of the Washington City Paper’s People Issue. She recently curated a group show with Washington Project for the Arts in DC titled Black Women as/and the Living Archive and is publishing an exhibition book. This August she is exhibiting for Park Avenue Armory’s ’100 Years | 100 Women’ with NYU Tisch & Deb Willis, which was recently featured in Vogue Magazine.

ADDIS GEZEHAGN B. 1978

Addis Gezehagn (b.1978), a long-time artistic presence in Addis Ababa, is known for portraying the multifaceted characteristics of the city’s residents by detailing the external facades of their homes. In his “Floating Cities/ Floating Towers” series, Gezehagn depicts dreamlike deconstructed and layered renderings of the urban landscapes rising above the ground. These compositions made by layering magazine cut outs with acrylic paint, blend the boundaries of fantasy and reality of urban life, blurring the lines between the past, present and future.

Flattened and reductive, Gezehagn’s works imagine cityscapes as towers, or patchworks of colourful doors and gates, the architectural structures seeming to signify a natural, organic network of living spaces. The rootless and ephemeral nature of the layered towers call into question the lives of the inhabitants. Examining the personal and public spaces, the works archive walls and towers destined to crumble, tracing a pattern of classism and social injustice. Gezehagn’s works urge us to think beyond homes as functional entities and offer commentary on the socio-economic context of urban life.

Gezehagn currently lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He graduated from the Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design with a Diploma and BFA in 2011. His first international exhibtion was in 2017 at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London which was received with great acclaim. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, garnering more international interest after having his first sold out solo show at Addis Fine Art’s main gallery in Addis Ababa in 2018 followed by 1-54 Contemporary Art Fair London (2018) and Art Dubai (2019).

TIZTA BERHANU ETHIOPIAN, B. 1991


Tizta Berhanu, Different Life in a Setting, 2019. (Addis Fine Art)

Tizta Berhanu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1991 where she has lived and worked her entire life. She graduated in 2013 from the Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design where she studied under the influential modernist painter Tadesse Mesfin.

Trained as a figurative painter, Tizta uses the medium to introspectively delve into human emotions. The figures in her work often express an array of sentiments, some comfort and embrace one another, whilst others are found isolated and searching in the backdrop of the enigmatic canvases. Her paintings are awash with lucid colours which flow across the canvases through the use of heavy undefined brush strokes. By portraying her subjects expressing love, hate, sadness, and loneliness, the observer is invited into moments of vulnerability and intimacy.

Learn more at addisfineart.com.

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Video: Tadias Conversation With Tigist Kebede of Habeshaview

Tigist Kebede, Co-Founder & Operations Director of Habeshaview and Journalist Tsedey Aragie. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: April 3rd, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — Tadias recently had a conversation with Tigist Kebede, Co-Founder and Operations Director of Habeshaview — the first international Ethiopian film distribution and online streaming company.

As Tigist explains, Habeshaview works with filmmakers both in Ethiopia and the Diaspora to curate, produce, screen and distribute high-quality original Ethiopian films. Their current offerings include the feature film Enkopa, which is based on the true story of a young Ethiopian migrant at the mercy of unscrupulous traffickers; as well as Enchained, an award-winning movie that reflects on Ethiopia’s ancient and culturally-rooted legal system.

The interview was conducted by journalist Tsedey Aragie for Tadias.

Watch: Tadias Conversation with Tigist Kebede of Habeshaview

You can access the Habeshaview App at user.habeshaview.com.

Related:

WATCH: Q&A with Cast and Crew of “Enchained (ቁራኛዬ) Live From Ethiopia

Spotlight on ‘Enkopa’: New Ethiopian Movie Based on True Story of a Young Migrant

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Three Ethiopian Films Featured at New African Film Festival in U.S.

According to organizers the annual film festival, which is usually held at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, will be held online this year (April 1–18) highlighting 33 films from 26 Countries including Ethiopian movies "Running Against The Wind, Finding Sally and Min Alesh [ምን አለሽ. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: March 30th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — This year’s U.S.-based New African Film Festival features three award-winning Ethiopian films including the 2020 Oscar Selection Running Against The Wind; filmmaker Tamara Dawit’s timely documentary Finding Sally and the inspiring new film Min Alesh [ምን አለሽ], a story set in Merkato about a young woman who overcomes adversity through athletics.

According to organizers the annual film festival, which is usually held at AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, will be held online this year (April 1–18) highlighting 33 films from 26 Countries.

The 2021 New African Film Festival “showcases the vibrancy of African filmmaking from all corners of the
continent and across the diaspora,” the announcement stated. “This year, for its 17th edition, the festival goes virtual, presenting a lineup of outstanding contemporary African cinema online for audiences in the Washington, DC, area and beyond.”

Below are descriptions and trailers of the Ethiopian films courtesy of AFI Silver Theatre.

Special Presentation

2020 Oscar® Selection, Ethiopia

RUNNING AGAINST THE WIND

Available starting Friday, April 2

Ethiopia’s 2020 Oscar® submission traces the lives of two brothers pursuing big dreams along very different paths. As children, Abdi (Ashenafi Nigusu) wants to become a long-distance runner, while Solomon (Mikias Wolde) desires nothing more than to become a professional photographer. Early in their childhood, the brothers part ways. Solomon escapes his remote hometown to seek his fortune as a photographer in Addis Ababa, eventually ending up on the streets in the city’s vast slums. Abdi remains in his village, training to become an Olympian in the hopes of following in the footsteps of Ethiopian legend and gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie (who has a cameo in the film). When fate reunites the brothers as adults in Addis Ababa, can the distance that has grown between them be bridged? DIR/SCR/PROD Jan Philipp Weyl; SCR Michael Wogh; PROD Samerawit Seid Kekebo, Chris Naumann, Andreas Seck. Ethiopia/Germany, 2019, color, 116 min. In Amharic with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Special Presentation

FINDING SALLY

Available starting Thursday, April 8

Followed by a recorded Q&A with filmmaker Tamara Mariam Dawit

FINDING SALLY tells the incredible story of a 23-year-old woman from an upper-class family who became a communist rebel with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party in the 1970s. Idealistic and in love, Sally got caught up in her country’s revolutionary fervor and landed on the military government’s most wanted list. She went underground and her family never saw her again. Four decades after Sally’s disappearance, filmmaker Tamara Mariam Dawit pieces together the mysterious life of her aunt Sally. She revisits the Ethiopian Revolution and the terrible massacre that followed, which resulted in nearly every Ethiopian family losing a loved one. Her quest leads her to question notions of belonging, personal convictions and political ideals at a time when Ethiopia is going through important political changes once again. (Note adapted from Catbird Productions.) Official Selection, 2020 Göteborg Film Festival, African Diaspora International Film Festival and Film Africa; 2021 Pan African Film Festival. DIR/SCR Tamara Mariam Dawit; PROD Isabelle Couture. Canada, 2020, color, 78 min. In English and Amharic with English subtitles. NOT RATED

MIN ALESH? [ምን አለሽ]

Available starting Thursday, April 8

Set in Merkato, a sprawling, open-air market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, MIN ALESH? tells the inspiring story of 21-year-old Selam (Amleset Muchie, who also wrote and directed), whose perseverance transforms her life for the better. Having grown up amid poverty and hardships, Selam is determined to change her own and her family’s circumstances through her passion for running. An international race offers her a chance to achieve her dream. (Note adapted from New York African Film Festival.) DIR/SCR Amleset Muchie; PROD Selamawit Mare. Ethiopia, 2019, color, 84 min. In Amharic with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Learn more at AFI.com and get festival access at https://naff.eventive.org/.

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Spotlight: In Minnesota Abenezer Ayana Wins St. Thomas Business Plan Competition

Coming from Ethiopia, Abenezer Ayana couldn’t find a quality platform that allowed him to watch movies from his home country. [So he] started designing Fendesha [the Ethiopian film streaming service] and connected with producers in the Ethiopian community through LinkedIn. “I’m a computer science student, so the coding was easy for me” Ayana said. (Photo courtesy of Abenezer Ayana)

Tommie Media

St. Thomas senior Abenezer Ayana won the undergraduate student track of the St. Thomas Business Plan Competition [last month] with Fendesha, a streaming platform for Ethiopian movies and shows.

Coming from Ethiopia, Ayana couldn’t find a quality platform that allowed him to watch movies and shows from his home country.

“Whenever I wanted to watch an Ethiopean movie, I would find it on YouTube, and as a watcher, that’s disheartening because you have a lot of advertisements, the quality is not as good as you want it to be, and the Ethiopean producers weren’t making as much revenue as they would if they had a streaming service like Netflix,” Ayana said.

Ayana then started designing Fendesha and connected with producers in the Ethiopian community through LinkedIn.

With the approval and encouragement of Ethiopian producers, Ayana started coding the platform.

“I’m a computer science student, so the coding was easy for me to grasp even though I was new to coding on an app,” Ayana said.

Ayana used his computer skills to add viewing features onto Fendesha.

“It was a fun project for me, and I was adding a lot of features like seeing where the movie stopped and playing it from there, downloading it for offline viewing, and all the things you can see on Netflix,” Ayana said.


The team behind Fendesha, the Ethiopian streaming service. (Photo courtesy of Abenezer Ayana)


Fendesha’s main streaming page. (Photo courtesy of Abenezer Ayana)

Ayana took his business plan of Fendesha and competed in the St. Thomas Business Plan Competition, which hosted undergraduate students, graduate students and recent alumni. The undergraduate students competed in one competition and the graduate students and recent alumni competed in another competition.

“In each track, the competition brought in five judges, people who are experienced entrepreneurs, investors, business folk, who are working in innovation and understand how to evaluate an opportunity,” St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Associate Dean Laura Dunham said.

Participants pitched their business plans for 10 minutes virtually this year, due to COVID-19, and had about eight minutes of Q&A afterward. The judges then had the difficult task of determining the winner.

The entrepreneurs competed for a total of $38,000 in cash prizes, and Ayana took $10,000 with his first-place win.

Ayana looks forward to using the prize money to start putting movies on his platform.

“We created the platform, and it is fully built on the cloud, so we can easily add movies in from different producers and update it for the users,” Ayana said. “But right now, there are no licensed movies in Fendesha, so the money would help us get licensing for the movies.”

The prize money will also be used to help the team advertise Fendesha to the Ethiopian community, both abroad and in Ethiopia.

“Fendesha itself will be free for those in Ethiopia with advertisements, but for those abroad, it would be like Netflix where you pay around an $8 subscription fee every month,” Ayana said.

Along with Fendesha, Ayana has competed in business competitions in the past, including coming in second place in the 2019 Fowler Business Concept Challenge with BraillEasy.

“BraillEasy was an idea of a smartphone case that teaches Braille. It’s very novel that you don’t have to move your fingertips, the case does the Braille by itself, so that gained a lot of traction,” Ayana said.

Dunham worked with Ayana both during the 2019 Fowler Business Concept Challenge and the 2021 Business Plan Competition.

“He’s done a fantastic job taking advantage of everything. He is studying computer science, and he is also a creative guy, always wanting to solve problems,” Dunham said.

Ayana expresses his gratitude to St. Thomas and the business school for the resources provided.

“I’m not even an entrepreneurship major, so I was a complete outsider to these competitions, but everyone was super helpful,” Ayana said. “St. Thomas has all of these resources, and so many people that were happy to help out with projects, and I’m very fortunate to be at St. Thomas.”

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Meet Hana Getachew: The Textile Designer Bringing Ethiopian Craft to New Audience

NYC-based Textile designer and owner of Bolé Road Textiles Hana Getachew collaborates with artisans living and working in Ethiopia. (Courtesy of Bolé Road Textiles)

Business of Home

The textile designer bringing Ethiopian craft to a new audience

It might not seem ideal to split a small business across two continents—but for textile designer Hana Getachew it’s essential. To produce her collections of ethically sourced handwoven pillows, throws and linens, the Kingston, New York–based owner of Bolé Road Textiles collaborates with artisans living and working in Ethiopia. For Getachew, the thread has always been there.

Her family left their home in Ethiopia when she was 3, relocating first to Canada for a few years before settling in New York. It wasn’t until Getachew was in college that she returned to her home country to visit family and experienced a deeper cultural immersion. “It ended up being this pretty powerful homecoming that I didn’t anticipate,” she tells Business of Home. “It was seeing all that in its original form, in its undiluted and un-Americanized form, that was really powerful—to go to the source.”

After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in interior design, Getachew spent 11 years at an architecture firm designing commercial interiors and office spaces. Still, she couldn’t shake the impression her trip to Ethiopia had made on her. In 2014, she quit her job and took the plunge—traveling down Bolé Road in her birthplace of Addis Ababa, she hit the pavement to find the partners with whom she would launch her textile business.

“Here I am, I don’t have any credentials, I don’t have a business, and I don’t have a lot of funds. … In retrospect, it’s kind of comical,” she says. “I stuck with the people who were curious and interested and didn’t brush me away.”

Those same artisans and vendors Getachew encountered on that trip are still working with Bolé Road Textiles today. The decision to partner with artisans based in Ethiopia was partly a matter of quality—the weaving looms there differ from those commonly used in the West, requiring a high skill level to create the intricate geometric patterns featured on many of the brand’s pillows. Plus, there’s no formal training for this method—the weavers and artisans, who are predominantly male, are taught by their fathers and grandfathers. Women more frequently serve as the business owners of textile workshops, many of which are formed as collectives that divide labor and share profits equally—including Bolé Road’s partner company.

In most cases, Getachew’s design process begins with a place. Take, for example, the Harar collection, inspired by a city in eastern Ethiopia. The vibrancy of the town’s bustling markets and colorful dress is juxtaposed with the centuries-old walls surrounding it. “How would I create a collection that tells the story of Harar?” says Getachew. “It became these geometric forms from the rigid architecture, to a lot of bold, bright colors from the streetscape.” The result is a striking collection of textiles in vibrant, deeply saturated hues—think fuchsia, cobalt and maroon—marked with lively patterns of intersecting lines.

Since Bolé Road made its debut at the Brooklyn Designs show in 2015, the company’s growth has varied from year to year. However, according to Getachew, that changed this summer—largely due to the push to support Black-owned businesses in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the racial reckoning that followed. She experienced such an outpouring of press inquiries, orders, and requests for partnerships beginning in June 2020 that she began to have frank conversations with those reaching out to her about issues of equity and representation.

“My response has evolved,” she says. “At first, I was just overwhelmed. I came to the conclusion that it will start to feel manageable and digestible if the cards were out on the table—if we were more transparent [in] talking about the bigger context about why this person was across the screen from me.”


Textile designer Hana Getachew in her studio. (Courtesy of Bolé Road Textiles)

Getachew also began to reflect on her own experiences—including the lack of representation during her early years in corporate architecture. She called some of her old colleagues and clients and began a series of conversations that would form the basis of the International Interior Design Association of New York’s newly founded Equity Council, whose mission is “to achieve equity and accountability toward increased diversity and inclusion in the design industry.” Though still in its early stages, the group recently brought on consultants from Racial Equity Partners. It also plans to distribute a pledge later this year, which Getachew says will borrow inspiration from the 15 Percent Pledge (a commitment by retailers to buy 15 percent of their merchandise from Black-owned businesses), while also including steps companies can take to create a more equitable workplace.

Read more »

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Spotlight: College Friends Ephrem Abebe & Steve Chu, Co-founders of Ekiben in Baltimore

College friends Ephrem Abebe & Steve Chu are Co-founders of Ekiben, an up-and-coming Asian fusion restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. Their business "has become known, not only for its legendary steamed buns, but also for uniting the community." (Baltimore Magazine)

Baltimore Magazine

How Ekiben Went From a Modest Start-Up to the Toast of the Town

As the pounding beat from a hip-hop heavy playlist fills the room, the Ekiben team gets to work: Chicken gets dropped in the deep fryer, broccoli is battered, and the kitchen staff hustles at the line, piling pork shoulder and mango-papaya slaw into cardboard containers scrawled with a handdrawn heart and the words, “Thank you! Ekiben Fam.” The pulsing music sets the tone, and the air is electric with energy, as the mostly young staff steadily works to fill orders for steamed bun sandwiches and rice bowls brimming with Thai chicken meatballs or tofu in spicy peanut sauce.

By nightfall, beneath the black-and-white awning at the Hampden eatery’s entrance, the line continues to grow, and not just because COVID-19 has forced the spot to allow only one customer inside at a time. Beginning at 11 a.m., when the lunch shift starts, the joint is jumping. And by night’s end, some hundreds of Neighborhood Bird sandwiches—that is, Ekiben’s legendary Taiwanese curried chicken on a steamed bun—will fly past the vestibule plastered with manga and out the double glass doors. Of course, an equivalent scene is also unfolding at the Ekiben in Fells Point, the first brick-and-mortar location of this Asian-fusion street food spot that opened on Eastern Avenue in 2016.

This second location of Ekiben opened in February 2020, on a scrappy, off-the-beaten-path alley in Hampden just weeks before the pandemic hit, though that hasn’t stopped patrons from finding it. And while the past year has led to a major loss of revenue from their sizeable events business—some 172 catering gigs were canceled in 2020 alone—the nightly takeout grind at both locations has largely stayed steady, in part because Ekiben was already geared toward grab-and-go.

“It took eight months to build in Hampden what took us five years to build in Fells Point,” says Steve Chu, who co-owns Ekiben with his college friend Ephrem Abebe. “It’s kind of crazy.”

Since the opening of the original space, the restaurant has earned praise from Travel & Leisure, Vogue, and Eater, in addition to landing a spot on Yelp’s coveted list of top 100 restaurants in the United States and being named a Rising Star by StarChefs D.C.-Chesapeake. And while Chu says the national recognition is great, it’s the locals who keep the place going. “I’ve come here once a week since it opened,” says Hampden resident Jeff Crumb. “Every time we get it, the food is consistently great.”

“This all comes from the support of the city and the people who live here,” says Abebe, 31, who oversees operations, while Chu serves as chef/CFO/marketing maven—“basically, everything else,” says Chu. “Baltimore is a true blue-collar city and likes seeing the success of small-time businesses and people growing and grinding it out. We get tourists coming in, but it’s the people two doors down who are sustaining us. The community has allowed us to get to this point.”

Case in point: Baltimore resident Tony Trapp was a customer long before he started working at the Ekiben in Fells Point three years ago. “I loved the food,” says Trapp, who is now a manager at the Hampden location. “But I also love working here—everyone here is like family.”

In fact, the culturally diverse staff, hailing from all over the world—the Philippines, Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, China, Korea, Taiwan—refers to Chu and Abebe as “mom” and “dad,” respectively. “I guess I’m dad because my jokes are like dad jokes,” says Abebe, who is a dad to a toddler boy. “And Steve is super nurturing and helpful. He’s always there for you and gives good advice.”

Chu’s own dad, who immigrated from Taiwan in the ’70s and opened Pikesville’s Jumbo Seafood in 1993, practically raised his only son in the Chinese food restaurant, though, Chu, whose parents were divorced by the time he was 2, hated hanging out there.

“When you’re an immigrant running a restaurant, you definitely can’t afford childcare,” says Chu, whose uncle also owns a restaurant, Sonny Lee’s in Reisterstown. “I hated going to the restaurant because I didn’t have anything to do. I would roll glasses off the table until a busser told me to stop or my dad would stick me in his office, which is smaller than Harry Potter’s closet. During dinner service, my dad would tell me to lay down and go to sleep and I’d have a tablecloth as blankets, which were starched and very cold. And, once in a while, he’d open the door and all of this light would come rushing in and he’d drop this big plate of food that no 4-year-old could ever finish, and I’d eat in the dark because I couldn’t reach the light switch.”

But reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential at the ripe old age of 13 gave him a new perspective. “I was like, ‘I think I can do this, minus the hard drugs,’” cracks the 30-year-old Chu. “That book convinced me that it was going to be a fun ride.”

In the meantime, Chu’s dad put his growing son to work at Jumbo Seafood, running paper ticket orders to the kitchen, working the register, and answering the phones throughout his teen years. “At 14, I was awkward and chubby, and shy,” says Chu. “I didn’t want to be talking to people. I hated it, because I wasn’t learning anything. I was like, ‘I don’t f**king want to be here.’ It was awful.”

When Chu reminisces about his past, it’s clear that those years spent at Jumbo were formative. And though he tells it with a sense of humor, and peppers his stories with expletives, the pain is still palpable, as he recounts facing an age-old issue—the tug between putting family first versus the desire to chase one’s own dreams.

By the time he attended University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2008, he was majoring in economics and contemplating a career in law or teaching economics. Instead, he had an epiphany. “I realized that I loved restaurants,” he says. “I love going to them. That’s kind of like my theater. Running a restaurant is like putting on a show for your clientele. This business is so labor-intensive, I figured I’d do it while I still had the energy.”

It was also at UMBC where he met Abebe and Nick Yesupriya, a third Ekiben founder who has since left the business, while working for Habitat for Humanity. The trio shared a dream about opening a restaurant together, though it was Chu who really put himself on the path to pursue a career in hospitality.

“It pissed my family off so much,” says Chu, who landed a job as a line cook at Chipotle Mexican Grill his junior year. “The whole idea behind going to college is you are learning skills to take you to a higher-paying job. In our family, if you’re studying economics, you’d better go into banking or doing something white collar, not graduating with college debt and making nine dollars an hour at Chipotle, which is what I did—they were so mad.”

While still at UMBC, he became obsessed with not only working at Chipotle, but reflecting on why it was such a success story. “It was just all the flavor profiles. The rice was delicious, the smokiness of the chicken, how the sour cream balances out all the heaviness but still adds fat to it, having that romaine lettuce in there instead of iceberg—all the things they did there was pretty life-changing,” says Chu. “What Chipotle showed me was that Americans are ready for this food culture revolution. I don’t have to go get prime rib if I want a good meal.”

By his senior year, Chu had landed a job at ShopHouse, a Southeast Asian spinoff concept by Chipotle founder Steve Ells. At ShopHouse, he worked alongside luminary chefs such as the Michelin-starred Kyle Connaughton and James Beard Award-winning Nate Appleman. “I was head toilet-scrubber and mop lord,” he says with a laugh. “Eventually, they brought me up to management.” But the killer commute from his dad’s home in Reisterstown to D.C. led him to quit after a year.

In 2013, Chu was working as a server at Petit Louis, which he says was one of the most formative restaurant experiences he’s ever had. From the maître d’ Patrick Del Valle, he learned “intense attention to detail and taking care of every guest who walks in the door,” he says. “Patrick and [then] sommelier John Kelley also taught me how to taste.”


Photography by Matt Roth

At Louis, Chu also learned that not every chef communicated by screaming. “Every chef I ever worked for prior to going to Louis was fire and brimstone,” he says. “My dad was fiery—if the delivery guys were late, he’d shout obscene things. But Ben Lefenfeld [the chef at the time, who is now the owner of La Cuchara] was the calmest chef I’ve ever met. I never saw him yell at anyone, and if he got really mad, he’d get really quiet and you could see it on his face. I had a lot of respect for that.”

After only a few months, Chu reluctantly quit when his father’s manager fell ill and he was needed back at Jumbo. Once the crisis was resolved, he applied for restaurant jobs in New York and got a coveted gig as a line cook at Kin Shop, a Greenwich Village restaurant owned by Harold Dieterle, a Top Chef winner from season one. It was his dream job, but once again, family duty beckoned when his grandparents both got sick and he came back to Maryland to help his father with the business. When things settled down, he had the itch to pursue his own dreams.

“I wanted to have a creative outlet, but Jumbo wasn’t the right place for that.” He reached out to Abebe and Yesupriya to see if they were still interested in opening a restaurant. “I was like, ‘I know that we talk about this all the time. Are you guys in?’ And they were like, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Abebe, an Ethiopian immigrant who had studied IT at UMBC, was eager to join forces with his friend whose early lessons of watching his father work at Jumbo served him well. “Steve is a hard worker,” says Abebe. “He will outwork anyone, and I appreciate that in people. Going into business with him was a no-brainer for me.”

Initially, they set out to get a food truck. “But a food truck is like $80,000,” says Chu. “I did some research and found a hot-dog cart. That was $3,000 and we didn’t have the money. Still, we had to work and save up for it and asked our friends for micro loans. We’d be like, ‘Can we borrow 50 bucks?’ and they’re like, ‘What the f**k? Just take it.’”

The concept for steamed buns came about organically because Chu says he’s always loved steamed bun sandwiches. “The buns themselves are a staple of my childhood,” he says. “My grandparents ate them every morning. I just felt like they were underutilized in America. You have a lot of really bad steamed bun sandwiches here. I thought that it was a disservice to our culture. I was like, ‘I’m going to make this a lot better.’”

In the early days at the Fells Point Farmers Market, using the kitchen at Jumbo Seafood to test recipes during off hours and a hot-dog cart they ended up building themselves, business got off to a slow start.

“Day one was awful,” recalls Chu, who continued to work at Jumbo six days a week while running the cart on the weekends. “On paper, we had the best spot right by the Inner Harbor water taxis where 16,000 tourists a day would walk by. And we were like, ‘Hey, would you like some of our Asian steamed bun sandwiches filled with chicken meatballs, mango-papaya slaw, and roasted garlic aromatics?’ And they’d be like, ‘Do you have crabcakes?’”

But over time, thanks to exposure at local events like Artscape and the Emporiyum, word traveled locally that their buns were a must-try.

By March 2016, close to a year after the Baltimore Uprising, they opened Ekiben in Fells Point, a speck of a spot with a counter, a closet-sized kitchen, and a bunch of barstools on the site of a former Mexican restaurant.

“We realized that the city was super divided at that time,” says Chu. “But when you travel a lot, you realize that people are just people. We all want the same thing. We all want to be happy. We all want to be taken care of and be heard. In America, you can have a very divided culture, and if you just sat down and talked to someone for five minutes, you’d realize we are not very different. We built this space around the idea that everyone listens to the same music and everyone eats the same food.”

One look at the community board in Hampden plastered with photos, picture everything from catering gigs for the Ravens to photos of Ekiben staff members feeding the health care heroes at area hospitals, and it’s clear that the eatery has, in fact, been a unifier.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth,” says Ekiben Hampden’s general manager, Mary Ann Delano, who is also a friend from the UMBC days. “I remember when this was just an idea. I was an environmental science major in college, and I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with this, but they’ve put so much trust in me and we’re like family here in our own little world.”

“Steve is just one of the most genuine people I’ve ever worked with,” says Lefenfeld. “He’s always trying to bring the people up around him, which is really important in this industry and at this time. He’s a great representation of the cooking scene in Baltimore.”

Though he’s finally broken out on his own, for Chu, who still works the dinner shift at Jumbo Seafood on Christmas—the restaurant’s busiest day of the year—all roads lead back to family.

“As a kid, riding around in the backseat of my dad’s car, one of the first lessons he ever taught me was ‘whatever you do, you have to be the best,’” recounts Chu. “At the time, I was like, ‘Okay, whatever, I’m like 3 years old.’”

Decades later, the throngs outside the restaurant’s doors are living proof that he’s done just that.

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UPDATE: How Timnit Gebru’s Exit Shook Google and the AI Industry

Timnit Gebru’s exit from Google's ethical AI team kickstarted a months-long crisis for the tech giant's AI division, including employee departures, a leadership shuffle, and widening distrust of the company's historically well-regarded scholarship in the larger AI community. (Getty Images)

CNN Business

How one employee’s exit shook Google and the AI industry

In September, Timnit Gebru, then co-leader of the ethical AI team at Google, sent a private message on Twitter to Emily Bender, a computational linguistics professor at the University of Washington.

“Hi Emily, I’m wondering if you’ve written something regarding ethical considerations of large language models or something you could recommend from others?” she asked, referring to a buzzy kind of artificial intelligence software trained on text from an enormous number of webpages.

The question may sound unassuming but it touched on something central to the future of Google’s foundational product: search. This kind of AI has become increasingly capable and popular in the last couple years, driven largely by language models from Google and research lab OpenAI. Such AI can generate text, mimicking everything from news articles and recipes to poetry, and it has quickly become key to Google Search, which the company said responds to trillions of queries each year. In late 2019, the company started relying on such AI to help answer one in 10 English-language queries from US users; nearly a year later, the company said it was handling nearly all English queries and is also being used to answer queries in dozens of other languages.

“Sorry, I haven’t!” Bender quickly replied to Gebru, according to messages viewed by CNN Business. But Bender, who at the time mostly knew Gebru from her presence on Twitter, was intrigued by the question. Within minutes she fired back several ideas about the ethical implications of such state-of-the-art AI models, including the “Carbon cost of creating the damn things” and “AI hype/people claiming it’s understanding when it isn’t,” and cited some relevant academic papers.

Gebru, a prominent Black woman in AI — a field that’s largely White and male — is known for her research into bias and inequality in AI. It’s a relatively new area of study that explores how the technology, which is made by humans, soaks up our biases. The research scientist is also cofounder of Black in AI, a group focused on getting more Black people into the field. She responded to Bender that she was trying to get Google to consider the ethical implications of large language models.

Bender suggested co-authoring an academic paper looking at these AI models and related ethical pitfalls. Within two days, Bender sent Gebru an outline for a paper. A month later, the women had written that paper (helped by other coauthors, including Gebru’s co-team leader at Google, Margaret Mitchell) and submitted it to the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency, or FAccT. The paper’s title was “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” and it included a tiny parrot emoji after the question mark. (The phrase “stochastic parrots” refers to the idea that these enormous AI models are pulling together words without truly understanding what they mean, similar to how a parrot learns to repeat things it hears.)

The paper considers the risks of building ever-larger AI language models trained on huge swaths of the internet, such as the environmental costs and the perpetuation of biases, as well as what can be done to diminish those risks. It turned out to be a much bigger deal than Gebru or Bender could have anticipated.
Timnit Gebru said she was fired by Google after criticizing its approach to minority hiring and the biases built into today's artificial intelligence systems.

Before they were even notified in December about whether it had been accepted by the conference, Gebru abruptly left Google. On Wednesday, December 2, she tweeted that she had been “immediately fired” for an email she sent to an internal mailing list. In the email she expressed dismay over the ongoing lack of diversity at the company and frustration over an internal process related to the review of that not-yet-public research paper. (Google said it had accepted Gebru’s resignation over a list of demands she had sent via email that needed to be met for her to continue working at the company.)

Gebru’s exit from Google’s ethical AI team kickstarted a months-long crisis for the tech giant’s AI division, including employee departures, a leadership shuffle, and widening distrust of the company’s historically well-regarded scholarship in the larger AI community. The conflict quickly escalated to the top of Google’s leadership, forcing CEO Sundar Pichai to announce the company would investigate what happened and to apologize for how the circumstances of Gebru’s departure caused some employees to question their place at the company. The company finished its months-long review in February.

Academics should be able to critique these companies without repercussion.

—TIMNIT GEBRU, FORMER CO-LEADER OF GOOGLE’S ETHICAL AI TEAM

But her ousting, and the fallout from it, reignites concerns about an issue with implications beyond Google: how tech companies attempt to police themselves. With very few laws regulating AI in the United States, companies and academic institutions often make their own rules about what is and isn’t okay when developing increasingly powerful software. Ethical AI teams, such as the one Gebru co-led at Google, can help with that accountability. But the crisis at Google shows the tensions that can arise when academic research is conducted within a company whose future depends on the same technology that’s under examination.

“Academics should be able to critique these companies without repercussion,” Gebru told CNN Business.
Google declined to make anyone available to interview for this piece. In a statement, Google said it has hundreds of people working on responsible AI, and has produced more than 200 publications related to building responsible AI in the past year. “This research is incredibly important and we’re continuing to expand our work in this area in keeping with our AI Principles,” a company spokesperson said.
“A constant battle from day one”

Gebru joined Google in September 2018, at Mitchell’s urging, as the co-leader of the Ethical AI team. According to those who have worked on it, the team was a small, diverse group of about a dozen employees including research and social scientists and software engineers — and it was initially brought together by Mitchell about three years ago. It researches the ethical repercussions of AI and advises the company on AI policies and products.

Gebru, who earned her doctorate degree in computer vision at Stanford and held a postdoctoral position at Microsoft Research, said she was initially unsure about joining the company.

Read more »

Related:

Spotlight: The Media Firestorm Concerning AI Researcher Timnit Gebru & Google

Timnit Gebru: Among Incredible Women Advancing A.I. Research

Spotlight: Blacks in AI Co-Founders Timnit Gebru & Rediet Abebe

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Profile: Ethiopia’s Segenet Kelemu Among Breakthrough Scientists You Need to Know

After watching a near-biblical swarm of locusts destroy the crops in her Ethiopian village, Segenet Kelemu turned to science and changed the world. Segenet, who studied plant pathology and genetics at Montana State, Kansas State and Cornell University in the U.S. now leads the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, which is at the forefront of global efforts to defeat food insecurity. (OZY Media)

OZY

BREAKTHROUGH SCIENTISTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because great science is about more than fighting COVID-19.

Scientists have rarely played such a pivotal and public role in society, and certainly never before in the digital age. But the centrality of science is about much more than the pandemic. Today’s Daily Dose explores scientists who do more than just keep us alive, from the climatologist who could become a president to researchers rectifying racial disparities and discovering the tunes that make sharks shout “That’s my jam!” OK, so sharks don’t really shout; they communicate with body language. We know this because, well, science.

Segenet Kelemu. You know you’re doing something right when Bill Gates calls you one of his heroes. After watching a near-biblical swarm of locusts destroy the crops in her Ethiopian village, Kelemu turned to science and changed the world. First as the first woman from her region to get a college degree, which she earned from Addis Ababa University, then, while studying plant pathology and genetics at Montana State, Kansas State and Cornell University in the U.S. She returned to Africa in 2007, determined to keep farmers from devastating losses by better understanding the symbiotic relationship between plants and insects. The 63-year-old now leads the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, which is at the forefront of global efforts to defeat food insecurity.

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Related:

Scientific American: You Should Know: Segenet Kelemu, Plant Pathologist


Dr. Segenet Kelemu. (Courtesy photo)

INTRODUCING… DR. SEGENET KELEMU

Dr. Segenet Kelemu has a very impressive CV that includes many well deserved accolades from colleagues from around the world. In 2014 was named Director General of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi and was also awarded L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science in 2014.

She studies the microorganisms that live inside of plains plants. This research helps us understand how these plants endure so many challenges – drought, herbivores, pests, and climate change. With this information we can understand how to use biotechnology to aid the region – East Africa to feed its people and perserve its ecosystems.

I especially love how Dr. Kelemu embraces her entire experience and her affinity for her home region to inspire her research. It is something I write about often — who we are and our relationships with places and events shapes our scientific interests and missions.

In her own words:

“I’d observed how the people around me spent their time concerned with how to feed themselves. So I felt a calling to do something to help. I saw how two university students had made a direct difference in a village they had been sent to teach by helping the people improve their farming practices, and I decided to study agriculture.” from an interview with her published in The East African, May 30, 2014, Dr Kelemu’s rise: From climbing trees in rural Ethiopia to excelling in science

She earned her graduate degrees in the United States and also completed a post doctoral research assignment at Cornell University (I’m convinced that everyone has a Cornell connection). From there, Dr. Kelemu has been on a stellar trajectory. She has served as Vice President for Programs at the Alliance for Green Revolution African, Director of Biosciences at the International Livestock Research Instirture. She was a Senior Scientist, then later named Leader of Cropr and Agroecosystem Health Management the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Learn more about the Amazing Dr. Kelemu by visiting her wiki page.

Director General, International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)


After twenty-five years of studying and successfully applying cutting-edge science outside of Africa, Dr. Kelemu returned from the diaspora to contribute to Africa’s development. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Dr. Segenet Kelemu is the Director General of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Nairobi, Kenya. She is the fourth Chief Executive Officer, and the first woman to lead ICIPE.

Dr. Kelemu (a native of Ethiopia) is a molecular plant pathologist with emphasis on elucidation of molecular determinants of host-pathogen interactions, development of novel plant disease control strategies including biopesticides, pathogen population genetics and dynamics, endophytic microbes and their role in plant development. She has experienced the challenges and successes associated with African agriculture first-hand, from tending the field to directing a world-class laboratories.

Following her post-doctoral work at Cornell University, USA, Segenet joined the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) as a Senior Scientist in 1992. She was later appointed Leader of Crop and Agroecosystem Health Management at CIAT until her departure in August, 2007, to become Director of BecA. CIAT recognized her numerous contributions to the centre and its mission with the Outstanding Senior Scientist Award.

After twenty-five years of studying and successfully applying cutting-edge science outside of Africa, Dr. Kelemu returned from the diaspora to contribute to Africa’s development. In 2007, she became the Director of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. Under her leadership, the BecA initiative has transformed from a contentious idea into a driving force that is changing the face of African biosciences. BecA’s research capacity, staff, facilities, funding, partners and training programs have expanded at an ever accelerating pace. She has assembled and inspired a scientific and technical team bound by a common passion for using science to enhance Africa’s biosciences development.

Prior to becoming the Director General of icipe, she has been the Vice President for Programs at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) for about a year.

She is one of the five Laureates of the 2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Awards. She is also one of the 2013 elected Fellows of the African Academy of Sciences. She has also received other awards, including the prestigious Friendship Award granted by the People’s Republic of China. The award is granted to foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social development. The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) is awarding the 2011 TWAS Prize for Agricultural Sciences. She is the first African to win the prize for Agricultural Sciences since its inception. TWAS Prizes are awarded to individual scientists in developing countries in recognition of an outstanding contribution to knowledge in eight fields of science: agricultural sciences, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering sciences, mathematics, medical sciences and physics.

Segenet has published widely in refereed journals, book chapters, manuals, conference/workshop papers, working documents, and others. Segenet has served on a number of Governing Boards, Technical Advisory Panels and Steering Committees of key organizations and major science and technology initiatives. Segenet is also an innate teacher and has supervised and mentored a number of BSc, MSc, and Ph.D. students.

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Economist Review: Jessica Beshir’s Mesmerising Ethiopia Film “Faya Dayi”

NYC-based Ethiopian-American filmmaker Jessica Beshir's new movie “Faya Dayi” about life in Ethiopia’s eastern highlands "is less a documentary than a poem," the Economist observes in a review published this week. "The experience is as intoxicating as qat, but beneath the surface is a sombre evocation of the boredom, frustration and anger which afflict a generation of Ethiopian youth." (Photo courtesy Jessica Beshir)

The Economist

Qat and conflict: “Faya Dayi” evokes what it means to be young in Ethiopia

CHILDREN BATHING in a shrinking lake. Incense wafting through an open door. The wet slap of mud against a wall. Two boys lying on the ground, staring wistfully at the sky. Like snatches of memory, the images are displayed one after the other.

“Faya Dayi”, a hypnotic new film about life in Ethiopia’s eastern highlands, is less a documentary than a poem, its lyrics set against a sequence of monochrome pictures which languidly unfurl across the screen. The experience is as intoxicating as the leaves of qat, a mild stimulant native to this part of Africa, which is a recurring motif. But beneath the luscious surface is a sombre evocation of the boredom, frustration and anger which afflict a generation of Ethiopian youth.

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IndieWire Review: ‘Faya Dayi,’ Jessica Beshir’s Ethiopia Docu-Drama About Legend of Khat

IndieWire

‘Faya Dayi’ Review: A Hallucinatory Documentary About Ethiopia’s Most Lucrative Cash Crop

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Ethiopian legend has it that khat, a stimulant leaf, was found by Sufi Imams in search of eternity. Inspired by this myth, Jessica Beshir’s “Faya Dayi” is a spiritual journey into the highlands of the walled city of Harar, a place immersed in the rituals surrounding this plant, Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today. Through the prism of the khat trade, the film weaves a tapestry of intimate stories of people caught between government repression, khat-induced reverie, and treacherous journeys across the Red Sea, and offers a window into the dreams of the youth who long for better lives elsewhere.

For centuries in Ethiopia, the Sufi Muslims of Harar have chewed the khat leaf for the purposes of religious meditation. Over the past three decades, khat consumption has broken out of Sufi circles and entered the mainstream to become a daily ritual among people of all ages, religions and ethnicities, for whom chewing khat is a means to achieve Merkhana — a term that describes the high one gets from what is effectively a psychoactive drug not all that different from Cannabis. It has various mental and physical effects, which include euphoria and altered states of mind. For many, Merkhana is provides an escape from everyday realities, and the only place where their hopes, and dreams can actually exist.

Khat, for most unemployed youth, has become a way to overcome the sense of hopelessness, a way to tune out reality. They are all searching for a seemingly elusive sense of agency, as well as living with the contradictions of loving a land that makes it difficult for them to live in peace.

In the last decade, the crops that Ethiopia primarily exported — teff, sorghum, and coffee — have been replaced by the leafy green. With social significance, it has sustained so many who have worked in the fields for generations. However familiar the work is, some young people who have grown up in its shadow want more for themselves — life away from the fields; life without khat; life entirely elsewhere. They consider leaving home and all they have ever known for something new, far away, and, while perhaps more economically beneficial, lonelier and more isolating.

Shot entirely in stunning black and white, “Faya Dayi” opens with a long shot of a somewhat amorphous, barren landscape, nighttime, dark, crickets providing the only soundtrack, and in the distance a lone figure running playfully, starts to come into view. We see that it’s a child, as he or she runs past the camera. Cut to bewitching shots of elders indoors, some faceless, some not, chanting, giving thanks to God, separating khat leaves from their stems, and, in some cases, pounding them, as incense burns in a pot, the smoke it emits, thick and intense.

And then a lengthy shot of an open doorway, on the other side, an ambiguous view — smoky, cavernous, vast, dark depths — a haunting score providing an exclamation mark. It’s interrupted by a meek female voiceover, almost like that of a child, beginning a story about the Harari legend of a man named Azuekherlaini, who was tasked by God to find the Maoul Hayat (water of eternal life). The fable stretches the length of the film, as the voiceover interrupts intermittently to continue where she previously ended.

But that’s just the dressing on this striking, if enigmatic, transgenerational journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, weaving a tapestry of hallucinatory stories that offer a window into the dreams of youth.

Unfolding more like a hybrid scripted narrative and documentary, the central story of “Faya Dayi” doesn’t follow a straight line, as it occasionally checks in on Mohammed, a 14-year-old, and the film’s presumed primary character, who works as an errand boy for the khat users in Harar. He lives with his father who, like so many in town, chews khat daily and often fights with Mohammed due to the mood swings caused by his addiction. Mohammed becomes anxious for a better life, but to have it, he must make a treacherous journey across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

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Related:

Ethiopia: Director Jessica Beshir’s ‘Hairat’ Selected for Sundance Film Festival 2017

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Spotlight: Saron Simon Mechale, Founder and CEO of goTeff

Ethiopian American entrepreneur Saron Simon Mechale is the founder and CEO of goTeff, a Providence, Rhode Island-based startup that makes and sells a nutritious snack crisp made from teff. (The Providence Journal)

The Providence Journal

Saron Simon Mechale is an accidental entrepreneur.

The 26-year old from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is founder and CEO of goTeff, a deliciously nutritious crisp made from an ancient supergrain called teff. Mechale doesn’t have a background in business. She’s never studied culinary arts. But her unwavering conviction to reshape the West’s perceptions of her home country was incentive enough to launch her own startup.

“When it comes to Ethiopia or Africa, we are not the ones telling our story,” she said.

That reality became crystal clear to Mechale when she first came to the United States in 2013 to study at Brown University. Her knowledge of the U.S. was largely drawn from the movies and television shows she had grown up watching.

America is known as the best country in the world,” she said. “Its brand is very powerful.”

But just as the Hollywood version didn’t tell the whole story (she was shocked to learn that homelessness and poverty exist in this country), she also became acutely aware of the stereotypical way that Western media portray Ethiopia, and Africa at large.

“It was very one-sided storytelling,” she said. “I felt I wanted to tell an authentic, contemporary story for Ethiopia.”

Ironically, Mechale’s more modern messaging about her homeland centers on a supergrain that’s been cultivated in Ethiopia for thousands of years. Teff is an integral part of the Ethiopian diet. Rich in protein, fiber, iron and calcium, it has long fueled the country’s famous long-distance runners. From Mechale’s perspective, each tiny grain of teff packs the power and promise of a new Ethiopia.

“When I started this, it was almost like a social-justice project in my head,” she said. “I know that Ethiopia is sometimes known for two things: famine and malnourished kids, or freakishly good endurance athletes. The Ethiopian athlete angle is super powerful. That was strongly connected to teff.”

What was equally imperative to Mechale was making sure her country would benefit financially from teff, beyond just exporting the grain. While 95% of the world’s teff is grown in Ethiopia, it was a Dutch company that for years held a patent on products made with teff flour.

“I looked at it as secondhand colonization,” she said of the practice of Africa exporting raw materials cheaply to richer nations that transform them into consumer products with higher profit margins.

“Cocoa comes from Ghana or West African countries, but chocolate is associated with Switzerland. Why can’t West Africans produce chocolate and be part of the market in a stronger way that returns more value to farmers and to the economy of the country?”

From vision to startup

With her vision for a rebranded Ethiopia, Mechale started taking more entrepreneurship courses at Brown, learning important lessons about starting a business. Slowly, goTeff began taking shape. In 2019, she competed in Brown’s Venture Prize, hosted by the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship; goTeff came in second place.

“I was privileged to start this idea at a place like Brown,” Mechale said. “The university created a great ecosystem for me when I first started this company.”

goTeff’s trajectory continued to rise. The startup also won the 2019 MassChallenge Rhode Island and became a two-time finalist for the Rhode Island Business Plan competition. At every turn, Mechale was making significant connections to networks of entrepreneurs who would become valuable mentors.

“Rhode Island does an amazing job of supporting small businesses and getting young people to stay here and start new things,” she said.

Mechale had her vision. She also had her star ingredient. But she still needed to come up with a recipe that would prove irresistible to customers. One of her first stops was Hope & Main, an incubator for food businesses, located in Warren. It would take years of trial and error for Mechale to develop the crunchy snack food she sells today.

“She’s the quintessential entrepreneur,” said Lisa Raiola, president and founder of Hope & Main. “She iterates. She learns. For her to have transformed this ancient grain in a way that’s very accessible to us, and build this brand, is pretty remarkable. She’s a powerhouse.”


Saron’s goTeff snak products come in a variety of flavors. (The Providence Journal)

Joe Loberti is equally impressed. A longtime businessman and entrepreneur himself, Loberti has mentored Mechale since 2019 through the RIHub Venture Mentoring Service. The nonprofit relies on industry veterans who volunteer to mentor entrepreneurs who want to launch startups in the Ocean State.

“She really is a remarkable individual,” he said about Mechale. “At the first meeting, we were wowed by her communication skills and knowledge of the product.”

With the help of the mentoring sessions, Mechale expanded her target customer beyond the purely athletic to the health-conscious. She made sure that her goTeff snacks — which can also be used as a cereal, granola or topping for yogurt or salad — were not only gluten-, dairy- and nut-free, but they only contained a handful of healthy ingredients.

She perfected her logo and packaging to “communicate the joy and essence of Ethiopian culture.” The company’s tagline: go long, go strong, goTeff!

Empowering girls in Ethiopia

And staying true to her focus on social impact, she is partnering with Girls Gotta Run, an organization in Ethiopia that uses sports to empower girls and keep them in school.

For now, Mechale has moved production to an industrial kitchen in Providence. She’s streamlined the production process and is focusing more on sales.

“Before COVID, we’d let customers [at farmers markets and events] sample it,” she said. “We know that once people try our product, they buy it. But because most people don’t know what teff is, they’re more cautious.”


Saron Simon Mechale breaks up sheets of baked teff products into snack-size portions. Now working in an industrial kitchen in Providence, she dreams of one day moving production to her native Ethiopia to boost its economy. (The Providence Journal)

Mechale has been selling her teff crisps at farmers markets, at Plant City (a vegan restaurant in Providence) and on the goTeff website. She just joined WhatsGood, an online “market” that connects local growers and food businesses to customers. And, she’s hoping to get a big boost from renowned “superfoods hunter” Darin Olien. The wellness author recently recorded an interview with Mechale about goTeff for an upcoming episode of his podcast, “The Darin Olien Show.”

For the foreseeable future, Mechale plans to keep working 80-hour weeks to grow goTeff in the American marketplace. Her dream is to one day move production to Ethiopia and help lift the local economy.

“In a lot of ways, I’ve looked up to Saron,” said Mary Magdalene Langat, a close friend from Brown who helps Mechale with goTeff. “She’s very brave, and she goes for what she wants. When someone believes in themselves and their vision so much, they take you in with them.”


Brown University graduate Saron Simon Mechale says she sees goTeff as a way to help rebrand and lift the economy of her native Ethiopia, while empowering women. (The Providence Journal)

Not everyone is born knowing what they’re passionate about or what they want to do,” Mechale said. “I think passion comes after you invest a significant amount of time in something. For me, I am passionate about rebranding Ethiopia. I’m passionate about empowering women. And, I’m passionate about making teff and healthy food options accessible to people.”

Go long, go strong, go Saron Mechale!

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Academy Museum to Honor Sophia Loren, Haile Gerima at Gala

Screen legend Sophia Loren and independent filmmaker Haile Gerima will be honored with special awards by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures during its opening gala in September in Los Angeles, California. (AP)

The Associated Press

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is assembling a star-studded cast for its opening gala in September. Italian screen legend Sophia Loren and independent filmmaker Haile Gerima will be honored with special awards, and Tom Hanks, Annette Bening and Bob Iger are being saluted for their efforts to raise $388 million for the long gestating museum, the organization said Monday.

The gala will be held on Sept. 25 as the kick-off to a week of celebrations leading up to the museum’s opening to the public on Sept. 30.

Bill Kramer, the director and president of the Academy Museum, said in a statement that the museum is “committed to celebrating and championing the work of film artists, scholars and professions through our exhibitions, screenings, programs, collections and now, through our annual gala.”

Gerima is acclaimed for his portraits of Black urban life in films like “Bush Mama” and “Ashes & Embers.” The Ethiopian-born filmmaker will be receiving the inaugural Vantage Award, recognizing artists who have contextualized or challenged dominant narratives in film. Loren will be getting the Visionary Award for artists whose work has advanced the art of cinema.

Gala co-chairs include Ava DuVernay, Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is located at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in the historic Saban Building. Inaugural attractions include an exhibit celebrating legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and Bruce, the 1,208 pound, 25-foot-long, 45-year-old fiberglass shark made from the “Jaws” mold.

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ART TALK: Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In

Starting March 25, Julie Mehretu’s paintings, drawings and prints will be on view in a midcareer retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, before moving to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. (PHOTO: JULIE MEHRETU)

Wall Street Journal

The abstract painter uses architectural drawings and photographs to create works on a grand scale

The artist Julie Mehretu, 51, likes to work on a grand scale. A silent short film by the British artist Tacita Dean shows Ms. Mehretu at work on her monumental painting “Mural” at the New York headquarters of Goldman Sachs in 2009, high up on a cherry picker as she grapples with a canvas 80 feet long and 23 feet high. “The scale of the Goldman Sachs painting was the reason why I decided to take that challenge on,” Ms Mehretu says. “It was scary, but exhilarating and wonderful to do.”

Starting March 25, Ms. Mehretu’s paintings, drawings and prints will be on view in a midcareer retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, before moving to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The show includes one of her best-known paintings, “Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation,” which at nearly 20 feet wide was Ms. Mehretu’s largest painting when she made it in 2001. The multilayered work reflects on the transitory nature of a global existence, with an initial layer of architectural drawings of airports around the world almost obscured by painted motifs, drips, lines and colorful streamers, in a precise yet cartoon-like dynamic.

Ms. Mehretu says that she wanted people “to not see the edges and get lost in the minutiae of the drawing and then be able to move back to see the whole picture.” As she explains, “That’s why my paintings became bigger, so you couldn’t see both [aspects] at the same time.” “Retopistics,” which is being lent to the Whitney by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, fetched a record auction price for the artist in 2013 when it was sold by Christie’s New York for $4.6 million.

As a child growing up in East Lansing, Mich., Ms. Mehretu often accompanied her father, a geography teacher, to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. It was there that she discovered Diego Rivera’s 27-painting fresco known as the “Detroit Industry Murals,” depicting workers at the Ford Motor Company. The large-scale work is a touchstone: “Seeing it again is always better than the memory of it,” Ms. Mehretu says. “Every time it’s more than whatever I remembered it to be.”

But Ms. Mehretu was never enchanted with the idea of becoming a figurative artist like Rivera. Abstraction provided her with a creative space to make sense of her place in the world as an Ethiopian-American who arrived in the U.S. at the age of six. “It’s in this complex, contradictory and rich mix of the two that I find myself,” Ms. Mehretu says. “It’s one reason why abstraction has always been more interesting to me, because you can invent that in-between place and this other way of being rather than trying to call on just a particular set of cultural imagery and signifiers.”

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Related:

Ethiopian-American Artist Julie Mehretu’s First Career Survey to Open in Atlanta


The Ethiopian-American artist’s first career survey arrives at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art this month, before traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York next year. (Photo: Julie Mehretu’s Mogamma [A Painting in Four Parts], 2012 © JULIE MEHRETU, PHOTOGRAPH BY RYSZARD KASIEWICZ, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK, AND WHITE CUBE.

Harper’s BAZAAR

JULIE MEHRETU AT THE HIGH MUSEUM OF ART
(OPENING OCTOBER 24)

Julie Mehretu’s richly layered paintings, often formed through the accretion of colorful lines and brushstrokes over architectural plans and drawings, have explored themes such as race, history, migration, revolution, global capitalism, and technology for more than two decades.

Now, the Ethiopian-American artist’s first career survey arrives at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art this month, before traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York next year. It showcases the evolution of Mehretu’s abstract style through a selection of works, including a reunited cycle of monumental ink-and-acrylic canvases from 2012 called “Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts),” each of which stands 15 feet tall.

Read more »

Related:

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey at LA County Museum of Art


Julie Mehretu – Stadia II, 2004. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 108 x 144 in. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, gift of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Nicolas Rohatyn and A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund 2004.50. © Julie Mehretu, photograph courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

October 31st, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — This weekend the highly anticipated traveling exhibition — featuring a mid-career survey of Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu’s work dating back to 1996 to the present — will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in California.

“The first-ever comprehensive retrospective of Mehretu’s career, it covers over two decades of her examination of history, colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, war, global uprising, diaspora, and displacement through the artistic strategies of abstraction, architecture, landscape, movement, and, most recently, figuration. Mehretu’s play with scale, as evident in her intimate drawings and large canvases and complex techniques in printmaking, will be explored in depth,” LACMA stated in its announcement, noting that the show brings together about “40 works on paper with 35 paintings along with a print by Rembrandt and a film on Mehretu by the artist Tacita Dean.”

The traveling exhibition, which is co-organized by the LACMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art, will subsequently come to New York for a display at the Whitney from June 26th to September 20, 2020, before moving to Atlanta at the High Museum of Art from October 24th 2020 to January 31, 2021, and finally the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from March 13–July 11, 2021.

Julie lives and works in New York. She was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977. As LACMA notes: “Mehretu received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and, among many awards and honors, is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” (2005) and a U.S. State Department National Medal of Arts (2015).”


Julie Mehretu, Untitled 2, 2001, ink and acrylic on canvas, 60 × 84 in., private collection, courtesy of Salon 94, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)


Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007, ink and acrylic on canvas, 120 × 192 in., Pinault Collection, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tim Thayer. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)


Julie Mehretu, Haka (and Riot), 2019, ink and acrylic on canvas, 144 × 180 in., courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging.


Related:

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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Theater: Weyni Mengesha Directs New Play Inspired by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Weyni Mengesha is the director of the show “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!,” which is produced by Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The play starts streaming online this week at steppenwolf.org/now. According to Leelai Demoz, Steppenwolf’s associate artistic director and the project's lead producer: "Scripts as short as [this] aren’t staples at major U.S. theaters. But Steppenwolf Now [their newly launched digital platform], a response to the pandemic, allowed for format inventiveness." (WaPo)

The Washington Post

Images of two duchesses linger in playwright Vivian J.O. Barnes’s mind: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, standing at a lectern, with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II looming behind her. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, looking glamorous soon after giving birth. The appearances by Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton — as the titled women are better known — intrigued Barnes all the more because, at least in memory, they were voiceless.

“I can remember how they looked, but I can never remember anything I’ve heard them say,” she says.

Reflecting on those missing words — and on Meghan’s experience as a biracial woman joining a hidebound, traditionally White institution — Barnes wrote “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!,” a short play that imagines a private conversation between a Black royal and a Black royal-to-be. The play, which was filmed in a no-contact shoot by Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company, begins streaming Wednesday at steppenwolf.org/now, the Steppenwolf Now virtual stage.

Its paparazzi-lens inspirations notwithstanding, “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” is no piece of gossipy fluff. For one thing, the characters are not Kate and Meghan, but fictional figures. For another, the play speaks to deep issues around inclusion, equity and society’s resistance to change.

Prince Harry and Meghan lose their patronages, won’t return as ‘working royals’

“It’s a relatable investigation into how many women feel high up in institutions, specifically if you are in a historically White institution as a Black woman,” says Weyni Mengesha, the show’s director and artistic director of Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company.

Awareness of Meghan’s significance for the British monarchy infused the play, Barnes says. “To see this person — who looks like no one else who’s been in that institution so far — enter it, that to me is a fascinating story and entry point,” the playwright says.

Barnes, 26, caught the performing-arts bug during the lively, dance-infused evangelical church services she attended as a child in Stafford, Va. Later, while enrolled at the University of Richmond, she would study in London, where she binged on theater — a revelation.

A few years ago, the duchess of Cambridge’s soigné appearance right after childbirth — hinting at stringent expectations for her looks and behavior — inspired Barnes to write a monologue for a fictional duchess. Later, Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry spurred further thought. What if a future Meghan-like figure, after adjusting to oppressive palace norms, were to welcome another woman who looked like her into the royal clan? How would that conversation go? For an assignment at University of California at San Diego, where she is now a third-year MFA student, Barnes turned her monologue into a two-hander.

For research, she delved into scandal-sheet journalism about Britain’s royal women, not so much to fact-find as to understand the reporting’s tone and approach. She was struck by a shift after Harry’s engagement. With Meghan, says Barnes, “the coverage is very different and very racist and invasive in a very different kind of way.”

“Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” arrives in a culture much besotted with the House of Windsor, as evidenced by Netflix series “The Crown,” as well as the Broadway musical “Diana,” shut down by the pandemic last March. (A Netflix version of “Diana” has been announced.) But Barnes stresses that her characters are merely inspired by the wives of Princes William and Harry. The idea of writing about the real clickbait fixtures, she says, “wasn’t very interesting.”

Instead, Barnes dreamed up the unsettling encounter between her Duchess and Soon-to-Be-Duchess, who spar and commune over the merciless rules, scrutiny and conformism that their rank requires.

Scripts as short as “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” (about 35 minutes) aren’t staples at major U.S. theaters. But Steppenwolf Now, a response to the pandemic, allowed for format inventiveness, says Leelai Demoz, Steppenwolf’s associate artistic director and the initiative’s lead producer. Already premiered, for example, and still available to stream with a Steppenwolf Now membership, is “Red Folder,” a 10-minute animated monologue written, directed and illustrated by Rajiv Joseph (“Guards at the Taj”) and voiced by Carrie Coon (FX series ­“Fargo”).

Succinct as it was, Barnes’s one-act appealed to Mengesha, who admired its imaginative vision and felt a personal connection. Mengesha, of Ethiopian heritage, is among the leaders of color who have added diversity to the top ranks of North American theater in recent years. The director says she identifies with Barnes’s characters, who are “trying to bring themselves to their new position, but also fit into the mold that has been around for centuries but that never looked like them.”

Performers Sydney Charles (the Duchess) and Celeste M. Cooper (the Soon-to-Be-Duchess) also say they understand the pressures the characters feel — to fit in, to toe the line, to self-censor as necessary and even to establish automatic mutual camaraderie.

“Theater spaces, most of them are run by non-Black individuals. How comfortable can I be — how Black can I be — in this space? If there is another Black person, are they going to be like me?” Charles asks. “Vivian did a great job in touching on the emotions wrapped up in that specific experience, which translates across the board for any Black American, and Black women specifically.”

“As I came up in this career, there was a lot of silence,” Cooper recalls. “There was a lot of not wanting to ruffle feathers.” Barnes’s play, she adds, asks really hard questions about that kind of quandary.

Read more »

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Spotlight: Zion Taddese Introduces Teff to California’s Famous Farm Industry

Zion Taddese, owner of the Queen Sheeba Ethiopian restaurant in Sacramento, California, is introducing Teff to California's internationally renowned agriculture industry. The restaurant owner started a new organization called Sheba Farms that will bring jobs to Sacramento. “Creating the processing center where we can mill it, clean it and distribute it,” says Zion Taddese. (Photo: ABC10)

ABC10

This Ethiopian grain could be California’s new superfood

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The people who make Northern California Strong are those who inspire us and make our communities a great place to live. ABC10 wants to highlight their strength by recognizing what they do. This week we want to introduce you to Zion Taddese.

California is the Nation’s leader in food production, a third of the fruits and two-thirds of all vegetables are grown here, but there is one plant that golden state grows very little of until now. It’s called Teff and it’s a Gluten-free gain, high in iron and fiber. It’s also the main ingredient that Zion Taddese uses at her restaurant, Queen Sheeba Ethiopian Food in Sacramento.

“We use it in our injera, all gluten-free made from Teff,” said Taddese. “This is Teff growing in California for the first time.”

Teff is an African grain that Taddese grew up eating in Ethiopia, but after migrating to Sacramento and starting her restaurant she found that Teff was difficult to buy in the US.

“There is a high demand for Teff, but there is not enough supply,” explained Taddese.

To remedy her supply problem, Zion enlisted the help of UC Davis to find a strain of Teff that would grow in California.

“I am working with UC Davis to create the knowledge, the training, the technology to share with farmers,” said Zion.

The technology is well on its way. UC Davis researchers had a successful crop last year and now farmers William and John Gilbert are preparing to plant Teff in their vacant Walnut orchard in Wheatland.

“We are interested in Healthy food. The incentive to grow it is the healthier the food the more people buy it,” says William Gilbert.

Taddese is on a mission to make Teff California’s new Super Grain. The restaurant owner started a new organization called Sheba Farms that will bring jobs to Sacramento. “Creating the processing center where we can mill it, clean it and distribute it,” says Taddese

Through Teff, Taddese wants to make her community Northern California strong and someday share that strength with her homeland of Ethiopia.

“I hope to feed the world through Sheba Farms because no child should be left behind when it comes to food and nutrition.”

Helping to diversify California agriculture and create new jobs, Zion Taddese is NorCal Strong. If you want to nominate a strong Northern Californian send a text (916) 321-3310 and put NorCal Strong in the text. Feel free to send pictures and or web links in the submission.

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Q&A: Raie Gessesse – Born in Minnesota, a Child of Immigrants: ‘The Story of My Life is the Product of My Parents’ Dreams’

Raie Gessesse, a Minnesota social justice advocate who served as a member of her state's first-ever Young Women's Cabinet, is the first in the Star Tribune's 'Inspired Conversations' dialogue about race. Her story begins with her parents, born and raised in Ethiopia. (Star Tribune)

Star Tribune

At 22, Raie Gessesse isn’t waiting to inspire change. Appointed by former Gov. Mark Dayton, she served as a member of the first-ever Young Women’s Cabinet, working to elevate the voices of future female leaders, and received a $2,500 microgrant to invest in her vision as a Women’s Foundation of Minnesota Innovator. She currently trains young women to run for office as Midwest Program Manager for IGNITE National, and aspires to run for office herself someday. She graduated in May from Hamline University with a double major in public health and political science, and hopes to begin law and public policy school this fall. Gessesse is Minnesota-born, but her story begins in a different place.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning. How would you describe your childhood?

A: I was born in Minnesota, but I like to start with my parents’ story. My parents were born and raised in Ethiopia. When my mother was pregnant with me, they received notice that they had won a diversity visa; this is a lottery program that allows people to gain permanent residency in the United States. They first came to Boston in 1998 but heard Minnesota was the place to be to start a job. They arrived here with nothing but a vision and a dream and a baby.

Q: Your lovely name certainly attests to that dream.

A: Raie (pronounced Rah-EE) means “God’s vision.”

Q: I’m guessing that in 1998, your parents faced challenges as emigrants. What have they told you?

A: We have a thriving community now but when my parents came, they were among few Ethiopians. For seven years, they lived in St. Paul in the heart of the Ethiopian community. Growing up, I felt surrounded by my extended family. Then we moved to Cottage Grove, where we’ve been ever since.

Q: Is this when you got an inkling that you were different from your classmates?

A: I grew up believing that this is the land of opportunity. Moving to the suburbs, I still didn’t know I was different until I was made to feel that way because of my braids, complexion, traditional foods. In elementary school, I got pulled out for English Language Learners (ELL). But I spoke fluent English, along with Amharic. My parents had to fight to get me out of ELL. As the only Black girl, I started to feel lonely, isolated, awkward. My household was my safe harbor. I was a smart kid but it was always, “How did you get to be so smart?” Up to college, there was always skepticism about what I could accomplish, always the question, “Are you sure?”

Q: How did your parents comfort you, mitigate that?

A: I remember one conversation with my mom. I was telling her how lonely and isolated I was. She said, “Your identity is your gift.” That was a shattering moment for me. Why am I sacrificing my story and experiences for folks who don’t matter? The story of my life is the product of my parents’ dreams. For four years, I had been straightening my hair every single day. In 10th grade, I let my hair be natural for the first time. I said, no more! I need to re-center myself to when I was 4 or 6, feeling like I could be anyone I wanted.

Q: And?

A: I signed up for a talent show doing traditional dance. I joined the step team. And I founded my high school’s first Students for Justice club, becoming its inaugural president. Shortly after graduating, I was appointed to the first Young Women’s Cabinet.

Q: Tell us about a Cabinet project you spearheaded.

A: In 2019, we championed the Women of Color Opportunity Act at the state Legislature. I wrote and introduced an amendment for paid job internship opportunities; so many internships are offered but I, and many others like me, can’t afford to take on an unpaid position. These are pipelines to future jobs. The act didn’t pass but we’re advocating again this year. No more unpaid internships!

Q: Where were you when you heard that George Floyd had been killed?

A: A friend texted me and I was so overwhelmed. This is in a part of Minneapolis that a lot of us are very familiar with. I was feeling grief, but also was very angry. The Minneapolis Police Department has a history of misconduct. I just couldn’t believe it had to get to this point. For the next few days, I posted to social media e-mails and phone numbers for senators, City Council members, the mayors, attorney general, governor. I saw my role as sharing resources to make sure that everyone knows this is not OK.

Q: Why do you think race is such a fraught topic? Do tragedies such as the death of George Floyd make it easier or more difficult to begin conversations?

A: Those who are not racially oppressed say, “Since I haven’t experienced it, I don’t know what to do with this information.” Yes, this is a land of opportunity and a place of refuge for my family, but it has also not acknowledged an ugly past. That’s hard for a white person — to be part of centuries-long oppression. On the other hand, when we finally get to a place where we can acknowledge the truth, we can move forward. My mom always said, the truth shall set you free. That speaks so profoundly to the moment we’re in right now.

Q: How might you help us engage in this essential conversation in a productive way?

A: Learning is so important. Make sure you’re reading books by authors of color. I’d recommend “How To Be An Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, and “Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot,” by Mikki Kendall. In your organizations, be conscious about how many people of color are present. Where are they in the leadership line? In meetings, are they participating or hesitant? If it’s the latter, that might mean that it’s not a safe space for them to talk. Create change where you’re at.

Q: Would you share your story about your pre-COVID encounter on a plane? It’s a good lesson.

A: I was on a plane from Chicago to Minneapolis, chatting with a woman. She asked me what my name was. I told her “Raie,” and she said, “That’s more American than I thought.” Like, boom! She couldn’t even see me as a person born and raised in America. I took this as an educational opportunity. I told her all about my childhood.

Q: Did she catch on?

A: She was mortified. She later apologized and realized how her comments were misguided and harmful. As a movement-builder, we need as many allies as we can get. If someone makes a mistake, I can respond in a graceful way that brings her into the conversation. We ended up having this great conversation.

About this series

Beginning today and continuing throughout the year, the Star Tribune’s Inspired section will engage in regular conversations with a variety of Minnesotans on the topic of race.

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Smithsonian: Two Black Aviators & Ethiopia

Left: Hubert Julian poses on the wheel of his plane named "Abyssinia" at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York, circa September 1933. Right: John C. Robinson in Addis Ababa, circa 1935-6. (Smithsonian)

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

By: Elizabeth Borja

Archives Division

On October 3, 1935 the forces of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini began their advance upon Ethiopia, known in earlier times as Abyssinia. Italy had long coveted the territory to expand their colonial influence in East Africa. In 1896, Ethiopians had turned back an Italian invasion at Adwa, serving as an example of a Black-led country’s defiance of Europe. Taking inspiration from Ethiopia’s long history as an independent Black nation, two Black aviators—Hubert Julian and John C. Robinson—were drawn to Ethiopia by the events of 1935.

Hubert Julian

Hubert Fauntleroy Julian was born in Trinidad a year after the Ethiopian victory at Adwa. He moved to Canada after World War I, where he claims he learned to fly. In 1921, Julian traveled to New York where he found many references to Ethiopia. The Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City was formed in 1808 by a group of Black members of the First Baptist Church who refused to accept segregated seating. The Mayor of Addis Ababa was among a party of Ethiopian dignitaries welcomed to Harlem in 1919. After Julian met Marcus Garvey, another Caribbean émigré, he joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey often used Ethiopia as a metonym for Africa and the official anthem of the UNIA was entitled, “Ethiopia, Thou Land of Our Fathers.”

Julian adopted the title of “Lieutenant Julian of the Royal Canadian Air Force” as he performed parachute stunts, which learning to better fly an airplane from Clarence Chamberlin. Boasting a new nickname, “The Black Eagle of Harlem,” he announced a daring project on January 10, 1924—he would become the first man (Black or White) to fly solo to Africa, a much more dangerous route that than the northern Atlantic flights previously completed. The goal was to leave New York in his Boeing seaplane (acquired with Chamberlin’s assistance) and head south to Brazil. From there he would fly the aspirationally titled Ethiopia I to Liberia (another independent Black nation) with the final destination being Ethiopia.

Julian encountered nothing but trouble on the way to his July 4th flight. He failed to gain the support of the NAACP. His advertisements for funding in Black newspapers attracted the attention of the US government, accusing him of fraud. His investors only released the aircraft to him after additional funds were raised on the spot in the name of Marcus Garvey. The flight itself was a spectacular failure, lasting only five minutes before Julian and Ethiopia I crashed into Flushing Bay.

Julian survived the flight but his transatlantic efforts were soon overshadowed by Charles Lindbergh and Julian’s own legal troubles. But his actions were noted by Ras Tafari, who was to be crowned Emperor of Ethiopia. In April 1930, Tafari sent his cousin, studying at Howard University, a historically Black institution, to request that Julian perform at the Emperor’s coronation. Within a week, Julian was on a ship across the Atlantic.

Tafari had been building an Ethiopian Imperial Air Force with French pilots, paid by the French government; two German Junkers; and a British Gypsy Moth, the newly assembled unflown prize of the collection, a coronation gift from the owners of Selfridge’s department store. Amid tensions with the white pilots, Julian demonstrated his abilities in a Junkers and was rewarded with a commission as a colonel in the air force and the Emperor’s private pilot.

After a trip to New York to drum up American support for Ethiopia with mixed results, Julian returned to Ethiopia for the coronation. During a dress rehearsal for the ceremony, Ethiopian-trained pilots successfully demonstrated their flying abilities in the Junkers planes. Then Julian took to the air in the Emperor’s off-limits prized Gypsy Moth. The crash destroyed not only the plane but Julian’s relationship with Ras Tafari. Julian was already banished and out of the country when Tarafi was crowned Haile Selassie I.

Unbowed, Julian returned to the United States, where he earned his government pilot’s license and formed a Black barnstorming troupe “The Five Black Birds.” He also developed a relationship with aircraft manufacturer Giuseppe M. Bellanca, who refitted a Bellanca J-2 (registration NR-782W). The aircraft had been used by Walter Lees and Frederick Bossy in 1931 to set a new world endurance record for non-refueled flight—84 hours and 32 minutes (not to be broken until the Rutan Voyager in 1986). The aircraft proudly boasted its heritage under the front windows.


Aviator Hubert Julian poses for photographers in front of his Bellanca J-2 at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York. The aircraft’s propeller is draped with an American flag. Peggy Harding Shannon, holding a bouquet of roses and a bottle of champagne, stands behind Julian on a second chair as a crowd looks on from either side. Date is presumed to be September 29, 1933, when the aircraft was christened “Abyssinia” at a press conference. NASM-XRA-8234

On September 29, 1933 Julian held a press conference at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, christening the plane Abyssinia, Emperor Haile Salassi [sic] I King of Kings and announcing his intentions for another transatlantic flight. But he still needed to pay off the airplane and travelled across the United States and even to London with Amy Ashwood Garvey (Marcus Garvey’s ex-wife) to raise additional funds. By the end of 1934, it did not appear that Julian would attempt his flight anytime soon. (As a footnote, the airplane itself was later sold to the Portuguese Monteverde brothers who wrecked it at Floyd Bennett Field during their June 1935 transatlantic attempt.)


Hubert Julian poses with his Bellanca J-2 “Abyssinia” (“Emperor Haile Salassi I King of Kings”, r/n 782W) on the ground at Floyd Bennett Field, Long Island, New York, 1934. NASM-XRA-3274

John C. Robinson

In 1934, John C. Robinson was contemplating visiting his alma mater, the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, for his 10th reunion and to propose an aviation school there for Black pilots. Robinson, born in Florida and raised in Mississippi, had been one of the first Black pilots to complete his training at the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical University in Chicago. He and Cornelius Coffey formed the Challenger Air Pilots Association, opened their own airfield, and created an aviation school to support Black pilots.


John C. Robinson’s Chicago business card. Text reads: “J.C. Robinson, U.S. Government Licensed Pilot and Mechanic. Instructor for Aeronautical University, Founded by Curtiss-Wright Flying Service.” NASM-9A16697-018C

Italy made incursions into Ethiopia in late 1934, clearly announcing its intentions. The League of Nations did not act upon Ethiopian appeals in a way that discouraged Italy at all. David Robinson, editor of the Black newspaper the Chicago Defender, wrote in an April 6, 1935 editorial, “News about the dispute between Ethiopia and Italy as published in your neswaper [sic] and also the white papers should bring to our hearts a feeling of sympathy for the last monarchy of our race….Men of our race who are more acquainted with the international sea are faced with a responsibility which stares us in our faces this very hour…we are responsible for the future of our boys and girls who will grow up to find out that they have no chance of existing in a purely dominant white world.”

John C. Robinson’s efforts in Chicago on behalf of Black citizens impressed Haile Selassie’s nephew. After Julian’s time in Africa, the Ethiopians were wary of another American-based pilot, but Robinson’s reputation won them over and he was asked to go to Ethiopia to serve in the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force. Robinson accepted, wanting to prove the mettle of Black pilots, both American and Ethiopian. He stated in a 1936 interview: “I am glad to know that they realize that Ethiopia is fighting not only for herself, but also for black men in every part of the world and that Americans, especially black Americans are willing to anything to help us to carry on and to win.”

In May 1935, Robinson was on his way to Ethiopia. In their first meeting, Haile Selassie offered the American the rank of Colonel in the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force. Robinson also accepted Ethiopian citizenship, so that he could claim dual citizenship and not run afoul of a 19th century law forbidding American citizens to serve in a foreign army when the United States is at peace. He was quickly dubbed “The Brown Condor of Ethiopia.” Robinson found the 1935 Ethiopian Air Force with a few more airplanes and trained pilots than Julian in 1930, but not many. Akaki Field, just outside Addis Ababa, housed a few Potez 25s, a Farman F.192, a couple of Junkers (the same as flown by Julian), and a Fokker F.VII. There were only a few Ethiopian pilots; most of the experienced pilots were still French and would be discouraged from directly supporting war efforts (a 1936 Pittsburgh Courier article even mentioned a Ethiopian woman pilot named Mobin Gretta).


Business card for John C. Robinson, circa 1935. “Col J. C. Robinson, Imperiale Ethiopienne Air Force. Addis Ababa, (Ethiopia).” Imperial standard of Emperor Haile Selassie I, featuring the Lion of Judah, appears in the upper left hand corner. Handwritten inscription to fellow Chicago pilot Dale L. White on lower half of card reads, “To Dale / Say How is the old Chrysler / Hope to get a ride in it again — If I don’t go West / Johnny.” NASM-9A16697-014B

Robinson also found Hubert Julian, who had returned to Ethiopia in April, hoping still to serve Haile Selassie. The Emperor would not permit Julian to rejoin the Air Force, but he restored Julian’s rank of Colonel and assigned him to train employees of the Ministry of Public Works. Julian also appointed himself as a press liaison. Things came to a head on August 9 when Robinson and Julian came to blows in a hotel lobby. The incident was even covered in white newspapers and Julian was immediately stripped of his military command (though he was quietly reinstated and assigned to a far-off outpost). Julian left Ethiopia for good in November 1935, bitter after the loss of stature and additional court intrigue named him in a possible assassination plan against the Emperor.

Robinson continued to serve with the Air Force. His exploits were closely followed by his fellow Black pilots back in Chicago via Black newspapers. According to clippings in Dale White’s Challenger Air Pilots Association scrapbook, six Black aviators began the process to join him in Ethiopia, but were not granted passports. The Pittsburgh Courier published a list of licensed Black fighters acquired from the Negro Affairs Division of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. A photo feature on Willa Brown was headlined “Wants to Fight for Ethiopia.”

John Robinson was in the air on October 3, 1935 when the Italians crossed the Mareb River to begin their ground assault on Ethiopia. He was on the ground in Adwa when Italian Capronis bombed the town into rubble, returning to Addis Ababa to report. Italy took the town on October 6, claiming what they could not in 1896.

An October 12, 1935 article in the Baltimore Afro-American quoted a letter from Robinson to his fellow Chicago pilots cautioning them to stay where they were: “If we have to face the Italians in our present planes, airworthy though they are, it will be no less than murder….It will be better for you to remain in America and carry on the good work which we have begun in interesting our people in aviation.” He was resolved to stay himself. He was gassed and wounded several times, but continued to fly orders between locations, observe troop movements, and guide Red Cross missions.

Towards the end of April 1936, Robinson took Haile Selassie in a Beech Staggerwing for one last aerial look at Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie fled Addis Ababa on May 2 via train. Robinson flew the Staggerwing to Djibouti where it was impounded. He returned to the United States to acclaim and immediately began his work to develop the aviation school at Tuskegee.

Postscript

Hubert Julian did not return to Ethiopia, but he lived a long life, becoming an arms dealer in Central American and Pakistan under the company name “Black Eagle Associates.” He kept in touch with Giuseppe Bellanca, requesting price quotes for airplanes and sending location updates. Julian ran afoul of the United Nations in the Congo in the 1960s. Although he moved out of the spotlight, he continued to rack up a large file in FBI headquarters until his death in New York in 1983. Although Hubert Julian gained a reputation for self-aggrandizement and empty showmanship, the fact remains that he promoted Ethiopia and supported its continued existence as a Black-ruled sovereign nation.

Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia in May 1941. He asked John C. Robinson to join him in rebuilding the Ethiopian Air Force. In 1944, Robinson and five Black pilots and mechanics made their way across war-torn seas to Addis Ababa where they established an aviation training school. Robinson continued to draw on his Chicago aviation ties, helping Ethiopian students attend school in the United States, recommending many to Janet Waterford Bragg. Robinson believed that he was being pushed out by an influx of white Swedish support and was arrested for attacking a Swedish representative. He resigned his commission in 1948. He remained in Ethiopia to work to build Ethiopian Airlines, as he had been instrumental establishing a relationship between Ethiopia and TWA Airlines to send a fleet of DC-3 aircraft and personnel in 1946.

John C. Robinson died in 1954, when he crashed a Stinson L-5 outside of Addis Ababa. His name survives in Ethiopia, including the John C. Robinson American Center at the National Archives and Library Agency in Addis Ababa.

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UPDATE: Motown Promotes Ethiopia Habtemariam to Chair & CEO

After six years as president of Motown Records, Ethiopia Habtemariam has been promoted to chairman/CEO of the iconic label. (Billboard)

Billboard

Ethiopia Habtemariam joins a small circle of women currently holding the title of chairman at a major label.

After six years as president of Motown Records, Ethiopia Habtemariam has been promoted to chairman/CEO of the iconic label.

Habtemariam now reports directly to Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge as Motown becomes a standalone label.

In a release announcing Habtemariam’s appointment, Grainge said, “Motown is such an important voice and, just as when it was founded by Berry Gordy, its impact continues to be felt around the world. Motown’s resurgence and powerful partnerships under Ethiopia’s leadership has advanced the label’s legacy as home to some of today’s biggest hitmakers and most meaningful voices in music.”

Since overseeing Motown’s move from New York to Los Angeles in 2014, Habtemariam has orchestrated creative and entrepreneurial ventures with various partners including Quality Control Music. In addition to Migos, City Girls, Lil Yachty and Layton Greene, QC’s roster includes Lil Baby whose second album My Turn closed out 2020 as the most popular album of the year in the U.S. with 2.63 million equivalent album units, according to MRC Data.

Motown is also home to Blacksmith Records (Ted When, Vince Staples) and Since the 80s (Asiahn, Njomza) as well as Erykah Badu, Kem and Tiana Major9, among other artists. Both Major9 and Lil Baby are current Grammy Award nominees. “Collide” by Major9 with Earthgang, featured on the Queen & Slim soundtrack, is up for best R&B song. Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” received nominations in two categories: best rap song and best rap performance.

Calling it an “incredible honor to represent and define what Motown is today,” Habtemariam thanked Grainge “for his constant support and guidance over the years; my Motown team for all they have done and continue to do; the Capitol team for their help in building Motown over these past six years; Clarence Avant who has always taught me about the power of responsibility; and Mr. Berry Gordy, for his faith in me to carry on his legacy.”

With her promotion, Habtemariam joins the small circle of women currently holding the title of chairman at a major label including Julie Greenwald, chairman/COO of Atlantic Records, and Sylvia Rhone, chairman/CEO of Epic Records. Jody Gerson is chairman/CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, while Desiree Perez is CEO of Roc Nation.

“I’m so grateful for this huge opportunity,” Habtemariam tells Billboard, “because there’s been a lot of incredible hard work put in to allow me to get to this space. Coming into this industry, there were so many incredible women that I looked up to within its various business sectors. They gave me confidence and never made me question what I would be able to achieve. And I’m thankful I got to see that. This opportunity is really me standing on their shoulders.

Habtemariam adds, “My goal and my hope is that there’ll be a lot more women that look like me in leadership positions going forward.”

Noting also that Motown “will be a standalone label going forward with some shared services,” Habtemariam says the imprint’s upcoming release slate includes new music from Migos, Tiana Major9, Tiwa Savage, Ne-Yo, Kem, new signee Bree Runway and Erykah Badu, “who has some interesting things that are lining up.” Motown also established Motown U.K. last summer and recently relaunched its Black Forum label, beginning with the Feb. 26 reissue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1971 Grammy-winning album for best spoken word, Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.

Before joining Motown and being named president of the label as well as executive vp of Capitol Music Group, Habtemariam served as president of urban music & co-head of creative at Universal Music Publishing Group.

Related:

TIME: Motown President Ethiopia Habtemariam on Steering the Legendary Label Through the Pandemic


Ethiopia Habtemariam, the president of Motown Records, has spent the past year assisting her artists in navigating the painful reality of life offstage while retooling album-release plans. Below is Time Magazine’s interview with Ethiopia. (Photo: Camera Press/Redux)

TIME

Updated: February 7th, 2021

The pandemic rocked the music industry. Live performances, which are such a critical part of driving the business (and making fans euphoric) were quickly shut down last year. Concerts are going to be slow to return. (Who’s up for crowding next to sweaty strangers, yelling at the top of their lungs?) Ethiopia Habtemariam, the president of Motown Records, has spent the past year assisting her artists in navigating the painful reality of life offstage while retooling album-release plans. She helped one artist cope with depression when a much anticipated record was postponed and, in the outbreak’s early days, counseled another to take the virus more seriously. “There was a lot of misinformation about COVID and communities that it was hitting,” she said. Habtemariam remembers one young artist who was still going out on the town telling her, “Oh no, that’s a rich-people thing.”

While live shows floundered, music delivered comfort to people stuck in their homes and apartments. Total audio consumption, which includes streaming and album sales, was up 11.6 % in 2020, according to MRC Data. And for Habtemariam, 41, the past year helped her ongoing mission to make the legendary Motown brand relevant in today’s culture. Back in 2015, she signed a joint venture with Quality Control Music, an influential hip-hop label based in Atlanta, leading to a string of megahits from hot young artists including the Migos, Lil Yachty and Lil Baby. Lil Baby, an Atlanta rapper, singer and songwriter, had the best-selling album of 2020, according to MRC Data, beating out Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. And Lil Baby’s single “The Bigger Picture,” released after the murder of George Floyd, became an unofficial protest anthem played at marches and rallies throughout the country. It has more than 112 million views on YouTube.

Habtemariam, who started her music career as an unpaid intern at 14, recently joined TIME for a video conversation on the pressures of taking over a storied label, the perils of social media for artists and her favorite live venues.

(This interview with Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

So, what have you been listening to, to get through the pandemic?

I went through a phase around April, May, when I was like going down memory lane of my childhood, reminiscing on songs that I grew up on. Middle school, high school years. And it was actually therapeutic in many ways. It kind of helped me get through a lot of the different emotions and feelings that I was having, and also it reminded me of why I fell in love with music.

Rumor has it that you were a big TLC fan.

I still think that they don’t get the credit they deserve because they were so huge! TLC, Aaliyah, Missy [Elliott], Lauryn Hill—I was a massive Janet Jackson fan as well.

I’m a huge fan of music, period. I’m a daughter of immigrants. My parents are both Ethiopian, and I’m Ethiopian American. I grew up in the South. So here I am, this young girl, with a name like Ethiopia; I was a bit of an alien, but music was my salvation. It was my escape, but it was also a bridge for me to connect and build friendships.

How did the pandemic disrupt your release schedule? You still managed to have one of the biggest albums of the year, with Lil Baby’s My Turn.

I remember it vividly because we scheduled some in-stores for him. I remember coming to Atlanta and making sure everyone had hand sanitizer. And then everything shut down, and we had to really come together to figure out how we were going to move forward.

We put it out Feb. 28, and it was massive. The response was incredible; everything was great. And two weeks later, the world shuts down. One of the things that was in the plan was, of course, a huge tour.

Read more »

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Spotlight: Girmay Zahilay, King County Councilman From District 2 in Seattle

Girmay Hadish Zahilay is a Sudan-born Ethiopian-American attorney who serves as a member of the King County Council from District 2 in Seattle, Washington. The following is a spotlight on Girmay by The South Seattle Emerald in honor of Black History Month. (Photo: Girmay Zahilay speaks at the opening of a pop-up resource center in the Skyway neighborhood, south of Seattle/by Susan Fried)

South Seattle Emerald

By Marcus Harden

BLACK HISTORY TODAY: GIRMAY ZAHILAY, A DREAM MANIFESTED

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

—Barack Obama

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the African Diaspora and the connection to the African American experience. I’ve especially been fascinated with learning more about the countries in Africa such as Ethiopia, as it stands as one of the only countries to not be colonized by European “settlers.” It’s begged the question: What lay in the culture of those people? What portions of that culture permeate from generation to generation and how do they show up today?

The answer is complex, yet if I had to take a personal wager, I’d bet that ancestral depth lives in people like Girmay Zahilay. Girmay is the “American Dream” personified, in that he’s uniquely bridged the gap of culture from continent to continent and has become a possibility for so many on both sides of that bridge.

Born in Sudan and of Ethiopian descent, his parents Ethiopian Refugees who themselves escaped military conflict, he arrived in the United States at the tender age of 3. Girmay’s family settled in the historic Rainier Valley of Seattle, and it was here that he learned about the world and came to understand others, turning his family’s trials into triumphs. Whether moving from the International District to Skyway, getting by temporarily without stable housing, living in shelters in downtown Seattle, or finally settling in the Rainier Vista, his humility and leadership were being crafted at every step.

Girmay graduated from Franklin High School before going on to Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania, where his natural instincts in fighting for justice would be sharpened into the skill of understanding and interpreting the law. Girmay’s journey took him to Washington D.C. and New York City, yet no matter where he surfaced on the map, his spirit of bridging the gap and liberating people would never change.

His return home to Seattle saw more of the same, as he founded a nonprofit that created opportunities for young people to practice their innate leadership skills. The spirit and culture of leadership and liberation never left him, beating steady like a drum, speaking louder and louder as he saw the needs of the community through the eyes of the youth who looked like him. Soon those voices were crying out louder and louder throughout the Rainier Vista and other communities whose fight for public housing deserved to finally be heard.

In 2019, Girmay decided to become that megaphone that resonated change.

It wasn’t an easy path, of course. Girmay chose to pursue a coveted city council seat held by Larry Gossett, a local legend who blazed the trail for Girmay and many others. What was most notable about Girmay’s approach was that it was rooted in the culture of class and respect, never diminishing the accomplishments of Gossett and his place in history, yet as he had times before, wanting to be the bridge to and for the next generation that would stand on the shoulders of those before him.

Before he was a councilman, to me Girmay was just “Lull’s little big cousin.” Lull Mengesha, a close friend of mine, told me I just had to meet his cousin. It happened one day at Empire Espresso in South Seattle, and I talked for hours with Girmay about education and social change. I learned that he wanted to utilize his passion for law to support youth — specifically those disenfranchised and trapped in the System in the Rainier Valley and Skyway. Even over great coffee and greater waffles, Girmay’s purpose shined through.

Girmay’s commitment to public service shows up in the small details, like his social media that ensures people from all walks of life can celebrate, or through continuing to demystify public service for cultures and people who traditionally haven’t gotten an inside look. In constantly honoring those throughout the Diaspora in word and actions, Girmay embodies the spirit of liberation his ancestors passed down. He is a humble servant with the ear to listen to the past and the voice that changes the future. He is the dream manifested. Girmay Zahilay is undoubtedly Black History Today!

Related:

Ethiopian American Girmay Zahilay, a New Councilman in King County, Washington

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Virginia Furniture with Ethiopian Roots: Garden & Gun Magazine on Jomo Tariku

Raised in Ethiopia, Jomo Tariku came to the United States in 1987. After studying industrial design at the University of Kansas, he eventually moved to the suburbs of D.C., where he works as a data scientist. He based his earliest furniture designs on the three-legged Jimma stools of Ethiopia that he remembered from childhood. (Garden & Gun Magazine)

Garden & Gun Magazine

Two and a half hours south of Washington, D.C., outside of Columbia, Virginia, in a former three-car garage on the north side of the James River, the designer Jomo Tariku and the woodworker David Bohnhoff are redefining contemporary African furniture. In the studio, African mahogany shavings cover a section of the floor as they collaborate on museum-worthy chairs and stools, and the smell the wood casts off as the day heats up permeates the space.

Born in Kenya and raised in Ethiopia, Tariku came to the United States in 1987. After studying industrial design at the University of Kansas, he eventually moved to the suburbs of D.C., where he works as a data scientist. He based his earliest furniture designs on the three-legged Jimma stools of Ethiopia that he remembered from childhood. All of his pieces tie back to the African diaspora in some way, and many center on his East African upbringing. “When people define African art,” he says, “they think of masks and handcrafts, and old things. There is no space for people like me.”

Tariku bucks against the modern definition of African furniture, usually relegated to pieces with a Eurocentric aesthetic with a twist, such as colorful batik upholstery. Instead, the large spiral horns of the male mountain antelope found in Ethiopia’s Bale region, for instance, inspired his Nyala chair. Highly sculptural in nature, the curving wooden back of the chair seems to defy gravity, serving as a functional marvel. And his MeQuamya chair riffs on the T-shaped prayer staffs used in Ethiopian Orthodox ceremonies, found in rock-hewn churches in the region that date back to the sixteenth century. “I love history,” Tariku explains. “Ethiopia is the only African country that was never colonized. So, my perspective is a little different. Our religious art is still there. So are our old manuscripts in our language, in our handwriting. All of that informs my ideas.”

Tariku had all of these designs in his mind but could not find someone with the skills to build them—he had trouble bringing them to fruition with his own hands. For several years, he sent out emails, hundreds of them, to woodworkers up and down the East Coast, searching for someone to collaborate with who had the talent to build the graceful, elegant minimalist designs that have become his signature. In 2017, Bohnhoff, a regionally renowned furniture maker and woodworker based in Columbia, received Tariku’s email, and the pair decided to meet at a furniture show in Richmond.

When Bohnhoff saw Tariku’s sketch of the Nyala chair, he knew he had to try to build it. Quickly, Tariku saw that Bohnhoff understood the intentions behind his designs, and could take them from two-dimensional renderings to pieces that fine furniture lovers would be proud to have in their living rooms. “I saw the challenge in it,” Bohnhoff says. “I saw the beauty in it. I’m always pulling from nautical culture in my work, and every region has its own seafaring aesthetic. I appreciate learning the details of Jomo’s culture and how it helps him generate ideas.”

Bohnhoff’s own creative journey began at a potter’s wheel in middle school. Struggling with academics, he found solace in using his hands to create beautiful and unusual shapes. When he finished high school, he took to boatbuilding, eventually earning a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and started a career as a boatbuilder, working in shipyards along the way from Maine to North Carolina, studying the art of the curve. Eventually he returned to Virginia, intent on transferring his skills to furniture, freeing complicated pieces from cherry, mahogany, and ash. In his workshop, maple burl logs become masterpieces. The draketail hull of a boat inspired a chair. The interior framework of a canoe transformed into a steam-bent throne.

Designers like Tariku need highly skilled craftsmen like Bohnhoff. The designer works with a few others on certain furniture pieces, but boatbuilding gave Bohnhoff an intimate knowledge of a variety of wood species, and how to bend them to his will without breaking. That technical skill serves him well as his artisanship dovetails with Tariku’s more intricate, curving chair designs, and as they go back and forth on prototypes to refine until form and function perfectly align. While COVID-19 has halted Tariku’s access to furniture shows and showrooms, the duo is currently making each chair to order for interested clients and interior designers—who can inquire at jomofurniture.com—and Tariku is preparing new designs for 2021.

A change in the tide—what they see as the younger generation’s lack of access to apprenticeships and opportunities—has both men worried that relationships like theirs, forged out of mutual admiration for art and a respect for technical skills, are fading. For now, they find solace in creating heirlooms that tell a global story—of Ethiopia, of the Atlantic, and of Virginia. —

Related:

Spotlight: New York Times Features Jomo Tariku

Opening the Doors of Design (The New York Times)

Contemporary Design Africa Book Features Jomo Tariku’s Ethiopia Furniture

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Music Diplomacy: Artists From Ethiopia Among Eligible to Apply for US Exchange Program ‘OneBeat’

International music exchange platform OneBeat [sponsored by the U.S. State Department] is calling on artists to apply for its 2021 virtual cross-cultural collaborative program. (Photo: Brilliant-ethiopia.com)

Music in Africa

Call for applications: 2021 OneBeat virtual exchange program in the US

The program is sponsored by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation. It celebrates musical collaboration and social engagement.

This year’s virtual edition is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fellows will receive a $1 500 honorarium as well as a small subsidy for purchasing necessary audio equipment and enhanced internet connectivity tools.

OneBeat is looking for applicants who excel in the following areas:

  • Musical proficiency and innovation.
  • Performance, composition, improvisational, production and/or technological skill.
  • Social engagement – musicians who have used music to serve their communities or greater societies. This might consist of guiding young people in music education, addressing social-political issues, reviving dying musical traditions, etc.
  • Collaboration – applicants’ willingness to reach across cultural and musical divides in creating original music or re-interpreting traditional music, while respecting the essence of each tradition.

    OneBeat will convene 70 musicians (aged from 19 to 35) from up to 44 countries and territories in two separate virtual exchanges, which will take place as follows: 12 July to 6 September and 20 September to 17 November.

    Musicians from the following African countries are eligible to apply:

  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Tunisia
  • Zimbabwe

    Read more about eligibility here. Interested artists can apply here. Successful applicants will be notified by 21 May.

    The submission deadline is 10 March.

    “These projects will address a particular community and focus on community engagement,” OneBeat said. “We encourage the development of projects that explore innovations within a particular field of arts engagement, digital media or technology.”

    Each program will offer a virtual residency and exchange program with musicians from around the globe. OneBeat virtual fellows will investigate new forms of virtual collaboration, form ensembles, produce and perform genre-defying work, attend virtual masterclasses, lead online workshops and produce a streaming concert for the public. Fellows will also have the opportunity to pursue self-directed projects during the fellowship.

    View the original call here.

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  • ART TALK: Awol Erizku’s Photos on Display at New York City’s Bus Stops

    These photographs are part of “New Visions for Iris,” the first public art exhibition by the Los Angeles–based, Ethiopian American artist Awol Erizku. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, the exhibition appears on over 200 bus shelters across New York City (and over 150 in Chicago). Erizku dedicated it to his 1-year-old daughter, Iris. (Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY and the artist)

    Curbed

    If you pass by a bus shelter between now and June 20, take a closer look at it. You might spy the image of a Muslim man in a Kobe jersey kneeling in prayer next to a motorcycle, or a still life with a toy cart, irises, a light meter, and magnetic letters from the Amharic alphabet. These photographs are part of “New Visions for Iris,” the first public art exhibition by the Los Angeles–based, Ethiopian American artist Awol Erizku. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, the exhibition appears on over 200 bus shelters across New York City (and over 150 in Chicago). Erizku dedicated it to his 1-year-old daughter, Iris.

    “[Iris’s] influence on this work is possibility,” Erizku says. “She’s American, she’s Ethiopian, and because I wasn’t able to see these kinds of images growing up, I wanted to make sure she did.” The kind of images he’s referring to include modern representations of Muslim men, African symbols, and his own personal history. “To be honest, I am ashamed I don’t know as much about my culture as I would like, and I wanted to give her these [references] early on.”


    (Photo: Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY and the artist)

    The references are also entry points to conversations about religion, spirituality, race, identity, and personal history — conversations that many of us are having since the Black Lives Matter protests, the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and the general upheaval the city has experienced in the past year.

    “This exhibition is about coming to terms with fatherhood and having a daughter that’s coming into this world at a very tumultuous year, and finding ways to elicit certain conversations as she’s growing up,” Erizku says.

    Erizku first became famous for work that subverted European masterpieces with Afrocentric references, like his 2009 Girl With a Bamboo Earring portrait, which riffs on Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring painting, and his 2013 portrait series of sex workers in Addis Ababa posed in the manner of Ingres’s odalisques and Manet’s Olympia. His 2015 short film “Serendipity,” which screened at MoMA, featured him smashing a bust of David and replacing it with one of Nefertiti. The 2017 maternity photos he took of Beyoncé — which referenced Madonna-and-child motifs and included original artwork he made the year before in collaboration with the floral designer Sarah Lineberger — nearly broke Instagram. But lately, he’s felt strongly about moving away from the Western philosophies and references he’s been indoctrinated with and creating his own canon. In 2017, his anti-Trump “Make America Great Again” exhibition explored the power of Emory Douglas’s Black Panther logo. This has led him to develop a new visual language he’s calling “Afro-esotericism” — an index of objects, symbols, and people that are meaningful and influential to him: Cowrie shells, African masks and statues, musical instruments, the Qur’an, flowers, and more. This reinvention is also partly a response to how popular his older work has become. His style has been copied time and time again, to the point where he feels like he’s lost ownership of it and it’s no longer associated with him.

    Now Erizku’s photographs appropriate the dramatic lighting and saturated colors of commercial advertising, which is designed to stop you in your tracks. He uses it as a kind of bait and switch. Instead of selling you sneakers, he’s inviting you into his cultural universe.

    He walked us through a few of the images in the series.

    Read more »

    Related:

    Spotlight: Ethiopian-American Artist Awol Erizku’s Photo of Poet Amanda Gorman on TIME Magazine‘s New Cover


    TIME Magazine‘s new cover features American poet Amanda Gorman, photographed by Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku. (Photo of ​Awol Erizku by Jeff Vespa)

    Fad Magazine

    Updated: February 12th, 2021

    AMANDA GORMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED BY ARTIST AWOL ERIZKU FOR TIME COVER.

    TIME Magazine‘s new cover features American poet Amanda Gorman, photographed by Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku. Erizku is quickly becoming one of the most iconic photographers of our time.

    Erizku is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, film, sculpture and installation, creating a new vernacular that bridges the gap between African and African American visual culture, referencing art history, hip hop and spirituality, amongst other subjects, in his work.

    “I was interested in allowing her to own the space that she’s in right now,” Erizku says. “We were going for timelessness, something that felt classical” and tied in to the “resurgence of a Black renaissance.”

    It was a special moment for him, too. “Like many who witnessed the recent presidential Inauguration, I was captivated by her poem and her exquisite delivery,” says Erizku, who is based in Los Angeles and has exhibited at institutions including New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem. “For TIME, I wanted to extricate her from the political dimension and immerse it in a more cosmic atmosphere to add to the weight of her words.”

    In a separate image featured inside the magazine, Gorman holds a white birdcage in a nod to the birdcage ring she wore on inauguration day. (That ring was a gift from Oprah, referring to previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”)

    “It needed a layer of depth that only poetry can explain,” Erizku says of the image.

    A team of Black creative professionals prepared Gorman for the portraits: Jason Bolden styled her, Autumn Moultrie did her makeup, Khiry provided jewellery and the dress was from Greta Constantine.

    The issue features Michelle Obama in conversation with American poet Amanda Gorman, whose poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ read at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony touched hearts and minds all over the world. The article, which covers issues such as the role of art in activism and the pressures Black women face in the spotlight, is also accompanied by a video shot and directed by Erizku.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Profile: Dr. Rahel Nardos, Meet the Voice of University of Minnesota’s New Global Focus on Women’s Health

    Dr. Rahel Nardos is connecting the University of Minnesota with low-resource locations to improve healthcare access. (Courtesy photo)

    Minnesota Monthly Magazine

    What do Minnesota’s Indigenous, immigrant, African American, and refugee communities have in common with women in low-resource countries around the world? They’re all chronically underserved by healthcare providers. So says Rahel Nardos, MD, the new director of global women’s health at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (CGHSR). And she aims to change that.

    Nardos was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She came to the U.S. for college on a scholarship, then attended Yale Medical School, where she met her husband, Damien Fair, who was pursuing his PhD in neuroscience. They moved to Addis Ababa after completing their studies, where Nardos cared for women with obstetric fistulas, a devastating condition in which a hole forms in the birth canal following childbirth.

    “Having grown up there and seen the scarce situation, where the quality of medical care and education was compromised, that planted the seed for me to want to figure out ways we can create better health systems and build capacities in low-resource settings,” says Nardos.

    In Ethiopia, Nardos worked with victims of some of the world’s worst health inequities—including women ostracized from their communities due to a medical condition that was itself a result of inadequate obstetric and gynecological care. “That got me interested in specializing in urogynecology,” says Nardos, who pursued fellowship training and a master’s degree in clinical research at the same time. “I’m very interested in improving care through research.”

    She went on to work with Kaiser Permanente and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where she founded Footsteps to Healing, a program that supports surgical care for women with injuries after childbirth.

    In 2020, amid a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest, Nardos and Fair were jointly recruited by the University of Minnesota and made a new home in the Twin Cities. While Fair leads the U’s Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, Nardos is bringing her trusted global partnerships to the table to help CGHSR form stronger and more effective relationships with healthcare programs and providers around the world.

    “I’m also looking at how we can leverage our collective passion and experience in underserved care right here in our communities,” she adds. “We have people right here who don’t have access to quality care, such as immigrants and people with cultural practices that may compromise their health. We want to create programs that tap into our collective experiences, talents, passions, and partnership models to do meaningful work both globally and locally.”

    Nardos is drawing on the U’s resources and expertise in areas spanning preventive care, health policy, leadership building, clinical capacity building, and advances in telehealth to improve care for women in low-resource settings. The goal? “To help support our partners and train our residents and fellows so they become providers who care about health equity and disparities, and are actively working to address it in their own communities,” says Nardos.

    She’s even taking a mindfulness course at the U’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, and thinking about how to translate what she’s learning into cognitive strategies to help manage pain and irritative bladder symptoms in patients with urogynecological conditions.

    Though she’s mining and connecting resources across a wide range of university programs, Nardos is crystal clear on her mission: to have a tangible impact in the lives of real, underserved women, far from the halls of academia. “How do we define success? We have to be careful not to define it academically—how many papers you publish or grants you get,” she notes. “How is it translating into improving health outcomes on the ground?”

    Learn more about Dr. Nardos and the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility at globalhealthcenter.umn.edu

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: Ethiopian Startup Gebeya Launches New Mobile App To Connect Freelancers To Employers

    Ethiopia's tech startup Gebeya Inc., an online marketplace for jobs, has announced the launch of its latest mobile App called Gebeya Talent, a new platform through which it is expanding access to its network across Africa and around the globe. (Photo: Gebeya Inc)

    Digital Times Africa

    Gebeya, an Ethiopian startup has launched its new app, Gebeya Talent, a portal through which it is expanding access to its network across the continent and around the globe.

    Gebeya is an online talent marketplace focused on cultivating the potentials of African youth, training them with technical skills, and helping them find jobs.

    The app bridges the gap between African talents and employers through its easy application process, automatic matching, and a no-bidding process where they get paid.

    “We strive to be the most-referenced freelance African talent company. Having fast, reliable, seamless digital tools at the heart of our marketplace is a must,” said Amadou Daffe, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Gebeya.

    “Currently, the process for talents wanting to join our marketplace takes anywhere from one to two weeks. Our objective is that, with the Gebeya Talent app, we will be able to onboard a talent within 24 hours after they submit their application.”

    Founded in 2016, the startup formerly leveraged on manual processes but has now scaled to automation and improved processes. Gebeya says it would be adding new features to the platform and further optimize the process throughout the year.

    Ethiopia’s Gebeya launches app to help freelancers access work opportunities


    (Image courtesy of Gebeya Talent)

    Disrupt Africa

    Ethiopian startup Gebeya, a pan-African online talent marketplace, has launched Gebeya Talent, a new app through which it is expanding access to its network across the continent and around the globe.

    Gebeya focuses on cultivating the untapped tech potential of African youth to prepare them for the demands of the global market, training young people with technical skills and helping them find jobs.

    Its new app, Gebeya Talent, provides African talent seeking their next freelance work opportunity with access to a quick and easy application process, automatic matching, and a no-bidding process where they get paid at rates that represent their capabilities and experience.

    Prior to the release of the Gebeya Talent app, the process to apply to join Gebeya’s talent network was largely manual, requiring intensive human involvement. Now, leveraging improved processes and automation, the process has greatly improved, and Gebeya said it will be adding additional features to streamline and further optimise the process throughout the year.

    “We strive to be the most-referenced freelance African talent company. Having fast, reliable, seamless digital tools at the heart of our marketplace is a must,” said Amadou Daffe, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Gebeya.

    “Currently, the process for talents wanting to join our marketplace takes anywhere from one to two weeks. Our objective is that, with the Gebeya Talent app, we will be able to onboard a talent within 24 hours after they submit their application.”

    Below is the full press release from Gebeya Inc. shared on linkedin by Becky Tsadik, Director of Marketing at Gebeya Inc: “I’m so excited to share that Gebeya Inc. has just launched a mobile app that will transform the landscape for freelance talent in Africa. Our development team has been hard at work building a sleek, sophisticated app to connect talent with opportunities on the continent and beyond.”

    Gebeya Inc. Launches Gebeya Talent App to Transform African Talent Acquisition

    Gebeya Inc. announced today the launch of its new app: Gebeya Talent. With this, the Pan-African online talent marketplace will expand access to its network across the continent and around the globe.

    African talent seeking their next freelance work opportunity will now have access to these features:

  • A quick and easy application process
  • Save time with automatic matching with exciting projects inline with their skill sets
  • No bidding; get paid at rates that represent their capabilities and experience level; get paid in multiple currencies
  • Being part of an engaging, growing community with exclusive professional networking, events, free upskilling, and mentorship
  • Showcase their best work via custom portfolio and profile


    Gebeya team members. (Photo: Gebeya Inc.)

    Prior to the release of the Gebeya Talent app, the process to apply to join our talent network was largely manual, requiring intensive human involvement.

    Now, leveraging improved processes and automation, the process has greatly improved. Throughout the year, additional features will be added to streamline and further optimize the process, and leverage the full power of artificial intelligence and automation. From application, to testing, from interview to onboarding, potential candidates can expect to enjoy a seamless experience.

    “We strive to be THE most-referenced freelance African Talent company. Having fast, reliable, seamless digital tools at the heart of our marketplace is a MUST,” said Amadou Daffe, CEO and Co-founder of Gebeya. “Currently, the process for talents wanting to join our marketplace takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. “Our objective is that, with the Gebeya Talent app, we will be able to onboard a talent within 24 hours after they submit their application.”

    The year 2020 was abuzz with phrases like “future of work,” “gig economy,” and “remote work.” The release of the Gebeya Talent app proves that this bold, new future predicted has arrived. Access to opportunities for talent has expanded, as they are no longer restricted to their immediate geographic location; we follow a remote-first work model. And: anyone can download the app.

    “This is only the beginning,” said Thierno Niang, Chief Platform Officer at Gebeya. “We launched a mobile app before a web application, because all of our talent have access to a phone. As we add features to the product, we will also expand to include a web app.”

    The most in-demand talent for startups and corporations include: software development, graphics & design, project management, digital marketing, product management, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. But, as market needs evolve, so will the Gebeya Talent pool.

    The Gebeya Talent app grants access for talented professionals in Africa and its diaspora to join a community built with them in mind. Rather than bid against millions of freelancers in an anonymous pool of talent, they can be assured that every opportunity caters to their skill set and agreed-upon rate. No more underbidding, missed payments, or ghosted clients. Because Gebeya manages the entire process of matching, plus administrative and finance processes, talents are ensured timely and fair delivery of payment in exchange for their work.

    Within the next three-to-five years, we anticipate identifying and vetting the top 100,000 talent. From that, we expect to onboard the top 20,000 best. If you’re a talent from Africa or of African descent, seeking to join a community that will care about you, download the Gebeya Talent app and apply today.

    A web-based application to connect clients of all sizes, including individual entrepreneurs, startups, and large enterprises with talent, will launch later this month. This will be for clients that are seeking to: diversify their workforce, augment their existing team, or expand into new markets without the hassle of opening a physical office. Our goal is that clients will be matched with talent within seconds, and within 24-to-48 hours of contract-signing, begin the work.

  • Related:

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s Debo Engineering, A Jimma Based Agritech Startup


    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering, part of a burgeoning technology startup scene in Ethiopia that’s blazing a trail in various fields. Debo Engineering has announced that it has developed an app that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection. (Courtesy photo)

    Tech in Africa

    Ethiopia Agritech startup develops an App that detects plant disease

    Debo Engineering, a startup based in Jimma has developed an app that automatically detects then classifies plant diseases through image detection once it runs the image through an algorithm.

    Debo engineering designs and develops smart engineering solutions for the agricultural sector. The startup banks on applied engineering centering on newly evolved technologies such as ML, artificial intelligence, IoT, image processing, mobile computing, and big data.

    Debo has a desktop application connecting commercial farms and research institutes in making farm analysis and drone rental services in the case of large rental farms. Most of the startup’s customers are urban farmers operating in Jimma city. Debo served over 300 customers in the last year.

    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering. They both have engineering backgrounds and have received several recognitions to date. The team clinched the Green Innovation and Agritech Slam 2019 Business Competition and MEST Africa’s Ethiopia Competition. This has helped them raise initial funding to begin the implementation of their business ideas.

    Meet This Jimma Based Agritech Startup That Developed An App That Detects Plant Disease

    Shega

    Debo Engineering, A Jimma based agritech startup, developed an algorithm that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection.

    Debo engineering is a startup that design and develop smart business applications solution in the agriculture sector. The startup uses applied engineering discipline centered on newly evolving technologies such as artificial intelligence, ML, IOT, image processing, big data, and mobile computing.

    Debo developed an algorithm that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection. The solution is available via a monthly subscription on the web and mobile application. It provides a recommendation to be taken for the user after detect plant disease.

    Debo also provides a desktop application that helps commercials farms and research institutes to make farm analysis as well as drone renting services for large commercial farms.

    Even though most of their customers are urban farmers that operate in Jimma city and nearby, Debo has been able to serve more than 300 customers last year.

    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering. They both have engineering backgrounds. The startup has received many recognitions so far. The team was the winner of the Green Innovation and Agritech Slam 2019 business competition and MEST Africa’s Ethiopia Competition.

    These recognitions have helped them in raising the initial fund to start implementing their business idea.

    Debo plans to add more features and use wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) that can be easily deployed in farm fields and continuously send data.

    Related:

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s Qene Tech, Creators of Kukulu & Gebeta Video Games


    Dawit Abraham, Qene Technologies Co-founder and CEO. (Photo: Qene Tech)

    Ventures Africa

    DAWIT ABRAHAM AND HIRUY AMANUEL DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF AWARD-WINNING MOBILE GAMING STUDIO, QENE GAMES

    As one of the top gaming studios in Africa, Qene Games already has a 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App under its belt, along with a bright future ahead.

    A part of this Ethiopian company’s vision is to incorporate African roots into the games created. Qene Games launched its first mobile 3D game in 2018 called Kukulu. The firm then spent almost a year problem-solving to establish a global friendly African game brand for the international market. The original African game set expectations high after winning the 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App and Qene Games is set to launch the iOS version in 2021 behind their latest release of Gebeta.

    Kukulu is a 3D runner game similar to the global hit Subway Surfers but has a plot twist of African culture integrated into the game as it takes place in a fairy-tale land type of setting. Kukulu is the name of the main character in the game, a brave chicken that finds freedom from her farmer. Gamers are taken through the African terrain as they help Kukulu journey and run for her life through levels and challenging obstacles.

    Recently, Qene Games proudly entered into a global, multi-year partnership with Carry1st. These two companies worked together to publish Gebeta, a free-to-play mobile board game that is a modern take on the traditional African and South Asian game of mancala. The game’s features include new mechanics, boosters, and tricks as it is intended to make the game more engaging with modern players as they grow in mastery.

    Qene Games also has plans to launch another addition to its ever-growing portfolio with the launch of Feta slated for 2021. Feta is a puzzle slider game with fun and challenging characteristics. Ethiopian culture is highlighted in the game, along with the country’s tradition and food. The game is a way for all audiences who play to see the beauty that Ethiopian culture brings to the world.

    Qene Games will launch the App Store version of the Kukulu game, as it is currently only available on Google Play. The company also plans to launch “Feta” and eventually become its own game publisher after closing a quiet pre-seed round of $250,000 in 2021 said the company CEO and co-founder, Dawit Abraham.

    “The software development firm, Qene Games, is excited for what the next few years and beyond holds after being the leader in raising the bar and popularity of African gaming in the technology industry. Experts at the company are generating more global content to add to future game releases,” said Hiruy Amanuel.

    About Hiruy Amanuel

    Hiruy Amanuel is a dedicated philanthropist who has invested in several educational and technological initiatives in East Africa. By increasing access to quality education and technological resources, he hopes to drive the rapid development of groundbreaking technologies throughout the Horn of Africa.

    About Dawit Abraham

    Dawit is a Senior game developer and co-founder of Qene Games which is a gaming company creating premium African mobile games for the international market. Dawit believes that Africa has a strong capacity to compete with international software industries and his goal is to make Qene Technologies one of the leading gaming companies in Africa, and eventually, the world.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Interview: Meklit Hadero on Role of Music & Culture Amid Conflict in Ethiopia

    As part of "Movement,” an ongoing series from The World [a US public radio news magazine] about the lives and work of immigrant musicians, Ethiopian American musician Meklit Hadero recounts conversations with fellow musicians in Ethiopia about the unifying role of music and culture amid the conflict in Tigray. (Photo: Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero shows off her guitar chops/via WAMU)

    PRI

    Ethiopian American musician Meklit Hadero: ‘We use music to talk about the things that are hard to talk about’

    As the conflict unfolds, some in the Ethiopian diaspora around the world try to make sense of it and their personal stories of migration and belonging to the country. Among them, Ethiopian American musician and cultural activist Meklit Hadero.

    “It’s a time of heartbreak for many Ethiopians,” Hadero told The World. “Hearing these stories of suffering is just absolutely tragic.”

    Hadero, who left Ethiopia for the US with her family when she was just under 2 years old, last visited Ethiopia in 2019 — before the conflict in Tigray broke out.

    She spoke with Ethiopian saxophonist Jorga Mesfin about the sense of optimism and desire for political and economic reform with the government and yet, palpable risk of ethnic violence.

    As part of “Movement,” an ongoing series from The World about the lives and work of immigrant musicians, Hadero recounts her conversations with Mesfin and other fellow artists during that 2019 trip — and discusses the role of music and culture in the country amid the Tigray conflict.

    “Calls for unity can feel impossible when history has not been reconciled, but the cost of not looking each other in the eye also feels too heavy to bear. How do we move through this? Like George [Mesfin], I often find it easier to face these impossible questions as an artist with music rather than with words,” Meklit said. “We use music to talk about the things that are hard to talk about.”

    Audio: Meklit Hadero on the Role of Music & Culture Amid the Conflict in Ethiopia

    Related:

    Review: ‘Meklit Hadero’s Nourishing Music & Lecture’ at University of Washington


    The following is a review of Meklit Hadero’s recent on screen performance and lecture at the University of Washington’s Meany Hall courtesy of the University’s student newspaper, The Daily. (Photo by Tessa Shimizu)

    The Daily

    Updated: February 14th, 2021

    Meklit nourishes us through her music in Meany Center performance and lecture

    Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero’s joy is infectious. Listeners are enveloped in her warmth, even with the barrier of an electronic screen, and can’t help but feel a sense of peace while she talks and sings. Meklit invites us into her culture, and we never feel like an outsider. She is a natural storyteller who shared intimate cultural traditions in her Meany on Screen performance and lecture: “How Music Connects Us: Belonging, Wellbeing, and Sonic Lineage.”

    Meklit’s art synthesizes jazz, folk, and East African inspirations. She is the co-founder of the Nile Project, which is described as an “initiative bringing together musicians from all 11 Nile Basin countries to create music together, to tour the river and source lakes, and tour the world.” “When the People Move, The Music Moves Too,” her most recent album, was at the top of the iTunes World Music Chart.

    The multitalented artist and activist is also a National Geographic Explorer, a TED Fellow, and the chief of program at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where she works to uplift BIPoC artists who in turn support the health and wellbeing of their communities.

    Meklit is often placed in the category of “world music,” however, she explained in her lecture that this term can contribute to division and othering. She prefers to view the phrase as relating to “open-armed sense of curiosity,” listening, and learning. Meklit thinks of music as a “gift of life” and global connector.

    “Every single culture in the world has music,” Meklit said during the lecture. “All music is world music.”

    Meklit hoped to nourish listeners with “kitchen table songs” in her Meany on Screen performance, recorded from San Francisco at the vibrant Studio 124. The show began with “Abbay Mado,” an Amharic praise song that describes a farmer, his life on the Blue Nile River, and the nourishing food he brings to tables. When singing this folk song, Meklit said she is reminded of the millions of people who have sung it in the past. For her, the power of folk music comes from the many voices that are contained in one piece.


    (The Daily University of Washington)

    In her performance, Meklit serenaded listeners with “Yesterday is a Tizita,” an Ethiopian song form meaning “songs of nostalgia.” The tizita holds two meanings — yesterday is a memory, and the popular Beatles song “Yesterday,” which fits into the tizita genre. According to Meklit, double entendres are an important part of the poetry and traditions of Ethiopia.

    “Kemekem (I Like your Afro)” is a traditional song from Northern Ethiopia. The phrase means freshly cut grass, but is also considered an idiom for the perfect afro, which Meklit described as the “stand tall” pride and swagger that comes from this hairstyle. In a piece from the performance, she sings: “Future is a woman // with her head held high // and an afro on her shoulders // reaching up for the sky // and the knowledge of her people // is filling up her mind // She understand manipulation // won’t fall for it this time.”

    The musician also gushed about the story behind her krar (Ethiopian harp), given to her by Dawit Seyoum, who toured with Meklit for the Nile Project.

    “It feels like a living being,” Meklit said. “It reacts to the temperature, and the air quality, and the room, and it tells me its moods, and it tells me how it’s feeling, and how exactly it needs to be played that day.”

    Traditional instruments, which are handmade, are magical. There is a specificity in which instrument you choose — each krar has its own personality. Meklit said she sees this as a metaphor for having to become connected with a specific soul in order to touch something universal.

    Meklit noted that researchers are finding out how music brings us together. A study published in the Journal of Cognitive Science found that after people listened to rhythmic music together, they performed coordinated tasks better than control groups did. With the help of music, the participants improved at sensing what was happening with their peers.

    Meklit also cited a Swedish study that shows that when people sing together, their heartbeats synchronize, in part because they are all breathing together as one entity. Music is “who we are,” Meklit said. She then discussed an MIT study which had participants listen to 150 sounds of all kinds. Per the study, there are six sets of neural clusters that process sound, but one set of neural clusters responds only to music. Meklit interprets these findings as people being “hardwired” for music.

    Meklit expressed in her lecture that she would love to see applications of these findings in our everyday lives.

    “Why can’t we play songs at the start of Zoom meetings that everyone in the call knows … imagine if everyone was singing from their respective computer screens before a meeting starts,” Meklit said. “What if we could attune better to each other?”

    Currently, Meklit is working on a new project in her capacity as a Mellon Creative Research Fellow. In collaboration with the Meany Center, “Movement” is designed as a live concert experience, with storytelling and multimedia aspects “creating a meditation on what it means to be American,” according to the Meany Center website.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Artist Spotlight: Mekdelawit of University of Massachusetts

    Mekdelawit Fissehazion's ardor for live shows began on stages in Ethiopia, long before University of Massachusetts. Mekdelawit was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. When she was 10 years old, [she] moved to Ethiopia, where she lived until coming to UMass for college. Ethiopia is where she began performing, and it influenced how she interacted with people while making music. (Daily Collegian)

    The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

    Isolation can be lonely, leaving one disconnected and uninspired without people to bounce off of. As humans we feed off of one another, we look forward to interacting, even setting up dates to do so. With quarantine and strict restrictions at the University of Massachusetts, this ability has been stripped of us, leaving a sense of mundaneness for many.

    Yet, for others, isolation can be incredibly cathartic, especially for creative introverts. Sophomore Mekdelawit Fissehazion released her first EP, “We Can Stay Here,” last April, in the midst of quarantine. While everyone else was losing their minds trying to figure out a way to spend their time alone, Fissehazion found peace.

    “That period of my life was a really big time for healing. It was after I got out of some really bad relationship stuff. That EP reflects it a lot — I just needed to get it out into the world,” she said. “For example, ‘We Can Stay Here’ is about a new person, but you have so many walls up because you don’t want to get hurt like last time. And then ‘Better Know’ was just straight up being like, bro, I miss you. But what can I do about it? You did me wrong. It’s really just exploring the emotions after heartbreak.”

    Through the release of her first project, she was able to find a release within herself. The EP itself is mostly freestyles, making her pain feel genuine and stories that much more remarkable.

    This sense of such raw realness, especially for a newer artist, did not fall on deaf ears. Her social media was flooded with Instagram reposts and hundreds of shares. The fact is the UMass community was truly rocking with her.

    “I really am so grateful that anybody listens to my music, it makes me so happy,” Fissehazion said. “I don’t think people realize how nerve wracking it is to put all your thoughts and emotions into a song and give it to people. The fact that they receive it and actually mess with it enough to post it and tell their friends about it means a lot to me.”

    Yet, unfortunately, because the EP was released during quarantine, Fissehazion couldn’t feel the tangible love from her audience that comes with release parties and live shows, something that is important to her as an artist.

    “I thrive off of performing, I really love it,” she said. “It’s a different feeling because recording music is a very tedious process, and I love it. But at the same time, singing, being in front of people and interacting with the audience, is very nice.”

    Before UMass students were sent home in March, the young artist performed at the Black History Month Showcase, an event hosted by the UMass Black Student Union. Yet, her ardor for live shows began on stages in Ethiopia, long before UMass.

    Fissehazion was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, where her parents’ taste in music was affected by their shift to American culture. This in turn influenced the music she listened to growing up.

    “Maryland is where I first started listening to R&B and singing with my cousins,” Fissehazion said. She recalled some of the artists that inspired her in her adolescence being Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Keri Hilson, T-Pain and Beyoncé.

    Audio: Mekdelawit · We Can Stay Here

    “I was obsessed with Beyoncé when I was really young,” she said. “I would beg my mom to buy me the World Tour CDs, watch them and learn every single rendition of every single song so I could sing exactly like her. When I really got into ‘Yoncé, that changed my life as a young kid. And my music taste. That was really where it began.”

    When she was 10 years old, Fissehazion moved to Ethiopia, where she lived until coming to UMass for college. Ethiopia is where she began performing, and it influenced how she interacted with people while making music.

    Her cousin, Adonis, served as a mentor-like figure for her when she first started out. She began experimenting with GarageBand and singing over her own production, yet it wasn’t until she and Adonis began working together that she began taking her craft to the next level and releasing music.

    “He produced and rapped, then I would write and hop on the song, and we would just release like that,” she said.

    The two have a few songs together and plan on releasing more collaborative music in the future. But for now, Fissehazion has been focusing on her solo career and trying to sharpen it as much as possible.

    “I’m just trying to make sure I’m really focused on quality right now,” she said, regarding a project in the works. “My previous project was mostly just freestyles, so now I’m actually taking my time and writing songs.”

    The songwriting process for the artist comes in waves of poetry — or pure spontaneous inspiration.

    “I’ll take certain lines from previous poetry and put them in where they fit sometimes,” she said. “Especially like the second verses, they always take me longer to write than the first ones because the first ones are just an outpour of ideas.”

    She refers to “Better Know”as the song she is most proud of because of the lyrics. Now, since she has more familiarity in terms of mixing and mastering, Fissehazion would like to work on it again for a re-release.

    Last April, she was able to use her heartbreak from previous semesters as fuel to create beautiful art. “We Can Stay Here” is dreamy, smooth and something you would listen to in a bubble bath while lighting a eucalyptus scented candle — knowing that at the end of the day, you have yourself and that’s all that matters.


    Mekdelawit (Daily Collegian)

    Now, her motivation to create comes in letting out those last bits of frustration and painting a fuller picture of her story.

    “I guess quarantine really made it hard because musicians and artists in general thrive on going through things to write music. And even though it is good sometimes to make sad music, I feel like a lot of the music that I made during quarantine… was more sad,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel that way from my music all the time. I’m really trying to pick the things that are more relatable, that are gonna touch different parts of people’s hearts, instead of depression.”

    With the release of “We Can Stay Here,” she did not have as many eyes on her because it was her first project. But now the stress of releasing a project under a larger audience is all too real, paired with the inevitable self-doubt that comes with being an artist.

    “I’m in my head a lot, self-doubt is a killer,” Fissehazion said. “For real, it’ll beat you down and everything. I’m starting to be more patient with myself and finding the joy in creating again, because it comes with a lot of pressure. You put pressure on yourself, because you want to be so great.”

    Conquering something as vicious as your own brain can lead to magnificent outcomes, such as a new single, “Motions” that is merely weeks away from release. Keep your eyes peeled for that and future projects from the 19-year-old R&B artist.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    ART TALK: Tenbeete Solomon, DC Muralist Shares Her Favorite Spots on U Street

    Tenbeete Solomon paints a mural outside of K Street shop &pizza in Washington, D.C. As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Tenbeete Solomon has long been surrounded by art. Her dad was an accomplished artist who went to Parsons on a full ride. “Art was in my life before I knew I was an artist,” she says. | PHOTO BY SHAUGHN COOPER

    Thrillist

    DC Muralist Shares Her Favorite Spots in the Historic U Street Neighborhood

    If you’ve ever taken a walk around downtown DC, public art practically jumps out at you from the walls. That’s certainly the case with the bold and beautiful work of Tenbeete Solomon, aka Trap Bob, whose art can be seen in U Street, NOMA, and Takoma Park, just to name a few spots. Her vibrant, stylized art usually comes with a message whether it’s obvious—like “Fight The Power” or “Know Your Rights”—or merely symbolized in the powerful Black figures she depicts.

    As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Solomon has long been surrounded by art. Her dad was an accomplished artist who went to Parsons on a full ride. Ironically, it was something she never considered for herself until the end of her college career studying marketing at University of Maryland. “Art was in my life before I knew I was an artist and then marketing came in before I knew I needed that,” she says. “If you’re creative, having a business education is really important.”

    Soon, she put that education and skill to good use when she started getting her work into DC galleries. “When I started out, I was obsessed with painting hands, so I was able to have a series with some consistency,” she says, adding that she was influenced early on by the bright and whimsical images of Lisa Frank. “My first year I was showing in DC, I did about 50 shows. Yeah, a show like every weekend.”


    PHOTO COURTESY OF TRAP BOB

    DC businesses small and large came calling and she was commissioned to paint a mural for BET promoting Lena Waithe’s show Twenties outside of Cloak & Dagger. Plus, her work can be found in Alethia Tanner Park in NOMA, outside K Street shop &pizza, on Takoma Park picnic tables, and on the exterior wall of Hotel Zena on 14th Street.

    This ever-present public art is one of the reasons Solomon loves DC, which she says is vastly different from its tourist reputation. “The cultural and creative scene doesn’t have anything to do with Capitol Hill and politics,” she says. “It’s very colorful, bold, and loud. Everyone is doing art, hosting live shows, and Go-Go is playing somewhere multiple times a day.”

    The U Street area specifically speaks to Solomon—not only because some of her work can be found there, but because of its historical significance and feeling of community. Known in the 1920s as “Black Broadway,” U Street was the center of DC’s cultural, artistic, and activist scenes.

    “It feels like a gathering hub for people in the city,” she says, mentioning iconic spots like Ben’s Chili Bowl and the T-Mobile store, famous for blasting Go-Go beats. “Everyone seems to end up at U Street and Shaw and there’s just always something to do no matter the time of day.”

    Next time you visit U Street, be sure to pop by some of Solomon’s favorite places for live music and vegan eats, snap a photo with one of her murals, and appreciate the significant role the neighborhood has played in shaping DC.

    Read more »

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s Debo Engineering, A Jimma Based Agritech Startup

    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering, part of a burgeoning technology startup scene in Ethiopia that's blazing a trail in various fields. Debo Engineering has announced that it has developed an app that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection. (Courtesy photo)

    Tech in Africa

    Ethiopia Agritech startup develops an App that detects plant disease

    Debo Engineering, a startup based in Jimma has developed an app that automatically detects then classifies plant diseases through image detection once it runs the image through an algorithm.

    Debo engineering designs and develops smart engineering solutions for the agricultural sector. The startup banks on applied engineering centering on newly evolved technologies such as ML, artificial intelligence, IoT, image processing, mobile computing, and big data.

    Debo has a desktop application connecting commercial farms and research institutes in making farm analysis and drone rental services in the case of large rental farms. Most of the startup’s customers are urban farmers operating in Jimma city. Debo served over 300 customers in the last year.

    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering. They both have engineering backgrounds and have received several recognitions to date. The team clinched the Green Innovation and Agritech Slam 2019 Business Competition and MEST Africa’s Ethiopia Competition. This has helped them raise initial funding to begin the implementation of their business ideas.

    Meet This Jimma Based Agritech Startup That Developed An App That Detects Plant Disease

    Shega

    Debo Engineering, A Jimma based agritech startup, developed an algorithm that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection.

    Debo engineering is a startup that design and develop smart business applications solution in the agriculture sector. The startup uses applied engineering discipline centered on newly evolving technologies such as artificial intelligence, ML, IOT, image processing, big data, and mobile computing.

    Debo developed an algorithm that automatically detects and classifies plant disease through image detection. The solution is available via a monthly subscription on the web and mobile application. It provides a recommendation to be taken for the user after detect plant disease.

    Debo also provides a desktop application that helps commercials farms and research institutes to make farm analysis as well as drone renting services for large commercial farms.

    Even though most of their customers are urban farmers that operate in Jimma city and nearby, Debo has been able to serve more than 300 customers last year.

    Boaz Berhanu and Jermia Bayisa are founders of Debo Engineering. They both have engineering backgrounds. The startup has received many recognitions so far. The team was the winner of the Green Innovation and Agritech Slam 2019 business competition and MEST Africa’s Ethiopia Competition.

    These recognitions have helped them in raising the initial fund to start implementing their business idea.

    Debo plans to add more features and use wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) that can be easily deployed in farm fields and continuously send data.

    Related:

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s Qene Tech, Creators of Kukulu & Gebeta Video Games


    Dawit Abraham, Qene Technologies Co-founder and CEO. (Photo: Qene Tech)

    Ventures Africa

    DAWIT ABRAHAM AND HIRUY AMANUEL DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF AWARD-WINNING MOBILE GAMING STUDIO, QENE GAMES

    As one of the top gaming studios in Africa, Qene Games already has a 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App under its belt, along with a bright future ahead.

    A part of this Ethiopian company’s vision is to incorporate African roots into the games created. Qene Games launched its first mobile 3D game in 2018 called Kukulu. The firm then spent almost a year problem-solving to establish a global friendly African game brand for the international market. The original African game set expectations high after winning the 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App and Qene Games is set to launch the iOS version in 2021 behind their latest release of Gebeta.

    Kukulu is a 3D runner game similar to the global hit Subway Surfers but has a plot twist of African culture integrated into the game as it takes place in a fairy-tale land type of setting. Kukulu is the name of the main character in the game, a brave chicken that finds freedom from her farmer. Gamers are taken through the African terrain as they help Kukulu journey and run for her life through levels and challenging obstacles.

    Recently, Qene Games proudly entered into a global, multi-year partnership with Carry1st. These two companies worked together to publish Gebeta, a free-to-play mobile board game that is a modern take on the traditional African and South Asian game of mancala. The game’s features include new mechanics, boosters, and tricks as it is intended to make the game more engaging with modern players as they grow in mastery.

    Qene Games also has plans to launch another addition to its ever-growing portfolio with the launch of Feta slated for 2021. Feta is a puzzle slider game with fun and challenging characteristics. Ethiopian culture is highlighted in the game, along with the country’s tradition and food. The game is a way for all audiences who play to see the beauty that Ethiopian culture brings to the world.

    Qene Games will launch the App Store version of the Kukulu game, as it is currently only available on Google Play. The company also plans to launch “Feta” and eventually become its own game publisher after closing a quiet pre-seed round of $250,000 in 2021 said the company CEO and co-founder, Dawit Abraham.

    “The software development firm, Qene Games, is excited for what the next few years and beyond holds after being the leader in raising the bar and popularity of African gaming in the technology industry. Experts at the company are generating more global content to add to future game releases,” said Hiruy Amanuel.

    About Hiruy Amanuel

    Hiruy Amanuel is a dedicated philanthropist who has invested in several educational and technological initiatives in East Africa. By increasing access to quality education and technological resources, he hopes to drive the rapid development of groundbreaking technologies throughout the Horn of Africa.

    About Dawit Abraham

    Dawit is a Senior game developer and co-founder of Qene Games which is a gaming company creating premium African mobile games for the international market. Dawit believes that Africa has a strong capacity to compete with international software industries and his goal is to make Qene Technologies one of the leading gaming companies in Africa, and eventually, the world.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: Ethiopia’s Qene Tech, Creators of Kukulu & Gebeta Video Games

    Dawit Abraham, Qene Technologies Co-founder and CEO. (Photo: Qene Tech)

    Ventures Africa

    DAWIT ABRAHAM AND HIRUY AMANUEL DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF AWARD-WINNING MOBILE GAMING STUDIO, QENE GAMES

    As one of the top gaming studios in Africa, Qene Games already has a 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App under its belt, along with a bright future ahead.

    A part of this Ethiopian company’s vision is to incorporate African roots into the games created. Qene Games launched its first mobile 3D game in 2018 called Kukulu. The firm then spent almost a year problem-solving to establish a global friendly African game brand for the international market. The original African game set expectations high after winning the 2018 Apps Africa Award for Best Media and Entertainment App and Qene Games is set to launch the iOS version in 2021 behind their latest release of Gebeta.

    Kukulu is a 3D runner game similar to the global hit Subway Surfers but has a plot twist of African culture integrated into the game as it takes place in a fairy-tale land type of setting. Kukulu is the name of the main character in the game, a brave chicken that finds freedom from her farmer. Gamers are taken through the African terrain as they help Kukulu journey and run for her life through levels and challenging obstacles.

    Recently, Qene Games proudly entered into a global, multi-year partnership with Carry1st. These two companies worked together to publish Gebeta, a free-to-play mobile board game that is a modern take on the traditional African and South Asian game of mancala. The game’s features include new mechanics, boosters, and tricks as it is intended to make the game more engaging with modern players as they grow in mastery.

    Qene Games also has plans to launch another addition to its ever-growing portfolio with the launch of Feta slated for 2021. Feta is a puzzle slider game with fun and challenging characteristics. Ethiopian culture is highlighted in the game, along with the country’s tradition and food. The game is a way for all audiences who play to see the beauty that Ethiopian culture brings to the world.

    Qene Games will launch the App Store version of the Kukulu game, as it is currently only available on Google Play. The company also plans to launch “Feta” and eventually become its own game publisher after closing a quiet pre-seed round of $250,000 in 2021 said the company CEO and co-founder, Dawit Abraham.

    “The software development firm, Qene Games, is excited for what the next few years and beyond holds after being the leader in raising the bar and popularity of African gaming in the technology industry. Experts at the company are generating more global content to add to future game releases,” said Hiruy Amanuel.

    About Hiruy Amanuel

    Hiruy Amanuel is a dedicated philanthropist who has invested in several educational and technological initiatives in East Africa. By increasing access to quality education and technological resources, he hopes to drive the rapid development of groundbreaking technologies throughout the Horn of Africa.

    About Dawit Abraham

    Dawit is a Senior game developer and co-founder of Qene Games which is a gaming company creating premium African mobile games for the international market. Dawit believes that Africa has a strong capacity to compete with international software industries and his goal is to make Qene Technologies one of the leading gaming companies in Africa, and eventually, the world.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: Ruth Negga To Play Josephine Baker In ABC Limited Series

    Ruth Negga, the Ethiopian-Irish actress, is set to play the legendary Josephine Baker, an American-born French Jazz Age performer and civil rights activist, in an upcoming Limited Series At ABC Signature. (Photo: Ruth Negga and Josephine Baker/AP)

    Deadline

    Ruth Negga To Star In Josephine Baker Limited Series At ABC Signature From Dee Harris-Lawrence, Millicent Shelton & LeBron James’ SpringHill Company

    EXCLUSIVE: The remarkable story of Josephine Baker, one of the most influential female entertainers of the 20th century, will be the subject of Josephine, a limited drama series in development at ABC Signature, with Ruth Negga attached to star as the legendary Jazz Age performer and civil rights activist.

    Negga also executive produces the project, which hails from David Makes Man showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence, Emmy-nominated director Millicent Shelton (30 Rock), LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The Springhill Company and ABC Signature. Josephine stems from The Springhill Company’s overall deal with ABC Signature.

    Written by Harris-Lawrence and to be directed by Shelton, Josephine is a raw and unflinching look at the force of nature that was Josephine Baker, the biggest Black female artist of her time. From international superstar and decorated WWII spy, to civil rights activist and flawed mother, Josephine delves into the raw talent, sexual fluidity, struggles and bold life of an icon.

    Negga, Harris-Lawrence and Shelton executive produce with The Springhill Company.

    Born in Missouri in 1906, Baker started her career at 15 when she appeared onstage in several New York shows. At 19, she moved to France, which would become her adopted home country.

    There, she almost immediately found success as one of Europe’s most popular and highest-paid performers. Early on, she was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. She won admiration of cultural figures such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings, earning herself nicknames like “Black Venus” and “Black Pearl.” Baker sang professionally for the first time in 1930, and several years later landed film roles as a singer in Zou-Zou and Princesse Tam-Tam.

    Baker worked for the French Resistance during World War II, and during the 1950s and ’60s devoted herself to fighting segregation and racism in the United States. Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the U.S. and had an active role in the civil rights movement. She was a speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, and in 1968, she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the U.S. by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, but declined the offer out of concern for the welfare of her children. Just two years after making a comeback to the stage, Baker died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1975, and was buried with military honors.

    Decades later, Baker’s life and work continues to influence top entertainment figures such as Beyoncé, who has portrayed her on various occasions. Baker also was portrayed by Diana Ross on Broadway and television in An Evening with Diana Ross, by Karine Plantadit in the biopic Frida and by Cush Jumbo in her debut play Josephine and I. In HBO’s 1991 biopic, The Josephine Baker Story, Baker was played by Lynn Whitfield, who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special, becoming the first Black actress to win the category.

    Baker was recently discovered by a new generation through HBO’s very influential 2020 series Lovecraft Country, which featured the American-born French entertainer, played by Carra Patterson. Also last year, Studiocanal, CPB Films and Leyland Films announced that they are developing an English-language drama series about Baker.

    Negga, best known for her starring roles in the film Loving and the AMC series Preacher, is repped by ICM Partners, Principal Entertainment and Markham Froggat and Irwin.

    For Harris-Lawrence, Josephine falls outside of the big overall deal she recently signed with Warner Bros. TV, where she serves an exec producer/co-showrunner on All Rise and exec producer/showrunner on David Makes Man. Prior to that, she was co-executive producer on Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., Shots Fired and Star as well as Zoo, the ABC Signature-produced Detroit 1-8-7 and Saving Grace. She is repped by Rain Management Group and Gordon M. Bobb at Del Shaw Moonves.

    Shelton, who has played a key role in putting Josephine together, landed an Emmy nomination for 30 Rock, becoming the first African-American woman to be nominated in the directing for a comedy series category. The prolific music video and TV helmer has been one of ABC Signature’s go-to directors for Black-ish. She has also directed episodes of P-Valley, Insecure, The Walking Dead, Titans and the Starz comedy pilot Run the World, which was picked up to series. Shelton’s has TV directing work has earned her 10 NAACP Image Award nominations and three wins. She recently signed on to direct Netflix’s feature thriller End of the Road starring Queen Latifah. Shelton is repped by ICM Partners, Rain Management Group and Del Shaw Moonves.

    Related:

    Spotlight: Ruth Negga as ‘Hamlet’ American Premiere

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Q & A: Desta Gallery Owner Emebet Korn of Mill Valley, California

    Desta Gallery owner Emebet Korn arranges a piece on display at her gallery in Mill Valley, California. (Marin Independent Journal)

    Marin Independent Journal

    When Emebet Korn moved to San Anselmo from San Francisco more than 20 years ago, then pregnant with her daughter, she dreamed of opening a gallery in town. She imagined a place to highlight emerging and established artists — especially from the Bay Area — offer receptions and events, and foster a greater community.

    Although it took more than a decade, she made the leap and opened Desta Gallery in San Anselmo — the name means joy in Amharic, the Ethiopian-born Korn’s native language — nearly seven years ago.

    Then, in the middle of a pandemic, she closed the San Anselmo location and re-opened it in September in Mill Valley, at 100 Throckmorton Ave.

    Her experiences as a design consultant and the owner of a high-end women’s apparel line, as well as her philanthropic background co-founding a nonprofit that served her home country, help inform her contemporary-focused gallery, where she offers art consultancy, hand-delivers artwork and showcases exhibits.

    Q What made you want to move the gallery to Mill Valley?

    A The culture of Mill Valley. They support the arts, be it fine art, the Tuesday ArtWalks, the film festival, Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival and more. The Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce is very active with supporting businesses, and also what attracted me is being close to the city, so that people from all over the Bay Area visit.

    Q With everything that’s gone on this year, what it’s like being a woman gallerist of color in Marin?

    A I have only had people be supportive of me and my business. I definitely feel vulnerable, thinking all these thoughts that I have never thought about before, like are people seeing me as this Black person, or just another immigrant? It’s mindboggling why there’s such separation. We are in 2020, people should not be thinking this way. This is not something I was raised with. I went to an international school where everyone was from all over and we played with each other as one. My children are interracial. I feel very strongly that it’s important to see people for who they are, not their skin color.

    Q Growing up in Ethiopia, were you interested in art?

    A I have been passionate about art all my life. Since a young age, I’ve loved drawing, painting, anything creative. I came here from Ethiopia and studied fashion design and art.

    Q What does the gallery name mean to you?

    A It reflects on what I do, besides loving the creative world and wanting to support artists, working with clients, helping them find their voice and bringing joy to them. When a client buys a painting, and it’s a right fit, if you look at their eyes, they are twinkling, the spirit is lifting up. That’s why I am in this. Art reaches deep inside our souls and connects us to our deeper emotions, feelings and perceptions. Also, I introduce my clients to artworks that challenge them. I feel works that offer some resistance are often the ones that provide expansion and self-discovery.

    Q What’s it been like having to navigate COVID?

    A At the beginning of COVID, it was a little bit shocking to have to close your business, then now what, and I went into reflection, a lot of meditation and a lot of time thinking about it and how should I proceed. As time passed, what I realized is yes, we are in difficult times, but that doesn’t stop us from still enjoying the good things in our lives. Instead of dwelling on the difficulties, also reflect on the positives that are surrounding us. I decided to keep forging ahead, as long as I am doing it the safest way, and I am. It’s not a bad thing to go to galleries and look at art, even if you don’t buy anything at this time. Just be inspired and it’s good to refresh your spirit.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: Ethiopian-American Artist Awol Erizku’s Photo of Poet Amanda Gorman on TIME Magazine‘s New Cover

    TIME Magazine‘s new cover features American poet Amanda Gorman, photographed by Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku. (Photo of ​Awol Erizku by Jeff Vespa)

    Fad Magazine

    AMANDA GORMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED BY ARTIST AWOL ERIZKU FOR TIME COVER.

    TIME Magazine‘s new cover features American poet Amanda Gorman, photographed by Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku. Erizku is quickly becoming one of the most iconic photographers of our time.

    Erizku is a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, film, sculpture and installation, creating a new vernacular that bridges the gap between African and African American visual culture, referencing art history, hip hop and spirituality, amongst other subjects, in his work.

    “I was interested in allowing her to own the space that she’s in right now,” Erizku says. “We were going for timelessness, something that felt classical” and tied in to the “resurgence of a Black renaissance.”

    It was a special moment for him, too. “Like many who witnessed the recent presidential Inauguration, I was captivated by her poem and her exquisite delivery,” says Erizku, who is based in Los Angeles and has exhibited at institutions including New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem. “For TIME, I wanted to extricate her from the political dimension and immerse it in a more cosmic atmosphere to add to the weight of her words.”

    In a separate image featured inside the magazine, Gorman holds a white birdcage in a nod to the birdcage ring she wore on inauguration day. (That ring was a gift from Oprah, referring to previous inauguration poet Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”)

    “It needed a layer of depth that only poetry can explain,” Erizku says of the image.

    A team of Black creative professionals prepared Gorman for the portraits: Jason Bolden styled her, Autumn Moultrie did her makeup, Khiry provided jewellery and the dress was from Greta Constantine.

    The issue features Michelle Obama in conversation with American poet Amanda Gorman, whose poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ read at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony touched hearts and minds all over the world. The article, which covers issues such as the role of art in activism and the pressures Black women face in the spotlight, is also accompanied by a video shot and directed by Erizku.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Spotlight: NYT & Yahoo Interview with Sara Menker, CEO of Gro Intelligence

    Last month The New York Times highlighted Sara Menker's company Gro Intelligence as a start-up raising money "in a bid to create business benchmarks for climate risk." This week Yahoo Finance is featuring the Ethiopian-born former Wall Street commodities trader as part of its 'Influencers' series discussing "the challenges of food security, how Covid exposed the world’s agriculture system, and why [Sara] says we may be a few years away from a global food crisis." Below are excerpts and links to both stories. (Photo by Gabriela Celeste, via Gro Intelligence)

    Yahoo Finance

    Sara Menker spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

    Born and raised in Ethiopia, Menker moved to the United States for college at Mt. Holyoke and later received a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University. She worked as a commodities trader at Morgan Stanley for eight years, but left in 2012 to improve the quality and accessibility of data in the agricultural sector.

    Two years later, she launched Gro Intelligence, which aggregates thousands of data sources to model conditions that affect global agricultural output, such as drought and floods.

    Speaking with Yahoo Finance, Menker said the protectionist policies last year that rocked the food supply chain will likely worsen as climate change exacerbates global instability.

    “More uncertainty means more protectionism,” she says.

    Read the full article and watch the video at finance.yahoo.com »

    A start-up raises money in a bid to create business benchmarks for climate risk.


    Sara Menker, the chief executive of Gro Intelligence. Credit…Gabriela Celeste, via Gro Intelligence

    The New York Times

    As companies and regulators increasingly see climate change as a business threat, the data company Gro Intelligence is devising indexes that it says can track climate risks in a granular way — and could create a new class of financial investments.

    The company is developing indexes to measure conditions like drought, floods, temperature and more, according to Sara Menker, its founder and chief executive. For example, its software aggregates 46 variables into a single measure of drought severity on a scale from zero to five.

    These indexes, along with a new $85 million fund-raising round that Gro will announce on Friday, the DealBook newsletter reports, are the latest signs of the financial industry’s efforts to generate money from environmental initiatives.

    Read more »

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    WATCH: Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay Smashes 1500m World Record

    Gudaf Tsegay (left) celebrates winning the women’s 1500m in Liévin, France and setting an indoor world record time of 3min 53.09sec. The 24-year-old’s time not only broke the previous best set by Genzebe Dibaba in 2014 but – understandably – the resolve of Britain’s Laura Muir. (Reuters photo)

    The Guardian

    Ethiopian records 3min 53.09sec to shatter record

    Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia demolished the women’s 1500m indoor world record by more than two seconds on an astonishing night that will fuel yet more talk about how new track spike technology has become a gamechanger for the sport.

    The 24-year-old’s time of 3min 53.09sec at the World Indoor Tour meeting in Liévin, France not only broke the previous best set by Genzebe Dibaba in 2014 but – understandably – the resolve of Britain’s Laura Muir.

    Muir is one of the world’s finest middle-distance runners, but she was unable to keep up with Tsegay as the pacemaker led the field through the first 400m in a lightning quick 58.97.

    The gap only grew and Muir could do little as she finished more than six seconds back in 3:59.58. Her time was still good enough to break the British record.

    “My training did that,” said Tsegay, the 2019 world bronze medallist, who was running in new Adidas spikes. “The pace is my friend. I have been training really hard and I am so happy.”

    Two world records that have stood for a generation almost fell during an incredible two hours. The 20-year-old Ethiopian Getnet Wale – who is better known as a steeplechaser – produced an astonishing final kilometre to come within 0.31sec of the indoor 3,000m record that has been held by Daniel Komen since 1998.

    Read more »

    Watch: Guduf Tsegay Sets WORLD RECORD 1500m 3:53.09

    Related:

    Another Ethiopian Victory at 2021 World Indoor Tour As Getnet Wale Wins 3000m

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    Video: The Weeknd Rocks Tampa with Super Bowl Halftime Show

    Abel rocked Raymond James Stadium Sunday in between halves, headlining the Pepsi Halftime Show solo ... as promised. For starters, almost 80% of his set was done on an elevated platform from high up in the bleachers -- away from pretty much everyone below. (TMZ)

    TMZ

    The Weeknd came, he saw, and he conquered his Super Bowl halftime performance … and, boy, was this one different in the midst of a pandemic.

    Abel rocked Raymond James Stadium Sunday in between halves, headlining the Pepsi Halftime Show solo … as promised. For starters, almost 80% of his set was done on an elevated platform from high up in the bleachers — away from pretty much everyone below.

    They built an elaborate stage for the guy — complete with a makeshift cityscape made in the fashion of Las Vegas and kinda NYC too. Weeknd was surrounded by a bunch of would-be clones that changed costumes throughout, but started out with masks and glowing red eyes.

    Of course, TW was in his signature red blazer, black gloves and MJ-esque shoes. He ran through a few of his hits, including ‘Starboy,’ ‘The Hills’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face.’ He then ran backstage into a house of mirrors type of set, reminiscent of his ‘Blinding Lights’ music vid.

    Weeknd continued to sing snippets of ‘I Feel It Coming,’ ‘Save Your Tears,’ and ‘Earned It’ — that’s when the party got on the move … down to the field level where he kept the show going.

    Almost the entire gridiron was flooded with Abel lookalikes, but all of them had their faces bandaged … with the OG eventually joining them as they wrapped a choreographed dance routine. He then led them into a march down field, and went on to sing ‘BL,’ which was capped off with a crazy firework show and the so-called clones running around him in elaborate circles before falling to the ground and lying still, with only Weeknd left standing.

    It was pretty neat — but perhaps most noteworthy … the fact fans couldn’t come on down and join in on the fun. Still, Weeknd made the most of it … and the crowd seemed to love every minute, as they could be heard screaming from the stands.

    The whole thing ran about 14 minutes, and seemed to go off without a hitch. Well done, all!

    Related:

    Spotlight: 5 Things to Know About The Weeknd


    It’s Super Bowl Weeknd (not a typo). Canadian singer The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) will be on the biggest stage of his career when he performs the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida., and he’s taking no chances on its success. (AP photo)

    WUSA9

    From The Weeknd’s unusual stage name to his musical influences, here are a few things you may not know about the Super Bowl halftime performer.

    It’s Super Bowl Weeknd (not a typo). Canadian singer The Weeknd will be on the biggest stage of his career when he performs the halftime show at Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he’s taking no chances on its success.

    “We all grow up watching the world’s biggest acts playing the Super Bowl and one can only dream of being in that position,” the singer said when it was announced in November. “I’m humbled, honored and ecstatic to be the center of that infamous stage.”

    How honored? The Weeknd told Billboard last week that he’s put up $7 million of his own money to “make this halftime show be what he envisioned.”

    The Weeknd broke though into mainstream with his smash hit “Can’t Feel My Face” that was featured on his second studio album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which topped the Billboard 200 in 2015 and won a Grammy. He’s had three other chart-topping albums including his recent offering “After Hours,” which was released in March 2020.

    The Weeknd’s 2020 hit single “Blinding Lights” became his fifth song to peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He’s also won Grammys for his album “Starboy” and the song “Earned It.” That song also earned him an Oscar nomination after it appeared in the movie “Fifty Shades Of Grey.”

    If you’re unfamiliar with The Weeknd, an artist known for being somewhat press averse, here are five things to know before he takes the field in Tampa.

    What is The Weeknd’s real name?

    Abel Tesfaye. He was born in Toronto, Canada, on February 16, 1990.

    Why is he The Weeknd and not The Weekend?

    Tesfaye wanted to call himself The Weekend, according to E!, but an Ontario band already had dibs on the name. So, he just dropped a vowel.

    He did crossword puzzles to improve his vocabulary

    Tesfaye was a high school dropout, according to a 2015 Rolling Stone interview. He did crossword puzzles to up his vocabulary. He said then he wished he was a more eloquent speaker. “Me not finishing school — in my head, I still have this insecurity when I’m talking to someone educated,” he said.

    Michael Jackson was a huge influence due to The Weeknd’s heritage

    Tesfaye said Michael Jackson was an influence on his career not only for the King of Pop’s music, but due to Tesfaye’s family roots. Although he was born in Toronto, his parents were from Ethiopia.

    “People forget — ‘We Are the World’ is for Ethiopia,” he told Rolling Stone, referencing the 1985 song Jackson wrote with Lionel Richie to raise money to combat famine in Africa. “At home, if it wasn’t Ethiopian music, it was Michael. He was our icon.” He told Vanity Fair that Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” helped him find his voice.

    A run-in with police helped him ‘smarten up’

    In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Tesfaye said he had a “near-miss” with the law that he described as “bad enough for me to smarten up, to focus.” While he didn’t elaborate, he said he knew he was given a second chance. “And you either take the experience and think, ‘This is it, final straw’, or you don’t. And the next move after that? It’s your entire life. You become who you become because of the next move you make.”

    Tesfaye joins a list of celebrated musicians who have played during Super Bowl halftime shows, including Madonna, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Katy Perry, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and last year’s duo of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

    Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company is executive producing the halftime show for a second year. Jesse Collins, who has produced the BET Awards and is working on this year’s Grammys and Oscars telecasts, will serve as an executive producer.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    TIME: Motown President Ethiopia Habtemariam on Steering the Legendary Label Through the Pandemic

    Ethiopia Habtemariam, the president of Motown Records, has spent the past year assisting her artists in navigating the painful reality of life offstage while retooling album-release plans. Below is Time Magazine's interview with Ethiopia. (Photo: Camera Press/Redux)

    TIME

    The pandemic rocked the music industry. Live performances, which are such a critical part of driving the business (and making fans euphoric) were quickly shut down last year. Concerts are going to be slow to return. (Who’s up for crowding next to sweaty strangers, yelling at the top of their lungs?) Ethiopia Habtemariam, the president of Motown Records, has spent the past year assisting her artists in navigating the painful reality of life offstage while retooling album-release plans. She helped one artist cope with depression when a much anticipated record was postponed and, in the outbreak’s early days, counseled another to take the virus more seriously. “There was a lot of misinformation about COVID and communities that it was hitting,” she said. Habtemariam remembers one young artist who was still going out on the town telling her, “Oh no, that’s a rich-people thing.”

    While live shows floundered, music delivered comfort to people stuck in their homes and apartments. Total audio consumption, which includes streaming and album sales, was up 11.6 % in 2020, according to MRC Data. And for Habtemariam, 41, the past year helped her ongoing mission to make the legendary Motown brand relevant in today’s culture. Back in 2015, she signed a joint venture with Quality Control Music, an influential hip-hop label based in Atlanta, leading to a string of megahits from hot young artists including the Migos, Lil Yachty and Lil Baby. Lil Baby, an Atlanta rapper, singer and songwriter, had the best-selling album of 2020, according to MRC Data, beating out Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. And Lil Baby’s single “The Bigger Picture,” released after the murder of George Floyd, became an unofficial protest anthem played at marches and rallies throughout the country. It has more than 112 million views on YouTube.

    Habtemariam, who started her music career as an unpaid intern at 14, recently joined TIME for a video conversation on the pressures of taking over a storied label, the perils of social media for artists and her favorite live venues.

    (This interview with Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

    So, what have you been listening to, to get through the pandemic?

    I went through a phase around April, May, when I was like going down memory lane of my childhood, reminiscing on songs that I grew up on. Middle school, high school years. And it was actually therapeutic in many ways. It kind of helped me get through a lot of the different emotions and feelings that I was having, and also it reminded me of why I fell in love with music.

    Rumor has it that you were a big TLC fan.

    I still think that they don’t get the credit they deserve because they were so huge! TLC, Aaliyah, Missy [Elliott], Lauryn Hill—I was a massive Janet Jackson fan as well.

    I’m a huge fan of music, period. I’m a daughter of immigrants. My parents are both Ethiopian, and I’m Ethiopian American. I grew up in the South. So here I am, this young girl, with a name like Ethiopia; I was a bit of an alien, but music was my salvation. It was my escape, but it was also a bridge for me to connect and build friendships.

    How did the pandemic disrupt your release schedule? You still managed to have one of the biggest albums of the year, with Lil Baby’s My Turn.

    I remember it vividly because we scheduled some in-stores for him. I remember coming to Atlanta and making sure everyone had hand sanitizer. And then everything shut down, and we had to really come together to figure out how we were going to move forward.

    We put it out Feb. 28, and it was massive. The response was incredible; everything was great. And two weeks later, the world shuts down. One of the things that was in the plan was, of course, a huge tour.

    Read more »

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    SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Menna Demessie Appointed Senior Vice President at Universal Music Group

    Universal Music Group (UMG) has appointed Dr. Menna Demessie as Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the company’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), effective immediately. (Photo credit: Duane Prokop)

    Press Release

    UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP APPOINTS DR. MENNA DEMESSIE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF TASK FORCE FOR MEANINGFUL CHANGE

    SANTA MONICA – Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, announced today that Dr. Menna Demessie has been appointed Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the company’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), effective immediately. TFMC was established in June 2020 by UMG’s Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, as a force for social justice in the music industry and beyond.

    Dr. Demessie, a political scientist and social justice advocate with a deep track record of civic and educational empowerment, will manage the TFMC and its activities. The company also announced UMG’s EVP, Chief People and Inclusion Officer, Eric Hutcherson, will join Jeff Harleston, General Counsel and EVP Business & Legal Affairs, UMG and interim CEO, Def Jam Records, and Ethiopia Habtemariam, President, Motown Records, as a co-chair of the TFMC.

    In making this announcement, Ethiopia Habtemariam said, “From the start, we’ve been energized by the commitment and passion of the TFMC – an organization powered by UMG executives from across the company who volunteer their time for this important work. We’re excited to welcome Dr. Demessie to the UMG family and to have the benefit of her experience in social justice work and as a leader at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, to help advance the ongoing efforts of the TFMC to drive meaningful, long-term change.”

    “Over the past year we have seen the best of humanity rise up to deal with the worst of ongoing racial and social injustices around the world. It was out of this need that the TFMC was created and we’re proud of what we have accomplished in our first seven months. Having Dr. Demessie join UMG and oversee the TFMC’s efforts is a further statement of our commitment to the fight for equality and social justice,” said Jeff Harleston.

    “Dr. Demessie has demonstrated over the course of her illustrious career her commitment to social justice and a studied understanding of diversity and inclusion, public policy and government, human rights and international relations. Her perspective will enhance the reach of what the TFMC can accomplish and we’re excited to have her join us in our efforts,” said Eric Hutcherson.

    Dr. Demessie said, “It’s been incredible watching what UMG’s TFMC has accomplished over the past seven months. From the voter initiatives, civic engagement and community support through charitable giving to new internal programs, UMG has demonstrated a commitment to real, lasting change and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this organization. I want to thank Sir Lucian, Jeff, Eric and Ethiopia for this opportunity and their support as we continue the important work of the TFMC.”

    Prior to joining UMG, Dr. Demessie served as Senior Vice President of Policy Analysis and Research; and the Leadership Institute at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. where she led the foundation’s research and policy initiatives affecting African Americans and the global Black community in areas including education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, voting rights and public health among many others for the past nine years. Dr. Demessie has spearheaded several partnerships with the White House, the U.S. Congress and recently led CBCF efforts to establish the National Racial Equity Initiative for Social Justice, established critical research, social justice scholarships for HBCUs, and Congressman John Lewis Social Justice Fellows to work in Congress and continue the pipeline for African Americans to be leaders in public policy.

    Dr. Demessie is a published race and ethnic politics expert and one of five U.S. scholars to receive the prestigious American Political Science Congressional Fellowship in 2010. She also served on Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s legislative staff working on federal unemployment legislation, antipoverty initiatives, and foreign affairs. She is a twice-elected alumni board member of the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and currently serves on the American Political Science Association Council and the Board of Trustees at Western Reserve Academy. She is also a member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

    As an Adjunct Professor for the University of California Washington Center, Dr. Demessie teaches courses on race and ethnic politics, Black Lives Matter and social movements, and public opinion and public policy. She holds a dual B.A. in economics and law & society from Oberlin College and a joint PhD in public policy and political science from the University of Michigan.

    About Universal Music Group

    Universal Music Group (UMG) is the world leader in music-based entertainment, with a broad array of businesses engaged in recorded music, music publishing, merchandising and audiovisual content in more than 60 countries. Featuring the most comprehensive catalog of recordings and songs across every musical genre, UMG identifies and develops artists and produces and distributes the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful music in the world. Committed to artistry, innovation and entrepreneurship, UMG fosters the development of services, platforms and business models in order to broaden artistic and commercial opportunities for our artists and create new experiences for fans. Universal Music Group is a Vivendi company.

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    Meet Prof. Hirut Woldemariam of Ethiopia Vying To Become Africa’s Next Education & Science Leader

    Professor Hirut Woldemariam, Ethiopia's candidate to become the next African Union Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. (Photo: MOSHE)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: February 6th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) – This weekend African Union (AU) leaders are meeting virtually for their “34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly” that under normal circumstances would have been held at the organization’s headquarters in Addis Ababa if it was not for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    The AU gathering is also taking place as the continental body has announced a high-level job opening based in Ethiopia’s capital for Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation.

    Among those who have applied for the position and is now considered a top candidate for the post is Ethiopia’s Hirut Woldemariam, the first female professor at Addis Ababa University’s Colleges of Social Science and Humanities and the first woman Vice President of the University. Professor Hirut, who was also more recently the founding Minister of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Ethiopia, is currently an Advisor to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.


    Prof. Hirut Woldemariam. (Photo via twitter @ProfHirutWM)

    In her departing message last summer Prof. Hirut told employees of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education that “it was a joy for me to work tirelessly with you to build the Ministry of Science and Higher Education from the ground up. Together we have reformed the higher education sector as never before. For the first time in the history of Ethiopian higher education, the 46 public universities are designated into three categories: Research, Applied Sciences, and Comprehensive Universities. Conditions are now ripe for each university to build centers of excellence and blossom using its human resource and leadership capabilities, and comparative local advantages.”

    Prof. Hirut argues that her extensive managerial experiences perfectly qualifies her for the African Union position, which according to the job description requires a “demonstrated intellectual leadership, creativity and proven ability to propose new ideas and lead on new ways of working across silos in a complementary and synergistic way for a prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

    In a recent interview with a local publication in Ethiopia, Abyssinia Business Network, Prof. Hirut noted:

    My vision is to enable inclusive, relevant, high-quality education and foster Africa-centric science and a deep culture of innovation that will unleash the potential of Africa’s youth for the continent’s rightful and timely advancement as aspired in Agenda 2063. We have to make a paradigm shift to do things differently to unlock Africa’s indigenous knowledge of our ancestors; to make the best out of Africa’s talent, wisdom, and vibrant energy of the youth. We have to invest in the youth, on the next generation through Africa-relevant quality education, advancement of science, technology and innovation. Otherwise, we cannot ensure to have a prosperous and globally influential continent that we always aspire to see.

    In an enthusiastic support of her candidacy Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted:

    I am pleased to endorse Prof. Hirut Woldemariam, Ethiopia’s Candidate for AU Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology & Innovation. Having served in my Cabinet as Minister and currently serving as my Social Sector Advisor, Prof Hirut is an exceptional candidate.”

    For his part Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen added:

    I am honored to support the candidacy of Prof. Hirut Woldemariam to AU Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. I hope pertinent organs will be mindful of her outstanding professional caliber and ethical behavior, a perfect resume for the post.

    In her twitter feed Prof. Hirut Woldemariam also shared another coveted endorsement from Kenyan Professor of Linguistics Kumbo Sure who sent the following video recommending the Ethiopian candidate.

    Below is an excerpt and a link to a profile of Prof. Hirut Woldemariam via awib.org:

    Professor Hirut Woldemariam: Fearless Woman Still on The Rise

    Hirut Woldemariam (PhD) is the Social Advisor for Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali with a Ministerial rank. She is a candidate for the position of a Commissioner of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation of the African Union.

    Hirut was born in Debre Markos, Gojjam, and is the first of four to her mother of Debre Markos and father, a teacher from the South—Kambata community. When Hirut was about four years old her father got a scholarship to major in History and the family moved to Addis Ababa. The children attended public school. Hirut joined Addis Ababa University (AAU) and was assigned a dorm with senior Linguistic students whose heated discussions about language and what it constitutes influenced her to join the field.


    Prof. Hirut Woldemariam. (awib.org)

    After graduation, Hirut joined the Academy of Ethiopian Languages and Culture as a Researcher. Her role in the organization involved developing a language policy, creating words for new ideas and concepts, and developing acronyms usage guidelines. She also earned a master’s degree. Later, she joined AAU’s Linguistic and Philology Department as a lecturer. After serving the university for a year, Hirut was awarded a PhD scholarship for a joint program given by AAU and the University of Cologne. Her thesis focused on analyzing and identifying the relation of an endangered language of the Gedicho with other Omotic languages. When she returned, Hirut was appointed Head of the Linguistic Department. Initially, she was hesitant to accept the offer but then asked herself, “Why not?” This marked her first leadership position, and she was the only young woman to hold such a position at a university.

    Heading the department, Hirut engaged in intensive research projects in collaboration with the Norwegian Development Agency-NORAD. In the effort to prove herself and fellow young women, she engaged in: organizing international conferences; launching the first PhD program in Ge’ez philology, Arabic, and ancient manuscripts; and starting a bachelor degree program in sign language. In a couple of years, the President of the university, Professor Andreas Eshete, who witnessed her braveness and hard work, picked her for the position of Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, making her the first woman to hold the position. She was responsible for staff promotion, curriculum development, and handling student affairs. Aligning with her belief that “hard work always pays back” and “one opportunity leads to the next,” it was not too long when she was promoted as Vice President for International Affairs. She was responsible for AAU’s international partnership and strategic planning programs.

    The Ministry of Education used to organize an annual conference for all public universities’ presidents and vice presidents. Professor Hirut found herself to be the only woman in the crowd. She submitted to the Minister and the rest of the participants that had it been in other parts of the world, any decision made during the conference would have been disqualified as it is being made in the absence of representatives of half of the population. The move triggered the consciousness of the academic leadership and led to the appointment of women to at least vice presidency positions.

    Hirut recalls in several instances she had felt out of place for being the only woman. When she started being conscious of her situation, she challenged herself to be “deaf” to any negative voice either coming from colleagues, the community, or herself. She focused on her target and gave no room for fault. Living in a society that gives women small chances to assume leadership positions and to break the glass ceiling, one must stay focused on goals. “The more you keep on focusing on the bigger picture—through time and experience—you will develop confidence and also be conscious of the fact that pressure makes diamonds,” Hirut said.

    Besides her role at the university, Dr. Hirut became part of the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy Delegation. She participated in missions to Cairo to conduct public diplomacy in relation to the GERD. She was put in the spotlight for engaging the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in an emotional dialogue on the importance of building the dam to tremendously change the livelihood of the Ethiopian people—especially women. By the end of the mission President al-Sisi told the Ethiopian Public Diplomacy team that with a new government in the country, “Egypt does not refuse the development of Ethiopia and the GERD.”

    During the premiership of Hailemariam Desalegn—a time the government was looking for technocrats for ministerial positions—Hirut was selected among the six runners; she was the only woman. That was also the time the AAU was considering her for a full professorship position. She succeeded in attaining the ministerial post preceding the professorship. Her first ministerial position was Minister of Culture and Tourism.

    In 2018, when Abiy Ahmed became the prime minister and reshuffled his cabinet, Hirut became his pick for Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. Later that year, the prime minister appointed her to lead the newly created Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

    Read more »

    Click here to learn more and follow Prof. Hirut Woldemariam’s progress on social media.

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    Q & A: Rebecca Haile on the Opening of the Haile-Manas Academy in Ethiopia

    "Opening day was simply magical," says Rebecca Haile, co-founder and executive director of the U.S.-based non-profit organization Ethiopia Education Initiatives, Inc., which manages the school located in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia. "After nearly five years of hard work, it was wonderful to welcome the students, Ethiopia’s future leaders—they are the reason we took this on!" (Courtesy photo)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: February 8th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) – Last month the Haile-Manas Academy (HMA), located in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia, officially welcomed its first students becoming among the top high schools in Ethiopia offering international-standard curriculum and a brand new and state-of-the-art campus.

    The project is also a successful example of how Ethiopian Americans are investing in the future of their ancestral homeland. Rebecca, who lives in New York City, is a Lawyer, Mother, Author, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist who was also recently elected as Board Chair of EMILY’s List, one of the largest women associations in the United States.

    “Ethiopian Americans can support us by spreading the word and making sure everyone in their network here and in Ethiopia knows about this ambitious new school,” Rebecca says regarding HMA. “And I invite everyone to join us in investing in Ethiopia’s future.”

    Below is our Q & A with Rebecca Haile about the inauguration of the Haile-Manas Academy in Ethiopia.

    TADIAS: You did it Rebecca! Congratulations on the opening of HMA! Please tell us about the
    class of 2024 and how it feels to welcome the school’s first students?

    Rebecca Haile: Thank you! Opening day was simply magical. After nearly five years of hard work, it was wonderful to welcome the students, Ethiopia’s future leaders—they are the reason we took this on! Our inaugural group, the Class of 2024, is made up of 35 incredible kids coming from different regions/linguistic backgrounds. They are already leaning into their new environment and I cannot wait to watch them take off.

    TADIAS: The last time we featured HMA it was a few months after the ground-breaking ceremony to build the school from scratch in 2019. Please tell us about some of the major works that were done in between that culminated with the inauguration of the academy in January 2021?

    Rebecca: I can put our work in three categories. First, we built an entire campus from the ground up, and it is just beautiful. Second, we hired extraordinary school leaders—our head of school and deputy head—who have in turn recruited an exceptional founding faculty and staff. And third, we’ve worked to spread the word in order to recruit students and to start building the network of supporters and donors we need to keep admitting deserving kids without regard to their ability to pay.

    TADIAS: How was the project impacted by the pandemic and how are you managing the challenges so far?

    Rebecca: It would be easier if you asked me how it wasn’t impacted! I’ve joked about needing Plans B, C, and D…We had construction delays, for example right how we have a temporary kitchen and dining hall set up while we wait for the permanent kitchen to be completed. Our student recruiting process was cut short in the spring as we could not travel to or around Ethiopia after February 2020, which is why we have a smaller class of 35 rather than of 100, as initially intended. Most significantly the start of school was delayed, from September 2020 to January 2021, and faculty now have the challenge of providing students what they need in a truncated academic year. Of course we are not alone here, as the problem of lost learning time due to the pandemic is a global phenomenon.

    TADIAS: And what are the plans to mitigate COVID-19 for this academic year?

    Rebecca: We are fortunate to be living and learning on a campus designed for many more people, so have enough space for social distancing in the dorms and classrooms. We have established a comprehensive set of COVID-19 protocols, such as monthly testing, vigilant mask-wearing and hand hygiene, and keeping students and their faculty advisors grouped in small “families” of 10-12 who eat all meals together. We are also limiting trips off campus and limiting visits from outsiders.

    TADIAS: In addition to being housed in a brand-new, state-of-the-art building and campus the Haile-Manas Academy also offers an international-standard curriculum. Please share with us about the school’s management and teaching staff as well as some of the student programs?
     
    Rebecca: A main theme for us is partnership. Our school leaders are Head of School Kari Ostrem, a Princeton trained engineer, and Tesfaye Kifle, who joined us from ICS in Addis. Both are extraordinary educators with years of experience and complementary skills. They have recruited a group of Ethiopian and international faculty who will teach their subjects in teams—our faculty will learn from each other and be more effective as a result.

    In terms of teaching and programs, we have three organizing principles: rigor, relevance and relationships. Our courses cover the rigorous Ethiopian National Curriculum while building 21st Century skills such as creativity and collaboration. Our residential curriculum, which includes student-developed clubs, gives students the structure to be leaders in areas that are relevant to them. Finally, our advisory program, the on-campus family, gives every student the opportunity to build relationships with adults and students from across the country.

    TADIAS: Please tell us about the application process for those students who want to join HMA next year. What are the academic and financial requirements?

    Rebecca: Admission to HMA is merit based. Interested students are asked to submit a short letter of interest along with their middle school transcripts to info@ethiopiaed.org. Students who meet our minimum requirements will be invited to sit for the HMA admissions exams, which we hope to administer in several large cities, and top performers will then be invited for interviews after which we will extend offers of admission to finalists. Fees for tuition, room and board are around $10,000USD/year, and our desire is to admit students without regard to their ability to pay, to the extent possible. This first year, thanks to the support of generous donors, all 35 members of HMA’s Class of 2024 are receiving full scholarships.

    The exact dates and locations of our admission events and entrance exams will be on our website as soon as they are confirmed, so all interested families should check in mid-February for details and the closest location for events and exams.

    TADIAS: How can Ethiopians in America contribute and get involved with the Ethiopia Education Initiatives?

    Rebecca: Ethiopian Americans can support us by spreading the word and making sure everyone in their network here and in Ethiopia knows about this ambitious new school. I hope everyone will sign up to receive our newsletters. And I invite everyone to join us in investing in Ethiopia’s future by making a contribution of any amount so we can admit deserving students without regard to their ability to pay. It is easy to make a one-time donation and/or sign up to be a monthly donor on our website here.

    TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

    Rebecca: I’d like to thank the many individuals who have helped us reach this milestone. It’s been so gratifying to see people embrace this model school as “our” collective project, for the benefit of Ethiopia. Tadias has been a part of that, thank you so much for being an advocate.

    Also, since this is a magazine for Ethiopian Americans many of whom grew up in the US like me, I’ll share a small point of personal pride, which is that on opening day I gave my entire welcome speech in Amharic. I could not have done that three years ago—my Amharic has really improved! I know I made lots of mistakes, but I accomplished my goal of communicating with students and their families. It makes me really happy to think that I could model for our students–who will now be working hard to perfect their English—the importance of being a life-long learner, of taking risks and of not being afraid to make mistakes.

    TADIAS: Thank you, Rebecca, and congrats again! We wish you all the best in 2021!

    You can learn more about The Haile-Manas Academy and support the Ethiopia Education Initiatives at ethiopiaeducationinitiatives.org

    Related:

    Spotlight: The Haile-Manas Academy, A New World Class School in Ethiopia

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

    Unrealized Victory of the Battle of Adwa: By Professor Ayele Bekerie

    February is Black History Month and below is Professor Ayele Bekerie's reflection on the 125th anniversary of Ethiopia's victory at the Battle of Adwa, which is considered "a turning point in modern African history." (Photo: War Veterans heading to Adwa hand-in-hand to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Adwa in March 1896. By Ayele Bekerie)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

    February 1st, 2021

    Unrealized Victory of the Battle of Adwa: Unity Then for Freedom and Unity Now for Transformation

    Mekelle University, Ethiopia (TADIAS) — The Ethiopians, 125 years ago, reversed the course of colonial history. At the Battle of Adwa, on March 1, 1896, they successfully unsettled the colonizers and paved the way for anti-colonial resistance in Africa. They charted a new strategy to ultimately defeat colonialism in Africa and elsewhere. The united and highly disciplined Ethiopian force achieved irreversible victory at the battlefield and obliged the Italians to retreat and return back to their native land. To be concise, at Adwa, Africa defeated Europe. Simply put, Adwa became a turning point in modern African history.

    The Italians call the Battle of Adwa, the Battle of Aba Gerima, a mountain top location that was used as a command center for the Ethiopian military leadership. It was next to Aba Gerima, at the foot of Mount Kidane Mehret, the first and by far the most decisive battle took place. Later, the battle site was named mindibdib, which means total annihilation. The Italians’ ambition for colonial expansion came to a halt at the foot of the majestic mountains of Abba Gerima, as well as Mount Kidane Mehret and Mount Gesseso. These mountains, including Mount Belah, Mount Raeyo, Mount Enda Kidane Mehret, Mount Solado and Mount Zubin Daero, form not only spectacular landscape of Adwa and its surroundings, but they also remain as mountains of natural fortress for Ethiopian fighters. They are remarkable landmarks of Adwa. Ethiopians fought the Italians at sites of their choosing.


    The mountains of Adwa, Permanent Landmarks of Victory. (Photo by Chester Higgins of the New York
    Times)

    Imminent historians and other scholars have written extensively about the Battle. One of the most comprehensive and scientific historical narratives on the Battle of Adwa is Raymond Jonas’s The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire in 2011. Jonas’s widely praised book for its fair treatment of all the key players and deeds of the Battle, is a second book on the subject. The first book on the Battle was written by a British Journalist August Wilde, who witnessed the Battle and wrote the first book entitled Modern Abyssinia in 1903. Contrary to Jonas, Wylde wrote the book ‘to prevent another white failure in Ethiopia.’

    The major newspapers and magazines of the world placed the victory in their cover pages. Afro-Brazilian newspaper, which is recently revived, named itself ‘O Menelick.’ Parents were quick to name their offspring, from Hungary to France, Menelik, Taitu, Balcha, and Allula. The European Press reported the victory favorably. Vanity Fair, for instance, published in its cover page, a colored lithograph of Emperor Menelik II. Le Petit Journal also had the victory in its front page. Even the victory at Amba Alage triggered Italian students from Rome University to march on the streets of Rome shouting ‘Viva Menelik!’

    Pan-Africanist Benito Sylvain travelled to Addis Ababa from Paris to congratulate Emperor Menelik on his victory. He later served as a delegate to the first Pan-African Congress in 1900 in London representing Ethiopia and Haiti. The Haitian Dr. Sylvain had a chance to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Haitian Revolution of 1804 in Addis Ababa.

    The National Archive and Library Agency (NALA) has a large collection of manuscripts and documents in Amharic on the Battle of Adwa. Among the Ethiopian scholars who documented and written about the Battle are: Belata Mersea Hazen Wolde Qirqos, Dejazmach Doctor Zewde Gebre Selassie, Dejazemach Kebede Tesema, Aleqa Taye Gebre Mariam, Fitawrari Tekle Hawariat Tekle Mariam and Dejazemach Zewde Reta as well as Paulos Gnogno. A useful source of the Battle also includes Tsehafe Tezaz Gebre Selassie’s Tarike Zemen Ze Dagmawi Menelik Nehuse Negest Ze Ethiopia (Historical Period of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia) published in Amharic in 1967.

    Abuna Gerima’s summit was the command center in which the commander of the Ethiopian force (foot soldiers and cavalry), Ras Mekonnen Wolde Mikael monitored troop movements of the enemy. He had the height advantage to survey and give orders to his lieutenants. The Italians gathered at their fortress at Sawrya not far from the final battle fields and headed to Adwa. They marched at night with the intent of surprise attack at the break of day. The fateful night was rainy and the Italians got lost in the many mountains of Adwa. By the time, they made their way to the first battlefield, the Ethiopians were ready to encircle and defeat them within hours. The Ethiopians were aided by spies who provided the latest information regarding the movement of the Italians.

    Ras Mekonnen’s memorial statue in Harar, eastern Ethiopia, was sadly destroyed by a mob following the assassination of Artist Hachalu Hundesa in 2019. Ras Mekonnen served his country both as diplomat and military commander. He was by far the most trusted advisor to the Emperor. His army from eastern Ethiopia fought battles at Amba Alage, Mekelle and Adwa. In all the three cases, they were victorious, given that they made priceless sacrifices to achieve their goal. Fighters from Harar sustained heavy losses in an attempt to dislodge the Italians from their fortress at Endayesus in Mekelle. The freedom we enjoy and the country we love was made possible because of the sacrifices of our gallant fighting traditions of our ancestors. Erecting and keeping monuments to our heroes are the least we can do to ascertain our Ethiopian identity and nationhood ascertained by historical deeds.

    Abuna Gerima is the site of one of the oldest Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church monasteries. It houses a rare collection of religious manuscripts. It is now famous worldwide, for it is home to the earliest illuminated parchment bible in the world. The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is carbon-dated in a laboratory at Oxford University to circa 6th century of the Common Era. The manuscript was written in Ge’ez, which literally means free, is the ancient and classical language of Ethiopia. Abune Gerima. given its multiple historic relevance, ought to be preferred destination for visit and spiritual fulfillment. Besides, the great general Ras Alula Aba Nega, who started resisting the Italian colonizers long before the Battle of Adwa during the reign of Emperor Yohannes IV and continued at Adwa, buried at the monastery. His cemetery is built few years ago and is standing intact.

    The Italian colonization strategy was based on exploitation of ethnic and religious differences in Ethiopia. They tried to play one regional king against another. They also attempted to draw Muslim Ethiopians to their side. Often the colonizers strategy rests upon the introduction of Christianity to the so-called natives. That was a trick that cannot be duplicated in Ethiopia. Ethiopians embraced Christianity almost since the beginning of the faith. Christianity was perhaps introduced here earlier than Rome. Simply, Christianity has deeper roots in Ethiopia and therefore cannot be used as a tool of colonization. Furthermore, divide and rule strategy was decisively countered when Ethiopians were able to set aside their differences and fought the enemy as one. Besides, Menelik and Taitu as leaders and partners were harmonious and understanding with each other. They both vigorously campaigned for the unification of the empire. They were also endowed with strategic acumen.

    Their exemplary joint campaign did not stop at Adwa. In post-Adwa Ethiopia, the co-leaders were engaged in establishing, for the first time, the instruments of modern state. The co-leaders introduced electricity, automobile, telephone, photography, and railway. In addition, bank, hospitals, hotel service, piped water and police force.

    In the last three decades, systematic campaign was carried out by the enemy from within in an attempt to diminish the significance of the victory at the Battle of Adwa. Some said the Battle was not necessary, others lament that the victory did not result in unity, and the rest from the enemy camp resorted to raw insults of the heroic leaders. It is one thing to conduct constructive criticism of the execution of the Battle and historical journeys of the post-Adwa Ethiopia. That was not the case. Recent events in the north clearly showed that the enemy from within was aiming to dismember the country. Scramble for Africa may have begun in 1884 and left behind a colonial legacy that will take years to fully undress and undo. What we have witnessed in the last few years was an attempt to restore the scramble for Africa with the intent of settling accounts in Ethiopia, the only country that has never been colonized. Enemies from within and without collude to write what they thought would be the final chapter of the scramble for Africa. This time it is planned but failed to be executed in Ethiopia by covertly engaging in destabilizing the state. It is clear from the remarkable unity displayed by Ethiopians in supporting the Ethiopian National Defense Forces when attacked in the north. The Ethiopians are saying no to scramble for Ethiopia.

    Apart from wanton destruction of Ras Mekonnen Wolde Mikael’s statue in Harar, these past years, we have witnessed additional physical assaults on memorials of our heroines. The cemetery-monument of Ras Abate BwaYalew, the young and skillful gunner, at Debre Libanos Monastery, was dismantled in the name of development. The monument was built by his family members. Since they have saved the monument in picture forms, heritage guardians should mobilize forces to rebuild the Ras Abate’s memorial at the chosen site.

    Two years ago, Ethiopians in the diaspora and at home, sought to lay a foundation stone to build a memorial park for Empress Taitu in Adwa Bridge Park in Addis Ababa. Announcement was made and guests were invited to undertake the event. Alemtsehay Wodajo, who runs Taitu Cultural Center, an institution named after Empress Taitu in Washington D.C., was a co-host of the event together with the Addis Ababa City administration. Unfortunately, the event was unexpectedly cancelled without any explanation. Empress Taitu made significant contribution to the building of modern Ethiopia. She led her own specialized forces at the Battle. She also organized 10,000 women logisticians to provide water for the army at the battlefields. She certainly deserves a statue in Addis Ababa she found.

    While we are at it, it is important to remember that the first hotel in Addis Ababa, Taitu Hotel was damaged by fire. To this date, it is not fully restored. Tadias did a story on the damaged caused to the historic building at the time of the incident.

    Another disappointment regarding Adwa is the unfulfilled dream to establish Adwa Pan-African University (APAU). The foundation stone is laid in the presence of the former Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn and some African leaders, including President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda in April 2018. Land is endowed. Concept paper is written. Local and international conferences conducted on the subject. Architectural design is completed. And yet APAU still remains a dream deferred.

    While the implementation of APAU in Adwa is on hold, the Addis Ababa City Administration is constructing a massive cultural and commercial center at ground zero, the center-most of Addis Ababa, not far from the statue of Emperor Menelik II and St George Church in Arada sub-city. The complex structure displays the letter A for Adwa on its roof. The Center once completed will have a museum, shopping centers, cafes and entertainment units.

    Contrary to the popular and misleading notion, the Ethiopians were well-armed and prepared to confront the invading Italian army. For instance, the Ethiopians acquired artillery that was by far superior to the Italians. While the Ethiopian artillery hit range was 4,500 meters, the Italians counterpart was limited to 3,800 hit range. The Ethiopian army had 70,000 modern rifles and 5 million rounds of ammunition. The Battle was not fought with spears and shields alone. The cavalry unit may have used spears and shields extensively. And yet, historians have recorded the agility and the speed with which the horses manage the hills up or down during battle engagements. In short, as one observer puts it, “Emperor Menelik II built an army that is reasonably comparable to the European colonizers in weaponry and personnel.”


    Children playing with an abandoned artillery left at Mindibdib, the site of the first decisive battle. Ethiopians routed the Italian battalion within hours of the engagement. (Photo by Ayele Bekerie)

    One-hundred-and-a-quarter century passed since the Ethiopian army defeated the Italian colonial invaders at the Battle of Adwa. As if to compensate for the gallant but unsuccessful resistance against the colonial encroachment of the 18 th and 19 centuries in Africa, the Ethiopians decisively affirmed with their victory the beginning of the end of colonialism. The Italians were assigned the Horn of Africa at the 1884/85 Berlin Conference where 14 European countries were in attendance. Once Austrian-occupied Italy expected a quick victory for their almost 20,000 strong invasion forces.

    As one observer puts it, given Italy’s fractured nature of nation-state building and imperial ambition, they were not capable of challenging the Menelik’s war-tested and united force and diplomatically sophisticated Ethiopian state. Emperor Menelik engaged Europe diplomatically to acquire modern weapons. He successfully played one European colonial power against another in order to keep Ethiopia free of their colonial encroachments. Local or European diplomats like Alfred Ilg conducted effective public relation campaign in Europe.

    The Ethiopians also excelled the Italians in intelligence gatherings and effective use. The Ethiopians had the latest information, thanks to the works of Basha Awalom and Ato Gebre Hiwot, who chose to serve and remain loyal to the national agenda of. As a result, their intelligence gathering and sharing information regarding the movement of the Italian battalions with the Ethiopian military leadership at Adwa, made a critical difference in tilting the victory to the home front.

    Instead of enhancing historical achievements thereby addressing peaceable co-existence, we expend a great deal of resources to narrow and stultify our sense of who we are. Ethnic identity seems to have absolute priority over our Ethiopian identity. Our approach to ethnicity is so dangerous that we are willing to carry out the most heinous violent crimes against those who are conveniently labeled outsiders.

    In the last thirty years, identity gravitated to extreme and divisive positions. Identity is defined by negative legitimacy. That means, one defines his or her identity by mere sense of victimhood and by blaming and hating others.

    I argue that the full meaning and relevance of the victory at Adwa has yet to be realized within Ethiopia, as Maimre Mennsemay also noted. It was the power of multiple and united voices that enabled Ethiopians to be victorious. That that formula of unity should be repeated now to counter the large-scale displacements and violence encountered by our fellow Ethiopians throughout the country to this date.

    Killel is a killer. Killel discriminates. Killel hast turned into fatal division of us versus them. Killel is a thriving ground for political opportunists and ethno-racists. Killel appears to be a sure way to let ethno-nationalists, driven by selfishness, continuously make attempts to dismember the country. Killel or what has evolved to be self-governing mechanism is in actuality an instrument to displace and kill those who are labeled outsiders. The maxim of Adwa is to respect geographical and cultural diversity and to strive in unison as one country and people to build a better and stronger nation. Most historians also agree that Adwa paved the way for the ultimate demise of colonialism in Africa and elsewhere.

    About the author:

    Ayele Bekerie is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of PhD Program in Heritage Studies and Coordinator of International Affairs at Mekelle University’s Institute of Paleo-Environment and Heritage Conservation. Previously, he was an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University in the United States. Ayele Bekerie is a contributing author in the acclaimed book, “One House: The Battle of Adwa 1896 -100 Years.” He is also the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” — among many other published works.

    Related:

    The Making of Global Adwa: By Professor Ayele Bekerie
    The Concept Behind the Adwa Pan-African University: Interview with Dr. Ayele Bekerie
    Ethiopia: The Victory of Adwa, An Exemplary Triumph to the Rest of Africa
    Adwa: Genesis of Unscrambled Africa
    119 Years Anniversary of Ethiopia’s Victory at the Battle of Adwa on March 1st, 1896
    Reflection on 118th Anniversary of Ethiopia’s Victory at Adwa
    The Significance of the 1896 Battle of Adwa
    Call for the Registry of Adwa as UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Film Review: ‘Faya Dayi,’ Jessica Beshir’s Ethiopia Docu-Drama About Legend of Khat

    Sundance: Jessica Beshir's striking, black and white hybrid docu-drama meditates on the legend of khat, a stimulant leaf, which was found by Sufi Imams in search of eternity. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

    IndieWire

    ‘Faya Dayi’ Review: A Hallucinatory Documentary About Ethiopia’s Most Lucrative Cash Crop

    Ethiopian legend has it that khat, a stimulant leaf, was found by Sufi Imams in search of eternity. Inspired by this myth, Jessica Beshir’s “Faya Dayi” is a spiritual journey into the highlands of the walled city of Harar, a place immersed in the rituals surrounding this plant, Ethiopia’s most lucrative cash crop today. Through the prism of the khat trade, the film weaves a tapestry of intimate stories of people caught between government repression, khat-induced reverie, and treacherous journeys across the Red Sea, and offers a window into the dreams of the youth who long for better lives elsewhere.

    For centuries in Ethiopia, the Sufi Muslims of Harar have chewed the khat leaf for the purposes of religious meditation. Over the past three decades, khat consumption has broken out of Sufi circles and entered the mainstream to become a daily ritual among people of all ages, religions and ethnicities, for whom chewing khat is a means to achieve Merkhana — a term that describes the high one gets from what is effectively a psychoactive drug not all that different from Cannabis. It has various mental and physical effects, which include euphoria and altered states of mind. For many, Merkhana is provides an escape from everyday realities, and the only place where their hopes, and dreams can actually exist.

    Khat, for most unemployed youth, has become a way to overcome the sense of hopelessness, a way to tune out reality. They are all searching for a seemingly elusive sense of agency, as well as living with the contradictions of loving a land that makes it difficult for them to live in peace.

    In the last decade, the crops that Ethiopia primarily exported — teff, sorghum, and coffee — have been replaced by the leafy green. With social significance, it has sustained so many who have worked in the fields for generations. However familiar the work is, some young people who have grown up in its shadow want more for themselves — life away from the fields; life without khat; life entirely elsewhere. They consider leaving home and all they have ever known for something new, far away, and, while perhaps more economically beneficial, lonelier and more isolating.

    Shot entirely in stunning black and white, “Faya Dayi” opens with a long shot of a somewhat amorphous, barren landscape, nighttime, dark, crickets providing the only soundtrack, and in the distance a lone figure running playfully, starts to come into view. We see that it’s a child, as he or she runs past the camera. Cut to bewitching shots of elders indoors, some faceless, some not, chanting, giving thanks to God, separating khat leaves from their stems, and, in some cases, pounding them, as incense burns in a pot, the smoke it emits, thick and intense.

    And then a lengthy shot of an open doorway, on the other side, an ambiguous view — smoky, cavernous, vast, dark depths — a haunting score providing an exclamation mark. It’s interrupted by a meek female voiceover, almost like that of a child, beginning a story about the Harari legend of a man named Azuekherlaini, who was tasked by God to find the Maoul Hayat (water of eternal life). The fable stretches the length of the film, as the voiceover interrupts intermittently to continue where she previously ended.

    But that’s just the dressing on this striking, if enigmatic, transgenerational journey into the highlands of Harar, immersed in the rituals of khat, weaving a tapestry of hallucinatory stories that offer a window into the dreams of youth.

    Unfolding more like a hybrid scripted narrative and documentary, the central story of “Faya Dayi” doesn’t follow a straight line, as it occasionally checks in on Mohammed, a 14-year-old, and the film’s presumed primary character, who works as an errand boy for the khat users in Harar. He lives with his father who, like so many in town, chews khat daily and often fights with Mohammed due to the mood swings caused by his addiction. Mohammed becomes anxious for a better life, but to have it, he must make a treacherous journey across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

    Read more »

    Related:

    Ethiopia: Director Jessica Beshir’s ‘Hairat’ Selected for Sundance Film Festival 2017

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Video: Eden Alene’s ‘Set Me Free’: Israel Picks Eurovision Song Entry for 2021

    Eden Alene, 20, the first singer of Ethiopian descent to represent Israel in the annual international extravaganza, will perform the song in the first semifinal of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 18. If it finishes among the top 10, she will sing it again in the May 22 final. (Photo: Eurovisionworld)

    The Times of Israel

    Eden Alene to become first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent Jewish state at international singing contest in May; last year’s event was canceled by pandemic

    Israel’s entry to the 2021 Eurovision song contest is “Set me free,” the Kan public broadcaster announced on Monday.

    Eden Alene, 20, the first singer of Ethiopian descent to represent Israel in the annual international extravaganza, will perform the song in the first semifinal of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 18. If it finishes among the top 10, she will sing it again in the May 22 final.

    “Set me free” was chosen by Israeli audiences, edging out two other options: “La La Love” and “Ue La La.”

    Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top storiesFREE SIGN UP
    The song is mostly in English, with a smattering of Hebrew lyrics.

    Eden was Israel’s candidate for the 2020 contest, which was called off last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The song chosen for her 2020 entry was “Feker Libi,” sung in four languages — English, Hebrew, Amharic and Arabic.

    The Eurovision Song Contest has a major following in Israel. Israel hosted the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai carried off the top prize with her spunky pop anthem “Toy” in 2018.

    Eden Alene, of Ethiopian Descent, Will Represent Israel at Eurovision


    Eden Alene will represent Israel at Eurovision. (photo credit: ORTAL DAHAN / COURTESY OF KESHET)

    The Jerusalem Post

    Eden Alene became the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent chosen to represent the country at Eurovision when she won Hakokhav Haba (The Next Star) for Eurovision 2020 on Tuesday night.

    “I’m so happy and incredibly emotional, I wanted this so much,” she said in an interview with Channel 12’s Nadav Bornstein following her victory. “It is a great honor for me. This is my country, and it is amazing that an Ethiopian will represent the country for the first time.”

    Alene was raised in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood by a single mother who immigrated from Ethiopia, and later moved with her family to Kiryat Gat.

    “My poor mother, she had a hard time taking it in. She collapsed in my arms,” Alene, 19, said on the Hadshot Haboker (The Morning News) show.

    Following a particularly competitive final round, Alene defeated Orr Amrami-Brockman, Gaya Shaki and Ella Lee Lahav. Eurovision, the international singing competition where Israel has won four times, will be held in Rotterdam in May. Israel’s last win came in 2018, when Netta Barzilai won with the song “Toy.”

    Read more »

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    Spotlight: How Ethiopian Soccer Referee Lidya Tafesse Made African History

    Ethiopian Soccer Referee Lidya Tafesse Abebe. (Getty Images)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: January 29th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — Last week Ethiopian Soccer Referee Lidya Tafesse Abebe made African history when she led the first ever all-female officiating team refereeing the men’s African Nations Championship quarter-finals game in Cameroon between Namibia and Tanzania.

    Lidya, who is a former professional basketball player, “gave a flawless performance as Tanzania edged Namibia 1-0 in Cameroon city Limbe,” AFP reported, noting that Lidya was joined by her assistants, Malawian Bernadettar Kwimbira and Nigerian Mimisen Iyorhe, during the landmark match that was fully controlled by women referees.


    Lidya Tafesse was also the first ever woman FIFA centre referee from Ethiopia. (Photo via cafonline)

    According to AFP:

    Tafesse exuded confidence in every decision she made, was extremely fit and tolerated no foul play as she yellow-carded three Tanzanians within 10 minutes during the second half.

    African male footballers often dispute decisions against them, but most accepted without hesitation the rulings of Tafesse at the Stade Omnisport in the southwestern coastal resort.

    CAF referees manager Eddy Maillet from the Seychelles was overjoyed as the trio created history eight days into the sixth edition of the Nations Championship.

    Below is a profile of Lidya Tafesse courtesy of CAFOnline.com, the official website of the governing body of African Soccer, Confederation of African Football:

    From basketball to top level refereeing


    “It was very difficult when I started because sometimes, some people would ask why I decided to go into refereeing as a woman when there were no any other women doing the same” — Lidya Tafesse (cafonline)

    Starting off as a professional basketball player, not many thought Lidya Tafesse Abebe would trade the rims and bounces for the whistle, and not in basketball, but football. The 40-year old has been on a 20 -year journey of refereeing, becoming the first ever woman to officiate a men’s top flight game in Ethiopia.

    She was also the first ever woman FIFA centre referee in the East African nation.

    “I started off in Jimma while still playing basketball. I played football in school but basketball was my first sport. I was interested when I met one of the instructors doing some courses and some of us from the basketball team were invited. I liked how he was teaching and I got interested more,” Tafesse says.

    The seed planted in her soul by the FIFA/CAF instructor Shiferaw Eshetu continued to germinate and grow as the days went on.

    When she moved to the capital Addis Ababa to continue her basketball career and pursue a course in Pharmacy, the interest continued and soon, she started building on with more courses and when it became apparent that she had found some new love, dumped the old one; basketball.

    “I was part of the female referees project and I started off by doing the Under-15, 17 games, the local tournaments as well as some Federation tournaments. I got more certification and I started doing the Men’s Premier League as an assistant referee and in 2005, I became a centre referee,” narrates Tafesse.

    The journey, though satisfying hasn’t been easy for the mother of one. When she started, there were no women referees and when she officiated men’s games, there was even more difficulty.

    But her resilience and desire to make a mark in Ethiopian football drover her passion.

    “It was very difficult when I started because sometimes, some people would ask why I decided to go into refereeing as a woman when there were no any other women doing the same. But my family supported me and I am grateful for them,”

    “Also, I came from a sports background and the fact that while playing basketball we trained and played against some men teams gave me confidence and it wasn’t so difficult for me at times, even when I did men’s games,” explains Tafesse.


    Lidya Tafesse (cafonline)

    She also remains grateful to the Ethiopian Football Federation who gave her and her colleagues confidence to continue and even handed them Premier League matches to boost their confidence. She vividly remembers the influence former vice president Tihaye Egziaber had on her.

    “He would talk to us as women referees and really encouraged us. He gave us so much support,” she states.

    Her impressive performances earned her a first ever international assignment in 2006 when she officiated an Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Nigeria and Liberia in Abuja and that opened the floodgates for her to grow.

    “I will not forget that match because it was so different. The stadium was bigger than what we are used to here in Ethiopia, the crowd was amazing and the level was definitely good,” Tafesse remembers.


    (cafonline)

    She has gone on to progress, doing the All Africa Games in 2007 and 2011, before going on to do the Total Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) four times in a row in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

    On top of that, she has officiated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, did the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2016 as well as the Under-20 in 2018.

    But in between all those wonderful assignments, she faced a challenge that nearly slowed down her sailing career. In 2013, she conceived her first born child who will be turning seven years old in October. But, the aftermath of her return seven months later was full of challenges.

    “Physiologically as women, we have so many body changes after pregnancy and I was not different. I gained so much weight and I had to work very hard to get back in shape. I worked a lot and eventually I was better and in 2014, I got a chance to go for the Cup of Nations,”

    “But while training there, I got injured and in my mind, it was all over for me. I tried to do some tests and see whether I could go on but I had decided I would go home. However, the director came and told me ‘Lydia you are not going. Just try and see whether you can recover’. I started treating the sprain on my ankle everyday and ultimately, I got better,”

    “I did a match in the semi-final, Cameroon vs Côte d’Ivoire which went up to extra time. Surprisingly, I was stronger and fitter than both teams when the game went to 120 minutes. I was so pleased,” Tafesse remembers.

    This is one of her most memorable matches. The other one was in 2012 when she officiated another semi-final pitting Nigeria and South Africa, a match that the Banyana Banyana won 1-0.

    “It was such a great game to officiate because both of them are brilliant teams. Also, it was very hot and I remembered hoping it would not go to extra time,” jokes Tafesse.


    (cafonline)

    Despite the stoppages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tafesse has continued to train on her own and has also use the time off competitions to give back to the community.

    She is using her background as a pharmacist and knowledge in medicine to raise awareness on the virus and help the community keep themselves safe from contracting and spreading the virus.

    “I have been doing education on social media and in radio and TV stations just trying to tell people on the dangers of the virus. I also go to the communities and teach them how to wash hands and keep hygiene. Also, I have been giving back to the community by helping the vulnerable who have not had a chance to get food and basic commodities,” she states.

    On her training, Tafesse admits that it has been tough but notes she has not had a reason to put the feet off the gas. “I train outside three times a week and also indoors where I have tried to put up my own small gym. We have a system where we have to make reports daily as well as GPS trackers to ensure we are training.”


    Lidya Tafesse (cafonline)

    As a woman, Tafesse says it has been great balancing between her family and refereeing, a career she has given her full attention to. The support from her husband and the motivation of her seven-year old keeps her going, Tafesse says.

    And now, she hopes she can influence the next generation of women referees in Ethiopia and the continent at large to take up the career. She hopes that after her active years, apart from continuing with her profession as a pharmacist, she will switch to become an instructor as she looks to get more and more following her path.

    Her hopes to continue getting high profile games and getting the chance to officiate at a CAF men’s tournament for the first time finally became true in the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN), Cameroon 2020.

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    Spotlight: 10 Year-Old Soliyana Gizaw From Ethiopia Wins 2020 African Code Challenge

    According to organizers Soliyana's submission called "Mathstainement" won the Pan-African prize topping participants from 54 countries. (Courtesy photo)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: January 27th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — 10 years old Soliyana Gizaw from Ethiopia has been named the winner of the 2020 African Code Challenge, a newly launched continent-wide tech competition where young people were asked to create an educational computer game.

    According to organizers Soliyana’s submission called “Mathstainement” won the Pan-African prize leading participants from 54 countries.

    “After a rigorous round of judging for this year’s AfriCAN Code Challenge, SAP Africa Code Week’s top 10 winners were announced and special highlights include the top 3 being all-female, aged 10 – 16 years, with Soliyana, 10 years old from Ethiopia as the Pan-African winner of the competition,” the press release stated.

    Africa Code Week’s Global Coordinator Olajide Ademola Ajayi said: “Despite the COVID disruption for schools which impacted hundreds of millions of youth across Africa, children from more than 54 countries stepped-up to share their vision of the future of education.”

    The announcement notes that “the AfriCAN Code Challenge is a pan-African coding competition where youth aged 8 – 16 were tasked with coding a game using the Scratch programming language to answer the question: “How will your tech change the future of education?”

    In her video presentation Soliyana explains that her app “is not only a game,” but also “creates awareness about COVID-19.”

    Watch: An app called MATHSTAINMENT made with SCRATCH_ Educational game_ African Code Challenge_ Ethiopia by Soliyana Gizaw

    The press release adds:

    During the AfriCAN Code Challenge youth were able to enter alone or in teams of up to five people, and entries featured a two-minute YouTube clip showcasing how their game works and why it should be considered a winning entry. The unique initiative and entry mechanism called upon the children’s ability to design a project that would solve a community-issue, code it, and communicate it.

    During the opening rounds of the challenge, participation reached across 40 countries and featured 100 project video clips, only the top three entries from 36 countries made it into the continental final, followed by 22 countries in the final judging stage.

    Selected by a high-level jury composed of key Africa Code Week delegates and STEM education experts, the top three of the AfriCAN Code Challenge is: Ethiopia – Mathstainement (Soliyana, 10 years old); South Africa-Space Quest (Kayla, 15 years old); Algeria-Welcome to the Best School (Sarah, 16 years old)

    Followed by:
    4th: Mauritius – Mr. E-Bin
    5th: Nigeria – I-Learn
    6th: Tunisia – Warrior
    7th: Morocco – Abdelilah Hashas
    8th: Zimbabwe – HeadStart Game
    9th: Rwanda – Math Puzzles for Kids
    10th: Ivory Coast – Easy Preterit

    You can learn more about the competition at africacodeweek.org.

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    Hosanna Yemiru for Dallas City Council

    Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hosanna Yemiru was 11 when her family [both former journalists in Ethiopia] moved to the Dallas area, where she grew up and has made a name for herself as a political campaign organizer. Now, she’s decided to step out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight as a candidate for District 11. (Photo: courtesy Hosanna Yemiru)

    Dallas Observer

    District 11 Council Candidate Hosanna Yemiru Wants to Defend Programs for Working Stiffs

    District 11 City Council candidate Hosanna Yemiru is moving from helping other candidates’ campaigns to mounting her own.courtesy Hosanna Yemiru

    Hosanna Yemiru is not a typical Dallas City Council candidate, and she doesn’t plan on running a typical Dallas-style campaign, either.

    Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she was 11 when her family moved to the Dallas area, where she grew up and has made a name for herself as a political campaign organizer. Now, she’s decided to step out from behind the scenes and into the spotlight as a candidate for District 11.

    Yemiru’s upbringing is a representation of the working-class immigrant experience. Her parents, both former journalists in Ethiopia, had to work multiple low-paying jobs to make ends meet after immigrating to Dallas.

    “When we moved here it was a really big adjustment. People warn you about culture shock … but nothing really prepares you for what kind of adjustment you have to make,” Yemiru says.

    Growing up, Yemiru had to rely on public libraries for access to books she couldn’t afford and DART to get around town. She attended public schools in RISD and eventually made her way to the University of Texas at Dallas, where she majored in American studies.

    Professionally, Yemiru is a veteran political organizer. She has worked on several campaigns, starting on U.S. Rep. Colin Allred’s campaign as an organizer and eventually as a canvassing director focusing on communities of color. She went on to become the field director for Scott Griggs when he ran for Dallas mayor in 2019 and managed Tom Ervin’s primary campaign for the Texas House in 2020.

    Before working on political campaigns, she worked in various positions in retail and as a legal assistant. “I just did odd jobs here and there because I needed to,” Yemiru says.

    As a working-class immigrant growing up in Dallas, Yemiru experienced first hand how difficult it can be to rely on the patchwork of public services that many Dallasites rely on every day.

    “Whether it was utility payment assistance or food banks that we relied on, as I started growing up I started to see that they were the first ones on the chopping block when it comes to our City Council,” Yemiru says.

    Indeed, DART faced budget cuts in 2020 while funding for homeless services remained flat despite continued growth in the homeless population.

    Yemiru, a self-described progressive, believes the city government of Dallas can do more for people who can identify with her experience.

    “In the wake of COVID, we need strong progressive voices on council fighting for everyday Dallasites,” Yemiru says.

    The manner in which Dallas has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic is central to Yemiru’s decision to run. She believes that much more could have been and could still be done to provide critical relief to struggling people in Dallas. “I’m very disappointed with the way we have handled COVID in the city, and I think we could do better,” Yemiru says.

    I think it’s the fact that we run municipal candidates that don’t speak to the larger electorate. They don’t run on issues that matter to anyone other than like your very active homeowners.” – Hosanna Yemiru, District 11 council candidate

    Yemiru cites the city government’s inability to distribute millions in mortgage and rental assistance as one major failure. In 2020, Yemiru tried to help a neighbor identify which assistance programs they could apply for after the passage of the CARES act.

    “It was so difficult to figure out … and in the end, we ended up applying, and he didn’t receive any aid, and of course we know now that one in four people who applied for rental assistance to the city of Dallas didn’t receive it,” Yemiru says.

    She said Dallas has failed to implement creative programs that connect the health of the community with the health of local businesses, such as the Meal Assistance Program in New Orleans that utilizes federal funding to partner with restaurants and delivery services to provide food to qualifying residents.

    “Why are we not doing something like that in Dallas? I would like to see some political urgency, some political will,” Yemiru says.

    Part of the problem, in Yemiru’s mind, is that voter turnout is low when it comes to City Council. It is not an irregular occurrence for fewer than 10% of eligible voters to participate in municipal elections.

    “I don’t think that that is the fault of voters at all. I think it’s the fact that we run municipal candidates that don’t speak to the larger electorate. They don’t run on issues that matter to anyone other than like your very active homeowners,” Yemiru says.

    This is something Yemiru hopes to change with her campaign, which is aimed to expand the electorate by amplifying the voices of minorities and working people in the city.

    “I’m really excited to be able to run a campaign that’s really going to focus on that, on organizing and investing into our communities and not just talking to the same 5,000 people that we rely on to decide everything that happens in our city,” Yemiru says.

    To do that, Yemiru intends on doing it the old-fashioned way: knocking on doors, making phone calls and sending postcards. “We’re going to try every single avenue possible to reach as many voters as possible,” Yemiru says.

    She also intends to focus on priorities that she believes will resonate with average voters, such as public health, public safety, infrastructure, environmental and energy issues and homelessness, to name a few.

    “These issues don’t just stop at the federal level or state level. There’s tons that we can do on the local level to ensure that we are protecting and investing in our communities. All politics is local,” Yemiru says.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Yene Damtew: Meet the Ethiopian Woman Behind Michelle Obama’s Famous Hairstyles

    Yene Damtew has been Michelle Obama's hairstylist since 2008. Regarding the former first lady's recent look at Joe Biden's inauguration this week that has attracted international attention, Yene says: “I personally loved her look and was very happy to see how it came together, but did not expect it to resonate with viewers the way it has." (Photos: Courtesy of Yene Damtew and Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    The woman behind Michelle Obama’s instantly iconic hair

    It was a moment watch parties and group chats are made for: former first lady Michelle Obama, hand in hand with former President Barack Obama, emerging from the U.S. Capitol in a regal, floor-length plum coat and statement belt, her voluminous curls bouncing with each step.

    The monochromatic pantsuit designed by Sergio Hudson was striking, but the star of the show was Obama’s hair: a silk press so perfect, it launched thousands of social media shares. In the middle of the inauguration ceremony, “laid” — a reference to the flawlessness of Obama’s hair — began trending.

    Obama’s coif came courtesy of her longtime hairstylist, Yene Damtew, who has been part of the former first lady’s glam squad since 2008. For her, Wednesday began as a “typical day at work.” It wasn’t until a client tagged her in a tweet about Obama’s hair that she got a sense of how much the style had resonated with people, particularly Black women.

    “I personally loved her look and was very happy to see how it came together, but did not expect it to resonate with viewers the way it has,” Damtew wrote in an email.

    She has helped craft memorable looks for Obama before.

    Damtew picked up her passion for hair from watching her mother get ready for church, enamored with her hot rollers and the full, bouncy hair they produced. As a teenager, she became the go-to person in her Orange County, Calif., neighborhood when someone wanted their hair done.

    “I did everyone’s hair from football players to the kids, and then my high school classmates,” she told Allure.

    At 21, she began working alongside Obama’s hairstylist Johnny Wright, whom she met while completing an assignment for cosmetology school. Damtew started doing Malia and Sasha Obama’s hair, as well as styling Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when Obama delivered her famous “When they go low, we go high” line, Damtew was behind Obama’s striking, chestnut brown color that she custom-created and hand-painted onto Obama’s hair, according to Elle. In 2017, when Damtew opened her own business, Aesthetics salon in Arlington, Va., Obama attended the opening.

    To create Obama’s inauguration look, Damtew consulted with Obama’s wardrobe stylist Meredith Koop and makeup artist Carl Ray. Since Obama was going for a monochromatic look, Damtew says she knew “the hair would stand out a lot on its own.”

    “As I thought about the hairstyle that would complement her outfit and suit the weather, these bouncy curls came to life,” she said.

    But Damtew couldn’t predict just how much life they would give to viewers of the inauguration, many of whom wanted to know who was behind the look. Within hours of Damtew revealing herself as Obama’s hairstylist on Twitter, thousands of compliments and requests for tips starting pouring in.

    “The support of Black Women Twitter has been amazing,” said Damtew, who is Ethiopian American. “As a salon owner who caters to women with textured hair, I know the importance that hair holds, particularly to Black women and the crowns that they wear. Black women hold their hair in high regard.”

    She noted that it was important to continue showing versatility with Obama’s looks because “representation matters.” To celebrate her 57th birthday this week, Obama posted a selfie rocking her natural hair.

    But Obama’s hair was about more than just serving a look. It was celebratory, “showing out” hair — a stark contrast not just to the modest bun Obama wore at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony four years ago, but to the scenes at the Capitol earlier this month. During an inauguration ceremony that needed to acknowledge the deep divisions that remain in this country, as well as the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the coronavirus in the United States, being able to gush over a coat or a blowout felt like a brief respite.

    This is not lost on Damtew.

    “The truth is we are still very much in a hard time in this nation,” she said. “But if, for a few minutes, people found joy in seeing a former first lady supporting her friends and wearing a beautiful coat and bouncy curls — I’m OK with that. We all need something to give us hope and make us smile.”

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Q&A: Ethiopian-American Novelist Dinaw Mengestu

    Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American novelist, freelance journalist and professor of creative writing. This week Dinaw was the keynote speaker at MLK commemorative event held via Zoom at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The following is a Q&A with Dinaw by the University's main student newspaper The Vanderbilt Hustler. (Getty Images)

    The Vanderbilt Hustler

    Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu speaks to The Hustler about his experiences as a writer and immigrant

    Vanderbilt Hustler: Your novels tell very unique immigrant narratives, how do you intend for your novels to speak to your readers?

    Dinaw Mengestu: I do not know who my readers are, and I never want to underestimate them. Your readers are always a slightly-amorphous body of people. The audience that I am most concerned with, strangely enough, are my fictional characters. I feel the most obligation to my characters. That obligation can be thought of as a respect for them and their desire for the complexity and depth of experience that I think people deserve.

    I am never thinking about the characters under any category or label, but I am definitely thinking about them as people who have lost a lot. As immigrants, they are people who have lost their homes, their families and in many cases, are struggling to rebuild their lives in America.

    That movement away from the things they had to leave behind to the construction of a new identity, a new home, trying to make sure that experience isn’t defamiliarized and contains as many layers of meaning as I have seen in my own families and witnessed in my own life—that is the kind of experience I hope will be born out of the page.

    The reader on the other end of it is hopefully present and engaged by it. Hopefully, they feel that they are reading an experience that actually is complicated. I think they can connect to the complexity because the person they are reading about is actually fully alive. It is not because it is familiar to their own experiences, but because it actually has the emotional complexity of a real, living person.

    How do you think underrepresented voices in fiction can be more widely represented?

    I think there are a lot of systemic problems, and I think one is making sure underrepresented voices actually feel and believe that there is a world that will represent them accurately. I think so many potential artists and voices actually count themselves out of that conversation long before anything else even happens.

    Once we get a number of South Asian writers or African American or Black writers, then we have diverse writers. Why do we need another one? We have Toni Morrison—how many more of those voices do we need? There is a sense that we only need to occupy so much space. We only need to give so much room to those voices because those voices are important, but they are not really valued. They are important in the way in which they can be pointed to and signified, so we need to move further still in a cultural embrace of what it means to have a real diversity of voices.

    It is not about making sure we have that experience checked off, which is oftentimes where we still are. We want to make sure that we have certain narrative trends blocked off, and once we have them blocked off, it is really easy to feel that that work is done. I think that the creators of those stories, especially the younger generations, are aware of that.

    I remember the first time I tried writing my first novel, being told no one is going to care about a bunch of African immigrants in Washington D.C. I think that sense is still pervasive. I think people still feel like there is not much attention or care about who they are. So, I think we need to make sure that we are actively encouraging and inviting people to start making stories and know that there is a world of people who care about them and those narratives.

    What does the American Dream mean to you?

    America is very distinct in that it is the only country that has this espoused Dream. I remember writing my first novel, and people thought I was being critical of the American Dream. The characters in it do not acquire the usual trapping of American success. There is this idea that if your characters are not going around declaring how wonderful it is to be an American, they are opposed to this American Dream or this American value system. That is kind of ridiculous.

    I think that this American Dream is being honest about what America is while still believing you can be a part of it. That is the radical nature of that Dream. We were talking about Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream speech on the Capitol. The fact that MLK still continued to believe in the possibility of this fight, having experienced this full-scale American violence and oppression—to still believe in something positive and better on the other side is something remarkable and a radical notion.

    It is not one that is connected or tied to a material wealth. It is tied to the possibility of worth and collectively to somewhere other than where we are right now. That is a remarkable thing to believe in.

    I think it is why immigrants continue to come to America. They do not believe that America is going to be a wonderful, perfect land. This idea that immigrants arrive in America delusional about the nature of America is ridiculous. They arrive fully aware of how problematic America is and yet still persist in coming and bringing their children, raising their children here and pushing America a bit forward, toward something fuller and more complicated than what it already is. That is the Dream for me. The ability to believe in it when it is giving you so many reasons not to.

    What insights do you have about the turbulent events of this past week?

    As people have noted, this isn’t a surprise. What we have witnessed is actually just a punctuation of four years. It is like the groundwork has been laid for years for us to get to this point. My curiosity has been: how has this been possible, and how have they created this narrative of this movement and these supporters as being somehow decent and law-abiding people? How have they managed to get away with that rhetoric when clearly what we witnessed is the exact opposite?

    It is violent and unfair. But the ability to continue to present themselves as this party of law and order, of people who believe in the Constitution and are supporting democracy—that is the thing that I am most fascinated by because it is the construction of a narrative, and it is a narrative that has a lot of political power and weight. It is a narrative that to some degree exists far more on the right in its ability to assert that whatever they do is good.

    Read the full interview at vanderbilthustler.com »

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    UPDATE: Biden Sworn in as America’s 46th President

    Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo via AP)

    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden has officially become the 46th president of the United States.

    Biden took the oath of office just before noon Wednesday during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. The presidential oath was administered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

    Biden was sworn in using a Bible that has been in his family since 1893 and was used during his swearing-in as vice president in 2009 and 2013. The 5-inch thick Bible, which could be seen on a table next to Biden’s chair on the dais, has a Celtic cross on its cover and was also used each time he was sworn- n as a U.S. senator.

    Biden’s late son, Beau, also used the Bible for his own swearing-in ceremony as attorney general of Delaware and helped carry the Bible to his father’s 2013 ceremony.

    Inauguration Live Updates: Biden Takes Power as Trump Leaves White House

    Facing crush of crises, Biden will take helm as president

    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden swears the oath of office at noon Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

    The very ceremony in which presidential power is transferred, a hallowed American democratic tradition, will serve as a jarring reminder of the challenges Biden faces: The inauguration unfolds at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago, encircled by security forces evocative of those in a war zone, and devoid of crowds because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Stay home, Americans were exhorted, to prevent further spread of a surging virus that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the United States. Biden will look out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial injustice.

    He will not be applauded — or likely even acknowledged — by his predecessor.

    Flouting tradition, Donald Trump planned to depart Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol. Trump, awaiting his second impeachment trial, stoked grievance among his supporters with the lie that Biden’s win was illegitimate.

    Biden, in his third run for the presidency, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. On his first day, Biden will take a series of executive actions — on the pandemic, climate, immigration and more — to undo the heart of Trump’s agenda. The Democrat takes office with the bonds of the republic strained and the nation reeling from challenges that rival those faced by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    “Biden will face a series of urgent, burning crises like we have not seen before, and they all have to be solved at once. It is very hard to find a parallel in history,” said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “I think we have been through a near-death experience as a democracy. Americans who will watch the new president be sworn in are now acutely aware of how fragile our democracy is and how much it needs to be protected.”

    Biden will come to office with a well of empathy and resolve born by personal tragedy as well as a depth of experience forged from more than four decades in Washington. At age 78, he will be the oldest president inaugurated.

    More history will be made at his side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to be vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.

    The two will be sworn in during an inauguration ceremony with few parallels in history.

    Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters, incited by the Republican president, stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.

    The tense atmosphere evoked the 1861 inauguration of Lincoln, who was secretly transported to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Roosevelt’s inaugural in 1945, when he opted for a small, secure ceremony at the White House in the waning months of World War II.

    Despite security warnings, Biden declined to move the ceremony indoors and instead will address a small, socially distant crowd on the West Front of the Capitol. Some of the traditional trappings of the quadrennial ceremony will remain.

    The day will begin with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan battles under Trump. Biden invited Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leaders of the Senate and House, to join him at a morning Mass, along with Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders.

    Once at the Capitol, Biden will be administered the oath by Chief Justice John Roberts; Harris will be sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The theme of Biden’s approximately 30-minute speech will be “America United,” and aides said it would be a call to set aside differences during a moment of national trial.

    Biden will then oversee a “Pass in Review,” a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Then, Biden, Harris and their spouses will be joined by a bipartisan trio of former presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Ceremony.

    Full Coverage: Biden’s inauguration
    Later, Biden will join the end of a slimmed-down inaugural parade as he moves into the White House. Because of the pandemic, much of this year’s parade will be a virtual affair featuring performances from around the nation.

    In the evening, in lieu of the traditional glitzy balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will take part in a televised concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to the White House orbit after they largely eschewed Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem at the Capitol earlier in the day.

    Trump will be the first president in more than a century to skip the inauguration of his successor. He planned his own farewell celebration at nearby Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for the final time as president for the flight to his Florida estate.

    Trump will nonetheless shadow Biden’s first days in office.

    Trump’s second impeachment trial could start as early as this week. That could test the ability of the Senate, poised to come under Democratic control, to balance impeachment proceedings with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s Cabinet choices.

    Biden was eager to go big early, with an ambitious first 100 days that includes a push to speed up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass a $1.9 trillion virus relief package. On Day One, he’ll also send an immigration proposal to Capitol Hill that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

    He also planned a 10-day blitz of executive orders on matters that don’t require congressional approval — a mix of substantive and symbolic steps to unwind the Trump years. Among the planned steps: rescinding travel restrictions on people from several predominantly Muslim countries; rejoining the Paris climate accord; issuing a mask mandate for those on federal property; and ordering agencies to figure out how to reunite children separated from their families after crossing the border.

    The difficulties he faces are immense, to be mentioned in the same breath as Roosevelt taking office during the Great Depression or Obama, under whom Biden served eight years as vice president, during the economic collapse. And the solution may be similar.

    “There is now, as there was in 1933, a vital need for leadership,” said presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “for every national resource to be brought to bear to get the virus under control, to help produce and distribute the vaccines, to get vaccines into the arms of the people, to spur the economy to recover and get people back to work and to school.”

    ___

    UPDATE: Biden Outlines ‘Day One’ Agenda of Executive Actions


    President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo)

    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In his first hours as president, Joe Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, his incoming chief of staff said Saturday.

    The opening salvo would herald a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Biden seeks to act swiftly to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress.

    On Wednesday, following his inauguration, Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel. Those are among roughly a dozen actions Biden will take on his first day in the White House, his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a memo to senior staff.

    Other actions include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

    “These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises,” Klain said in the memo. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward.”

    “Full achievement” of Biden’s goals will require Congress to act, Klain wrote, including the $1.9 trillion virus relief bill he outlined on Thursday. Klain said that Biden would also propose a comprehensive immigration reform bill to lawmakers on his first day in office.

    Providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally will be part of Biden’s agenda, according to people briefed on his plans. Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum and among those briefed, said immigrants would be put on an eight-year path. There would be a faster track for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields people from deportation who came to the U.S. as children, and for those from strife-torn countries with temporary status.

    On Thursday, the new president’s second day in office, Biden would sign orders related to the COVID-19 outbreak aimed at reopening schools and businesses and expanding virus testing, Klain said. The following day, Friday, will see action on providing economic relief to those suffering the economic costs of the pandemic.

    In the following week, Klain said, Biden would take additional actions relating to criminal justice reform, climate change and immigration — including a directive to speed the reuniting of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under Trump’s policies.

    More actions will be added, Klain said, once they clear legal review.

    Incoming presidents traditionally move swiftly to sign an array of executive actions when they take office. Trump did the same, but he found many of his orders challenged and even rejected by courts.

    Klain maintained that Biden should not suffer similar issues, saying “the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.”

    UPDATE: Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 & Economic Plan


    President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during an event at The Queen theater, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP photo)

    The Associated Press

    Updated: January 15th, 2021

    Biden unveils $1.9 Trillion plan to stem COVID-19 and steady economy

    WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout.

    Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic.

    “We not only have an economic imperative to act now — I believe we have a moral obligation,” Biden said in a nationwide address Thursday. At the same time, he acknowledged that his plan “does not come cheaply.”

    Biden proposed $1,400 checks for most Americans, which on top of $600 provided in the most recent COVID-19 bill would bring the total to the $2,000 that Biden has called for. It would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September.

    And it shoehorns in long-term Democratic policy aims such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding paid leave for workers, and increasing tax credits for families with children. The last item would make it easier for women to go back to work, which in turn would help the economy recover.

    The political outlook for the legislation remained unclear. In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer praised Biden for including liberal priorities, saying they would move quickly to pass it after Biden takes office next Wednesday. But Democrats have narrow margins in both chambers of Congress, and Republicans will push back on issues that range from increasing the minimum wage to providing more money for states, while demanding inclusion of their priorities, such as liability protection for businesses.

    “Remember that a bipartisan $900 billion #COVID19 relief bill became law just 18 days ago,” tweeted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. But Biden says that was only a down payment, and he promised more major legislation next month, focused on rebuilding the economy.

    “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s not time to waste,” Biden said. “We have to act and we have to act now.”

    Still, he sought to manage expectations. “We’re better equipped to do this than any nation in the world,” he said. “But even with all these small steps, it’s going to take time.”

    His relief bill would be paid for with borrowed money, adding to trillions in debt the government has already incurred to confront the pandemic. Aides said Biden will make the case that the additional spending and borrowing is necessary to prevent the economy from sliding into an even deeper hole. Interest rates are low, making debt more manageable.

    Biden has long held that economic recovery is inextricably linked with controlling the coronavirus.

    That squares with the judgment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful business lobbying group and traditionally an adversary of Democrats. “We must defeat COVID before we can restore our economy and that requires turbocharging our vaccination efforts,” the Chamber said in a statement Thursday night that welcomed Biden’s plan but stopped short of endorsing it.

    The plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 385,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. And government numbers out Thursday reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.

    Under Biden’s multipronged strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.

    About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centers and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas.

    With the backing of Congress and the expertise of private and government scientists, the Trump administration delivered two highly effective vaccines and more are on the way. Yet a month after the first shots were given, the nation’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start with about 11 million people getting the first of two shots, although more than 30 million doses have been delivered.

    Biden called the vaccine rollout “a dismal failure so far” and said he would provide more details about his vaccination campaign on Friday.

    The plan also provides $50 billion to expand testing, which is seen as key to reopening most schools by the end of the new administration’s first 100 days. About $130 billion would be allocated to help schools reopen without risking further contagion.

    The plan would fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, to focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated and on tracing the contacts of those infected with the coronavirus.

    There’s also a proposal to boost investment in genetic sequencing, to help track new virus strains including the more contagious variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

    Throughout the plan, there’s a focus on ensuring that minority communities that have borne the brunt of the pandemic are not shortchanged on vaccines and treatments, aides said.

    With the new proposals comes a call to redouble efforts on the basics.

    Biden is asking Americans to override their sense of pandemic fatigue and recommit to wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings, particularly larger ones. It’s still the surest way to slow the COVID-19 wave, with more than 4,400 deaths reported just on Tuesday.

    Biden’s biggest challenge will be to “win the hearts and minds of the American people to follow his lead,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician.

    The pace of vaccination in the U.S. is approaching 1 million shots a day, but 1.8 million a day would be needed to reach widespread or “herd” immunity by the summer, according to a recent estimate by the American Hospital Association. Wen says the pace should be even higher — closer to 3 million a day.

    Biden believes the key to speeding that up lies not only in delivering more vaccine but also in working closely with states and local communities to get shots into the arms of more people. The Trump administration provided the vaccine to states and set guidelines for who should get priority for shots, but largely left it up to state and local officials to organize their vaccination campaigns.

    It’s still unclear how the new administration will address the issue of vaccine hesitancy, the doubts and suspicions that keep many people from getting a shot. Polls show it’s particularly a problem among Black Americans.

    “We will have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated,” Biden said.

    Next Wednesday, when Biden is sworn in as president, marks the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States.

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    Spotlight: Ethiopia-born Naya Ali Among Winners of Inaugural Black Canadian Music Awards

    Naya Ali, who was born in Ethiopia, came to Montreal as a preschooler and grew up in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Naya says the Ethiopian roots of her family has a defining influence on her art. According to the Canadian Postmedia Network: "Those songs rooted in Ethiopian culture will make up the second half of her debut album" that set to be released this year. “That’s where I’m from, those are my roots, those are my foundations,” Naya explains. “There’s a lot of history there.” (Photo: Montreal Gazette)

    Post Media

    Naya Ali is proud to be the only artist not from Ontario to win one of the five prizes at the inaugural Black Canadian Music Awards. The SOCAN Foundation announced Monday that the Montreal rap artist had won an award at the Toronto-based event, along with Ontario artists TOBi, RAAHiim, Hunnah and Dylan Sinclair. More than 300 artists from across Canada were competing for the awards.

    It means a lot to Ali, she says, because it’s a sign her music is gaining recognition outside Montreal. Francophone hip hop in Quebec has made big progress commercially in recent years, but she feels more isolated as an anglophone rapper here, which is why it felt so good to win this prize at a Toronto-based event.

    “It’s recognition,” said Ali, who was born in Ethiopia, came to Montreal as a preschooler and grew up in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. “To get an award from (songwriters group) SOCAN, it enables me to get on people’s radars, of people who haven’t heard of me before, in Toronto and across Canada. It’s going to facilitate more connections with key people, and that’s one of the greatest things about this prize.

    “I never thought it was a problem being an English artist from here, being a Black woman from Montreal who raps. It kind of looks like on paper, ‘Ugh, what are the odds of this working?’ But at the end of the day, it gives me my edge.”

    The stars seemed to be aligning for Ali early in 2020. She launched the first half of her debut album, Godspeed: Baptism (Prelude), in March, garnering much buzz, and she was set to launch the project at the prestigious South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex. She was also booked to be on the same bill as hip-hop superstar Travis Scott at the Metro Metro fest in Montreal in May.

    Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, and everything was cancelled. Like every other musical artist, Ali was stuck at home wondering what to do next, with most revenue streams shut down and little opportunity to promote her album.

    But Ali isn’t one to stay down for long. The distinctive blend of gritty rapping and radio-friendly pop sounds on the eight songs on Godspeed: Baptism (Prelude) continued to win over folks in the industry. It was one of the nominees at the ADISQ gala, the Quebec music awards ceremony, as anglophone album of the year, a prize ultimately won by Patrick Watson’s Wave. Ali also had the chance to perform at the top-rated gala, delivering an intense version of Get It Right, belting it out standing on top of a giant freight container under the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.

    For the ADISQ performance, she wore a hoodie with names on the back of Black women killed as a result of police brutality. It also included the name of Joyce Echaquan, the Indigenous woman who died in a Joliette hospital last year as staff made degrading comments about her.

    “The whole Black Lives Matter movement became more mainstream because people had a lot more time on their hands,” said Ali. “Because of confinement, they were not so distracted. Which is great. But at the end of the day, Black lives matter yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s not a trend or a wave. If you actually believe in it, then it’s something you embody every day in your actions.”

    Ali says N.D.G. helped form her musical persona. “It played a great part in me becoming the person I am today. When I was a teenager, rap music was really in the streets. It opened my ears to a whole culture and community.”

    Another defining influence was the Ethiopian roots of her family, and she says that’s having a greater impact on the music she’s making now. Those songs rooted in Ethiopian culture will make up the second half of her debut album, which will launch this year.

    “That’s where I’m from, those are my roots, those are my foundations,” said Ali. “There’s a lot of history there.”

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    ህብር (Hēbēr): Exhibition by Tizta Berhan at Addis Fine Art in Ethiopia

    The art show, which is also available to view online at Addis Fine Art's website during the pandemic, features Tizta's oil paintings portraying "scenes of affection, intimacy, and closeness.” (Photo: Addis Fine Art)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: January 15th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — If you’re in Addis Ababa you can catch a timely and aptly titled art exhibition by Ethiopian painter Tizta Berhanu called ህብር (Hēbēr) at Addis Fine Art gallery in the capital.

    “Hēbēr, meaning unity and togetherness, showcases new works by the artist and marks the opening of the gallery’s second exhibition space in the Noah Centrum building, Addis Ababa,” the announcement states, noting that the display is also the artist’s debut solo exhibition at their space.

    The art show is also currently available to view online at Addis Fine Art’s website, and features Tizta’s oil paintings portraying “scenes of affection, intimacy, and closeness.. From moments of melancholy to elation, Tizta’s bold use of colors provides each painting with its own distinctive emotional tone; her luminescent red paintings, for instance, conjure images of love and passion, while the oceanic blue works convey a sense of despondency.”


    From top: Tizta Berhanu, Siblings, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 140 cm; Tizta Berhanu Reassurance, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 140 x 140 cm; Tizta Berhanu, Discontent, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 150 x 180 cm; Tizta Berhanu Stability, 2020 Oil on canvas, 140 x 140 cm. (Addis Fine Art)

    According to the press release:

    Trained as a figurative painter at the Alle School of Fine Art and Design in Addis Ababa, Tizta uses oil paintings to interrogate every facet of human emotions. From moments of melancholy to elation, the full litany of our emotional life is on display. The protagonists in Tizta’s canvases can be found seeking comfort in the bosom of a sympathetic listener or brooding, flanked by apparently concerned loved ones. The artist captures outpourings of vulnerability, love, excitement and sadness, and immortalises them in powerful images.

    The scenes depicting affection, intimacy and closeness are hallmarks of Tizta’s work, which take on a particular poignancy in our new context of social distancing, increasing polarization and conflicts between communities. The paintings in this show evoke a certain nostalgia for the times when expressing our emotions physically and supporting each other with care was the norm – and remind us of the importance of such acts.

    If You Attend:

    You can learn more about the exhibition at addisfineart.com.

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    Feleg Tsegaye of ‘Deliver Addis’

    Feleg Tsegaye, founder of Deliver Addis. (Photo: Howwemadeitinafrica)

    Face 2 Face Africa

    The man behind Ethiopia’s first online restaurant delivery service changing how people dine

    Feleg Tsegaye was born to exiled Ethiopian parents in the United States. When he was 24 years old, he moved to Ethiopia to start the country’s first-ever online restaurant delivery service. Prior to leaving the U.S, he worked at the US Federal Reserve Bank.

    In 2015, he launched Deliver Addis, an online restaurant delivery service in Ethiopia which allows customers to place orders from their favorite restaurants and also discover new ones. For Tsegaye, it was his own way of not only creating jobs in his country of origin but to change the way Ethiopians dine.

    “What really prompted me to pursue this was the fact that we were creating a completely new industry that did not exist in Ethiopia,” Tsegaye told How We Made It In Africa. “It’s about getting customers what they want in the convenience of their homes and offices. It’s also about generating business for small and medium enterprises – like restaurants that cannot afford space or a good location – and creating jobs for young people as back-office staff or drivers.”

    Across Africa, businesses being operated solely online are fast gaining popularity on the continent. This has been largely due to the spread of internet connectivity across the continent. While in some countries internet usage is low, it is high in other states.

    Playing a pioneering role in Ethiopia’s e-commerce sector didn’t come easy for Tsegaye. At the time, internet penetration was low and was largely a platform not known to many in the country. Nonetheless, he persisted and now controls a big share of the market.

    He was also confronted with other challenges such as the absence of addresses, power outages and inadequate internet connection.

    “Our first internet shutdown was when I was on a flight to the US,” he recalled. In 2016, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency due to political instability, resulting in the shutdown of internet connectivity in the country.

    “As an e-commerce business, that’s pretty much the worst possible thing that can happen – and I wasn’t even there when it happened,” he said. Although the business was unprepared for the internet shutdown, Tsegaye took advantage of the situation to do some intensive servicing and maintenance of his delivery bikes.

    While at it, he took steps to keep the business afloat by designing offline processes for ordering – by phone, or SMS, when available. This saw order volumes go up. In June 2020, he secured funding from the Impact Angel Network to increase its capacity and efficiency to bring on new products and services and expand market share.

    Following growing demand due to COVID-19, he expanded his services to include an online marketplace that enables Ethiopian consumers to shop for groceries and other essential goods online.

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    Spotlight: Biden-Harris Name Yohannes Abraham NSC Chief of Staff

    Yohannes Abraham has been named Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the White House National Security Council in the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (Photos: Harvard and Transition website)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: January 10th, 2021

    New York (TADIAS) — The Transition Office of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris continue to release a diverse list of appointments “that looks like America” to serve in their incoming administration. The latest hires include Ethiopian American Yohannes Abraham, who has been named Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the White House National Security Council.

    As the press release highlighted:

    Yohannes Abraham currently serves as the Executive Director of the Biden-Harris Transition, overseeing preparation for the implementation of Biden-Harris policy, personnel, and management priorities. He is also on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he lectures on management. During the Obama-Biden administration, Abraham served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council. He also worked as Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, where his team partnered with cities, states, and other key stakeholders to manage crises and support domestic and national security policy priorities. Abraham has also served on the leadership team of the Vanguard Group’s global investment unit and as a Senior Advisor at the Obama Foundation. A native of Springfield, Virginia, Abraham holds a BA from Yale College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.

    In a statement President-elect Joe Biden said: “The National Security Council plays a critical role in keeping our nation safe and secure. These crisis-tested, deeply experienced public servants will work tirelessly to protect the American people and restore America’s leadership in the world. They will ensure that the needs of working Americans are front and center in our national security policymaking, and our country will be better for it.”

    Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added: “This outstanding team of dedicated public servants will be ready to hit the ground running on day one to address the transnational challenges facing the American people — from climate to cyber. They reflect the very best of our nation and they have the knowledge and experience to help build our nation back better for all Americans.”

    And incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said: “I am proud to announce that these incredibly accomplished individuals will be joining the National Security Council. They will bring a wide range of perspectives to tackling the defining challenges of our time, and I thank them for their willingness to serve their country.”

    Below are the biographies of the NSC appointees named in alphabetical order as provided in the press release of the Biden-Harris Transition team:

    Yohannes Abraham, Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary

    Yohannes Abraham currently serves as the Executive Director of the Biden-Harris Transition, overseeing preparation for the implementation of Biden-Harris policy, personnel, and management priorities. He is also on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he lectures on management. During the Obama-Biden administration, Abraham served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council. He also worked as Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, where his team partnered with cities, states, and other key stakeholders to manage crises and support domestic and national security policy priorities. Abraham has also served on the leadership team of the Vanguard Group’s global investment unit and as a Senior Advisor at the Obama Foundation. A native of Springfield, Virginia, Abraham holds a BA from Yale College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.

    Sasha Baker, Senior Director for Strategic Planning

    Sasha Baker was most recently national security advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren and served as a Deputy Policy Director for her presidential campaign. Previously, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Baker was a career budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, joining as a Presidential Management Fellow and serving in homeland and national security roles and as a Special Assistant to the OMB Director. She began her government career as a research assistant for the House Armed Services Committee. Originally from New Jersey, Baker is a graduate of Dartmouth College and received an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School.

    Ariana Berengaut, Senior Advisor to the National Security Advisor

    Ariana Berengaut currently serves on the NSC Agency Review Team with the Biden-Harris Transition and held the COVID-19 policy portfolio as a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Campaign. She previously was a founding director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. She served in the Obama Administration as speechwriter and counselor to then-Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and, prior to that, as chief speechwriter and senior advisor to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. She started her career as a researcher at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and worked on the 2008 Obama campaign. Born in Washington, D.C., she attended Brandeis University and the University of Oxford, completing her graduate fieldwork in southeastern Uganda.

    Tanya Bradsher, Senior Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement

    Tanya Bradsher is the National Security Agency lead on the Biden-Harris Transition Team. Prior to her role on transition, she served as Chief of Staff for Congressman Don Beyer. Bradsher served as the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama-Biden administration, led Veteran and Military Family outreach in the Office of Public Engagement, and served as the Assistant Press Secretary on the National Security Council. Bradsher is an Iraq war veteran who served 20 years in the United States Army and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Bradsher was born in Virginia, is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The George Washington University. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters.

    Rebecca Brocato, Senior Director for Legislative Affairs

    Rebecca Brocato was Director of Strategy and Government Affairs at National Security Action. During the Obama-Biden Administration, she served in the White House as Director for Legislative Affairs on the National Security Council and as House Legislative Affairs Liaison. She worked previously on Middle East policy at the State Department and as an aide to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). Brocato began her career as a researcher focused on West and Central Africa. A Baltimore native, she is a graduate of Harvard and Oxford.

    Elizabeth Cameron, Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense

    Elizabeth (Beth) Cameron is the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Vice President for Global Biological Policy and Programs and a volunteer with the Biden-Harris transition team. She previously served on the White House National Security Council staff, where she stood up the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense and helped launch the Global Health Security Agenda. She also served at the Department of Defense as an Office Director and Senior Advisor and at the Department of State where she focused on global threat reduction programs. She was a policy director with the American Cancer Society and an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow in the health policy office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Cameron holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the Human Genetics and Molecular Biology Program at the Johns Hopkins University and is a graduate of the University of Virginia and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Raised in Maryland, she lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband.

    Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security

    Tarun Chhabra is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University. He was previously a Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Chhabra served on the National Security Council staff as Director for Strategic Planning and Director for Human Rights and National Security Issues, and at the Pentagon as a speechwriter to the Secretary of Defense. Born in Tennessee and raised in Louisiana, Chhabra is a first-generation American and a graduate of Stanford University, Oxford University, and Harvard Law School.

    Caitlin Durkovich, Senior Director for Resilience and Response

    Caitlin Durkovich serves on the Department Homeland of Security (DHS) Agency Review Team for the Biden-Harris Transition. She is a Director at Toffler Associates and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. Caitlin served as Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection and as Chief of Staff for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (the predecessor to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) at DHS during the Obama-Biden Administration. Caitlin was also a member of the Mission Assurance/Business Continuity Team at Booz Allen Hamilton. She helped launch the Internet Security Alliance in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and iDefense, an early cyber threat intelligence service. Born in New Mexico, Caitlin is a graduate of Duke University.

    Jon Finer, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor

    Jon Finer serves as Deputy Head of Foreign and National Security Policy on the Biden-Harris Transition team. He previously served in the Obama White House and State Department, including as Middle East Advisor and Foreign Policy Speechwriter to then-Vice President Biden and as Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Planning for Secretary of State John Kerry. Finer began his career as a journalist in Asia and covered several conflicts, including the Iraq War, as a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. Since leaving government, he has held positions in academia, at think tanks, and in the private sector. He has an A.B. from Harvard; a M.Phil from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Finer was born and raised in Vermont, where his parents still live, and has three younger siblings.

    Juan Gonzalez, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere

    Juan Sebastian Gonzalez serves on the Biden-Harris Transition Appointments Team as a Deputy for National Security Agencies. He was previously a Senior Fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Gonzalez served in the Obama-Biden Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and in the White House as Special Advisor to Vice President Biden and National Security Council Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. In 2017, Gonzalez was appointed by Senator Chuck Schumer to serve as a Commissioner on the bipartisan Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission, and represented the Biden campaign on the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on Immigration. Born in Colombia and raised in New York, Gonzalez is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and son.

    Sumona Guha, Senior Director for South Asia

    Sumona Guha was co-chair of the South Asia foreign policy working group on the Biden-Harris campaign, and serves on the transition’s State Department Agency Review Team. Guha is Senior Vice President at Albright Stonebridge Group. Previously, she served in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer and later, on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff where she focused on South Asia. During the Obama-Biden Administration, she was Special Advisor for national security affairs to Vice President Biden. Guha is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband and three children.

    Ryan Harper, Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Executive Secretary

    Ryan Harper currently serves as the Director of Planning and Staff Secretary for the Biden-Harris Transition. He previously served in a number of foreign policy and national security positions during the Obama-Biden Administration at USAID and the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Defense. He has also held positions at the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to the transition, Harper was an Associate Partner at McKinsey & Co., where he worked with public sector defense, development, and intelligence organizations. Originally from Massachusetts, he is a graduate of Stanford Law School, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the College of the Holy Cross. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife.

    Peter Harrell, Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness

    Peter Evans Harrell is a member of the Biden-Harris Transition working on the State Department Agency Review Team and on international economic and trade policy. Since 2015, he has served as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and as a lawyer in private practice. He has also taught international trade law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. From 2009 to 2014, he served in the Obama-Biden Administration on the State Department Policy Planning Staff and as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Earlier in his career, Harrell worked as a journalist and as a staffer on the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign. Harrell was born in Baltimore and raised in Atlanta, where he currently resides with his wife, two children, and cat. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Yale Law School.

    Emily Horne, Senior Director for Press and NSC Spokesperson

    Emily Horne serves as a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Transition Team leading communications for several national security Cabinet nominees. She joins the Biden-Harris Administration from the Brookings Institution, where she was Vice President of Communications. Horne was previously a civil servant at the State Department, where she began as an intern and served in a number of public affairs roles including Assistant Press Secretary and Director of Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, Communications Director for the Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, and Spokesperson for South and Central Asian Affairs. She also served as head of global policy communications at Twitter. Originally from Michigan, Horne holds a B.A. and M.A. from The George Washington University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and their two sons.

    Shanthi Kalathil, Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights

    Shanthi Kalathil is currently senior director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy, where her work focuses on emerging challenges to democracy. Previously in her career, she served as a senior democracy fellow at the US Agency for International Development, an associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Hong Kong-based reporter for the Asian Wall Street Journal, and an advisor to international affairs organizations. Kalathil is the co-author of Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003). Originally from California, Kalathil is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia

    Andrea Kendall-Taylor is the Russia policy lead for the Biden-Harris Transition. She previously served as a senior intelligence officer both as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a senior analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. Kendall-Taylor was also Senior Fellow and Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. Originally from San Diego, Kendall-Taylor is a graduate of Princeton University and received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland with her husband and three children.

    Ella Lipin, Senior Advisor to the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor

    Ella Lipin serves on the Biden-Harris Transition’s national security and foreign policy team. Prior to joining the Transition, she was national security and foreign policy advisor to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. Lipin served as Egypt Country Director in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and in the speechwriting office of the Secretary of Defense. Raised in Oregon, Lipin is a graduate of Duke University and received an MPA from Princeton University.

    Brett H. McGurk, Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa

    Brett H. McGurk is currently the Frank E. Payne and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute. He has held senior national security posts across the last three administrations, most recently as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (2015-2018). He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs at the State Department (2012-2015), Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East Affairs on the National Security Council (2007-2009), and Director for Iraq on the National Security Council (2005-2007). McGurk graduated from the University of Connecticut and Columbia University School of Law, after which he served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Melanie Nakagawa, Senior Director for Climate and Energy

    Melanie Nakagawa serves on the Biden-Harris Transition focused on climate change and energy. In the Obama-Biden Administration Nakagawa was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation at the U.S. State Department and served as a strategic advisor on climate change to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Policy Planning Staff. Most recently, she was Director of Climate Strategy at Princeville Capital, leading their climate and sustainability investment strategy to back technology-enabled companies delivering transformative solutions to climate change. Earlier in her career she was the Senior Energy and Environment Counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She provides her expertise on the Board of the Advanced Energy Economy Institute, REVERB Advisory Board, and as a Loomis Council Member. Born in New Jersey, Nakagawa earned a J.D. and M.A. in International Affairs from American University’s Washington College of Law and School of International Service, and an A.B. from Brown University.

    Carlyn Reichel, Senior Director for Speechwriting and Strategic Initiatives

    Carlyn Reichel is a member of the National Security Council Agency Review Team on the Biden Transition. On the Biden-Harris Campaign, she served as both Director of Speechwriting and Foreign Policy Director. Prior to the campaign, Reichel was the founding Communications Director for the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Reichel joined the Department of State during the Obama-Biden Administration as a Presidential Management Fellow and went on to work as a speechwriter for foreign policy and national security officials at the State Department, the NSC, and the Office of the Vice President. Reichel grew up in Georgia, graduated from Stanford University, and earned her Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.

    Dr. Amanda Sloat, Senior Director for Europe

    Dr. Amanda Sloat is currently serving on the policy team for the Biden-Harris Transition Team. Prior to this role, she was a Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. She was also a non-resident fellow in the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at Harvard Kennedy School. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Sloat served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs at the State Department. She also served as senior advisor to the White House’s Middle East coordinator and as senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. She previously worked as senior professional staff with responsibility for Europe policy on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. Before her government service, Sloat was a senior program officer with the National Democratic Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University Belfast. She has written widely on European politics, including a book (Scotland in Europe: A Study of Multi-Level Governance). Originally from Michigan, Sloat is a graduate of James Madison College at Michigan State University and holds a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

    Related:

    Biden Selects Yohannes Abraham as Member of Transition Team (UPDATE)

    Spotlight: Meet The Trailblazing Ethiopian American Office Holders in U.S.

    Ethiopia Congratulates President-elect Joe Biden & VP-elect Kamala Harris

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Hana Getachew, the Ethiopian-American Founder of Bolé Road Textiles

    Hana Getachew, founder of the Brooklyn-based Bolé Road Textiles that sells home linens, fabric, pillows, and more, all hand-woven in Ethiopia. (Photo via Refinery29)

    Refinery29

    For Hana Getachew, the Ethiopian-American founder of Bolé Road Textiles, a love of textiles can be traced back to childhood, stemming from one garment in particular: her mother’s dress for the Mels, an Ethiopian tradition that takes place during a wedding ceremony. She remembers it in excruciating detail — from the olive green shade and the waist-cinching A-line silhouette, right down to the gilded threadwork and golden daisies.

    “We’d always take it out and play with it. We were obsessed with it,” Getachew says. There were others, too, that she loved: dresses from friends and family, brought when they visited from Ethiopia. “In Ethiopia, weavers would come up with non-traditional syncopated patterns, with elements of symmetry and diamond designs. That has stayed with me, and I put a lot of it into my work today.”

    Getachew speaks about her career as two different lives: her life as an interior designer (before she launched Bolé Road), and her life after. It’s the latter — as the mastermind behind the home decor brand inspired by her own connections to family and the African diaspora — that has granted her the liberty to experiment and express herself genuinely through a world enriched in color, shapes, textures, and patterns.
    “I knew I was a good interior designer, but I felt like anyone could do it. It wasn’t unique to me; I wanted to find something that is essential to my soul,” she says about working at an architecture firm for almost 11 years, decorating commercial interiors and offices. “One day, my coworker told me her friend quit her full-time job to work on her pillow business. And I was like, Yes, that’s what I’m gonna do.”


    Bolé Road Textiles


    Bolé Road Textiles

    The concept for Bolé Road lived in her mind for almost eight years before she found the courage to execute it. In 2008, the same year Getachew’s ideas were growing, everyone around her was losing their jobs, which led many of them to dream-chase and become entrepreneurs. “The maker movement,” she proclaims. “I’m very risk-averse, which is not a good trait as an entrepreneur. That’s why I didn’t leap into this, but when I saw a whole movement happening, I thought maybe I could do this too.”
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    Getachew left her career in interior design in 2014, but spent years prior to that preparing for the transition. She took free business classes at NYC Small Business Services and scouted artisans through word of mouth, the internet, and asking around in Ethiopia. A year later, she officially launched her brand on the same day as the Brooklyn Designs annual show. (The best piece of advice she received: “Just start, don’t overthink it.”)

    “It was an amazing event, and it was an incredible way to launch, rather than hit publish on a website and wait,” she says, likening the experience to a graduation, being surrounded by family, friends, and former coworkers. “Those kinds of events are really great for understanding how people respond to [your product] and getting your first round of feedback.”

    Everything about Bolé Road revolves around intention, identity, and gratitude to the heritage and community that supported Getachew most, from the colors and patterns inspired by Ethiopian landscapes to the name of the company.

    Read more »

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    Ethio-American Oballa Oballa Sworn in as Austin, Minnesota Council Member

    Ethiopian American Oballa Oballa who was elected as a city Council member in Austin, Minnesota this past November has been sworn into office. (Photo: Oballa Oballa speaking at the Austin city Council Chambers in Minnesota on Monday, January 4th, 2021 after being sworn in as council member/by Bethel Gessesse/Mshale)

    Mshale

    By Bethel Gessesse

    Oballa Oballa sworn in as Austin City Council member

    AUSTIN, Minn. – Ethiopian-born Oballa Oballa was sworn in Monday to take his seat as the new Austin City Council member representing First Ward. The city staggered the swearing in of new council members and the mayor throughout the day to adhere to coronavirus pandemic social distancing guidelines with Oballa taking his oath of office shortly after 2PM.

    Oballa, who was elected in November, is the first person of color elected to the Austin City Council. The city, a 15-minute drive from the Iowa-Minnesota border is named after Austin R. Nichols, the city’s first European settler.

    Following the oath of office – administered by City Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert – Oballa outlined his priorities for his next four years on the council.


    City Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert administers the oath of office to Oballa Oballa on Monday, January 4th, 2021. (Photo by Bethel Gessesse)

    “Less than 5 years ago, I was in a refugee camp hoping and praying that I would have the opportunity at a better life. A year ago, I became a US citizen. And now, I stand before you as a council member,” Oballa said.

    “We got more work to do… For our city to thrive we have to work hard and build more housing, affordable daycare, bring more jobs, and keep people of Austin in Austin,” Oballa stated, sharing a glimpse of the platform that helped him win in November.

    The state’s Democratic Party dispatched its director of civic engagement Ian Oundo to witness the historic occasion.

    “As a party it shows that in addition to the work we are doing in the Twin Cities, we continue to work to expand our base in rural Minnesota,” Oundo said in an interview with Mshale after the brief ceremony. “We have to understand that the face of our community is changing all over the state of Minnesota and all those voices have to be represented.

    Not even the mask that city administrator Craig Clark was wearing could hide the joy he was feeling, calling the day “historic” as he spoke with Mshale. According to Clark, the moment was not an accident.

    “There is excitement out there that a new era is upon us, it is a culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people to be purposeful about being inclusive and this is a manifestation of that,” said Clark.

    Due to the pandemic, only a few people could be allowed into the council chambers to witness the occasion but they made it clear they understood the significance of the moment.

    Oballa’s Aunt, Adalg Ojullu, was ecstatic. She drove almost 200 miles from the neighboring state of South Dakota to witness his nephew taking the oath of office.

    “His picture will remain in this building forever, I am so proud of him and the people of Austin that elected him,” said Ojullu.

    Echoing her sentiments were two Austin community leaders, Ojoye Akane and Santino Deng. Both said Oballa’s election will help them in their on-going efforts to encourage more civic engagement from the African immigrant community.

    Mike Dean is the executive director of LEADMN, a statewide community college association where Oballa honed some of his leadership skills.

    Dean spoke to Mshale after the swearing in and said: “If you look out there and you see the pictures of the former city council members, they are all white, so this represents a sea change within the City of Austin and greater Minnesota, it’s amazing what Oballa has done here.”

    Watch: Oballa Oballa Swearing-in Ceremony in Austin, Minnesota

    Oballa Oballa: Ethiopian Refugee Wins City Council Election in Austin, Minnesota


    Soon after moving to Austin, Minnesota, Oballa Oballa [whose family fled Gambella, Ethiopia, in 2003] walked into the mayor’s office and asked if there was anything he could do for the city. He just became Austin’s first Black city council member. (Photo: Courtesy of Oballa Oballa)

    Sahan Journal

    November 7th, 2020

    Oballa Oballa, a refugee from Ethiopia, wins historic city council election in Austin; becomes city’s first Black elected official.

    Oballa Oballa, a former refugee from Ethiopia who became a naturalized citizen less than one year ago, made history this election by winning a city council seat in the southeast Minnesota city of Austin.

    As of Wednesday afternoon, Oballa, 27, held a 14 percent lead over candidate Helen Jahr and declared victory. Oballa, who had been campaigning for the seat since the beginning of the year, said he is the first person of color to win elected office in Austin.

    On the campaign trail and in interviews, Oballa described a dramatic personal history. His family fled Gambella, Ethiopia, in 2003, following what he describes as a genocidal attack on his community. They spent the next 10 years living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. In 2013, the family moved to the U.S., and by 2015, Oballa had settled in Austin.

    Oballa is just one example of how immigrant communities are shaping Minnesota politics well beyond the Twin Cities, and are now starting to win seats for public office. Oballa said his record of civic engagement earned him voters’ support.

    “This makes me feel great, it makes me feel really happy and proud,” he said. “My work, I think, will still give hope to refugees who think the American dream is dead.”

    He added, “Just seven years ago, [I] was living in a refugee camp and now am officially elected. I think that will give them hope that one day, when they come to America here, they will accomplish whatever they put their mind to.”

    Read more »

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    TADIAS Year in Review: 2020 in Pictures

    Dr. Tsion Firew is Doctor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. She is also Special Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Liben Eabisa

    Updated: December 31st, 2020

    New York (TADIAS) — Our cover picture of Dr. Tsion Firew — who was one of the many brave healthcare workers who were on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic earlier this year in New York City — captures the kernel of the year that was 2020. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 300,000 people across America.

    Beyond the ongoing global health and social crisis, there were some optimistic moments in 2020 including the swift development of a vaccine as well as the outcome of the 2020 U.S. election.

    Some of the inspiring news stories we highlighted on our website this year include the recent naming of Naomi Girma, the captain of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team and a student at Stanford University, who was voted “the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year.”

    Equally exciting was the announcement in September that Ethiopian-American author Maaza Mengiste’s blockbusters new novel The Shadow King was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world.

    Similarly two Ethiopians, Adom Getachew and Elizabeth Giorgis, were named winners of the 2020 African Studies Book Prize.

    In the art world there was our feature of Free Art Felega, a virtual Ethiopia exhibition organized by German-based Ethiopian artist Yenatfenta Abate, bringing together artists from Ethiopia and the Diaspora. As the announcement stated: The basic concept was “based on the focus of life and work of the participating artists in times of COVID-19 and the reflection of joint work in the context of the social challenge caused by the changing environment.”

    We wish our readers around the world a healthier and more prosperous 2021! Below are some of the top stories we’ve shared on Tadias this past year.

    Happy New Year!

    Naomi Girma Voted 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year


    Naomi Girma, the captain of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team and a student at Stanford University, has been voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. (Photo: Us Soccer)

    This year U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team captain Naomi Girma was voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. According to the sports news website U.S. Soccer, Naomi, “who played a major part in helping Stanford win the NCAA Championship in 2019 as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, was the leader of the U.S. defense during the 2020 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship. As a team captain, Girma started six games during the World Cup qualifying tournament to help the USA earn a berth to the since-cancelled 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and win the regional title, defeating Mexico, 4-1 in the championship game. She finished third on the team in minutes played while marshaling a back line that played an instrumental part in allowing just one goal. The USA went 545 shutout minutes in the tournament before allowing that score.” U.S. Soccer added that Naomi, a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants and a first generation Ethiopian American, was “only the second pure defender to win the award in its 23-year existence. Fifteen U.S. Soccer Young Female Players of the Year have gone on to play in a senior level Women’s World Cup for the USA. The first winner, back in 1998, was current U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone. Read more »

    Maaza Mengiste on Booker Prize Shortlist


    Maaza Mengiste is an Ethiopian-American writer and author of the novels Beneath the Lion’s Gaze and The Shadow King, the latter of which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. (Courtesy photo)

    She did it again! In 2020 Ethiopian-American author Maaza Mengiste, who released her best-selling book The Shadow King the previous year, was named one of the final candidates for the prestigious Booker Prize. The New York-based writer was among the six authors shortlisted for the esteemed Booker Prize. The shortlist was chosen out of 162 books and as organizers noted Maaza, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is “a Fulbright Scholar and professor in the MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation programme at Queens College, she is the author of The Shadow King and Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, named one of the Guardian’s Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her work can be found in the New Yorker, Granta, and the New York Times, among other publications. She lives in New York City.” Read more »

    Two Ethiopians, Adom Getachew & Elizabeth Giorgis, Win the 2020 African Studies Book Prize


    The award, which was announced on November 21st, 2020 during the African Studies Association’s virtual annual meeting, “recognizes the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English and distributed in the United States during the preceding year.” (Photos: Elizabeth W. Giorgis/@AsiaArtArchive & Adom Getachew/Princeton University Press)

    Adom Getachew and Elizabeth W. Giorgis were declared winners in separate categories of the 2020 African Studies Association (ASA) book prize in November during the organization’s virtual annual meeting. Adom, the author of Worldmaking after Empire, was awarded the ASA Best Book Prize, while Elizabeth, the writer of Modernist Art in Ethiopia, was given the East African Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize, which recognizes the best book on East African studies published in the previous calendar. Read more »

    Dr. Wuleta Lemma Among Top 20 Africa’s Business Heroes


    Dr. Wuleta Lemma is the CEO and Founder of Lalibela Global-Networks, an Ethiopia-based startup “leading the digital transformation of the health sector in Africa.” (Photo: BIA)

    Dr. Wuleta Lemma, an Ethiopian American health care entrepreneur representing Ethiopia, was among the top 20 Africa’s Business Heroes announced this past summer by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. Dr Wuleta, who is the CEO and Founder of Lalibela Global-Networks — an Ethiopia-based startup “leading the digital transformation of the health sector in Africa’ – was chosen from a pool of 22,000 candidates across the continent. According to her bio shared with Tadias: “Dr. Wuleta is a Tropical Medicine expert working for the last 25 years mostly on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, MNCH and Communicable Diseases. In the last number of years, Dr. Lemma has been involved in health projects in more than 20 countries in Africa, The Caribbean and Europe. During the past couple years, She had conducted research/evaluations on endemic health problems, Human Resource for Health (HRH), Innovative Medical Education, Behavioral Surveillance on high risk populations in a number of countries; contributed to research on Health outcomes of countries of the Horn of Africa and Health System Strengthen in Ethiopia.” Read more »

    Ethio-American Scientist Sossina Haile Awarded 2020 David Turnbull Lectureship


    The Materials Research Society (MRS), which gives out the annual award, said it’s honoring Dr. Sossina Haile for her “fundamental contributions to the electrochemical and thermochemical materials science that advance sustainable energy, for her commitment to the broader international materials community, and for being an inspiring colleague and passionate mentor.” (Photo: ETHIOPIA 2050 – Keynote Address/YouTube)

    In December Sossina M. Haile, a Professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, was awarded the 2020 David Turnbull Lectureship, a prestigious accolade that recognizes the career contributions of scientists in her field. The Materials Research Society (MRS), which gives out the annual award, said it’s honoring Dr. Sossina for her “fundamental contributions to the electrochemical and thermochemical materials science that advance sustainable energy, for her commitment to the broader international materials community, and for being an inspiring colleague and passionate mentor.” Dr. Sossina received the award on December 3rd during the 2020 Virtual MRS Spring/Fall Meeting, where she also delivered her lecture, Superprotonic Solid Acids for Sustainable Energy Technologies. Most recently Dr. Sossina and her team were behind a new discovery that converts ammonia to green hydrogen that’s being hailed as “a major step forward for enabling a zero-pollution, hydrogen-fueled economy.” Read more »

    Rebecca Haile Elected Board Chair of EMILY’s List


    Rebecca Haile, co-founder and executive director of the U.S.-based non-profit organization Ethiopia Education Initiatives, Inc., has been elected as Board Chair of EMILY’s List, one of the largest women associations in the United States. (Photo: Rebecca Haile speaking at The Haile-Manas Academy Groundbreaking Ceremony & Luncheon in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia on December 30th, 2018/Tadias File)

    Also in December, entrepreneur and philanthropist Rebecca Haile was elected Board Chair of EMILY’s List, America’s largest resource for women in politics that helps to elect Democratic female candidates into public office. The press release added: “This change in leadership comes as EMILY’s List is at its strongest position yet, following two record cycles and the incredible growth of Democratic women running for office.” The organization noted that EMILY’s List’s new Board Chair Rebecca Haile is an entrepreneur in business and philanthropy. “She is the co-founder and executive director of Ethiopia Education Initiatives, Inc., that seeks to provide world-class educational opportunities for talented Ethiopian students and has already started its first school in central Ethiopia. Rebecca is also a Senior Advisor at Foros, an independent strategic and M&A advisory boutique firm she helped establish in 2009. Rebecca is a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. She is the author of Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia, a memoir of her return to Ethiopia after her family’s forced exile following the 1974 revolution and 25 years in the United States. Rebecca is a board member of the Brearley School, an independent K-12 girls’ school in New York City and a former Trustee of Freedom House, a human rights organization.” In a statement Rebecca said: “I look forward to working with the staff, the board, and our next president to change the face of American politics for generations to come.” Read more »

    Marcus Samuelsson Named Guest Editor of Bon Appétit Magazine


    Marcus Samuelsson visits SiriusXM Studios on February 26, 2020 in New York City. (Getty Images)

    Celebrity chef, author and businessman Marcus Samuelsson, whose latest book The Rise was released in 2020, was also named guest editor of the holiday edition of Bon Appétit magazine, America’s leading food and entertainment publication since it was launched in 1956. The Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and Artistic Director of Condé Nast — the parent company of Bon Appétit — Anna Wintour said in a statement: “It’s an honor to welcome such a bold and brilliant culinary force like Marcus to the Bon Appétit team. He is a visionary and inspiration to so many in the food world and beyond, from aspiring entrepreneurs and home cooks to today’s most renowned chefs. We can’t wait for our audience to get cooking with him.” Marcus Samuelsson added: “Now is a time of seismic change not only within our culinary world but in our communities at large and we have a responsibility and opportunity to come together to show how food is a reflection of our cultures, our societal values, and our individuality. I learned from working in restaurants at a young age that you’re nobody without your crew. To make a meaningful impact means both empowering the incredible talents around you and enlisting those you admire to share their stories and lend their voice. l’m looking forward to joining forces with Sonia and the team to work toward this greater goal.” Read more »

    Interview With Addisu Demissie: Senior Adviser to Joe Biden


    Addisu Demissie who served as a Senior Advisor to then U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, was responsible for organizing the nominating convention for the Democratic Party that took place in August of 2020. (Photo: 50+1 Strategies)

    One of the most widely circulated and quoted stories that we did in 2020 was our interview with Addisu Demissie, who served as a Senior Advisor to the Biden campaign, and was the lead person behind the nominating convention for the Democratic Party last summer. Addisu successfully pulled off the first-ever nominating convention held online, introducing a major party ticket to American voters across the nation. Prior to the convention Addisu told Tadias: “It’s gonna be nothing like anything anyone has ever done before, but we have a mission – and that is to present Joe Biden to the country. He is somebody who has been in public life for 40 years, but still people need a better sense of who he is and what he’s fighting for.” As it turned out it was a winning strategy. Read more »

    Tadias Panel Discussion on Civic Engagement and Voter Mobilization


    On Sunday, October 25th, 2020 Tadias Magazine hosted a timely virtual panel discussion on civic engagement and voter mobilization featuring a new generation of Ethiopian American leaders from various professions. (Photos: Tadias Magazine)

    During the closing days of the U.S. presidential election in late October 2020 Tadias hosted a well-received lively discussion on building political power through civic engagement and voter mobilization featuring a new generation of Ethiopian American leaders from various professions. You can watch the video below.

    Panelists included Henock Dory, who currently serves as Special Assistant to former President Barack Obama; Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; Selam Mulugeta Washington, a former Field Organizer with Obama for America, Helen Mesfin from the Helen Show DC, Dr. Menna Demessie, Vice President of Policy Analysis & Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Helen Amelga, President of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles (moderator) as well as Bemnet Meshesha and Helen Eshete of the Habeshas Vote initiative. The event opened with poetry reading by Bitaniya Giday, the 2020-2021 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate.

    Meet The Trailblazing Ethiopian American Office Holders in the U.S.


    The highly competitive 2020 U.S. election saw not only an active participation by Ethiopian American voters across the country, but also the growing political power of the community as more Ethiopians were elected into office, including Samra Brouk of New York and Oballa Oballa of Austin, Minnesota. (Courtesy photos)

    The 2020 highly competitive election saw not only an active participation by Ethiopian American voters across the country, but also the growing political power of the community as more Ethiopians were elected into office including Samra Brouk, a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, who won a seat in the New York State Senate and Oballa Oballa, a refugee from Gambella, Ethiopia who captured a City Council seat in Austin, Minnesota. Samra and Oballa — who both became the first Black candidates to win their respective races — follow in the footsteps of other trailblazers such as Assemblyman Alexander Assefa of Nevada who two years ago became the first Ethiopian American to be elected into a statewide office; Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson of Florida, the first Ethiopian-American judge in the United States who was re-elected to a third term this year; and Girmay Zahilay, a Councilman in King County, Washington, as well as the late Mike Mekonnen who served as Councilor for the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts for more than a decade. Here are the bios of the current Ethiopian American office holders in the United States: Read more »

    Liben Eabisa is Co-Founder & Publisher of Tadias.

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    2014 in Pictures

    Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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    Top 10 Stories of 2013

    Ten Arts and Culture Stories of 2013

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    The Tragedy of Agitu Gudeta: An Ethiopian Immigrant Killed on Her Farm in Italy

    Agitu Ideo Gudeta, 42, an Ethiopian migrant who became a symbol of integration in Italy, her adopted home, has been killed on her farm where she raised goats for her cheese business, police said on Wednesday. Agitu had made her home in the mountains of Trentino’s Valle dei Mocheni, making goat’s cheese and beauty products in her farm (The Happy Goat), which was built on previously abandoned land. (Reuters)

    Reuters

    Ethiopian migrant who became symbol of integration in Italy killed on her goat farm

    ROME (Reuters) – An Ethiopian migrant who became a symbol of integration in Italy, her adopted home, has been killed on her farm where she raised goats for her cheese business, police said on Wednesday.

    A Ghanaian employee on her farm in the northern Italian region of Trentino has admitted to killing Agitu Ideo Gudeta, 42, with a hammer and raping her, Italian news agency Ansa reported. The report could not immediately be confirmed.

    Gudeta had made her home in the mountains of Trentino’s Valle dei Mocheni, making goat’s cheese and beauty products in her farm La Capra Felice (The Happy Goat), which was built on previously abandoned land.

    Her story was reported by numerous international media, including Reuters , as an example of a migrant success story in Italy at a time of rising hostility towards immigrants, fueled by the right-wing League party.

    Gudeta escaped from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in 2010 after her participation in protests against ‘land-grabbing’ angered local authorities. Activists accused the authorities of setting aside large swathes of farmland for foreign investors.

    On reaching Italy she was able to use common land in the northern mountains to build her new enterprise, taking advantage of permits that give farmers access to public land to prevent local territory from being reclaimed by wild nature.

    Starting off with 15 goats, she had 180 by 2018 when she became a well-known figure.

    “I created my space and made myself known, there was no resistance to me,” she told Reuters in a story that year.

    Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

    Washington Post Follow-up on the Unfortunate Saga of Timnit Gebru & Google

    Timnit Gebru is one of the most high-profile Black women in her field and a powerful voice in the new field of ethical artificial intelligence (AI), which seeks to identity issues around bias, fairness, and responsibility. (Photo: Google AI research scientist Timnit Gebru speaks on Sept. 7, 2018, at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco/Getty Images)

    The Washington Post

    By Nitasha Tiku

    Google hired Timnit Gebru to be an outspoken critic of unethical AI. Then she was fired for it.

    Two months ago, Google promoted Timnit Gebru, co-lead of a group focused on ethical artificial intelligence, after she earned a high score on her annual employee appraisal. Gebru is one of the most high-profile Black women in her field and a powerful voice in the new field of ethical AI, which seeks to identity issues around bias, fairness, and responsibility.

    In his peer review of Gebru, Jeff Dean, the head of Google Artificial Intelligence, left only one comment when asked what she could do to have a greater impact, according to documents viewed by The Washington Post: Ensure that her team helps make a promising new software tool for processing human language “consistent with our AI Principles.”

    In an email thanking Dean for his review, Gebru let him know that her team was already working on a paper about the ethical risks around the same language models, which are essential to understanding the complexity of language in search queries. On Oct. 20, Dean wrote that he wanted to see a draft, adding, “definitely not my area of expertise, but would definitely learn from reading it.”

    Six weeks later, Google fired Gebru while she was on vacation.

    “I can’t imagine anybody else who would be safer than me,” Gebru said. “I was super visible. I’m well known in the research community, but also the regulatory space. I have a lot of grass-roots support — and this is what happened.”

    Google’s star AI ethics researcher, one of a few Black women in the field, says she was fired for a critical email

    In an internal memo that he later posted online explaining Gebru’s departure, Dean told employees that the paper “didn’t meet our bar for publication” and “ignored too much relevant research” on recent positive improvements to the technology. Gebru’s superiors had insisted that she and the other Google co-authors either retract the paper or remove their names. Employees in Google Research, the department that houses the ethical AI team, say authors who make claims about the benefits of large language models have not received the same scrutiny during the approval process as those who highlight the shortcomings.

    Her abrupt firing shows that Google is pushing back on the kind of scrutiny that it claims to welcome, according to interviews with Gebru, current Google employees, and emails and documents viewed by The Post.

    It raises doubts about Silicon Valley’s ability to self-police, especially when it comes to advanced technology that is largely unregulated and being deployed in the real world despite demonstrable bias toward marginalized groups. Already, AI systems shape decision-making in law enforcement, employment opportunity and access to health care worldwide.

    That made Gebru’s perspective essential in a field that is predominantly White, Asian and male. Women comprised only 15 percent of the AI research staff at Facebook and 10 percent at Google, according to a 2018 report in Wired magazine. At Google, Black women make up 1.6 percent of the workforce.

    Although Google publicly celebrated Gebru’s work identifying problems with AI, it disenfranchised the work internally by keeping it hierarchically distinct from other AI initiatives, not heeding the group’s advice, and not creating an incentive structure to put in practice the ethical findings, Gebru and other employees said.

    Google declined to comment, but noted that in addition to the dozen or so staff members on Gebru’s team, 200 employees are focused on responsible AI.

    Google has said that it did not fire Gebru, but accepted her “resignation,” citing her request to explain who at Google demanded that the paper be retracted, according to Dean’s memo. The company also blamed an email Gebru wrote to an employee resource group for women and allies at Google working in AI as inappropriate for a manager. The message warned the group that pushing for diversity was no use until Google leadership took accountability.

    Federal study confirms racial bias of many facial-recognition systems, casts doubt on their expanding use

    Rumman Chowdhury, a former global lead for responsible AI at Accenture and chief executive of Parity, a start-up that helps companies figure out how to audit algorithms, said there is a fundamental lack of respect within the industry for work on AI ethics compared with equivalent roles in other industries, such as model risk managers in quantitative hedge funds or threat analysts in cybersecurity.

    “It’s being framed as the AI optimists and the people really building the stuff [versus] the rest of us negative Nellies, raining on their parade,” Chowdhury said. “You can’t help but notice, it’s like the boys will make the toys and then the girls will have to clean up.”

    Google, which for decades evangelized an office culture that embraced employee dissent, has fired outspoken workers in recent years and shut down forums for exchange and questioning.

    Nearly 3,000 Google employees and more than 4,000 academics, engineers and industry colleagues have signed a petition calling Gebru’s termination an act of retaliation by Google. Last week, nine Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) and Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (N.Y.), sponsor of the Algorithmic Accountability Act, a bill that would require companies to audit and correct race and gender bias in its algorithms, sent a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai asking the company to affirm its commitment to research freedom and diversity.

    Read more »

    Related:

    Spotlight: The Media Firestorm Concerning AI Researcher Timnit Gebru & Google


    Timnit Gebru, an internationally respected Google researcher, took to Twitter last week to air her mistreatment in the hands of Google officials who sought to silence her concerning her latest research that discovered racial bias in current Artificial Intelligence technology. (Photo via @GoogleWalkout/Twitter)

    Tadias Magazine

    By Tadias Staff

    Updated: December 8th, 2020

    New York (TADIAS) — Last week Ethiopian American Timnit Gebru– whom we have featured several time in Tadias including when she was a graduate student at Stanford University and was named by Forbes magazine among 21 incredible women behind artificial intelligence research that’s fueling new discoveries in the field — took to Twitter to air her mistreatment in the hands of Google officials who sought to silence her concerning her latest research that discovered racial bias in current Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology.

    Judging by the widely circulated media coverage of the unfortunate episode and the manner in which Google handled the rushed dismissal of one of its top scientists and an internationally renown Ethical A.I. researchers in the world, to say that the corporation made a historical mistake and long-lasting damage to its well cultivated image as a forward-looking technology company is an understatement.

    As The New York Times reported, Timnit, “a well-respected Google researcher said she was fired by the company after criticizing its approach to minority hiring and the biases built into today’s artificial intelligence systems. Timnit Gebru, who was a co-leader of Google’s Ethical A.I. team, said in a tweet on Wednesday evening that she was fired because of an email she had sent a day earlier to a group that included company employees. In the email, reviewed by The New York Times, she expressed exasperation over Google’s response to efforts by her and other employees to increase minority hiring and draw attention to bias in artificial intelligence.”


    Timnit Gebru, a respected researcher at Google, questioned biases built into artificial intelligence systems. (The New York Times)

    Wired magazine added: “Timnit Gebru’s tweets about the incident Wednesday night triggered an outpouring of support from AI researchers at Google and elsewhere, including top universities and companies such as Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia. Many said Google had tarnished its reputation in the crucial field, which CEO Sundar Pichai says underpins the company’s business. Late Thursday, more than 200 Google employees signed an open letter calling on the company to release details of its handling of Gebru’s paper and to commit to “research integrity and academic freedom.”


    “We have been pleading for representation but there are barely any Black people in Google Research,” says Timnit Gebru, who says she was fired Wednesday. (GETTY IMAGES)

    In a scathing email to her colleagues at Google that was later published in full on the Silicon Valley news website Platformer, Timnit pointed out how top management at the company has not honored its commitment to employ more minority and woman professionals. “Your life starts getting worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people. You start making the other leaders upset,” her email stated. “There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything.” She concluded: “So if you would like to change things, I suggest focusing on leadership accountability and thinking through what types of pressures can also be applied from the outside. For instance, I believe that the Congressional Black Caucus is the entity that started forcing tech companies to report their diversity numbers. Writing more documents and saying things over and over again will tire you out but no one will listen.”


    Timnit Gebru, speaking at TechCrunch disrupt in 2018. (Getty Images)

    As of today nearly 4,000 people including 1534 Google employees and 2196 academic, industry, and civil society supporters have signed an online petition titled “We stand with Timnit Gebru” and calling “on Google Research to strengthen its commitment to research integrity and to unequivocally commit to supporting research that honors the commitments made in Google’s AI Principles.”

    Below are links to the stories from The New York Times, Wired magazine, Timnit’s email as published on the Platformer website as well as the support letter signed by thousands of her professional colleagues from the around the world:

    Google Researcher Says She Was Fired Over Paper Highlighting Bias in A.I. (NYT)

    A Prominent AI Ethics Researcher Says Google Fired Her (Wired)

    The withering email that got an ethical AI researcher fired at Google (Platformer)

    We stand with Timnit Gebru (Google Walkout For Real Change)

    Related:

    Timnit Gebru: Among Incredible Women Advancing A.I. Research

    Spotlight: Blacks in AI Co-Founders Timnit Gebru & Rediet Abebe

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