Interviews Section

I AM ETHIOPIA: Photographer Mintwab Zemeadim (Video)

“I AM ETHIOPIA” is a three part series that focuses on Ethiopian Americans in Seattle who are subverting misconceptions of Ethiopia and its people, and forming their own colorful and groundbreaking identities.

Seattle Globalist

By Aida Solomon

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Seattle, Mintwab Zemeadim was exposed to two vastly different portrayals of Ethiopia during her upbringing — the way the country was depicted in western media, and the way she heard it described by her family.

She recently returned to Ethiopia for the first time in 15 years, and was inspired to combat the stereotypes of famine and poverty by photographing the beautiful country and people she saw with her own eyes.

Through the creative layering of these photographs of modern Ethiopian people against traditional patterns and East African art, Zemeadim emphasizes the beauty of Ethiopia and the deep history, familial traditions and colorful individuals that she believes get lost in translation via western media.

Zemeadim shares her work through an online gallery at VSCO.com.

Read more »

Video: The Cross-Cultural Vision of Photographer Mintwab Zemeadim


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Charles Sutton Named Envoy for Yessera Organization

Orchestra Ethiopia 1967. (Photograph: Courtesy Charles Sutton)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, February 10th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — As a teenager growing up in Ethiopia in the 1960′s Aklilu Gebrewold, now Executive Director of the U.S.-based non-profit organization, Yessera, remembers rushing to join the long queue to watch musical shows at his high school that sometimes included Charles Sutton playing the Massinko. More than four decades later Aklilu said he was more than pleasantly surprised to receive a message from “Mr. Charles” (as Sutton is popularly known among Ethiopians) wanting to support Yessera, which provides vocational training to young adults in Ethiopia. Sutton, who had served in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps volunteer and music performer in the late 1960′s still keeps close ties with many friends in the country. And recently he dedicated part of the proceeds from his latest album Zoro Gettem to Yessera. In an interview with Tadias Magazine — following last week’s announcement that Yessera has named Charles Sutton as its envoy to help promote its programs — Aklilu warmly recalled: “For my generation he was a delightful presence, his deep respect and knowledge of Ethiopian culture, language, music and customs.” Aklilu added: “If there is anyone who embodies a true global citizen in today’s age of globalization, it has to be Mr. Charles.”

Established in 2001 by a group of friends who spent time in the West Coast in the 70′s and 80′s, Yessera is mostly funded by contributions from its founding members that now reside scattered across the United States. “Whenever we gathered in coffee shops or at our residences, just like many Ethiopians, we talked about home and what we can do to make a difference,” said Kassahun Maru, owner of Zelalem Injera, who has supported the organization from the beginning. “Yessera is a result of that, its few friends finding a way to give back through, small, manageable and meaningful projects that can bring lasting benefits.”

“I first became acquainted with Yessera a few years ago, when I was introduced via email to its Executive Director, Ato Aklilu Gebrewold, and to a Yessera Board member, Ato Negesse Gutema, by Ato Dan Close, a fellow Returned Peace Corps volunteer,” Sutton told Tadias. “I had the pleasure at that time of cooperating with Ato Negesse in the sale of the Zoro Gettem – Reunion CD that I had recorded with former colleagues Tesfaye Lemma, Getamesay Abebbe, and Melaku Gelaw for the benefit of this most worthwhile organization.”

The non-profit covers tuition, room and board, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs for an average of 10 to 12 students per year. Each student travels from various locations in Ethiopia to attend a vocational school in Addis Ababa. “We require that they must have at least a 10th grade education, demonstrate financial need, and most importantly, have the inner drive to succeed” Aklilu added. “Our goal is not only to equip them with industrial vocational skills, but also the ability to start and run their own small enterprises, such as in the construction field, that they can use to employ each other and thereby contribute to the larger community.”

Aklilu also gives credit to their Ethiopia representative, Solomon Retta, general manager of Discovery Consultancy Services (DCS), for overseeing the candidate selection process. He noted that so far participants have hailed from Awassa, Debre Birhan, Bekoji, Assosa, Ebinat, Metu, Bonga and this year from Addis Ababa.

For me, Sutton continued, “this opportunity, and honor, is the culmination of an association going back nearly 50 years with Ethiopia, its music, and its people, that has brought great joy to me and enriched my life more than I can possibly say. Now, as Yessera’s Ambassador, I am looking forward to carrying our cooperation a step further by bringing Yessera’s mission and message, to the best of my ability, before a wider audience both in Ethiopia and in the U.S.A.”

You can Learn more about Yessera at www.yessera.org.

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Tadias Interview with Filmmaker Yidnekachew Shumete

Yidnekachew Shumete in New York on December 8th, 2013. (Photo: By Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tigist Selam
Written by Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — “The stories that we project on the big screen have an influence on the audience, so it’s important how well you tell it,” says Ethiopian filmmaker Yidnekachew Shumete, the director and writer of Nishan, which premiered in New York this past December at the African Diaspora International Film Festival. Released in 2013 Nishan is Yidnekachew’s second film following his successful 2007 drama Siryet. The former highlights a striking Ethiopian female character named Nishan, portrayed beautifully by his talented wife and actress Bertukan Befkadu, who is keen on obtaining a visa to live abroad, but gets ensnared in a series of dangerous events including a break-in at her family residence. In an effort to protect those she loves and honor the valor of a courageous patriot whose property has been stolen she also realizes that her desire for a better life should be started not overseas but at home.

“Filmmakers have to be one step ahead of the stories they are telling,” said Yidnekachew in an interview with Tadias after the NYC screening of Nishan on December 8th, 2013. “When I started working on Nishan’s script I stopped working as an instructor,” he recalled. “That was about was 3 or 4 years ago.”

Yidnekachew, who was born in 1981 in Addis Ababa came of age in the 1990′s when there was no film industry to speak of in Ethiopia. Fast-forward to 2014: today he is not only a trailblazer locally in the fledgling field, but also a former cinema teacher and founder of Kurat Pictures, plc, producing and distributing his films. “Luckily, my journey in making movies has come from the school and I have established a certain track record so it’s easier for me to find interested people to invest,” he said, adding that “it’s not the same for everyone.” He cautions “If you are beginning from scratch, it’s very difficult. The film industry in Ethiopia is in its infant stages.”

“Either the money comes from your own pocket or someone who can trust you, like a rich uncle, big brother, family member, or friend who is confident in your work,” he stated. And once in a blue moon an angel investor might pop up from Merkato. “People from Markato who have the money come and ask if they can hire a filmmaker because they have heard that film actually makes money,” he said. “There are a number of people who have succeeded in doing so. They don’t have any idea about the art, but they buy scripts and produce movies, I mean if the film does well, they will make another one, if not, they go home and do some other business. Other than that, there is no specific financing system.”

For Yidnekachew, however, even with the limited resources available for quality production, his objective is to raise the standard of filmmaking in Ethiopia — from script writing to soundmixing, and cinematography — to an international level. “If you noticed it took me six to seven years to make my second film,” he emphasized. “That’s partly because I could not find scripts that interested me.” Yidnekachew said it’s precisely the reason why he wrote the script for Nishan (Amharic with English subtitles) himself. “If I had very interesting scripts from other writers I wouldn’t force myself to write one,” he said. “As a filmmaker I feel responsible as to what kind of stories I am telling and how well I tell it.”

Below are photos from the festival and trailer of Nishan:



Related:
‘Difret’ Wins World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance Festival

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Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Dr. David H. Shinn, 19th United States Ambassador to Ethiopia. (Photograph: Wikimedia Commons)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Several African leaders will come to Washington D.C. next summer for a historic two-day summit, the first of its kind hosted by a U.S. president. The White House announced this week that the summit is a follow-up of President Obama’s Africa trip last July, in which he spotlighted the “success stories” of three African countries: Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania — countries that administration officials say were chosen for their “exemplary progress” in economic development, transparency in governance, independent press, respect for human rights and rule of law. President Obama will host the summit scheduled for August 5th and 6th in the U.S. capital. Although it’s expected the upcoming Africa Summit will include more countries, the list of attendees has not yet been released. The White House says the gathering will focus on promoting trade, investment and democratic development in the continent.

“I suspect the themes will include: A broader partnership with Africa; encourage more two-way trade and use of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act by Africans; a market based, private sector led investment effort; greater attention to infrastructure, especially President Obama’s Power Africa initiative; [and] Feed the Future program,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, who is currently an Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University.

Ambassador Shinn proposes that the summit may “highlight accomplishments of the Millennium Challenge Corporation,” that is led by Ethiopian American Daniel W. Yohannes who was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to serve as MCC’s Chief Executive Officer.

Other topics may include “continued U.S. support for programs that improve health care in Africa,” Shinn added. “More cooperation with other donor countries and international financial institutions on African economic development,” as well as “support for democracy and peaceful political transitions, support for African civil society organizations, programs that support African youth and encourage job creation, emphasis on the need to control corruption, and need to combat extremism of all kinds in Africa.”

Ambassador Shinn cautioned against anticipation of overnight results from the summit. “Except for the immediate comments of the African participants at the end of the summit, it is almost impossible to measure over the short-term the success of a conference like this,” he said. “Even if there is a final communique with specific tangible goals and announcements of new programs, it means little until you can assess the results years later.”

“I think it is a mistake to expect much in the way of tangible, measurable results at the summit,” he emphasized. “There is also the question of continuity. Is this a one-off event or something that will occur again? It is very difficult to ensure continuity in our system of government, where control of the White House changes every four or eight years.”

Related:
Obama to Host Africa Summit in Washington
Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Application Open
Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on Obama’s Africa Trip

Video: President Obama delivers the central speech of his three nation Africa tour (VOA News)

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Interview With Zemedeneh Negatu

Zemedeneh Negatu. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 30th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — As a teenager in 1978 when Zemedeneh Negatu headed to the United States with his future uncertain, he had no idea that three decades later he would be named one of Africa’s 100 Most influential individuals for his role in promoting economic growth in the country of his birth and in Africa. The current Managing Partner of Ernst & Young Ethiopia (EY) received the accolade last month from New African Magazine, which called him “a truly global citizen” and further noted that “anyone who has done business in Ethiopia will have come across Zemedeneh Negatu” or Zem, as he is affectionately known.

In a follow-up interview with Tadias Magazine during his recent trip to Washington, D.C., Zem said that his decision to return home in 1998 was inspired by “love at first sight” during a vacation trip to Ethiopia in April 1995 when he met his future wife, Julie Ricco, just days after he landed in Addis. “It was a Thursday,” he recalled laughing. “We spent the weekend in Langano and by Sunday we had decided to get married.” At the time he had just finished a two year expatriate assignment in Argentina as a consultant and was in the process of relocating to Brazil. “They were shipping my stuff from Buenos Aires to São Paulo and I had a little bit of free time so I thought why not visit home.” He added: “And I ended up meeting this beautiful woman that would change my life forever and to whom I have now been married almost 19 years and have a wonderful 11 year old son named Michael.”

After studying Business and Finance at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Zem worked as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) before landing a job in D.C. with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the global professional services firm, which would eventually take him to Latin America. “I have always been interested in emerging markets where you feel you are actually making a difference,” Zem said. ” I have gained a great deal of experience by working in South America where the business and investment environment in Argentina and Brazil in the 1990s was similar to what’s taking place today in Africa, where some of the fastest growing economies are located.”

In Ethiopia, Zem said, the economy has dramatically changed in the last fifteen years. “There wasn’t much back then,” he said, sharing that his first investment was a factory for feminine health products that did not pan out. “So I decided to settle for what I know best and opened a consulting firm.” His firm, EY Ethiopia, has been at the center of some of the biggest and most publicized business deals in the country, including the recent purchase of Meta Beer by the British-owned corporation Diageo, the world’s largest spirits drinks maker famous for Guinness Beer and Johnnie Walker. “I like to believe that we have contributed in our own small way to put Ethiopia on the global map as an attractive emerging market,” he said. “Of course the country’s progress has made our effort much easier since we have references we can highlight to global investors such as the significant GDP growth and major infrastructure projects including the $5.0 billion dam on the Nile river, the largest in Africa, and even the new subway in Addis Ababa, which is the only one in Sub-Saharan Africa outside of Johannesburg”.

For Zem, however, his proudest accomplishment came when his firm won a bid to work with the country’s homegrown global brand, Ethiopian Airlines, that he helped advise in their Vision 2010 Plan. When EY Ethiopia was hired in 2004, Ethiopian Airlines had 11 aircraft and less than 400 million dollars in annual revenue. Five years later, Zem said, the airline’s revenues had jumped to 1.2 billion dollars. “Today Ethiopian Airlines generates more profits than all African airlines combined,” he added. And since then his firm’s airline clients have expanded to include Rwandair, Virgin Nigeria Airlines, Mozambique Airlines, ASKY Airlines in Togo and many others. Zem also pointed out that initially while working on the Ethiopian Airlines project he had to outsource some of the tasks to professionals from a foreign firm. “Over time we have managed to build that capacity locally,” he said. “So we are now fully staffed by Ethiopians just like Ethiopian Airlines and we have some of the most sophisticated Transaction Advisory professionals based in Addis who win cross border African deals not just against our traditional “Big 4″ competitors but even big Wall Street investment firms.”

Zem is a highly sought after speaker at many high profile global conferences including the World Economic Forum, New York Forum and Harvard Business School where he completed the LSE program. He’s appeared many times on the international media such as CNN and BBC and was recently a “Power Lunch” guest on CNBC television. Zem has won many awards for his achievements including “Managing Partner of the Year – 2013″ from a top UK corporate finance magazine and “Pioneer Diaspora Business Person of the Year” at the annual event held in Washington in July 2012.

As to those who want to follow in his footsteps to Ethiopia, especially the Diaspora in the U.S., Zem recommends optimism and perseverance as the secret to success. “I say come with the glass half full mentality than the glass half empty attitude and you will enhance your chances of success,” he emphasized. “I put my money where my mouth is and continue to personally invest in Ethiopia because there are still vast untapped opportunities compared to many other emerging economies.”

When asked how it feels to be named as part of the 100 Most influential Africans, Zem stated: “I am honored and humbled by the recognition and I know that there will be many more Ethiopians, including those in the Diaspora, who will make the list in the future.”

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Ethiopia Inspired Holiday Cards: Tadias Interview With Designer Maro Haile

Design by Maro Haile. (Image courtesy of the artist)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, November 22nd, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — For Mariam-Sena (Maro) Haile, a Brooklyn-based artist and owner of the e-commerce website Deseta.net, it all started following the debut of her afro angel artwork on Facebook in 2011. “The idea of it actually started a few years back when friends who were throwing a monthly party asked me to design a logo for them, and that’s when I came up with the pink afro angel wearing lipstick and mascara,” she recalled. “I held onto that design, and two Christmases ago I designed a card that I called “3 happy angels” and posted it on Facebook, just for fun.” Friends re-posted the card, and asked if Maro was selling them. “That’s when I decided to print and sell my first line of Christmas cards. Over the past year I kept designing and selling new products in my shop” she added.

Since then a witty friend has nicknamed her “Hallmaro” (as in Hallmark), for her creative designs of holiday cards and other product lines called Deseta with the motto: “live happy.” In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine Maro shared that her playful drawings and paintings are inspired by Ethiopian culture but with her own twist that reflects her multicultural upbringing in the United States. She defines Deseta as follows: “deseta [deh-seh-ta]: n. happiness; how you feel when something puts a smile on your face. from Amharic, one of the many languages spoken in Ethiopia. also spelled/pronounced desta.”

Maro was born in Addis Ababa and grew up in Minnesota before settling in New York City in 2000. “I was born in Ethiopia, raised in a tiny town in the Midwest, and now have Brooklyn planted deep in my heart,” she said. “My target market ranges from shoppers who appreciate the unique, non-traditional aesthetic found in gift shops and boutiques to young families and friends of young families looking for printed accessories for their children.” Maro’s aim is to reach as diverse an audience as her background.

The online venture, she pointed out, ties in well with her profession. “A few years ago I landed a career as a product designer and developer; I work for companies that design and sell products for the home i.e. bedding, pillows, shower curtains, and rugs. I’ve learned so much about designing for big box retail stores and doing production with overseas factories, much to the amusement of my Ethiopian immigrant parents who thought their children would all pursue a career in academia or health.”

Maro’s father, a well known Geez scholar, relocated his family from Ethiopia to Minnesota after he was shot by a military junta during the Derg regime. That explains, she said, why she does not speak Amharic. “Starting deseta has been a great move for me,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, but never knew how or in what capacity.” I’ve always enjoyed being artsy since I can remember, but knew that becoming a full time studio artist was not for me.”

Another favorite product available at her store is a tote bag called Bole Girl. “I really like that design, but I do have conflicted feelings about it.” she said. “I know that the economy in Ethiopia is rapidly growing, and that Bole road is at the center of this development. This is a comforting notion for the little girl in me who has roots on Bole road, but grew up here as the only Ethiopian, only person of color for that matter, for miles. And constantly had to hear, ‘You’re Ethiopian?’ But “why aren’t you skinny like the Ethiopians on TV?’ and only knew of my country as a place that needed benefit concerts to come to its rescue. As you can imagine, I hated being Ethiopian when I was growing up. But with all the exciting economic development currently happening in Ethiopia, I know that not everyone has the same opportunity to take part in it, and that is a big problem. I also know that there is an elitist connotation to being a Bole girl, and I don’t want anyone to think that this design is intended to convey that sentiment. In the end, I just wanted to have fun with a positive image of Ethiopia, and that bag is for the little girl in many of us so that we can say yes, Ethiopia is fly and sophisticated, and we’re proud of it.”

When Deseta launched last year, Maro only had fine art pieces (commission work), and her line of holiday cards. “There was definitely an interest in the cards, as they were affordable products that were Ethiopian inspired, but with a universal, commercial appeal,” She noted. “Since then, I continued to design cards for other occasions, but I obviously don’t want to be just a card company as ‘Hallmaro’ is what a witty friend jokingly called me once. So I started to take my aesthetic to other everyday type goods, like tote bags, wall art for kids, and fun little temporary tattoos.”

The energetic entrepreneur is confident of developing a niche for Deseta, although she emphasized that “breaking into the world as an independent designer is tough and very competitive.” In fact, she said, Deseta is an reincarnation of what she tried to do five years ago when she initially came up with the brand name, registered the domain, and launched a line of nursery décor. “It was a fun and adorable line if I do say so myself,” Maro added. “But I did not have the resources to break into such a well saturated market, so I let it dissolve. It was frustrating, I had put a lot of work into it, but I really like what I’m doing now. I am creating new and unique designs that touch on our rich Ethiopian design heritage but also with a universal appeal. This process has been exciting, challenging, nerve-wracking and quite rewarding.”

Below are images of some of Maro’s Deseta designs.



You can learn more and purchase Deseta products at www.deseta.net, on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/deseta and follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/desetaArtAndDesign.

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Interview With Rima Kalush

Ethiopians protest outside Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., November 14th, 2013. (Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, November 17th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — “Migrants who overstay their visas still have human rights,” says Rima Kalush, a member of www.migrant-rights.org, a Bahrain-based advocacy group established in 2007 to document abuse as well as to engage both Gulf citizens and migrants in a dialogue on the spectrum of their issues. “We also try to connect migrant workers in distress to individuals and organizations on the ground,” Rima stated in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine regarding the recent violence in Saudi Arabia and what could be done to bring about a lasting solution to this long-festering crisis.

“The amnesty period does not justify the current crackdown on migrants, Rima added. “Undocumented migrants still have rights, including the right to contest their status on a case-by-case basis with access to a lawyer and translator.”

The random raids, Rima noted, are psychologically harmful, and expose even legal migrants to unnecessary physical danger and trauma. “The Saudi government has not fulfilled its promise to respect the rights of workers during the implementation of the Nitaqat,” She said. “Origin countries, such as Ethiopia, must also provide migrants with the means to contest their cases as well as the means for quick processing of documents and repatriation.” Rima pointed out that ultimately the big elephant in the room in this case is the legal responsibility of their home government.

“Domestic workers can be trafficked in different ways; some are trafficked in the sense that they are misled about the conditions of their employment, and then are unable to leave exploitative working conditions,” Rima said. “Others can be trafficked once they are in the country, sometimes by recruiting agents themselves.”

According to the U.N., there are over 600,000 forced laborers throughout the Middle East. “Unfortunately, this form of trafficking is not often recognized by GCC governments, who prefer to focus on sex trafficking,” Rima said. “They also face very limited access to legal recourse. Firstly, it can be physically difficult for domestic workers to obtain legal representation; they often would have to first escape their place of employment, enter into an irregular status, find refuge in an embassy shelter (which can be very far from their place of residence).”

Rima emphasized that engaging in the dialogue about migrant rights on the ground is critical. “It is often non-migrants at home who advocate for and secure rights for these abroad citizens,” she said.

Migrants in general, particularly domestic workers, also have difficulty securing financial support for lawyers and translators. “If they do overcome these obstacles, they generally face an unsympathetic court system,” she said. “They are often required to remain in the country throughout the trial, which can be prolonged for years. During this time it can be very difficult for them to find work, and they have to obtain official permission to do so. This means that domestic workers, who are often psychologically traumatized, often elect to return home instead — with none of the wages or compensation owed to them.”

In instances in which the court rules in favor of the domestic worker, enforcement of the ruling is often weak. “In many cases, particularly when the employee faces jail time in addition to a fine, the sentence is reduced,” Rima noted. “The virtual absence of penalization means employers are essentially empowered to treat domestic workers as they wish. Though many employers do treat domestic workers well, there are simply too few protections against those who do not.”

Asked about the challenges and rewards of advocating for migrant labor rights in the Middle East, Rima highlighted that government policies are very difficult to change. “It means that our efforts are primarily directed at changing social attitudes towards migrants,” she said. “Over the past few years, we have seen in op-eds and other articles the start of a real shift in popular conceptions of migrant laborers and domestic workers.”

She noted that another challenge they face is the digital divide. “A lot of migrant workers don’t have access to the Internet, and consequently to us, to amplify their voices. However, many will work through family members in origin countries who then contact us or use social media to elevate their stories.”

What’s her view on the tens of thousands of Ethiopians that at the moment are stuck in Saudi Arabia? “They must be allowed the opportunity to contest their status, if they are detained they must be provided with humane conditions, and they must be provided with access to lawyers and translators,” she said. “They are also entitled to speedy repatriation and the opportunity to collect potential unpaid wages from employers.”

Rima said they are currently working on a campaign to formalize rights for domestic workers, to ensure adequate heat protection for laborers and to end medical discrimination against migrants.

“We are also always looking for contributions in the form of opinion pieces or experiences, which critically shape narratives of migrant and human rights discourses,” Rima said. That is one way we can all get involved to start bringing about social change.


You can learn more about the organization at www.migrant-rights.org.

Related:
NYC Ethiopians Make Presence Felt at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations (TADIAS)
Ethiopians demonstrate outside Saudi embassy in London (BBC News)
The Ethiopian Migrant Crisis in Saudi Arabia: Taking Accountability (Tadias Editorial)
Ethiopians Continue Peaceful Protests Against Migrant Abuse in Saudi Arabia (TADIAS)
Photos: Ethiopians Hold Protest Outside Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. (TADIAS)
Ethiopians: #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia to Stop Crackdown (Global Voices)
First group of Ethiopians from Saudi arrive in Addis (ERTA)
23,000 Ethiopians ‘Surrender’ in Saudi After Clamp Down (BBC)
Three Ethiopians Killed in Saudi Arabia Visa Crackdown (AFP)

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Brewing Change: Maryland’s Blessed Coffee Eyes Retail Market

Brewing Change is a crowdfunding campaign designed to raise funds for the expansion of the Maryland-based community business organization "Blessed Coffee" into a retail enterprise. (Courtesy photograph).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, November 11th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — If everything goes as planned the husband and wife team of Tebabu Assefa and Sara Mussie, co-founders of Blessed Coffee established three years ago in Silver Spring, Maryland under the state’s Benefit Corporation law, may soon open a new cottage cafe that offers not only premium Ethiopian coffee roasted on site, but also a community space where you can hold meetings, cooking classes, book reading clubs and other activities.

At a dinner last month celebrating the venture’s third anniversary at Addis Ababa restaurant in Silver Spring the couple announced their plans to expand the venture unveiling their “Brewing Change” crowdsourcing campaign for funds to build a prototype facility in Maryland that they hope to duplicate across the country. The gathering was attended by a diverse group of elected officials, business leaders, social entrepreneurs and activists — among them state Senator Jamie B. Raskin who authored Maryland’s Benefit Corporation law.

In an interview with Tadias Magazine Tebabu said that for the past three years they have been introducing their Blessed Coffee brand at coffee shops, farmers markets and festivals around Maryland. “We are now moving to the second phase, from wholesale to opening our own retail shop,” Tebabu added. The “Brewing Change” campaign was conceived in his living room by a group of 16 volunteers from various professions and cultural backgrounds that had met at his home every other week for nearly six months. “They are made up of men, women, young, old, Latinos, Black, White, you name it,” he said. “They are business experts, freelance writers, IT professionals, and community organizers.”

The driving factor behind the operation is neither charity nor profits exclusively, but a combination of both. As Tebabu puts it: “to create wealth while making a difference on both sides of the Atlantic.” He pointed out that coffee is the second most traded commodity next to oil, and that the market share is large enough to go around.

“We call our business model a ‘Virtues Exchange,’ he explained. The idea is to go beyond foreign aid and fair-trade through public-private partnerships that create jobs in America while empowering coffee farmers in Ethiopia as stakeholders in the transaction. In the process, he said, they also aim to educate the U.S market about the Ethiopian traditions of consuming coffee.

“My wife Sara reminded the gathering at Addis Ababa restaurant that in Ethiopia we drink coffee with a social purpose, in a relaxed fashion, with neighbors, friends and family to catch up with the latest news, gossip, and other happenings,” Tebabu told Tadias. “Here in America, on the other hand, people grab a cup to run.”

Tebabu said they plan to present their “grassroots social change model” at a local symposium in Silver Spring tentatively scheduled for January 2014 called “The African Diaspora Business Community Conference,” that they will host. “We are assembling local organizational partners that reflect the shifting paradigm in the Diaspora especially among the young generation,” he said. “We have already enlisted, for example, the dynamic organization, Young Ethiopian Professionals (YEP) and Qmem, a new business started by two Ethiopian American youth who were inspired by their trip to Ethiopia to do the same thing with spices as what we are trying to do with coffee.”

For now Blessed Coffee is enjoying invitations from Ethiopian and other organizations to present their coffee and ceremony at various cultural and religious events. Their latest was in New York when they were invited by the Ethiopian Israeli group Chassida Shmella to take part at last week’s Sigd service at Bnai Jeshurun Synagogue in Manhattan.

“It was magical,” said Tebabu of the ceremony marking the ancient Ethiopian Jewish festival (now a national holiday in Israel). “I was struck by how similar it was to Sigdet in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.”

Below is a video narrated by co-founder Sara Mussie explaining their mission.

Watch:


You can learn more at www.blessedcoffee.us. Click here to meet the Brewing Change Team. See the Brewing Change Campaign at www.indiegogo.com.

Related:
Blessed Coffee company uses crowdfunding to raise money for Takoma Park cafe (The Gazette)
Brewing Change: Blessed Coffee’s Third Anniversary Celebration (Silver Spring Patch)

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SoleRebels Wins Domain Name Dispute Against Owner of Oliberte

(Photo courtesy SoleRebels)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, September 14th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — The Ethiopian footwear company SoleRebels, known for its brand of eco-friendly shoes and sandals hand-made in Ethiopia, has won an arbitration proceeding in a domain name dispute against Toronto resident Tal Dehtiar, who had registered the URL “solerebels.com” and is the owner of Oliberte shoe company with a factory in Ethiopia.

On August 27, 2013, U.S.-based attorneys representing SoleRebels filed a complaint against the Canadian individual with the National Arbitration Forum that helps resolve domain name disputes in accordance with the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). The lawyer for SoleRebels (Alex P. Garens of Grossman, Tucker, Perreault & Pfleger PLLC of New Hampshire) alleges that Tal Dehtiar had hijacked the e-commerce address of his African competition. Last week, the Arbitration Forum sided with SoleRebels transferring the domain name to the Ethiopian company.

“It was with great shock and revulsion that we found that Tal Dehtiar, the owner of Oliberte, had registered the soleRebels.com domain and then redirected all web traffic to his company’s website selling their shoes,” Bethlehem Alemu, Founder and CEO of Sole Rebels, told Tadias Magazine. “This act was deliberate sabotage designed to hurt our company and our brand.”

In response to Tadias’ query about the case, Tal Dehtiar admitted that he had personally registered the SoleRebels.com domain name earlier this summer. “The website SoleRebels.com was available a few months back during a random search I did online,” he told Tadias Magazine. “It was bought by me personally, not Oliberte, without any intention to harm, upset or use it against SoleRebels.” Bethlehem stated that the arbitration panel has found the latter to be “false.” In fact, Bethlehem said, Tal Dehtiar had visited the Sole Rebels facility in Addis Ababa as far back as 2009 in advance of launching his own shoe factory called Oliberte Limited Ethiopia Branch.

“It must be understood that Tal Dehtiar did not appear out of the blue,” Bethlehem said. “He has known SoleRebels for many years prior to starting his company. The same person who illicitly registered our trademarked name as his own domain posed as a buyer so he could gain access to myself and to survey along with his staff our operations on site over a period of weeks.” She added: “This latest and gravest incident, is simply the culmination of a variety of insidious acts that Oliberte has tried against us.”

Dehtiar said he purchased the domain name for $500 via a 7-day auction on Godaddy.com on June 22, 2013. “If the website was so important to SoleRebels, I would have assumed they would have tried to buy it asap, but they didn’t,” he claimed. “Even now, if you try and look for solerebelsfootwear.com it is actually available via auction.” He added: “You would think that would be a website they would try and buy asap too, and should you write about this, I’d encourage you to recommend them to buy that website, before someone gets it.”

Dehtiar denied visiting the SoleRebels’ factory on false pretense. “I never ‘posed’ as a customer,” Dehtiar said. “I had a genuine interest in buying their product, but for some key reasons, it did not work out.” He added: “I did end up buying and working with three other factories in Addis, which were able to produce our specific style under our brand name, which was always key to any partnership for us in Ethiopia.”

However, the complaint lodged by SoleRebels with the National Arbitration Forum asserts that Tal Dehtiar has no rights or legitimate interests in the SoleRebels’ domain name because he has no rights in the SoleRebels trademark. The complainant (SoleRebels’ parent company BOSTEX, PLC) further argues that Tal Dehtiar is not making a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of SoleRebels’ domain.

“Registering and using a domain name that is your competitor’s registered trademark for the sole purpose of redirecting their traffic to your website is about as low down as it gets,” Bethlehem said.

Bethlehem emphasized that Tal Dehtiar was very much aware that soleRebels is a globally registered trademark in the footwear market. “This deliberate act therefore not only violates the Anti Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Lanham Act, but more fundamentally it also violated the fair trade standards regarding IP and Anti-competitive actions designed to harm another businesses,” she said. “For Ethiopia and Africa to truly prosper, creating potent homegrown globally successful brands is key and protecting those brands is an equally crucial piece of that endeavor.”

In explaining his side of the story Dehtiar shared: “At any rate, once we heard form SoleRebels that they were not happy, I tried 3-4 times to contact them and even their business agent in Canada directly to give them the website at our cost and to close this matter.” He indicated that the dispute had escalated into a Facebook fight. “They refused to respond and preferred to use lawyers,” he said.

The National Arbitration Forum’s decision on this matter is final and it found that Tal Dehtiar registered and used SoleRebel.com in bad faith.

“Today soleRebels showed the world just how serious we are about protecting our business name,” Bethlehem said. “And in the process sent a very clear warning message that we will use all the legal leverage at our disposal to stop anyone who tries to mis-appropriate our Intellectual Property. It isn’t the first time someone has tried to threaten our Intellectual Property and we know it won’t be the last. But at least the record is clear – mess with our brand and we will take action against you. And win.”

Related:
National Arbitration Forum Decision: BOSTEX, PLC v. Tal Dehtiar

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The Challenges of Independent Media In Ethiopia: Interview With Ron Singer

Men reading a newspaper in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo credit: Terje S. Skjerda/Flickr)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, September 26th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – In his upcoming book entitled Uhuru Revisited author Ron Singer features a chapter on Ethiopia highlighting a collection of fascinating interviews with Ethiopian publishers, editors and journalists regarding the ongoing challenges of creating a culture of independence in the Ethiopian press. The book will be released in November by Africa World Press/Red Sea Press.

In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Singer said that two of the other nine chapters in the book focus on the massive corruption culture in Nigeria and the state of media in Kenya. “By many accounts, the country has been backsliding from its past reputation as Africa’s beacon of free media,” Singer says, referring to Kenya. Chaacha Mwita, former managing editor of The Standard, Kenya’s second-largest daily newspaper, shared a first-hand account of the infamous government raid on their offices during the 2007–08 election. In addition, the famous Kenyan whistle-blower, John Githongo, speaks about the growing monopoly of mass communication by politicians and wealthy businessmen, not just in Kenya, but in many countries beyond Africa.

The section on Ethiopia, Singer said, is based primarily on four interviews he conducted for the book during his two-week visit to Addis Ababa in February 2011. The individuals he met were Amare Aregawi, owner and editor of The Reporter; Tamrat G. Giorgis, publisher of Addis Fortune; now imprisoned journalist Eskinder Nega; and exiled journalist Dawit Kebede, editor-in-chief of Awramba Times. During 2009 in the U.S., Singer had already conducted two interviews with Abiye Teklemariam, currently a blogger, and founding editor of the defunct Amharic weekly Addis Neger.

By far Ron Singer’s most engaging conversations in Ethiopia took place at the Jerusalem Hotel, Arbegnoch (‘Patriot’) district, of Addis Ababa, with long-time dissident journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega. Singer noted that his second meeting with Eskinder was recorded from start to end by “a very ordinary-looking man,” who sat near their table in the otherwise empty dining room, aiming his mobile phone in their direction.

As Singer observes, Eskinder’s central argument is that the only way to sustain Ethiopia’s experiment with ethnic federalism is to accelerate the democratic process. “The alternative [to democratization] would be the break-up of Ethiopia,” Eskinder told the author. “All politics are the outcomes of history. Ethiopia has a unique history in Africa, much as, say, the Balkans, in Europe, or Japan or Thailand, in Asia, have had a unique history. The content of our politics is different from everywhere else in Africa. At the core of our politics is the national question. That’s the bone of contention in our politics.”

On February 14th, 2011 Singer received a follow-up email from Eskinder: “Meant to respond earlier but heavily armed riot police picked me up last Friday and took me to their second in command. He accused me of trying to incite an “Egyptian like protest in Ethiopia” and warned me that the government is losing patience with me. “We are tired of imprisoning you,” he told me. “This time it will not be imprisonment.” And I just don’t know if he is bluffing or not. Since then, they have made it a point to be visibly present wherever I am.”

Singer emphasized that private media ownership in Ethiopia is much more complicated than meets the eye. He pointed out that even The Reporter, which proclaims as its motto:“Free Press, Free Speech, Free Spirit,” and which is owned and edited by Amare Aregawi, a former TPLF rebel and a fellow combatant of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, gets in trouble from time to time for pushing the envelope too far. Amare mentioned in the interview that he has been taken to court 414 times.

Returning to Eskinder, Singer said the journalist, whose father was a senior official in the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie, may be liberal when it comes to political issues, but is conservative about economics. “We had a debate about American politics,” Singer recalled. “I told him with horror that I could see he was a Republican.”

As they ended their meeting, Singer joked with Eskinder: “Just in case we’re being photographed, I’ll give you a cold handshake, instead of a hug.”

To which Eskinder replied “Very American. It’s been nice talking to you.”

Stay tuned for our review of Ron Singer’s book: Uhuru Revisited.

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Tesfaye Girma’s Friends Seek Closure

Tesfaye Girma Deboch, a graduate student at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, died of a drowning accident in Seattle, Washington on June 30th, 2013. (Photo courtesy of his friends)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – 27-year-old Tesfaye Girma Deboch is remembered by his family and friends as a humorous, friendly, focused and sharp student who was slated to earn his PhD in Economics next year from Washington State University. Instead he was found dead on June 30th, 2013 at the bottom of an indoor swimming pool at the Quality Inn & Suites hotel in Seattle. Tesfaye and 14 of his classmates from WSU’s graduate School of Economic Sciences were in the city attending the Western Economics Association International Conference.

Authorities say the investigation is still ongoing, and Tesfaye’s friends say many questions remain unanswered in this case, including why it took the Seattle Fire Department three hours and two visits to properly search for the drowning victim. The swimming pool’s history of chlorine level violations that caused inspectors to shut down the location on multiple occasions in the past, according to The Seattle Times, should also be investigated.

“The water was so murky no one could see the bottom of the indoor pool,” the newspaper reported at the time. “Firefighters used a rescue hook and thermal imaging to search the water, but eventually left, certain that Deboch had left the pool area…even though his shoes, shirt, wallet and phone were still near the pool.”

Tesfaye, who was reported missing around at 5:30 that afternoon, was eventually discovered after his friends and a retired firefighter sitting nearby decided to take a second look inside the pool. The fire department was called back again at 8:12 PM, but it was too late to save the victim. In an article published on July 12th The Seattle Times reported: “The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Deboch drowned.”

For family and friends, Tesfaye’s sudden death is a very sad and painful episode. For the community at large, it’s another tragic story of a promising young life cut short too early.

“I have known Tesfaye since elementary school,” said his childhood friend Saba Fassil. “Tesfish and I were often slightly competitive in a friendly way when it came to academics but he always managed to beat me,” She added: “He was extremely brilliant and very humble about it.”

Saba said her friend was a person with an “outstanding” character. “So many of us who have had a chance to cross path with Tesfaye’s life had a great expectation for his future,” she said. “Please don’t take it as an exaggeration, when I say that I saw in him a future Ethiopian leader — not necessarily in the political sense but in terms of doing something revolutionary in Ethiopia and beyond.”

What she misses most about her friend, Saba said, is his infectious personality. “Gentle yet funny, smart and goofy, and his love for life was evident to every soul he has touched in his short stay on this earth.”

Another friend, Egla-Duni Y. Negussie, shared that for her Tesfaye is one of a kind. “I say this because I have known him since 3rd grade,” she said. “We even finished college together abroad. I vouch for Tesfish’s extraordinary personality.”

Saba recalled that a week prior to Tesfaye’s death, the two were talking about possibly meeting up in Ethiopia as both had upcoming trips planned there later this summer. But she said, “On July 7, 2013, I faced the saddest reality of welcoming my friend’s body to Ethiopia gathered at Bole airport among his friends and family members. I dread that day because it made this far away bad news from Seattle an unfathomable reality.” She added: “It was gut-wrenching to see his family and loved ones deal with the unexplained. Truly gone too soon.”

Egla-Duni agreed: “Like every one of his loved ones, I just can’t seem to comprehend the way he passed.”

We send our condolences to Tesfaye’s family and friends, and make a call for a more complete investigation of the drowning incident.

Below are additional photographs of Tesfaye Girma Deboch.



Related:
Murky water hindered search for man who died in hotel pool (The Seattle Times)

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Tadias Video Interview: Ethiopian Rock Band Jano Live in DC (UPDATED)

Jano band performing at Howard Theatre in Washington, DC on July 4th, 2013. (Photo credit: A. Kiiza)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – The sound of Ethiopia’s new generation, the rock band Jano, delivered one of the most exciting and highly anticipated live musical performances scheduled during the 2013 Ethiopian soccer tournament festivities held in Washington, D.C. last week.

The following is Tadias Magazine’s exclusive and in-depth video interview with members of the band who played for the first time in the United States on July 4th at the historic Howard Theatre.

Watch: Color and sound updated — JANO Band July 4th – Howard Theatre (TADIAS Interview)


Related:
Tadias Video Interview: Grammy-nominated Singer and Songwriter, Wayna
CNN Features Ethiopian Rock Band Jano
Summer of Ethiopian Music Continues: Krar Collective in NYC, Young Ethio Jazz in D.C. (TADIAS)
Tadias Interview: NYC Abay Team’s Success at 30th ESFNA Tournament
Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro Bring Echostage Home (The Washington Post)
Debo Band & Young Ethio Jazz Band at Yoshi’s in San Francisco – July 17th (TADIAS)
Highlights of Ethiopian Music During Soccer Tournament Week (The Washington City Paper)
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (TADIAS)
Hailu Mergia: A Beloved Ethiopian Musician of a Generation Ago (The Washington Post)
Reissues Songs From Hailu Mergia, Local Cab Driver (The Washington City Paper)

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Tadias Interview: NYC Abay Team’s Success at 30th ESFNA Tournament

New York's Ethiopian Soccer Team celebrating in the stands at the 30th ESFNA anniversary tournament on Saturday, July 6th, 2013 at the Comcast Center in College Park, Maryland. (Photo: Courtesy NYC Abay)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – New York’s hometown Ethiopian soccer team, Abay, have returned back to NYC after a successful participation at the recently concluded 30th Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) tournament held at the University of Maryland, College Park last week. New York’s team advanced to first division during the annual soccer competition, along with Chicago, after finishing second place at the lower division final games held during the closing ceremonies on Saturday, July 6th.

“I think overall the tournament this year was quite a phenomenal event,” said Samuel Tesfaye, New York Abay’s team Secretary. A large and energized crowd had flocked to Comcast Center, College Park from across the country. “It was one of the best spirited tournaments I have seen in some time,” Sammy said in an interview with Tadias Magazine.

Sammy made the trip from New Jersey to D.C. with his children and noted the big crowed at the arena in Maryland, youthful vibe, the colorful vendors, the ubiquitous presence of the Walia uniform sported by all ages and genders. “For the most part,” Sammy said, he was “also impressed by how ‘smoothly’ things were run.”

Except on the day of the opening [Sunday, June 30th]: “We were informed by the Federation that our Tuesday game with Portland has been moved to Monday,” Sammy recalled laughing. “On Monday we showed up at the field at the apportioned time and there was no Portland.” He added: “Apparently, Portland’s flight was not arriving until the next day. Naturally we demanded to win by forfeit, but they said ‘no’ and rescheduled the game for Tuesday. What can you do?”

Abay was demoted to second division nine years ago after the team came near bottom at ESFNA’s 21st tournament held at Seahawk Stadium in Seattle, Washington in 2004. “We’ve been trying to climb up ever since,” Sammy enthused. “It feels good to be back in the big league.”

Below is a slideshow of images courtesy of Tadias staff, our readers, the Abay team and other promoters who attended the soccer tournament as well as highlights of various musical and cultural festivities that took place in D.C. and the surrounding areas last week.

Click here for our Washington, D.C. correspondent Tsedey Aragie’s exclusive video interview with the Ethiopian Rock band Jano, who played for the first time outside of Ethiopia on July 4th at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.



Related:
Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro Bring Echostage Home (The Washington Post)
Debo Band & Young Ethio Jazz Band at Yoshi’s in San Francisco – July 17th (TADIAS)
Highlights of Ethiopian Music During Soccer Tournament Week (The Washington City Paper)
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (TADIAS)
Hailu Mergia: A Beloved Ethiopian Musician of a Generation Ago (The Washington Post)
Reissues Songs From Hailu Mergia, Local Cab Driver (The Washington City Paper)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Tadias Interview: Ambassador David Shinn on Obama’s Africa Trip

(Photograph by © Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – President Barack Obama’s just-concluded Africa trip has brought positive international media attention to the continent, particularly to the success stories of Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania — countries that administration officials say were chosen for their “exemplary progress” in economic development, transparency in governance, independent press, respect for human rights and rule of law.

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine David H. Shinn, former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said President Obama’s trip to Africa is an effort to underscore the importance of US-Africa relations after a period of relative non-engagement at the presidential level during his first term in office.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did make frequent visits to Africa over the last four years, which partially made up for the absence of President Obama except for a brief visit in 2009 to Ghana and trip to Egypt in connection with Middle East issues,” Ambassador Shinn pointed out.

At lower levels of the government, Shinn noted, the United States remained “thoroughly engaged” with the continent, but he said this is not the same as presidential involvement. “I think this trip by President Obama will go a long way in strengthening the ties between the United States and African countries,” he said.

Why such a short list? we asked. “Whenever a U.S. president visits Africa, it is difficult to visit more than three countries because of the vastness of the continent,” Shinn replied. “In choosing countries to visit, there are always geographic, language, regional and political considerations.” He added: “Once the decision is made to visit three countries, the next step is to identify countries in three different regions of sub-Saharan Africa that also include both French and English [speaking nations].”

Senegal was picked as the West African and francophone country. South Africa, the economic powerhouse in Africa, was selected as the southern African choice. Tanzania represents East Africa.

“All three countries have good records on governance and democratization, a consideration which placed these three countries above several other possibilities,” Ambassador Shinn said. “Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father, would have been an obvious choice but was not selected because both the newly elected president and vice president face charges from the International Criminal Court.”

And why did the White House not choose to address African leaders from the AU headquarters in Addis? “Ethiopia, which hosts the African Union, was another possibility but was recently visited by Secretary of State John Kerry and does not have as good a record as Tanzania on the pace of democratization,” he stated.

Related:
The Official Blog of Ambassador David H. Shinn
Obama Receives Huge Welcome in Tanzania (Video)
Ethiopia: Children TV Host Speaks at African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania (TADIAS)
Obama Africa Trip Highlights Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania (TADIAS)

Watch: President Obama delivers the central speech of his three nation Africa tour (VOA News)


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Tadias Interview with Miss Israel Titi Aynaw

Miss Israel 2013, Yityish Aynaw, in New York on Tuesday June 11th, 2013. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Thursday, June 13th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, Miss Israel 2013, was recently in New York where she stayed for a week. At a gathering open to the press on Tuesday, June 11th in Manhattan Titi spoke to the media, and Tadias briefly interviewed her in Amharic. Miss Israel shared that she came to New York City to fundraise for a project she is working on through the Netanya Foundation.

“I live in Netanya in Israel,” Titi said. “And some children who live there don’t have the financial resources to participate in after school activities. For example, if I want to learn music, and my parents have the resources they can send me to take music lessons.” But in Netanya, she noted that some children don’t have these opportunities.

“So I’ve taken the initiative to bring together these children in a community room and help them to learn what they show interest in, whether it’s dance or music. I am fundraising to create these opportunities for them” Titi explained.

We asked what she thought of her visit to New York and she replied “Nice..Betam des yilal. Titi added that only a week ago she was in Ethiopia. When we inquired if it was her first time returning to Ethiopia since she moved to Israel, she replied “No I have been to Ethiopia before, after I completed my military training.”

She noted the fast-paced changes in Addis and said: “Every time I go to Ethiopia I feel that it’s changing. There are always new buildings, more growth.” She added: “Arif bota nech Ethiopia” (Ethiopia is a great place).”

Below are photos from the evening’s event:



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Emahoy Sheet Music Project Launched

Mary Sutton and Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou in Jerusalem, April 2013. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Mary Sutton who studies piano performance at Portland State University in Oregon came across the work of the legendary pianist and composer Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, having listened to volume 21 of the Ethiopiques CD series released in 2006, which featured 16 of the Jerusalem-based Ethiopian nun’s original pieces.

Mary grew up playing piano and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory. She recently told Tadias that she was immediately drawn to Emahoy’s “unique” sounds before realizing that there was no published sheet music of her compositions available for other pianists to play. That was prior to her trip to Israel in April to meet with Emahoy, who gave her the permission to create one.

“Initially I tried to get in touch with Emahoy by email,” Mary recalled. “She wrote me back, but at the time she was having computer problems so her reply came back blank.” She added: “I followed up with a letter without knowing she would receive them.” Eventually the two were able to connect via Skype and meet in person. “I was introduced to her by an Israeli journalist,” Mary said.

Returning to Jerusalem this summer to begin the process of readying the manuscripts for publication, Mary shared that she is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the project. “This Kickstarter is just the beginning of a lifetime of a work which has fallen into my hands,” she noted via the online platform. “And as all of Emahoy’s music serves a charitable purpose, I will not be getting paid.”

Emahoy, who was ordained a nun at the age of 21 at the Guishen Mariam monastery in the Wollo region, moved to Jerusalem in 1984 at the height of the military Derg regime in Ethiopia. However, that was not her first forced exile from her country. According to the Emahoy Music Foundation, she was taken as a prisoner of war by the Italians in 1937 and deported along with her family “to the island of Asinara, north of Sardinia, and later to Mercogliano near Naples.”

Emahoy was born “Yewubdar Gebru” in Addis Abeba on December 12, 1923 to a privileged family; her father was Kentiba Gebru, mayor of Gonder and vice president of Ethiopia’s first parliament under Emperor Haile Selassie. Her mother was Kassaye Yelemtu. “Yewubdar was sent to Switzerland at the age of six along with her sister Senedu Gebru,” the foundation notes on its website. “Both attended a girls’ boarding school where Yewubdar studied the violin and then the piano. She gave her first violin recital at the age of ten. She returned to Ethiopia in 1933 to continue her studies at the Empress Menen Secondary School.”

After the war she resumed her musical studies in Cairo, under a Polish violinist named Alexander Kontorowicz. Later she returned to Ethiopia accompanied by Kontorowicz and she served as administrative assistant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Imperial Body Guard where Kontorowicz worked as the director of the band. Her first record was released in Germany in 1967.

It was five years ago this summer, on July 12, 2008, that Emahoy, then 85-years-old, gave a rare public presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C., playing live for the first time in 35 years. “Her extraordinary performance was viscerally and emotionally moving,” wrote Makeda Amha, her great niece, in an article published in Tadias Magazine following the concert. “Her astounding ability as a classical pianist and her skill to warmly express “Reverie,” was a pleasure to listen to, as was “Presentiment,” a sweet, poetic Sonata in B-Flat Major.”

Below is a video of Emahoy playing Presentiment filmed by Omer Gefen in April 2013 at the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem where she currently lives.



To learn more and support Mary Sutton’s project, please visit: www.kickstarter.com.

Related:
From Jerusalem with Love: The Ethiopian Nun Pianist (TADIAS)
Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù: Jersualem’s Best Kept Musical Secret for 30 Years

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Harvard Gazette Interview With Birtukan Midekssa

Starting in the fall Birtukan Midekssa will pursue a one-year mid-career master’s degree in public administration at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. (Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard)

Harvard Gazette

Four years ago this spring, Birtukan Midekssa was in solitary confinement in an Ethiopian prison. Her cell was 13 feet wide and 20 feet long and had no window. She was allowed only two visitors: her elderly mother and her 3-year-old daughter.

Midekssa left Ethiopia in 2011, after two imprisonments that consumed 41 months of her life. She stayed first in Washington, D.C., and then at Stanford University. Today — grateful, happy, and energized — she has an office (with a window) at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, where she is a fellow this year. (A lawyer by training, Midekssa is also a Visiting Fellow with Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program; starting in the fall she’ll pursue a one-year mid-career master’s degree in public administration through the Mason Program at Harvard Kennedy School.)

Most apt of all her local connections, perhaps, is her role as a Harvard Scholar at Risk. The program — based in New York, with dozens of affiliates at universities across the world.

Read more at Harvard Gazette.

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Meskerem Assefa Advocates for Ethiopian Women in the Middle East

Meskerem Assefa, seated center in Yellow dress, is an Ethiopian domestic workers rights advocate based in Beirut, Lebanon. (Photo: At a panel discussion in New York, March 2013 / Courtesy of ESAC)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – One year after the video-taped beating and eventual suicide of Alem Dechasa in Lebanon that shocked and galvanized the Ethiopian community worldwide, domestic workers rights advocate Meskerem Assefa of Beirut recently traveled to New York to highlight the continuing problem in the region. She was invited by the Ethiopian Social Assistance Committee as one of the featured guest speakers at the organization’s annual Women’s History Month panel on March 23rd in Manhattan focusing on Ethiopian women in the Middle East.

“Every time I get the opportunity to speak to the media in Lebanon, I say stop abusing our girls,” Meskerem said in a follow-up interview. Meskerem, who moved to Beruit 11 years ago with her husband, is a Lebanese national by marriage.

“I have a bit more rights than most Ethiopian women in the country so I speak on their behalf whether they like it or not because silence and fear are the worst enemy,” she added. “And as an individual that’s the least that I can do.”

Meskerem said there are an estimated 80,000 Ethiopians living in Lebanon alone, half of them illegals operating under the radar of both the Ethiopian and Lebanese governments. She pointed out that this group is the one that is most exposed to abuse. Furthermore, there is a growing crisis of immigrant children that are born out of wedlock by domestic workers.

“These kids are not citizens of the country, they have no rights, no education, or access to medical insurance,” she said. “For me this is most heartbreaking.”

“Over time we are getting help from the Lebanese people and various local NGOs that working to change the law and improve the situation on the ground,” Meskerem said. “We can only get a solution by continuing to organize and speak out.”

“I wish that I could also do more to help the children,” she said. “I have tried to organize games, dance, and other activities for some of them; I know that’s not enough but there is no budget.”

Meskerem emphasized the necessity for more Ethiopians to step up and get involved. “I am asking that all those who can assist should contribute to solve this issue together,” she said. “Even those in Ethiopia with the intellect and resources must do their part. What’s the point of being Ethiopian if you do not feel this piercing your heart.”

“Stop sending these girls without basic training and their full knowledge of what they are getting into,” she asserted.

Meskerem noted that she had opened an information center in Addis Ababa a few years ago. “I paid rent for two years out of my own pocket and I had to close it because there was no help and interest,” she said.

Woizero Zewditu Fessehaa, chairperson of The Ethiopian Social Assistance Committee, who hosted Meskerem during her New York stay, agreed that lending a hand to activists like Meskerem and establishing an officially sanctioned certification center in Ethiopia ought be a priority. “The young women in Ethiopia need be told before they leave their country not to expect to be fed butter with a spoon when they reach their destination,” she said. “That requires collaborative efforts from each and everyone of us.”

Related:
Ethiopia Cancels 40,000 Work Visas for Saudi Arabia-bound Housemaids (Arab News)
Changing Ethiopia’s Media Image: The Case of People-Trafficking (TADIAS)
Photos: BBC Uncovers Untold People-Trafficking, Torture of Ethiopians in Yemen
In Memory of Alem Dechassa: Reporting & Mapping Domestic Migrant Worker Abuse
Photos: Vigil for Alem Dechassa Outside Lebanon Embassy in D.C.
The Plight of Ethiopian Women in the Middle East: Q & A With Rahel Zegeye

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Three Goats Org Inaugural Launch at Ginny’s Supper Club

The inaugural launch of Three Goat organization was held on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at Ginny's Supper Club in New York. (photo courtesy Three Goat.org)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Monday, April 8th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – When model and philanthropist Maya Gate Haile visited Ethiopia in November 2011 she headed to Togowichale, a small border town sitting between Ethiopia and Somalia – a place needing dire assistance where she delivered resources collected from a fundraiser she had hosted with her husband, Marcus Samuelsson, at their home in Harlem. In return for her work the people of the town gave her three goats as a token of their appreciation. Maya was sincerely touched by their gesture of thanks and vowed to continue dedicating herself to improving the health and well-being of children, women and families in the country.

“We flew from New York to Addis and from there we took a plane to Harrar then went to Jijiga and drove for five hours to Togowichale,” Maya says. “The residents in Togowichale have no clean water, there is no medical clinic, there is hardly any school for young people.” She added: “The place needs many things but what we can do is start somewhere by giving hope.”

Three Goats Organization, a New York based non-profit, has now been established to promote and support social entrepreneurial projects in various regions of Ethiopia. Programs include providing access to clean water via wells and innovative water purification systems as well as focusing on increasing retention rates and access to education for young girls.

By incorporating and designing nutrition workshops and developing recipes from local produce for balanced nutrient intake Three Goats organization aims to reduce the time spent by young girls on cooking chores, which usually keeps them away from attending school as regularly as their male peers. Children are also often pulled out of school to help their families earn income and the Three Goats’ City Food program will focus on increasing school attendance by providing food from local producers to assist struggling families to purchase food and offset inflation and high cost of living. Workshops are also being developed for farmers to assist them on how to diversify their crops. In addition, the Change Through Dialogue program offers funding for seminars, conferences, and academic workshops that focus on developing sustainable and entrepreneurial models to reduce chronic poverty as well as to provide mentoring opportunities for youth.

The inaugural launch of Three Goat organization was held on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem.

Click here for Photos from Three Goats Org Inaugural Launch at Ginny’s Supper Club.

To learn more and support please click here.

Video: “HORN OF AFRICA” by THREE GOATS ORG. (ThreeGoatsTV)


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Mikias Tefera: Promising Young Life Cut Short by Mystery Accident

Mikias Tefera (Photo courtesy of his family)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – 18-year-old high school senior Mikias Tefera Tibebu was looking forward to college in California next Fall and dreaming of one day becoming a medical doctor when his young life was cut short this past December in an accident that police in Schaumburg, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, say was a hit-and-run yet to be solved.

Family members say Mikias had gone out with three friends for a movie and dinner on the evening of Friday, December 7th, 2012, but did not return home. His father, Dr. Tefera Tibebu Beyene, told Tadias he had spoken to Mikias only an hour before the incident and he was expecting his son’s arrival at any moment when instead he received a visit from police bearing bad news in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 8th.

Mikias’ body was discovered lying in a roadway less than two miles from his house at around 12:38 a.m., only minutes after he separated from his friends.

“We lost our son and our hero,” his father said. “We are still in shock and devastated by this tragedy. We wish this not to happen to anyone.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, authorities have checked nearby surveillance cameras but said there is no footage of the incident at that intersection. “If we had a piece of a headlight or a bumper, then we can say, ‘This was a blue car,’ or, ‘This came from a Ford,’” Schaumburg police Sgt. John Nebl told the paper. “There’s two different questions here. Who ran him over, and where are they? And why was he lying in the roadway?”

The investigation is still underway, but his father said the family has also retained a private investigator to help them find “the truth,” and hopefully closure. And they are offering more than $10,000 reward for information that might help solve the case.

Mikias, who grew up in the Chicago suburb, was born in Ethiopia in 1994 and came to the United States in 1996 when he was two years old. His friends and teachers remember him as a nice and bright student with a promising academic future and a rising athlete at Schaumburg High School where he was a member of the Track & Field team in addition to being an outstanding student who received Presidential Academic Excellence awards from President George Bush in 2007 and President Barack Obama in 2009. Mikias was recognized as an Illinois State scholar in 2012.

He was “a dedicated student with exceptional academic honors,” Schaumburg High School Principal Tim Little told the media. “A beloved friend and athlete, Mikias was also a committed member of the cross-country and track teams. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mikias’ family and friends during this difficult time,” the Principal said.

Dr. Tefera said his son was also preparing for an interview at Pomona College in California where he was a finalist to receive a full scholarship for fall 2013. “Mikias was a great asset to his family and to his country,” Dr. Tefera said. “All people who knew Mikias have expressed how great a leader and role model he was.”

In an essay not long before his death Mikias wrote: “Both my parents are natives of Ethiopia and arrived in the U.S. in 1996. Coming from this culture I have gained perspectives that others are not as privileged to have. I have witnessed the sacrifice and hard work my parents have gone through in order to provide me and my siblings with a brighter future. But most important, I have come to realize the value of opening yourself to a diverse group of people as it allows you to be more aware of the world around us.”

Perhaps no one said it better than his former running teammate Brian Flight, who described the loss on his Facebook page: “Our buddy Mik is gone. And I sure wasn’t ready for him to leave. I know none of us were. He was a great man and sure as hell deserved better than this. Mik will be in our hearts and minds forever, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear. We love you buddy and we’ll never stop.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mikias’ family and we urge our readers to extend your support to them.
—-
You can learn more about the case and provide assistance to the family at www.mikiastibebu.com.

Video: NBC Chicago on Mikias Tefera Tibebu – Local News Coverage

View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.


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Novelist Maaza Mengiste Writes Script for ‘Girl Rising’ Film

Maaza Mengiste (Photo courtesy of the 10 x 10 project)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Last week we highlighted an upcoming documentary entitled Girl Rising, which is scheduled for release in Spring 2013. The feature-length film displays the power of access to education in the life of a girl residing in a developing nation. Each girl’s story is told by a talented writer from her native country. The script writer for the segment on Ethiopia is Maaza Mengiste, author of the critically acclaimed novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. In preparation for the documentary, Maaza spent time with a young girl from a village outside of Bahir Dar.

Below is our interview with Maaza Mengiste.

TADIAS: Please tell us about how you got involved with the film?

Maaza Mengiste: I was living in Rome when Richard Robbins, the director of the film, contacted me about the project. I learned more about it then spoke further with two of the producers, Martha Adams and Alex Dionne. I was skeptical at first about whether this could really happen, but soon, I was on a plane to Addis, then a smaller plane to Bahir Dar, then on a very shaky Land Rover through mountain roads to Yilmana Densa to visit Azmera and her family.

The main focus of the 10×10 campaign is to show audiences how educating one girl can impact her entire family and her community and make positive changes. Each of the 10 segments in the 10×10 film highlights a country and the biggest obstacles preventing girls from getting their education. It’s different in each country and in Ethiopia, the biggest issue is forced early marriage. This film is different from so many of those charity programs or other documentaries we see. It’s not about the tragic lives of people in poor countries. This film is about how these young girls took their own first steps in making their lives better. They aren’t asking for charity. They only want the right to fulfill their potential and go to school. The idea of working on a project that told stories of how young girls were changing their own lives, rather than waiting for adults, fascinated me.

TADIAS: Can you also tell us a bit about your script and character?

Maaza: This is a documentary film, but Richard gave me full freedom to create what I wanted based on the time I spent with Azmera and her family. I talked to her and found her to be painfully shy, like a typical abesha girl. But something else was there also, a quiet strength and a stubbornness I saw when she played with her cousins. I also witnessed the intense love her family has for her. She is adored. I was interested to put this picture next to the image of a young girl forced to marry a stranger when she wasn’t even a teenager. But I had a chance to talk to her mother and other family members and the story that emerged helped me to write my script and find a focus of how to write about their lives.

TADIAS: The 10×10 site also features a book club focused on your novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze as well as articles and policy briefs on Ethiopia. Can you tell us more?

Maaza: Each of the writers on the project (there are 10) has a specially designed book club tool kit available on the 10×10 website. That tool kit gives you step-by-step instructions on how to host your own book club, how to invite people, how to facilitate discussions, what questions you can ask, and even has an in-depth interview with the writer. It’s a wonderful way to get involved with the 10×10 project beyond the film.

TADIAS: What do you see as the primary challenge for girls seeking access to education in rural Ethiopia?

Maaza: It was heartbreaking to see how hard young girls were trying to go to school and get their education. They are intelligent, they are eager, they are determined, but they don’t have the simple resources to attend school. They are needed to work at home and take care of family or bring in extra income. I think the primary challenge involves finding ways for families to be able to send their daughters to school and still survive financially. It wouldn’t take much, and there are good organizations helping, but more needs to be done and I hope this film raises that awareness. I hope the film shows the world that these young Ethiopian girls have had the courage to fight for their future, and now they want the ability to continue living their dream of going to school. I am so very proud of each of them, and of Azmera and her family.

TADIAS: Thank you for sharing with our audience!

Maaza: Thank you, Tadias!
—-

Watch the trailer:


Related:
Learn more about ‘Girl Rising’ Film + Campaign (10 x 10)

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Born to Run: Ethiopia’s Golden Girl Tirunesh Dibaba

Editor's note: CNN's Human to Hero series screens on World Sport every Wednesday and Thursdays.

By Paul Gittings, CNN

January 2, 2013

(CNN) — It could be the spartan living environment, or perhaps growing up in the thin air nearly 3,000 meters above sea level — or maybe it’s the influence of a legendary local coach.

Whatever its secret, a remote mountain town in Ethiopia has produced a string of world-beating distance runners.

Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba is the current cream of a crop that has helped put Bekoji on the map. Like many from her area, she was clearly born to run.

“Running is for me my job, but also my source of entertainment,” the 27-year-old told CNN’s Human to Hero series.

Read more at CNN.

Watch:


Related:
2012 in Pictures: Politics, London Olympics and Alem Dechasa (TADIAS)
Photos: Screening of “Town of Runners” – A movie about Bekoji (TADIAS)

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Bofta Yimam of Fox 13 News – Video

Bofta Yimam is an Ethiopian American reporter currently working for Fox 13 News in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, December 24, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – We recently had a Google hangout session with Ethiopian American Journalist Bofta Yimam, who is a reporter for Continue reading ‘Bofta Yimam of Fox 13 News – Video’

Interview With Filmmaker Brenda Davis

Still photograph from the movie 'Sister," which tells the story of health workers in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti whose daily work is to help women give birth. (Photo: Family at a district hospital in Tigray, Ethiopia/Image credit: Swati Guild)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this month I attended one of the screenings of the documentary film Sister as part of the recently concluded African Diaspora International Film Festival here in New York.

An intimate portrait of a universal topic, the documentary frames maternal and newborn death as a human rights issue while shedding light on the faces behind the statistics. The film takes place in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Haiti as it explores innovative ways to deliver healthcare to childbearing women in remote parts of the world. The main characters are a Haitian traditional birth attendant, an Ethiopian male health officer, and a rural midwife in Cambodia.

The filmmaker, who is a Canadian citizen and a resident of New York City for the past 20 years, said she chose to highlight Ethiopia because the country is trying “new strategies and local solutions” to tackle the issue. “I am especially fascinated by Ethiopian healthcare professionals who used to be field medics during the civil war in the North who have now been retrained with further skills for civilian work.”

“In 2008, I was documenting a heath record training for health workers from Africa and Asia,” Brenda said. “I spent 3 weeks with them and involved in several activities including filming lectures in the city. One of the attendees was a health-care officer from Ethiopia named Goitom Berhane. When I got home and started transcribing their stories I found myself just weeping. And I told myself I have to make a movie about this.” Berhane eventually ends up being prominently featured in the film.

“The subject has been floating around me my whole life,” she continued. “As a child, my grandmother Martha had 16 children and only 11 lived and one of them was my mom.” She added: “And I was born by an emergency cesarian. I was the last of eight children.”

Brenda said that she finds parallels to her own family story and what most young women face in developing countries today. “There is a great research paper called ‘Under the Shadow of Maternity’ about childbirth and women’s lives in North America at the turn of the last century and the issues were the same. My grandmother was giving birth to stillborn babies between 1919 and 1939. People did not have all the resources, all the information; they did not know, they did not ask the right questions. It was a mystery to them. They were poor, they did not have access to family planning.”

Brenda’s interest is to document “current and local solutions” to the age-old health problem.

For news and updates about the film follow @Sister_Doc on Twitter, SisterDocumentary on Facebook, or visit: sisterdocumentary.com.

Watch the teaser trailer here


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Metasebia Yoseph’s Transmedia Project: ‘A Culture Of Coffee’

Metasebia Yoseph, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is the writer and creative director of 'A Culture of Coffee' - a transmedia project highlighting the history and culture of coffee in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Judging by her Amharic you wouldn’t guess that Metasebia Yoseph was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She is currently a graduate student at Georgetown University studying Communication, Culture and Technology and also the writer and creative director of a transmedia project called A Culture Of Coffee, which focuses on the development of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and its significance within the culture.

“I try,” Metasebia said, humbly referring to her language skills and pointing out that she spent a year in Ethiopia working at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies’ Ethnographic Museum in Addis Ababa after graduating with a B.A. degree in Art History from the University of Maryland in 2008.

Metasebia said her stay in Ethiopia was what gave inspiration for the project. “I met people who produce artifacts, the Amharic Bible, and so many other things,” she said in a phone interview. “That experience very much impacted me in ways that encouraged me to build a bridge between my upbringing here and my Ethiopian heritage.” Metasebia added: “My parents are part of the first wave of Ethiopian immigrants to the United States. I am a first generation Ethiopian American. What better way to highlight that link than our rich and famous coffee culture?”

Metasebia is not waiting until graduation to get the ball rolling. “My partner and I have already registered an organization focusing on cultural development,” she said. “The corporation has been formed and we are in the process of getting our 501(c)3 status.”

According to Metasebia, the multimedia efforts will culminate in the production of an artful coffee table book in the near future, for which “I will be traveling to Ethiopia in December and finalizing research,” she said.

Metasebia recently launched a fundraising page for the coffee-table book project. She noted: “We are offering donors who give us $100 or more the opportunity to be mentioned in the upcoming Book: From Ethiopia With Love as a co-collaborator.”

Click here to learn more and support the project.

Watch: A Culture of Coffee Launch Event at Kaffa Club


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SoleRebels Expands to Asia (Interview & Photos)

(Photo courtesy of SoleRebels)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: November 11th, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – When the Ethiopian footwear company SoleRebels opened its first stand-alone retail store in Asia earlier month, becoming the first African brand of its kind to do so, the mayor of Kaoshiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, sent a bouquet of flowers welcoming the business to his town.

And according to SoleRebels’ CEO Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, customer reaction thus far has been just as enthusiastic.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “People in Taiwan love the brand; they love the products, the look, the feel, and how we are presenting it to them. It’s fresh, exciting and very vital that they responded in kind.”

Bethlehem said the store opening anchors the company’s Asia retail rollout with a total of three Taiwan locations slated to open by end of 2012. “Our next Taiwan location will open in three weeks in Taichung,” she said. “This store will be about four times the size of the Kaoshiung store and will have some amazing surprises visually and from a merchandising perspective.”

Bethlehem added: “In about a month and a half we will open our first of two Singapore locations. And early next year, we will enter the booming Indonesian market. We also plan to open multiple U.S. locations in 2013 as well.”


Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder & CEO of SoleRebels. (Courtesy photo)

The store features a variety of styles, including sandal, slip-ons and lace-ups with price points ranging from $50 USD to $95. The company’s eco-fashion shoes are produced using indigenous practices such as hand-spun organic cotton and artisan hand-loomed fabric. Recycled tires are also incorporated for soles. The end result is environmental-friendly and top quality, vegan footwear.

“Our business model centers on eco-sensibility and community empowerment,” Bethlehem said. “We are pleased to have such great customers around the world who love our brand and our products.”

Below is a slideshow of photos courtesy of SoleRebels from its store opening in Taiwan.

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Click here to learn more about SoleRebels’ products.

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Re-imagining AiD: Africans in the Diaspora

Solome Lemma is the co-founder of the new organization Africans in the Diaspora (AiD). (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – While working in the non-profit world with multilateral organizations such as The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Human Rights Watch, and managing the Africa portfolio in more than 20 countries on the continent through the Global Fund for Children, Solome Lemma says she “saw first hand the ways Africans were moving, shaking, and transforming their communities — from Egypt to Zambia, Senegal to Ethiopia.” She adds: “So here and there we have Africans with ideas, innovations, skills, and resources, yet we continue to be painted as a continent of need and dependency. This needed to change.”

After meeting like-minded colleague, Zanele Sibanda from Zimbabwe, Solome co-founded and launched Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) an organization focused on consolidating the financial, intellectual, and social capital of Diaspora Africans to advance social and economic change in Africa.

Solome explained the organization’s acronym stands not only for ‘Africans in the Diaspora’ but is likewise an effort to re-imagine the meaning of foreign aid. “We want to disrupt and re-shape the meaning of aid,” she said in a recent interview. “For too long, “aid” has been exported to Africa. Africans are really the continent’s most important resource, whether we are back in our home countries or in the Diaspora, and we have all the skills, resources, and ideas necessary to transform our communities. We need to claim our rightful place in the ecosystem of change and transformation in Africa, as leaders, drivers, and designers of development. AiD unleashes that.”

AiD has developed a three-pronged approach to development, which includes Funds, a platform that enables Diaspora Africans and allies to invest directly in innovative African social change organizations; Connections, where exchange of expertise is facilitated between Diaspora and Continental Africans; and Voices, which amplifies the voices of people in and out of Africa who are committed and contributing to the continent’s progress.

Solome said individuals interested in joining this collaborative community effort can engage by sharing tools, resources, information, as well as facilitating dialogue through various social media venues, including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Solome, who was previously featured as a White House Champion of Change in January 2012, reflects on the concept behind AiD: “The idea of giving back, is something I have carried for a while. As someone who has dedicated all of my studies and work to Africa, I often asked myself, what’s the best role for me as an African? How do I give back responsibly? How do I use the access and privilege that I have had and transfer it back home?”

AiD focuses on Africans as resource agents to encourage more investment in philanthropic and social causes built by African-led organizations.

To get involved or learn more about this initiative please visit http://www.africansinthediaspora.org

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Catching Up With Singer & Songwriter Rachel Brown

Rachel Brown has announced the release of her new record entitled "Building Castles." (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam | Art Talk

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Up-and-coming singer and songwriter Rachel Brown has released an EP called Building Castles, which is currently available on iTunes. Rachel tells TADIAS that she had “an incredible time” working on the record and is enjoying her fans’ reaction on social media. “It’s been very cool,” she said. “I received a lot of instant responses on twitter, including from Wyclef who said amazing things. It is so great to have the support of musicians like him.”

The multicultural artist and Harvard graduate, who is the daughter of Ethiopian-born wedding-fashion designer Amsale Aberra, said her most recent concert was in Bermuda. “My dad is Bermudian so that was really special,” she said.

Rachel was invited to be part of a tribute to the life and music of John Lennon and the legend’s connection to Bermuda. “John Lennon had spent time on the island and wrote some of his last songs there in 1980,” she said. “Did I mention I was on the front page of the newspaper when I landed there? My dad emailed me from New York to tell me that someone told him that I was featured in The Royal Gazatte, which was really cool.”

Though she loves to travel Rachel said her “comfort zone” is in New York. “I love performing in New York because its my hometown and I have a lot of support and I feel comfortable here,” she said.

As to her own connection to Ethiopia, Rachel said she has not been there in 3 years but she had been going back almost every year since she was eighteen. “I absolutely love Ethiopia and I always have a hard time coming back.” She said: “The last time I was there I ended up playing some impromptu shows. This was before I had a band of my own and that was one of the first times that I had played with other musicians. They were really incredible. We actually ended up recording a song called Bahir Dar, which I wrote during a prior trip. One day I would love to collaborate again and do a recording in Ethiopia.”

Rachel said, “Being Ethiopian, Bermudian, Southern and growing up in New York has definitely influenced my music and even the eclectic nature of my band, which includes people from Mali, Madagascar, Haiti — most of whom I met on a Saturday night playing at St. Nick’s Pub in Harlem.” She added, “They all understand what I am trying to do but they also bring their own perspectives.”

Click here to learn more about Rachel Brown.
Click here to download the new EP on iTunes.

Spark Acquires License for Miss Universe Ethiopia

Leila Lopes of Angola (left), winner of last year's Miss Universe pageant pictured with the current Miss Teen USA and Miss USA, is the fourth African to claim the title since it was started sixty years ago. (Courtesy photo )

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Since the beginning of the international beauty pageant Miss Universe in 1952, only four African countries have won the title: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Angola.

Henok Yifru – one of the founders of Spark Communications Worldwide, a New York City based marketing and branding company that recently acquired the exclusive license for Miss Universe Ethiopia, is hopeful that Ethiopia may be added to the roster of African winners in the next few years.

“We are looking for serious and career-driven applicants only,” Henok said in a recent interview with TADIAS, pointing out that with over 1 billion television viewers, the competition is one of the most watched annual media events worldwide.

The Miss Universe Organization is currently owned by Donald Trump in partnership with NBC Universal.

“Miss Universe Ethiopia will have the opportunity to represent the nation and act as an ambassador in this context,” Henok said. “The judges are capable of providing opportunities beyond Miss Universe itself. He added: “It’s a special position that has its responsibilities. It provides an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, the ability to take on cause-based projects, and the chance to promote Ethiopia globally.”

And what are the qualifications to participate?

“Contestants must be female, citizens of Ethiopia, and must have resided in Ethiopia as their permanent and primary residence for a period of at least six months immediately prior to Friday, October 12, 2012,” Henok answered, referring to the scheduled date for Miss Universe Ethiopia final at Radisson Blu Hotel in Addis Ababa. “They must be at least 18 years of age and under 27 as of February 01, 2012,” he said.

Spark Communications Worldwide, the official licensee, will manage the production and preliminary qualification process for the contest in Ethiopia.

“What makes this Miss Universe Ethiopia special is that there will be agents as judges from esteemed New York City modeling agencies and beauty relevant companies who will be traveling to Addis Ababa with our team to conduct the casting and selection of the talent,” Henok said.

Thus far, confirmed participating agencies include, Wilhelmina Models, Elite Model Management and Fusion Model Management.

Henok said in addition to these modeling agencies, L’Oreal, Revlon and MAC cosmetics casting agents have been approached to sit on the judging board. “This gives the contestants a double opportunity to succeed not just in Miss Universe but in the modeling world as well,” he argued. “Basically, we will do everything in our power to give the winner as much exposure and opportunity.”

Regarding Spark Communications Henok said, the company works on several projects in various industries, including media, entertainment, hospitality, and travel. “One initiative is the ‘Gateway Africa’ Project which is set up to promote destinations in Africa and build a more positive image for the continent,” he said. “We’re also close partners with Miss Universe Botswana.”

Henok added: “Our long term goal is to make the Miss Universe Ethiopia initiative a gateway to global opportunities for Ethiopia’s artistic and business talent, while simultaneously promoting Ethiopia as a tourist destination.”

According to organizers, the international final event for this year’s Miss Universe will be held either in the United States or the Dominican Republic on December 11, 2012. “Either way, it’s going to be exciting,” Henok said.

Click here to learn more about the pageant at Miss Universe Ethiopia.

Related Photos:


Alef Tadesse (left) and Henok Yifru represented Spark Communications Worldwide at the NBC Universal Miss Universe office in NYC, July 2012. (Courtesy photo)


Henok Yifru poses with Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes of Angola at the NBC Universal Miss Universe office in NYC, July 2012. (Courtesy photo)


The reigning Miss Universe Leila Lopes of Angola. (Courtesy photo)


Leila Lopes at the Rio Conventions of the UNCCD – United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. (Courtesy photo)

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Mental Health Taboo in the Ethiopian Community: Interview with Dr. Welansa Asrat

A Dallas police homicide detective stood outside the home where Yayehyirad Lemma and Yenenesh Desta were found shot to death on their front porch. (Dallas Morning News)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The latest news of suicides and murders in the Ethiopian community, including the tragic killings of a Dallas couple who were gunned down outside their house as they returned home from working at their popular Ethiopian restaurant, is raising the question: Is this the consequence of our taboos about mental illness?

“Although the negative stigma associated with mental illness is prevalent throughout the world, it remains particularly relevant in Ethiopian culture where it is believed to be a sign of weakness,” says Dr. Welansa Asrat, a Psychiatrist practicing in New York City. “Due to the unacceptability of such a stigma, many Ethiopians deny their mental suffering and never get the necessary treatment, which can then result in disastrous outcomes such as suicides or homicides.”

In the Texas case, police documents show that the suspect, also an Ethiopian immigrant, was allegedly motivated to assassinate the parents of an 18-month-old baby because he “felt disrespected.”

What are the social pressures that drive people to this type of irrationality?

According to Dr. Welansa concerns associated with culture-shock or adjustment issues increase the likelihood of developing psychological problems.

“The loss of one’s culture, lack of social support, isolation and loss of self-identity experienced by immigrants are known risk factors of mental illness,” Dr. Welansa said. “When the immigration is involuntary in nature and occurs after traumas such as war, torture and other forms of human rights violations, the individual is that much more vulnerable to mental illness.” She added: “Additional risk factors such as new minority status, language barriers, financial hardship, unemployment, difficulty negotiating educational and occupational systems, discrimination and changing gender roles can overwhelm an individual’s capacity to cope with his or her circumstances and result in a full-blown episode of depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders or psychosis, with or without suicidal or homicidal behaviors.”

Dr. Welansa notes that there are protective factors such as minority integration, social participation, social support, adaptability, and positive relationships, which can minimize the likelihood of a full-blown mental disorder. “It is the cumulative effect of multiple risk factors combined with an absence of protective factors that increases an immigrant’s risk of mental illness,” Welansa says. Additional factors affecting mental health include one’s biological and psychological makeup.

When it comes to violent crimes within the Ethiopian community, Dr. Welansa points out, however, that it is not as widespread as it seems and could be put under control.

“Despite the historical misconception that immigrant communities have higher crime rates, studies now show that immigrants are, in fact, less prone to violent crimes than native-born Americans,” she said. “In his study on this issue, Harvard sociologist, Robert Sampson showed that first-generation immigrants were 45% less likely to commit violent crimes, and second-generation immigrants were 22% less likely to commit violent crimes.” She added: “This pattern held true for non-Hispanic, black and white immigrants.”

Regarding the Ethiopian community, Dr. Welansa said there are studies that show that the close knit and communal nature of our culture may play a protective role in preventing mental illness.

“The first study that looked at mental health in the Ethiopian community in North America was conducted in Toronto in 2004,” Dr Welansa said. “The study looked at the frequency of depression and the risk factors involved in the occurrence of depression in the Ethiopian immigrant community.” She added: “The study found that the rate of depression in the Ethiopian community in the Toronto area was only slightly higher (9.8%) than the rate within the general Canadian population (7.3%). However, the rate (9.8%) was 3 times higher than the estimated rate in Southeastern Ethiopia, which highlights the extent to which immigration increases one’s risk of depression.” The study corroborated the psychological stages of immigration that have been previously documented, starting with an initial period of elation, moving to a state of depression and ultimately to a recovery period.

“The researchers believe that the initial elation is due to the strong social support that is initially available from their ethnic group and that depression sets in as this support wanes over time,” Dr Welansa said. “Most eventually make it to a recovery period, which occurs when they have become fully acculturated, but some spiral downward into a state of despair.”

The patterns noted in this study suggest that social connections and programs that promote ethnic identity likely protect an immigrant from depression. However, further research is required to substantiate the protective role that ethnic identity plays in preventing depression.

“The one form of violence that is higher in immigrant communities is domestic violence against women,” Dr. Welansa said, citing NYC Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, which found that young, foreign-born women have the highest risk of being killed by their partner of any group of women in NYC. “One study found that foreign-born women accounted for 51% of intimate partner homicides in New York City,” she said. “The study also showed that married immigrant women experienced higher levels of physical and sexual abuse than unmarried women.”

She added: “Domestic violence advocates cite three barriers that prevent immigrant women from seeking help: lack of information regarding the law and available services; culturally ingrained tendency towards preserving their family or community reputation combined with a sense of shame in divulging their family issues; and fear of the authorities.”

What is Dr. Welansa’s advice to our community leaders, as well as cultural and religious organizations on how to contribute to help alleviate the various traumas associated with migration?

Dr. Welansa suggests developing educational programs that promote mental wellness and strengthen protective factors such as good parenting, literacy, problem-solving skills, social management skills and stress management, which can be taught and reinforced in community programs.

Implementing measures that address risk factors such work-related stress, discrimination, academic failure, chronic pain, substance abuse & poor work skills, are also important focus points prior to the onset of mental illness.

Additionally, individuals and families can be encouraged to use suicide hotline services that can provide emotional support for those experiencing emotional distress and provide referrals to mental health care workers in their area.

Dr Welansa said: “For those requiring psychotropic medications (antidepressants or antipsychotics), it is worth knowing that the liver enzyme that metabolize most psychotropics do so at an ultra-rapid rate for 20-30% of individuals with Ethiopian or Arabian genetics. For those who are ultra-rapid metabolizers, a higher dose of an anti-depressant or anti-psychotic would be required for the medication to achieve therapeutic efficacy and alleviate the targeted symptoms.”

Dr. Welansa Asrat is Board Certified Psychiatrist, Cross-Cultural Psychiatry, working in New York City. She is on Twitter.

Related:
Click here for the latest in the Dallas case.

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TADIAS Speaks to Marcus Samuelsson About His Memoir ‘Yes, Chef,’ – Video

Marcus Samuelsson (right) during an interview with Tadias Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Tseday Alehegn at Red Rooster Harlem. (Photo by Kidane Mariam for TADIAS)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, July 9, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The day before TADIAS sat down with Marcus Samuelsson at Red Rooster to interview him about his memoir entitled, Yes, Chef, he received the congratulatory news that his book was listed at number 7 on The New York Times Best Seller list. And as NYT’s book review had highlighted a week earlier: “Mr. Samuelsson, as it happens, possesses one of the great culinary stories of our time.”

From contracting tuberculosis at age 2, losing his birth mother to the same disease, and being adopted by a middle-class family in Sweden, Marcus would eventually break into one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, rising to become a top chef with a resume including cooking at the White House as a guest chef for President Obama’s first State Dinner 3 years ago. Since then, Marcus has morphed into a brand of his own, both as an author and as owner of Red Rooster in Harlem.

“I first started to work on the memoir about five years ago”, Marcus told TADIAS. “I have been asked for many years to do a book. I just started to get to know my journey myself.” He added: “You know, there was always new layers, whether it was leaving Aquavit, coming uptown, building Red Rooster, getting married, or learning about my birth father.”

Marcus who lives in New York with his wife, Ethiopian-born model Maya Gate Haile, said he feels at home in Harlem as he does in Sweden and Ethiopia. “Harlem has a sense of home to it,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood in a very busy city, every time I come back to Harlem I feel I am at home in a way that I feel like when I am in the West Coast of Sweden and even when I am in Addis I feel like I am at home in a different way.”

Describing Harlem Marcus said, “You see signs of the Ethiopian and the Harlem community constantly, whether it’s when Haile Selassie visited Harlem or you see the Abyssinian Church, still to this day they do so many trips back to Ethiopia. So it’s something that I am extremely proud to continue on the tradition of the link between Ethiopia and Harlem.” He continued, “Obviously my space is food so it’s also a way to break bread. You know, when I serve dried injera here or berbere roasted chicken, I am continuing a legacy that has been here way before me and hopefully it’s going to continue way after me.”

You can watch the video below for our full interview with Marcus Samuelsson.

We say rush to get your own copy of Yes, Chef, it’s a fantastic read!

Video: Interview with Marcus Samuelsson About His Memoir ‘Yes, Chef,’ (TADIAS TV)

Debo Band’s First Album: Interview with the Group’s Founder Danny Mekonnen

Debo Band is an 11-member Boston-based group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, July 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In its recent, thumbs-up highlight of Debo band’s self-titled first album NPR noted: “The particular beauty of Debo Band is that you don’t have to be an ethnomusicologist to love it: It’s all about the groove. Debo Band transforms the Ethiopian sound through the filter of its members’ collective subconscious as imaginative and plugged-in 21st-century musicians. Klezmer-haunted wails dart in and out between disco thumps. The swooning, hot romance of [Yefikir Wegene] bursts up from the same ground as the funky horns of Ney Ney Weleba. From that hazy shimmer of musical heat from faraway Addis, a thoroughly American sound emerges.”

In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Danny Mekonnen, the group’s Ethiopian-American founder, agreed with NPR’s description, yet also pointed out that even he finds it difficult to explain the music. “It’s funny now that I am talking to the press more and more I am asking myself the same question”, Danny told TADIAS. “What is it?,” he said, admitting that he is not sure how he would categorize Debo’s music genre.

“I don’t think its Ethio-jazz because to me Ethio-jazz is a very specific thing branded by Mulatu Astatke. Its gentle,” he said. “Initially I didn’t want to start an Ethio-jazz band because I was interested in a lot of different things and influenced by unapologetic funk music as well, such as someone like Alemayehu Eshete, which is really about groove, dancing, and strong lyrics. That kind of energy.”

Debo’s debut album features originals, such as DC Flower and Habesha, the latter based on the Diaspora experience where a young man is mesmerized by an attractive East African woman walking down the street that could be either Ethiopian or Eritrean, while the former is an instrumental giving prominence to Embilta flutes and traditional drums. “The two songs are noteworthy because we are carving our space as a Diaspora, Ethiopian-American band,” Danny said.

Danny, who holds a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Harvard University, said he became exposed to Ethiopian music at an early age while growing up in Texas, mostly from his parents cassette-tape collections of old songs from the 1960′s and 70s. “I was just soaking it up like a sponge,” he said. “I was attracted to it because of its horn melodies and its closeness to American jazz.” He continued: “Later, in the early 2000′s I was introduced to the Éthiopiques CD series, which gave me really accessible context including photos. That also led me to meet some great people in the Diaspora. So when I entered Harvard I had already started Debo band and my scholarly focus was on Ethiopian music.”

Even though Debo’s sound is heavily indebted to the classics of the 1960′s and early ’70′s, Danny said he is sympathetic to those who say the overwhelming focus on that era alone undercuts the contributions of subsequent generations of Ethiopian musicians. “Unfortunately the focus on the so called ‘Golden Age of Ethiopian music’ sort of discredits what came after it,” he said. “For example, if you listen to Teddy Tadesse’s Zimita album, that was a pretty heavy record, very progressive, and at least ten years ahead of its time. You can hear its influence in singers that came later like Gossaye and Teddy Afro.” He added: “Zimita was entirely arranged by Abegaz Shiota. Abegaz and bass guitarist Henock Temesgen are two of the many contemporary Ethiopian musicians that I have the highest respect for. They were part of Admas Band that worked with everyone from Aster Aweke to Tilahun Gessesse and Mahmoud Ahmed.”

Danny said his friend Charles Sutton, Jr. – the Peace Corps volunteer who in 1969 arranged for Orchestra Ethiopia, then led by Tesfaye Lemma, to tour the United States under the name “The Blue Nile Group” – was also instrumental in helping him to connect with older Ethiopian musicians in the U.S. “Charlie arranged for me a private lesson with Melaku Gelaw, one of the top washint and kirar players of that generation,” Danny said.

According to Danny, Mr. Sutton was also responsible for suggesting the name “Debo” as the group’s identity. “I told Charlie I was searching for a band name and he spoke to an Ethiopian lady friend of his and she came up with the word,” Danny shared.

“Debo means communal labor or collective effort in Amharic” Danny said. “An easy word to pronounce for non-Ethiopians, short four-letter word and very simple. But it also strikes up a fun conversation among Ethiopians because it’s an old archaic word and not part of their daily usage.”

“Ethiopians tell me that it sounds like Dabo (bread),” Danny said laughing.

If You Go:
Debo Band is getting ready for their CD release tour starting next week and will be performing at The Bell House in Brooklyn, the U Street Music Hall in Washington D.C. as well as at the renowned Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA. For a detailed listing of their upcoming tour please visit Debo Band’s website. You can learn more about Debo’s new album and pre-order at www.subpop.com.

Watch: Debo Band Live (NPR)


Related:
Golden Age Pop – from Ethiopia (WNYC)

Kaffa Coffee Club to Host Business Seminar at Dallas Soccer Tournament

As Ethiopians gather in Dallas this week for ESFNA's 29th annual soccer tournament and cultural festival, a local business is also preparing for a seminar targetting event attendees. (Gourmet Coffee Blog)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, July 2, 2012

Dallas (TADIAS) – Ethiopians are proud that our country is the birthplace of coffee — the second most consumed drink in the world next to water and the second most traded commodity after oil. Yet when it comes to sharing the big profits that the product fetches in the international market, Ethiopian entrepreneurs, however, remain a mere footnote in the grand scheme of things, says Abaye Sieme, founder of Kaffa Coffee Club, a Dallas-based coffee distribution company. Abaye (a.k.a. Abby), says her new venture aims to help change that. “The fact of the matter is we know coffee business has proven to be a recession proof consumer staple,” Abby said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “Even in this economic downturn we are witnessing big corporations like MacDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway aggressively diving into the coffee market.” She added: “400 million cups of coffee are sold just in North America every single day. To put this in perspective, there are 255 million coffee drinkers in the U.S. alone with millions paying up to $4.00 per cup and consuming 2 to 3 cups a day. That is a lot of coffee.”

This week the Kaffa Coffee Club is hosting a three-day business seminar in Addision, Texas during the 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament hoping to attract potential partners from the Diaspora. “My goal is to galvanize and motivate our community to be involved, to be almost mad and get in the action,” Abby said. “I feel strongly that our larger extended community everywhere can play a big part by partnering with Kaffa Coffee Club and make a huge impact in the industry where we rightfully need to be a part of.”

Abby points out the club specializes in an acid-free, healthier alternative ‘cup of Joe’ than what most Americans drink on a regular basis. “Researchers tell us that there are good and bad effects of coffee,” she said. “The good properties we get from drinking regular coffee come loaded with too much caffeine and acidity which are not beneficial to our health.”

“Did you know that drinking regular coffee makes your body acidic and lowers your pH balance?” Abby asked.

“It helps to understand the difference between alkaline and acidic as well as how pH balance affects our health,” Abby continued. “Human blood pH should be slightly alkaline (7.35 – 7.45), so below or above this range means symptoms and disease. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. A pH below 7.0 is acidic. A pH above 7.0 is alkaline. An acidic pH can occur from an acid-forming diet, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions or any process that deprives the cells of oxygen and other nutrients. The body will try to compensate for acidic pH by using alkaline minerals. If the diet does not contain enough minerals to compensate, a buildup of acids in the cells will occur. Natural and holistic health professionals generally advise their clients to avoid coffee for this reason. You will need to drink 17 cups water just to neutralize the acidic effect of one cup of regular coffee.”

According to Abby the Kaffa Coffee Club offers a solution to this problem. “Our healthy coffee beverages are alkaline and non-acidic with a pH level 7.35, ” she said. “In addition to other health benefits, they will not cause jitters, heart palpitations or caffeine crashes and will not interfere with sleep.”

“This was possible due to the genius of the CEO of the Company we partnered with,” Abby explained. “His extensive research resulted in a break-through that came up with a unique combination of two of the most ancient and powerful treasures of the world: ‘Coffee and Ganoderma Lucidum,’ a true advancement that provides healthier beverages that can be enjoyed with every sip.”

What is Ganoderma Lucidum? “Ganoderma Lucidum (a type of mushroom), also known as the ‘King of Herbal Medicine,’ has been in existence for over 4,000 years and used to be exclusively reserved for Chinese royalty,” Abby said. “In addition to providing over 150 nutritional properties that our body benefits from, this herb defuses the acidity as well as the caffeine present in regular coffee, and effectively delivers delicious alkaline drink with a 7.3 – 7.5 pH level. The 100% certified organic Ganoderma Lucidum that is in our healthy beverages comes from Gano Industrial park, the world’s largest Ganoderma facility in China.”


Abaye (Abby) Sieme.

Abby got in the retail coffee business a few years ago, and opened her first on-site coffee roasting company in Dallas, TX under the name of Kaffa Coffee, which was in operation from 2002 to 2007. “After separating from the business in 2007, I went back to pursuing my professional career as a Financial Advisor working for prominent investment firms,” she said.

The Ethiopian-born, U.S.-educated accountant has a combined 12 year professional experience in corporate America, including six years as a financial analyst at a major airline company. “I have always had a passion for coffee as a consumer and even more so for its history,” Abby told TADIAS. “I want to follow where coffee is going into the future without ever forgetting where it came from.”

Last year, Abby was introduced to the healthy coffee concept and its business opportunity by a prospective client. “I jumped into the business idea immediately because it did not require a huge capital to get started unlike my prior venture,” she said. “This past January, I attended a convention in Las Vegas, Nevada with about 17,000 independent healthy coffee distributors from all walks of life and different parts of the continent.” She added: “While the energy and the excitement were incredible, I was very surprised and dismayed that I did not see or meet a single person from the ‘birth place of coffee.’ I was not sure if our community was not aware or if there was just a disconnect about what is taking place in the coffee industry that is changing for the better and moving at a rampant speed. I felt I needed to reach as many people as possible to share this huge opportunity so we are not left behind.”

What’s the requirement to partner with Kaffa Coffee Club? “To be a part of this fast growing business, one does not have to be a coffee expert, a master roaster or even a coffee consumer for that matter,” Abby said. “We have to understand that there is a huge demand for coffee and offering healthier alternatives is even bigger.”

She added: “As people come from all over to attend this annual soccer event, they can take back valuable information about this opportunity that will make a difference in their lives if they choose to be a part of it,” Abby said. “We need to be able to see the big picture, take action and position ourselves to participate in supplying this huge demand in return for a very meaningful financial reward.”
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If You Go:
Kaffa Coffee Club – Business Seminar
Crown Plaza Hotel
14315 Midway Road
Addision, TX 75001,
Wed. July 4th at 12:30 pm
Thurs. July 5th at 12:30pm
Fri. July 6th at 12:30 pm
To RSVP, please call 972.415.6479
E-Mail: info@kaffacoffeeclub.com
More info at www.kaffacoffeeclub.com

Photo credit:
Abaye Sieme’s photograph courtesy of Kaffa Coffee Club.

Tamirat Mekonen: The Person Behind Teddy Afro’s Music Video ‘Tikur Sew’

Tamirat Mekonen Teklu is the Director and Cinematographer of Teddy Afro's music video "Tikur Sew." The video is produced by Adika Communication & Events, Belama Entertainment and Sabisa Films Production. (Photo by Marie Claire Andrea)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, June 11, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As a young boy growing up in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia where his mother worked at the local movie theater, Tamirat Mekonen Teklu, 31, — the director and cinematographer of Teddy Afro’s latest music video Tikur Sew — dreamed of one day becoming a filmmaker. And judging from early reactions to his newest gig, Tamirat’s directorial debut, only three years after receiving a scholarship to study at New York Film Academy, appears to be a smashing success.

TADIAS caught up with Tamirat shortly after he returned to his home in Washington, D.C., following the launch of the music video in Ethiopia last week.

“For 75 days, we worked 18-19 hours a day, non-stop,” he told us. “This was my first project after graduating from film school, so I was working under a lot of pressure.” He added: “My whole Ethiopian filmmaking family had great expectations about this project. At the end of the day, it was a great experience for the whole team.”

Tikur Sew (Amharic for black person), is Teddy Afro’s tribute to the legacy of Menelik II, the emperor who led Ethiopia during the world-famous Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. Scoring a decisive military victory against the invading Italian forces Adwa was an event that changed the course of history not only for Ethiopians, but also for the colonial ambitions of a major European power, forcing Italy to recognize the sovereignty of an African nation.

“I really wanted to make the audience to feel and experience the six-hour historical battle,” Tamirat said. “Honestly, though, I did not expect that people would have such a positive and emotional reaction to the music video.” He added: “There were two main messages, which are found in the Amharic quote at the end of the film: ‘In order to define yourself now, you have to look at your past,’” he said. “If those who fought in the battle did not sacrifice their lives for us, we would have lost our culture and identity. We would not be who we are today.”

Tamirat continued: “There was a price that was paid for us to be the only non-colonized African nation. The last scene I created in color was a fantasy scene of the young people of our generation honoring and acknowledging what Emperor Menelik and Empress Taytu Betul accomplished.”


The behind the screens making of Tikur Sew Music Video Tamirat with the actor playing Emperor Menelik II. (photo by Sabisa Films Production)


Tamirat Mekonen with Tesfaye Wondmagegn and production crew in the making of Tikur Sew music video. (photo by Sabisa Films Production)

According to Tamirat, there were 420 actors who took part in the music video, most hailing from the theatrical arts department at Addis Ababa University. “We shot the film in four days and spent two months in post-production,” he told TADIAS. “We worked in four locations all around Addis, including Teddy Afro’s house.”

How did he get involved in the project? “The previous distributor of Tikur Sew before Adika, saw my work and introduced me to Teddy Afro’s former manager Addis Gessese, and then to Teddy Afro, himself,” he said. “After I met him, Teddy let me listen to all of the music that would be on his new CD.” He added: “Teddy and Adika were anticipating producing a DVD with a selection of four music videos from the Tikur Sew album, and I chose the title song Tikur Sew.”

“I grew up watching cinema because my mother was working in the only cinema theater in Bahir Dar.” Tamirat shared. “Every weekend she would let me sit and watch movies. Because of this, I dreamt of one day becoming a filmmaker.”

Tamirat later attended a one year certificate program in filmmaking in Addis Ababa. “I saved the money to pay for the program on my own by walking long hours in order not to have to pay for transportation and sometimes skipping lunch,” he said. “I worked on many films, including: Red Mistake, Ashenge, Albo, and the award winning Siryet. In 2009, he was awarded a Brett Ratner scholarship to attend the New York Film Academy, in New York City, where he studied cinematography. “I was also assisted by my future father-in-law Matt Andrea, who sponsored me to come to the United States,” he said.

Does he have any upcoming projects? “I am working as the director of photography on a feature film entitled Lovers’ Paradise,” he said. “We hope to start shooting around the end of September. Additionally, my company Sabisa Production is set to debut a new feature film, Sons of Sunrise, in the next two months.”
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Watch: Tikur Sew – Teddy Afro – HD English version – Ethiopia Music (2012)


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Dallas & D.C: Tale of Two Ethiopian Soccer Tournaments

The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament will take place in Dallas from July 1st to July 7th, 2012, while a new, separate tournament will be held the same week in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chicago 2009 / Tadias File)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Last winter, when the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA), a 29-year old non-profit in charge of hosting the annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament, elected new officers and sent out a press release announcing Dallas as the location of the 2012 Soccer Tournament, we reported that the much publicized disputes among the board members seemed to have been amicably resolved. Since then, however, things have dramatically changed.

“There is an ongoing lawsuit and because of our lawyer’s advice, I can not tell you the details of how our organization was formed,” Elias Dimberu, a public relations officer for the newly established AESAONE (All Ethiopian Sports Association ONE), told TADIAS in a recent response to our inquiry. AESAONE is aggressively promoting a rival tournament at the RFK stadium in Washington, D.C. scheduled from July 1st through 7th — the same time the ESFNA sponsored tournament takes place in Dallas.

“There is no court gag order so you can speak to me about whatever you need,” said Johnny G. Berhanu, the spokesperson for the older ESFNA. “The truth is that they are all former members of ESFNA, including the ex-president who lost an election, who have chosen to set up various entities basically disregarding not only the law but the bylaws of ESFNA as well.” He added: Our bylaws say no board member of ESFNA can use ‘proprietary data’ including business contacts for their own personal use for at least two years after they leave the organization. These guys stole our corporate identity, they took our sponsor accounts. They tried locking us out of our bank account and our website. Believe it or not, we were first alerted to the whole plot by a Verizon fraud department worker, who called to tell us that a couple of those guys were trying to take out two new cell phones using our name.”

The AESAONE PR Officer disagrees, while admitting that the group was forced to re-brand itself after facing a trademark infringement lawsuit in April for its previous name, ESFNAONE. “We’ve changed the name as required by law,” Elias responded.

“It took the judge less than fifteen minutes to approve a temporary restraining order against them, which has since been extended,” Johnny remarked regarding the lawsuit. “They can never, ever be able to use our name and confuse the public again.”

And the soccer teams? “There is no shortage of Ethiopian soccer players in the Diaspora,” answered Elias. “In fact, there are way too many.” He added: “People forget that there is more than one Ethiopian team in every major city. We already have 28 teams registered from the U.S., as well as one from Australia and one from England.” According to Elias, the D.C. tournament is sponsored by MIDROC, the company owned by Ethiopian-born Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi. “They are covering the entire tournament for three years, whatever the cost, no strings attached,” he said.

“The man has given them 2 million dollars and they are going around trying to buy players, offering them up to $10,000 in some cases,” Johnny charged. “I personally know someone in Canada who rejected their bribe.”

“That’s hearsay,” Elias objected. He points out that AESAONE was a sponsor and actively recruiting teams during the traditional Memorial Day weekend regional tournaments in the West coast, the Midwest and the South. “There were ten California teams participating in Sacramento, for example,” he said. “Nine in Atlanta and another ten quality ones in Minnesota.” He added: “For the first time, there will be teams coming from Florida, Arizona, South Dakota and the city of Cincinnati, Ohio.”

Elias continued: “In terms of money, we are covering transportation costs, including airfare, for 20 players of each team that are participating in our tournament. We are also providing each team with five hotel rooms. In addition, all teams receive one full jersey. And in case of emergency, each players gets up to $100,000 insurance coverage for injury which they can use throughout the year. Furthermore, for the first time we have arranged coach bus service, back and forth, between the stadium and the hotel.”

Addressing the ongoing lawsuit, Elias declined from sharing details except to state, “We are in settlement negotiations at the moment.”

But Johnny is willing to talk. “ESFNA is asking to recover court expenses and other damages from them,” Johnny said. “So far we have spent about $13,000 in lawyers fees and could go up to $20,000.” He continued: “There is business loss and related issues when they used the ESFNAONE name to promote their event causing serious confusion in the community. As part of the final settlement, we are asking that at a minimum they change their tournament date.”

“That’s logistically impossible,” Elias declared. “There is a reason why we chose the week of July 4th.” He continued: “Most of the players are students and the only major summer holiday where we can attract the players is the 4th of July. The next holiday is Labor Day weekend in September, which is too late.”

“Don’t you think they can do this in August and attract more people?” Johnny asked. “Ultimately, I want you to look for the motive.”

“Our motive is to create an organization that stands for one community, regardless of religion and politics,” Elias responded. “Sports being the pillar, to celebrate our culture.”

“Let me tell you something,” Johnny answered. “I am a volunteer and democratically elected member of ESFNA’s board. After two years if people don’t like what I am doing, they can vote me out.” He added: I am not going to go on a vendetta against the organization that I willingly serve. I am not saying they don’t have the right to start a business. This is the United States of America, they can do whatever they want. I am saying be lawful in your actions and be truthful to the public about your intentions.”

Johnny is using his three week vacation to travel from Canada to volunteer his time working on the Dallas soccer tournament logistics. Ironically, Elias who is working on the D.C. tournament resides in Texas. “Yep! I live right in the heart of Dallas,” he said.

Competition and choices are not bad for any community, but we hope the two sides can find a way to let vendors and the public enjoy both events without forcing them to take sides or choose one over another.


Related Links:
The 29th Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in Dallas
Ethiopian Soccer Tournament in D.C.

How Ethiopian Music Went Global: Interview with Francis Falceto

"Ethiopiques" is a CD series featuring Ethiopian musicians. Many of the discs contain various singles and albums originally produced by Amha Records, Kaifa Records and Philips-Ethiopia. (Photo: Courtesy of Buda Musique)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, May 18, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In November 1987, when Francis Falceto, an editor with the French label Buda Musique, traveled to Washington, D.C. to finalize a licensing deal with Ethiopian producer Amha Eshete, owner of Amha Records who held the rights to the treasure trove of Ethiopian music from the 1960′s and 1970′s – little did he know that it would take another decade for the contract to be completed. But the result has been an astonishing twenty-seven volumes of the éthiopiques CD series, which has propelled Ethiopian music on the world stage in the last ten years and introduced the sounds of Ethio-jazz to audiences and musicians far and wide.

“Unfortunately, Amha was then in exile, and had no documents with him to allow the retrieval of the discs that had been initially manufactured, and where the recordings masters were still kept,” Francis said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “We had to wait for the fall of the Derg and the return of Amha to his motherland to start tracing consistently the ‘holy’ masters.” He added: “After several years of intense tracking down, we finally located most of Amha Records masters in Athens, Greece. The day of February 1997 when I could go to Athens and get back these pieces of Ethiopian heritage has been one of the happiest day in my life, truly. By October 1997, the first éthiopiques CD were released. I had in mind then to produce a dozen, no more. But very quickly, other Ethiopian producers and artists came to me asking ‘I’d like to be part of éthiopiques… Ali Tango of Kaifa Records, whom I had befriended since my first trip to Ethiopia, joined promptly, then Tilahun Gessesse himself – another happy day in my life – and other artists. That’s how I have released 27 volumes up to now, and intend to reach possibly 34 or 35, hopefully, to complete this task.”

Over the years Francis has established enduring friendships in Ethiopia. But he is also aware of rumors and complaints about his motives. “Bizu meqegna alegn”, he said, using the Amharic word for people who wish ill-will on others. “Naturally, the fact that a ferenj takes care of such a marathonian project dealing with Ethiopian music heritage has also generated some suspicions.” He added: “The simple truth is that I did it because I could not see anybody, Ethiopian or foreigner, intending to do so. I would really love to be just a purchaser of ready-made éthiopiques, re-released by anybody else, and in a nicer way if possible. I would avoid then many headaches and complications.”

Francis said his admiration for world music dates back more than thirty years and is not limited to only Ethiopia. “I am basically a music lover, having started by 1977 to work in the frame of a non-profit organization presenting all kinds of concerts, both modern and traditional, but mostly devoted to rare, non-commercial, experimental or innovative music,” he said. “Then I have been a curator, programing for venues and festivals before I became a full time searcher in Ethiopian music history, basically freelance but related to the French Centre of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa.”

As to those who tease him about the name of his employer, Buda Musique, which sounds exactly like the local word for “evil eye,” Francis said: “Let me say that its name “Buda Musique” is just a coincidence and has no reference at all to the buda and zar thing in Ethiopia,” he joked. “The company name used to exist long before I collaborated with this record label.” He added: “Buda Musique is a private record company, a small label mostly devoted to world music. It is not my company, actually, I never had any company. I am just the editor of the éthiopiques and ethioSonic series.”

Francis admits that the success of éthiopiques has been largely limited to media hype and has not translated well for him commercially. “Behind all my research work, full of fun and beauty, there are also a lot of difficulties – like finding the proper lyricists and composers, crediting the real backup musicians, solving the copyright problems, tracing the entitled beneficiaries, etc,” he said. “Curating éthiopiques series requires a lot of perseverance and endurance, and some masochism, probably. And the fact that Ethiopian CDs are available in western music shops doesn’t mean they are hot cakes.”


Francis Falceto in Addis Ababa, 2010. (Photo credit: Maga Bo/flickr)

How about the talk that some artists not being paid royalties? “The most sad and embarrassing remains the maliciousness of a couple of unfair people who have been incredibly benefiting from éthiopiques, in terms of fame but also of royalties and concerts booking, but who give forth endlessly and sick accusations and ignominious lies – almost nothing, so to say, with regard to their dishonor,” he said. “All in all, I have not to complain that much. The work is here to stay, to the satisfaction of a large public, and beyond the inconvenience it provides.”

Francis said there is “a huge gap” between the media coverage of éthiopiques and their market, commercially speaking. “It is just a niche market – which may be hard to believe for Ethiopian nationalist pride,” he continued. “Not to mention the Ethiopian culture of piracy since the invention of the cassette, or the piracy on internet.”

He points out that not all responses from Ethiopians have been negative. “The feedback from Ethiopia and Ethiopians is mostly warm and supportive,” Francis said. “After all, éthiopiques CD series is not only spreading Ethiopian music worldwide, much beyond my own initial expectation, but also reviving a glorious and unforgettable past of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.” He added: “I am especially touched by Ethiopians who e-mail me their remembrance and describe their emotions. It is not only the ones who were teenagers in the Ethiopian ’50′s and ’60′s who write to me, because it was the soundtrack of their generation, it is also their children, often raised abroad, and many of them are amazed by the music of their parents’ generation. I had never anticipated that éthiopiques could also contribute to reset Ethiopian memories and be a kind of funky bridge between the generations.”

Is he working on any upcoming projects? “I am presently working on Ali Birra, Kassa Tessemma and Muluken Melesse for éthiopiques, as well as on Daniel Techane and Trio Kazenchis for ethioSonic,” he said.

The latter is an impressive collection of music from notable musicians including Getachew Mekurya & The Ex, Debo Band, Either/Orchestra, Jazzmaris, Abegaz & Jorg, and Kronos Quartet. “Another phenomenon that I had never anticipated at all is the development that Ethiopian music has met worldwide after éthiopiques,” Francis said.

He said he is not nostalgic of the Empire time, but he does feel concerned by the state of Ethiopian music today. “Seeing its bad present situation, I thought that I should find a way to support and promote the best exceptions, and ethioSonic series is the solution I found,” he said. “As I don’t want to spend another ten years to establish the series through individual CDs, I have decided to release this large collection of 28 bands from 10 countries in order to show massively the evidence of Ethiopian music influence worldwide. I do intend to focus in the future on individual talents based in Ethiopia and the Diaspora, because there is more than one Ethiopian artist of international standard.”

The latest Ethiosonic album entitled “Noise and Chillout” is available for purchase here.

Click here to learn more about the éthiopiques and ethioSonic CD series.

Related:
Amha Eshete & Contribution of Amha Records to Modern Ethiopian Music

Video & Photos: Eskinder Nega Honored With Prestigious PEN Award

Eskinder Nega's wife Serkalem Fasil (pictured center) arrived in New York from Ethiopia just hours prior to the event on Tuesday May 1st, 2012, to accept the 26th "PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award" on her husband's behalf. (Photo by Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
BY Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Journalist and Blogger Eskinder Nega has been given Pen America’s prestigious “Freedom to Write” award. His wife Serkalem Fasil, herself a journalist who spent time in jail, received the award on his behalf. Below is a video coverage of the event.

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Photos: PEN Honors Eskinder Nega – His Wife Serkalem Fasil Accepts Award


Charlayne Hunter-Gault, former foreign correspondent for NPR and PBS, and Serkalem Fasil, Eskinder Nega’s wife, at PEN America’s annual gala dinner in New York on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega was honored Tuesday evening with PEN America’s prestigious “Freedom to Write” award at the literary organization’s annual gala dinner held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Eskinder’s wife Serkalem Fasil, who flew in from Ethiopia just hours prior to the event, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.

“I accept this award on behalf of Eskinder Nega at a time when freedom of expression and press freedom are at the lowest in Ethiopia,” Serkalem said. Herself a journalist, Serkalem gave birth to their son behind bars while serving a 17-month sentence that began in 2005. “If Eskinder were standing here, he’d accept this award not just as a personal honor, but on behalf of all Ethiopian journalists who toil under withering conditions today: those who went into exile over the years…those in prison with whom he now resides.”

The emotional ceremony was preceded with a short video about Eskinder Nega and his ongoing trial on terrorism charges in Ethiopia. PEN/America recognized Eskinder with the 26th PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award – a highly regarded accolade granted to international writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression. Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.

“The award started twenty-six years ago because we were losing people, they would disappear, they would be tortured and we would never know where they were,” Barbara Goldsmith, the benefactress of the award, told Tadias Magazine. “I and several other people decided that if we can turn a media spot light on people who are being arrested, maybe we can shame these nations into letting them out of jail.” She added: “We have been wildly successful. We have given 37 awards and of those awards 33 have gotten out.”

Ms. Goldsmith referred to Eskinder Nega and stated: “And in this case, that which is primary in our mind is to make sure that the international media pays attention; that’s why we made the movie and we hope it will work this time the way it has always worked.”

Serkalem told the audience that her husband is an advocate for press freedom. “Prison has been Eskinder’s home away from home for the past two decades,” she said. “He is persistent in demanding accountability and transparency in government. He is unflinching in demanding an end to corruption, but most of all he is a dedicated journalist.”

Here are photos from the 2012 PEN America’s Annual Gala dinner.

Photos: PEN America’s 2012 Annual Gala Dinner in New York Honors Eskinder Nega

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Related:
Imprisoned Ethiopian Journalist Is Honored With PEN Award (The New York Times)
Ethiopian journalist honored with PEN America ‘Freedom to Write’ award (The Washington Post)
Jailed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega honoured (BBC)
PEN Honors Jailed Ethiopian Journalist (Associated Press)

Interview with Atti Worku: Founder of Seeds of Africa Foundation

Atti Worku, Miss Ethiopia 2005, founded The Seeds of Africa Foundation six years ago. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In 2005, when Atti Worku, was named Miss Ethiopia, she used her newly found public-platform to start the non-profit ‘Seeds of Africa Foundation,’ which operates a center for education and community development in her hometown of Adama (Nazret) in Ethiopia.

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine, the founder and executive director said her New York-based organization began work in 2006 on what she calls the “Take-Root center,” a multi-faceted project that combines school for children and young adults with community development services, a prototype that the organization hopes to duplicate in other African countries.

“Our goal is to move beyond traditional aid models, providing more than just short-term relief efforts by giving our community the skills they need to support themselves and rise above poverty,” Atti Worku said. “Unequal childhoods can lead to exponentially more inequality in adult life.”

Atti is now a student attending Columbia University and shared her thoughts on education with Tadias. “By educating our children and providing the resources, we can combat the initial inequalities stemming from a vicious cycle of poverty, ensuring that the next generation will reach their full potential as leaders, educators, athletes, actors, musicians, and artists,” She says. “At this point in time, Seeds of Africa’s programming includes supplementary educational and tutorial services for students enrolled in local schools, as well as a full time curriculum for pre-kindergarden students. We also offer adult education classes and community development seminars and support.”

Atti was born and raised in Adama as the youngest sibling in her family and attended St. Joseph’s school in Adama from kindergarten to twelfth grade. After graduating from high school she moved to Addis Ababa where she attended HiLCoE school of computer science and technology. “After college I began my career as a model, traveling internationally, and ultimately moving to the U.S., where I am studying Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York,” she said.

According to Atti, her inspiration to create Seeds of Africa came at a very young age. “When I was in middle school, I became distinctly aware that my peers and I who were fortunate enough to attend St. Joseph’s performed well in school largely because of the individual attention we received and the resources we had available to to us – a library, science lab and computer lab,” she said. “In addition, our school, as well as our parents, set high expectations of us and supported our academic goals.” She added: “In contrast, the public school system lacked the necessary tools and had high teacher to student ratios, which often resulted in lower expectations of student performance. As a result, children who attended public schools struggled to perform and at times dropped out.”

Atti said her organization works with children ages 5 through 15, as well as with their families. “Seeds of Africa has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few years,” she said. “Major accomplishments have included expansion to a new center which has enabled us to double our student body and welcome our first full-time pre-k class.”

The community development side of the organization has also been flourishing. “In the past year, we have been excited and honored to work with such partners as Canadian-based Working to Empower and the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE),” she shared. “We are also thrilled to now offer adult literacy courses with access to our new library, courtesy of a U.S. based partner Hawthrone Elementary.”


Photo courtesy of Seeds of Africa Foundation.


Photo courtesy of Seeds of Africa Foundation.
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You can learn more about Seeds of Africa at www.seedsofafrica.org.

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Birtukan Midekssa

Birtukan Midekssa is currently the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Friday, March 30, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – We conclude this year’s Women’s History Month series with a Q & A with political leader, human rights activist, and former judge Birtukan Midekssa who joined the Ethiopian Diaspora community in the United States last year. She is currently a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C., which is supported by The National Endowment for Democracy. The program offers a select group of global leaders with a scholarly environment to reflect on their experiences, conduct research, write, consider best practices and lessons learned, and develop worldwide professional networks.

Prior to her arrival in the United States, Birtukan, who is a mother of a young daughter, had been twice imprisoned as leader of an opposition party in Ethiopia that won more than one-third of the seats during the 2005 elections. On January 6th, 2012 Birtukan spoke at the memorial tribute for Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic who was also a playwright and poet, and recalled her imprisonment experience. Of the first 21 months behind bars following the 2005 elections Birtukan stated: “though going to prison despite not committing a criminal offense is a painful experience of every political prisoner, the pain didn’t make us weaker.” However, she described her second imprisonment for 19 months in solitary confinement as being “alone in every sense of the term.” Birtukan was released in October 2010. She noted: “coincidentally Aung San Syu Ki and I were released just days apart from each other. However, unlike her I found my party weakened when I went out. After all the pain that was inflicted on me and my dear ones, I had to ask myself if the struggle was worth it.”

At Vaclav Havel’s memorial tribute Birtukan referred to a book authored by Havel and acknowledged, “the truth illustrated in The Power of the Powerless has always preserved my fervent dedication for the cause of free and dignified human life.” She added: “So we should be vigilant and remind ourselves that the power of the powerless is directly correlated with features like friendship, compassion, forgiveness, and humility which might seem weak and meek rather than vanity, hate, and anger. Only the politics of the heart, which bases itself with capacities of love, friendship, solidarity, sympathy and tolerance are worthy of hardship.”

Birtukan Midekssa is the most prominent Ethiopian female political leader of our generation. Below is our Q & A with her:

TADIAS: As a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy you have spoken about pathways to peace in the Horn of Africa. Can you share more about your current work? What do you enjoy most about it?

Birtukan Midekssa: As a Regan Fascel Democracy fellow, I am primarily engaged in an academic exploration focusing on the basic challenges of democratization in our country Ethiopia. The program gave me an opportunity to reflect on the issues and analyze the root causes underpinning the core political problems of the country.

The National Endowment for Democracy is a venue where political activists from across the globe come together to exchange views and experiences. What is so fascinating in my stay here has been observing the similarity in the challenges that citizens across borders have to overcome to realize their aspirations for free and dignified life. Yet, this comparative examination also helps one to realize that this noble cause eventually triumphs. That in turn is inspiring. Besides, as a fellow based in Washington, DC, I have lots of opportunities to shed light on the plight inflicted on my fellow Ethiopians by an authoritarian and unaccountable regime ruling the country.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

BM: One might say she was from the world of legend and myth. But, the heartfelt desire of the Queen of Sheba to acquire the wisdom and art of governance is celebrated by both major religions in our country. I am fascinated by her story, a story that is perhaps one of the most ancient ones showing a woman who did not consider her femininity as an inhibition for achieving something great and worthwhile.

Of course, there are lots of contemporary women, both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian whose life is inspiring. I have, however, to single out Aung San Suu Kyi as one whose life has immensely influenced mine. Her courage, her moral integrity and her rigorous adherence and commitment to non-violence are unique in the stage of world politics. This woman who looks weak and frail, who has nothing to do with anger or malice, and who is often low-key and modest has exerted such a huge influence on world leaders, policy makers and more importantly millions of fellow humans including her countrymen and countrywomen. She showed fearlessness without foregoing her humility. She defied the rulers in the Military Junta of Burma without becoming hateful towards them. She is my icon who always affirms to me that it is possible to advance politics guided by moral principles based on respect and love for humanity.

TADIAS: What are some ways you have personally chosen to overcome the hurdles that you have faced both as a woman and as a leader in law & politics?

BM: What helps me most to survive the hurdles I faced is the depth and intensity of the ideal and vision I have with regard to the worth and dignity of the individual citizen and the way our society should be organized based on this universal ideal of human rights and the rule of law. My belief and conviction that we can and should change the status quo, though it appears to be daunting, has kept me going. And my trust in the power of the individual to bring about change enables me to consider the price I paid as a sacrifice made for a worthy causes and purpose.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

BM: I would like to remind young women that public service or political engagement is not a domain exclusively reserved for men. In fact, I don’t think we can truly succeed in transforming the political system into a system which incorporates equality and fairness at its epicenter, unless Ethiopian young women are determined to contribute something significant to the process.

So I would like to encourage our young women to dream a future for our nation with a dignified and flourishing life for all citizens. And it’s important to believe in the ability of everyone of us to champion change. It is obvious the public discourse and the political process of our country is complex and traversing through it is an uphill journey. But if we stay committed and if we focus on the things we can offer and the societal issues we can be engaged in, all of us can play a role to lead our country towards freedom and democracy eventually.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

BM: I was born and brought up in the Ferensay Legacion neighborhood of Addis Ababa. I went to a public mid school called Miazia 23 and Yekatit 12 (Menen) for my elementary and high school education respectively. And I graduated from Addis Ababa University with a degree in law. I believe my passion for politics has a strong correlation with the fact that I was brought up in a community whose members are strongly committed to maintaining healthy social relations and to looking after the well-being of individual members. My training as a lawyer later on gave me some coherent narrative and vision for this aspiration of mine.

TADIAS: What would like to share on Women’s History Month with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?

BM: I think we need to celebrate our unsung Ethiopian heroines who really made it in every realm of life. From the queens and wives and mothers of kings who take part in leadership to promote peace and security, to women advocates of change in Ethiopian popular revolution who paid dearly as equal with their male partners deserve our respect and commemoration for what they did and attempted to achieve in securing better societal destiny for our nation.

Most importantly, we should cherish and recognize the Ethiopian mothers and wives who bear tremendous burden and tirelessly struggle amidst challenges of impoverishment to feed their family, and to send their kids to school to get an education that perhaps they never had an opportunity to access themselves.

TADIAS: Thank you and happy Women’s History Month from all of us at Tadias.
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Click here to watch Birtukan Midekssa’s tribute to Vaclav Havel.

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Author Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

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Sundance Institute East Africa Presents Reading by Meaza Worku Berehanu

Sundance Institute East Africa is hosting a reading of Meaza Worku's play called "Desperate to Fight" in New York on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at Baryshnikov Art Center. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk | Events News

Updated: Saturday, March 10, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – A new comedy-drama by Meaza Worku Berehanu, an emerging Ethiopian playwright from Addis Ababa, offers a witty, sophisticated, and paradoxical story about relationships, love, and marriage, from the heart of the gender struggles in contemporary Addis Ababa. In Meaza’s play entitled Desperate to Fight the main character is a single woman named Martha who has been divorced three times, and now she contemplates if she should tie the knot for the fourth time. Tormented by the sounds of a newly and seemingly happily-wedded couple living next door, Martha wrestles with her past and the memories of her former husbands.

“She is a woman of principle who believes a life in black and white,” Meaza told Tadias Magazine in a recent interview. “In the story we see her mother try to fix her up with a widower who is intending to be a fourth husband.”

She added: “The mother also tries to caution her about the biological clock so that she gives it a try for a child. The character is challenged by the expectation of family and individual belief. It is a play about perusing love and happiness in life.”

Sundance Institute East Africa is hosting a reading of Desperate to Fight on Wednesday, March 14 at Baryshnikov Art Center in Manhattan. The program supports the work of stage-artists in East Africa by creating exchange and exposure opportunities between U.S. and East African writers, directors, and performers. Meaza ‘s invitation to NYC is a continuation of the Institute’s Eastern Africa region Theatre lab. Her play was among four that were selected after a competition for playwrights in six East African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda .

“Since I was a child I have had a very encouraging environment to express myself and dramatize them,” Meaza said. “I love reading, listening to people, and radio and watching movies and all these were inspirations to me to love and work on plays and drama.” She shared: “After college I started to write short stories for radio, and then I discovered I have a big inclination for writing.”

The mother of two was born in Asmara in 1978. “When I was a one month baby my family moved to Addis Ababa,” she told us. “I grew up in Addis and I still live in Addis.” She said: “I went to a public school for primary and secondary education. Then I joined Addis Ababa University and got my Bachelors degree in Theatre Arts in the year 2000. For the past ten years I have been involved in theatre, television and radio drama production as a writer and director. I am married and have two children.”

Desperate to Fight has also been selected for the International Women Play-writers Conference that will be held in Stockholm, Sweden this coming August .

“I am very honored and pleased to have all these opportunities, to meet people like you and share,” Meaza said.

If You Go:
Wednesday, March 14 at 7:00pm
Baryshnikov Art Center
450 West 37th St (btw 9th/10th Ave), Studio 4A

RSVP at theatre@sundance.org with your full name by Monday, March 12. For more information about Sundance Institute East Africa, visit www.sundance.org.

A Conversation With Elias Negash About His New CD “Jazzed Up”

Elias Negash, second from left, is the leader of Retroz Band - a jazz ensemble based in the Bay Area. Members of the group, left to right, are: Anthony Lincoln, Lead vocals & Tenor Sax, Elias Negash, Piano, Keyboards & Vocals, Louie Moon Robinson, L & R. Guitar & Vocals, Mark Williams, Up.& E. Bass, Bob Marshall, Drums. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk | By Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The latest CD by California-based musician Elias Negash, whose songwriting combines Ethiopian music with international influences, is entitled Jazzed Up. “It is a reflection of the various dynamic genres incorporated into the music,” Elias said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “Ethio-smooth is included along with R&B, Reggae and Salsa.” He added: ” In so doing, the music has been refreshed and jazzed up. On this CD I am using musicians that are very good friends of mine. The five-piece group have played varying styles of music in the past, but currently we are focusing on a fusion of Jazz, Ethio- Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and other world music. These are the musicians I will be traveling with for years to come. We are called the ‘The Retroz Band.’”

Elias, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the United States in 1971, has a long resume in the music industry. He was one of the pioneering figures in the Reggae and African music scenes in Northern California during the 1970s. He performed with groups such as Obeah, Axum, Caribbean All Stars and the Rastafarians. After a brief stint in Los Angeles working on the Royal Princess Cruise ship in the 1980s, Elias appeared on a sound track for the television movie Glitz and also performed in the TV series Murder She Wrote.

Elias now owns and operates SophEl Recordings, a music studio located in Oakland Hills, California that opened in September 2000. He says he enjoys spending time in this quite, residential neighborhood. “I often work with fellow music producer Gordon Brislawn, who was iTunes’ first call for 42 of iTunes front-page exclusives,” he said. “We have all the latest equipments to make any music project number one.”


Elias Negash at a recording session in Berkeley, CA. (Courtesy photo)

Regarding his childhood in Ethiopia Elias said: “I was born in Addis Ababa and grew up in a very big house in ‘Riche’ on the road to Debre Zeit. The house belonged to my grandfather. A couple of years before St. Joseph school was established I went to German School – Deutsche Schule – kindergarten in Addis Ababa for a year, then to Nativity Catholic Cathedral School for my first grade. And when St. Joseph school opened in 1960, I was transferred to second grade to persue my elementary and high school education.”

After completing high school Elias moved to New York with his uncle who was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Living in upstate New York for almost two years at a young age was a very cold experience,” he said. “My brother was living in Northern California at the time, and so he would tell me how the weather was so similar to our motherland. That really convinced me to move to California.”

Discussing his favorite musicians, Elias said his musical taste and influences are wide-ranging. “As far as Ethiopian musicians are concerned I like Mulatu Astatke for being the father of Ethio Jazz,” he said. “And Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru’s Classic piano solo album. Among male vocalists I listen to Tilahun Gessesse, Mahamoud Ahmed and Girma Beyene.” He continued: “Non-Ethiopians would be Ray Charles, Bob Marley, pianist Ramsey Lewis Ahmad Jamal, Booker T & The MG’s, Bill Evens, Jimmy Smith, Earl Garner and Oscar Peterson.”

Returning to the topic of his latest album “it reflects an experience of dialing up any baseline to a positive atmosphere,” Elias said. “It is my hope that listeners feel jazzed up.”

You can learn more about the artist at www.eliasnegash.com.
To listen to and order the CD visit: www.cdbaby.com.

Q & A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers

Elias Wondimu, Publisher & Editorial Director of Tsehai Publishers, at his office at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. (Photo credit: Missha Scott)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In sixth century Ireland, a king was asked to adjudicate one of the world’s earliest legal cases concerning book piracy. A monk named St. Columba had admitted copying by hand, apparently without permission, a manuscript that belonged to another writer. The original author accused St. Columba of theft and illegal copying, arguing that the book was his brainchild. In his famous ruling against the pirate-monk, the king pronounced: “To every cow belongs her calf, to every book belongs its copy.” In other words, only the publisher has the legal right to control its intellectual property.

This brings us to the modern day piracy of Mengistu Hailemariam’s memoir that was recently scanned and distributed without authorization from the book’s copyright holder Tsehai Publishers. Unlike St. Columba, however, the responsibile party in the Mengistu case remains, at least for now, faceless behind the computer screen, and communicates only via a website based in Europe. The copyright infringers claim justification under the “Son of Sam Law,” an American law designed to prevent criminals from profiting from the publicity of their crimes.

We recently spoke to Elias Wondimu, Publisher & Editorial Director of Tsehai Publishers about the controversy.

TADIAS: Thank you Elias for your time. Please tell us about the recent unauthorized distribution of Tsehai Publishers’ Mengistu Hailemariam’s memoir. What exactly happened?

Elias Wondimu: On Jan. 14th, Debteraw, an EPRP affiliated website based in the UK along with Finot Radio, scanned the book and distributed it for free on the Internet. The group explicitly stated that their actions were in protest of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam’s book. This was done maliciously, attempting to punish the publisher for daring to produce the book. They also hoped to discourage us from publishing future books by Col. Mengistu or similar authors that they don’t agree with.

In “About us” section of their website, it states that they are “campaigning” for “free and independent media.” But, their recent actions have shown the hypocrisy of their claims. By trying to silence me as a publisher, they violated all notions of freedom of press and freedom of expression. Apparently, for this sect of the EPRP, “free and independent media” refers only to publications that align with their own views.

TADIAS: Where were you when you first learned of this? How did you feel?

EW: When I first heard the news, I was in my office working on our next book, a memoir by Rita and Richard Pankhurst, which was to be released next month. Since we’re in the final stages of editing, I was working late on a Friday night. At 9:00pm I received a phone call from a friend. He asked me in a distressed voice if I knew what had happened. When I said that I didn’t, he directed me to the website, where I saw the article. I clicked on the link and saw the entire book I had worked so hard on download onto my computer. At first I thought it was just a prank or some sort of a bad joke and didn’t take it seriously. I couldn’t even fathom something like that being done.

The first thing I did was to see if there was any altered content in the scanned file. I noticed that, while it contained all the front matter such as the contents, copyright page, and publisher’s note, I noticed that six pages at the end had been removed. These pages contained our best books that we thought that our readers should know and other upcoming Tsehai Publishers books. Even now, I am still puzzled why they did this.

Thinking they will take it down when they realized what they have done, so I didn’t do anything. But, when Monday came around I realized the gravity of the situation, and that I would have to take legal action. There are no words to describe the frustration I felt. After working so hard and devoting my life to the cause of freedom of press in Ethiopia and around the world, I could not imagine that something so devastating could happen. But, although I was discouraged and angry, I knew that I had to keep fighting for what I believed in.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about the book. How did you obtain the content?

EW: It has now been almost seven years since I was introduced to Col. Mengistu. Since I received the first manuscript, my staff and I have worked tirelessly to bring the book to press, preserving the highest quality of publication that is accustomed with Tsehai. As I wrote in the Publisher’s Note, this book is the first time in our long history that an Ethiopian leader has written a book, sharing his experiences after leaving office. Even though Emperor Haile Selassie was the first to write a two-volume political memoir while in power, throughout Ethiopian history, none of our leaders lived longer to tell us their experiences and challenges while ruling the country. However, we have had many chronicles, most of these were written much later on by people who had a political bias either for or against them.

This book gives us an unparalleled window into how the government was run. It also presents some of the major issues in our history, such as how the Derg was formed, and how some of the major governmental decisions were made, how the Somali war was started, and Ethiopia’s victory came about. Despite what others or even I might think about Col. Mengistu himself, I am proud to give the first unadulterated first-hand account from an Ethiopian leader. The publication of this book is a historical moment, and I wholeheartedly stand behind its publication.

TADIAS: Debteraw.com has issued the following comments in justifying their actions: “Mass murderer and brutal dictator Mengsitu Haile Mariam (exiled in Harare, Zimbabwe) has written a 500+ pages book that has been published by Tsehai Publisher[s] of Los Angeles. This mass murderer has not yet atoned or paid for his horrendous crimes and the mass killings of the Red Terror. He now hopes to benefit from the sale of his book of lies. We strongly feel that this criminal should be tried before a court of law and should be hindered from benefiting from his crime. Thus, we have published the book in PDF and we are posting it for free usage of all interested readers.” They also say that they are legally justified. What is your response and what steps are you currently taking to halt the piracy?

EW: Professional publishers publish books coming from various political and ideological quarters and by people who have been involved in all kinds of activities. This does not mean publishers agree with the contents of the book they publish. Publishers are not politicians or judges. They are not agents of censorship. They believe in freedom of expression, in the intelligence of the reading public, its capacity to separate the wheat from the chaff and to make informed judgments. This is precisely the perspective of Tsehai publishers also.

The claim “that they are legally justified” is a false one. There is no law that permits the violation of copyright laws. In fact, what they did is nothing less than a blatant violation of internationally accepted copyright laws.

Currently, we have retained a law firm known for its intellectual property law, including copyright and book publishing works. Our attorney, Steven Rohde, is the Past President of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and vice president of PEN USA. Among many accomplishments, representing a different client a few years ago, Mr. Rohde personally took the California Son of Sam Law to the California Supreme Court and the law was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment protection for free speech and free press. So, Debteraw and its associates have seriously misunderstood the nature of the Son of Sam Laws and their legal status.

TADIAS: We also understand that this is Tsehai Publishers’ 10th year anniversary. Congratulations. Do you have any plans for the anniversary?

Thank you! Even though Tsehai was started couple of years earlier, it was ten years ago this time that I dedicated my full time attention into it. So we are very excited to celebrate a decade at Tsehai.

To celebrate the anniversary, we decided last year to publish a book every month in 2012. Because of the recent events, we were forced to postpone the publication of our first book this month. But we are determined not to let the unfortunate circumstances hold us back any more than this. We plan to get back on track and plan to release a book every month from February on.

We are also planning to host public events in selected cities in the coming months. If your readers would like to be informed or to get involved, we highly encourage them to visit and Like us at our Facebook page.

TADIAS: Please tell us briefly about Tsehai Publishers’ inception and key works in the past ten years.

Living in Los Angles in the mid 1990s, I noticed a major void in the publishing field on the subject of Ethiopia. Hardly any literature was available on Ethiopia, and what was there was seriously incomplete and flawed. I was tired of waiting for change to happen, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I founded Tsehai in 1997 with just this aim. Tsehai was named after and dedicated to my mother who had passed away the same year. In 2001, I left a job at UCLA and began running Tsehai full time. Since then Tsehai has published over 60 books, started three academic journals, and founded three imprints—African Academic Press, Marymount Institute Press and Chereka Books.

Over the years we have published many books that I am very proud of, one of which is The Conquest of Abyssinia. In the current religious and social climate in the world, Ethiopia is at the crossroad of fundamentalism, and has experienced it all. This book gives the first hand account of what happened during the tumultuous religious conflict in Ethiopia. Another notable book is Ethiopia and Eritrea, which was published originally in 1952. The book documents the struggle between the Unionists and Separatists in Eritrea. Currently, situations in Eritrea are not going well. Although the areas are separated politically, people are beginning to understand that they need a common ground. Because of the Separatists hold a monopoly over the literature available, the young Eritreans are not able to access information about their grandfather’s struggle to reunite with Ethiopia. This book is our contribution to the people of Eritrea, giving them back a piece of their lost history. Finally, our book The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews addresses the ever-increasing number of Ethiopian Jews that now live in Israel. The book documents their incredibly complex history, from a captivating Ethiopian perspective. Similarly, all our books are selected and published to address issues that are affect our understanding and engagements among ourselves today.

TADIAS: What about the various journals you have started. What inspired them?

EW: Early in 2000, I was working at UCLA for Azlan a journal of Chicano Studies. The journal had been founded 30 years ago by Chicano students who were looked down on because of their Mexican heritage. These students realized that if there was to be any hope for their own academic future and next generations, they would need a forum for Chicanos to publish, which was non-existent at the time. The journal is now a major international academic platform and most scholars who published in it are leading figures in the field internationally. This story inspired me to do the same for Ethiopian Studies, which was just as lacking on the market. Except the one at Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, all the scholarship on Ethiopia was produced by European and American institutions. This was the impetus to begin the academic journals at Tsehai.

Our first journal was the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies (IJES), which is now currently available on JSTOR. IJES was the first academic journal to be started by an Ethiopian institution outside of Ethiopia. With the help of leading scholars in the field, we created a nurturing environment where academicians could publish scholarly theoretical and empirical papers and their research findings on Ethiopian social, political, economic, cultural and historical issues.

Our second journal is the Ethiopian Journal of Religious Studies (EJRS), which tackles the complex religious climate of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the home of the major religions in the world, but there was previously no forum where we can study or document its development. EJRS is the first religious Ethiopian journal, and is breaking new ground on this fascinating subject.

Our most recent journal is Ethiorica, which combines the words “Ethiopia” and “America” or “Africa.” Although Ethiopia has a very long and rich literary culture, there is currently no platform for burgeoning writers to show their talent. Because of this, there is no stimulating forum for inspiring and promoting Ethiopian literature, particularly among the youth. Ethiorica was our way of addressing this issue. The journal gives a platform for the best new writers to showcase their writing.

TADIAS: We know that you are also in the process of launching a children book series, tell us about it?

EW: We created an imprint called Chereka Books and it is dedicated to bringing accessible, joyful, and child-friendly illustrated books to children and young readers. These books are intended to entertain, inspire, and educate the children their culture and history. Currently, we have about twenty books in different stages of development and we will announce the details soon. In the mean time, you can be sure that the stories, illustration and production of the books will be as good or better than the many books that we have produced in the past.

TADIAS: Please share with us about yourself as well (where you grew up, how you developed your passion for publishing)

EW: I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. Although I had originally planned to pursue a career in medicine, I gave up that path and resolved to become a journalist. I believed that this would enable me to make the greatest difference for my country and in the world.

In September 1994, I left Addis to participate in the Twelfth International Ethiopian Studies conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing. But, my three-week travel plans became indefinite when the government clamped down on the press. Later that year, I joined the Ethiopian Review magazine in Los Angeles, serving as its editorial staff for the next six years. In these years, I got to work with many scholars, political activists and public intellectuals on issues of local and global interest.

As a journalist, I had fought for freedom of press and expression, and these experiences made me realize that I wanted to continue this through publishing. I cared deeply about Ethiopia, and wanted to make my contribution by publishing and distributing works of scholarship on Ethiopia by Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians throughout the world. After founding Tsehai, I realized how very rewarding the experience could be, and devoted myself fully to it. Today, with our three imprints, we publish a diverse list of books and journals, and we endeavor to encourage the acquisition of knowledge, and to bring quality and diversity to the publishing industry for many generations to come.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers that we have not asked you about?

EW: I would like to remind your readers of one fundamental issue. Circumstances in Ethiopia and elsewhere show how precious freedom of expression is. Without freedom of expression, there is no progress, no development, no democracy, and no vibrant culture. Ethiopia has lost many of her brilliant children because they stood up to defend freedom of expression. According to my humble opinion, it is our duty to struggle for freedom, equality, and justice to defend the freedom of expression of all Ethiopians, at home and in the Diaspora.

Last but not least, I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to the many who came out in our support, donated money, purchased books, called and emailed to show their solidarity. We are also grateful to the wonderful editors, authors, staff and interns who work so hard to contribute knowledge that heals our wounded souls. You all are our heroes, so thank you!
—–
Related:
Illegal PDF of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Memoir – By Donald N. Levine (TADIAS)
Ethiopia: Copyrights and CopyCrimes – By Alemayehu G Mariam (Ethio Media)
In defense of Tsehai Publishers – By Fikre Tolossa (Ethiopian Review)

Interview with Rev. Richards, President of the Abyssinian Fund

The Abyssinian Fund is the only non-governmental organization operating in Ethiopia founded by an African-American church. (Photo courtesy of the The Abyssinian Fund)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Saturday, January 21, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As part of their bicentennial celebration, Harlem-based Abyssinian Baptist Church organized a historic first trip to Ethiopia in 2007 with more than 150 members. Their visit coincided with celebrations for the Ethiopian Millennium. Upon return, the church created a non-profit organization called The Abyssinian Fund (TAF) that is dedicated to sustainable development projects in Africa.

Today TAF is a partner with a co-op of 900 farmers in Ethiopia, assisting them with production of premium coffee for export. “We work with the farmers by helping them grow higher quality coffee beans so they can reinvest in their communities,” Reverend Nicholas S. Richards, President of the Abyssinian Fund, said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “The farmers work with our field director Zerihun Tessema Fanta and field coordinator Demeke Hailu, who are based in Chaffee Jenette.” He added: “Together, our staff has over 40 years of expert coffee experience and agronomy training. We hire experts who introduce farmers to modern equipment, coffee nurseries and innovative techniques to produce better coffee.”

TAF is the only non-governmental organization operating in Ethiopia founded by an African-American church. And according to Rev. Richards, the NGO is making an impact not only in Ethiopia but also here in Harlem. “The Abyssinian Fund was born after a life-changing trip to Africa,” he said. “I became convinced that black people in America had to reconnect culturally and economically with Africa.”

Rev. Richards has made several trips to Ethiopia in the last couple of years. “Ethiopia means so much to me,” he said. “While I love how cosmopolitan and hip Addis has become, I continue to enjoy the rural experience of Harrar. I enjoy driving for long stretches in Harrar, where the scenery is filled with green plains and cattle grazing in small ponds.” He added: “It’s a great way to clear my head of all the stresses of living in New York.”

(Rev. Nicholas Stuart Richards – courtesy photo)

Reflecting on memorable moments that he spent in Ethiopia, Rev. Richards said: “On my first trip to a village I camped on the floor of the local school so we could conduct a research study. I’m an adventurous eater but village cooking is something else. I had to purchase two goats and oversee the slaughter for a week’s worth of tibs. Good times! Television depicts Africa as a place of poverty with desperate and warring people. This is not true. One visit to Ethiopia proves that.”

Rev. Richards pointed out that TAF has rekindled a long but dormant relationship between Ethiopia and the African-American church. “The Church was founded by a group of Ethiopian sea merchants and African Americans more than 200 years ago,” he said. “During this time, when church seating was segregated, the group decided to take a stand and start their own church.” He added: “The name, Abyssinian, is a sign of respect for those pioneering founders. The members officially organized to become The Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York, the oldest African-American Baptist church in New York State.”

How can the Ethiopian-American community get involved with the fund’s projects? “The Abyssinian Fund needs your partnership,” Rev. Richards said. “Ethiopian culture is so vibrant and there is a huge presence here in America. It would only make sense for all of us to get together and have a discussion about the needs of Ethiopia and how we can address them. Who better to speak on Ethiopia than those who have a personal connection with the country.”

As TAF continues to grow and expand it is also paying tribute to the diverse cultures in Harlem and finding ways to give back to a neighborhood that continually supports the church’s movement. TAF has created partnerships with approximately 17 local businesses in New York and 10% of every purchase goes to supporting the mission of The Abyssinian Fund.

Slideshow of photos courtesy of the The Abyssinian Fund:

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You can learn more about The Abyssinian Fund at www.abyfund.org.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Photographer Gediyon Kifle

The crowd at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C on Sunday, January 15, 2012. (Photo by Gediyon Kifle)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, January 16, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – This year marks the first MLK day celebration since the unveiling of the new memorial at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

We followed up with photographer Gediyon Kifle who has been documenting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial project for over a decade.

“I have worked on the project for 12 years photographing everything from the design competition to the dedication by President Obama,” Gediyon told TADIAS in a recent interview. “I was initially hired to document the submitted design competitions — that’s how my relationship with the foundation started.” Gediyon added: “It has been a great privilege to witness the process with my own eyes through three presidents including President Clinton and President Bush.”

The MLK memorial features a 30-foot granite sculpture, located near Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. It includes a crescent-shaped inscription wall containing 14 excerpts from some of Dr King’s most memorable speeches.

According to the park’s web site: “The memorial is envisioned as a quiet and receptive space, yet at the same time, powerful and emotionally evocative, reflecting the spirit of the message Dr. King delivered and the role he played in society.”

The monument has also been a point of controversy with conflict topics ranging from the memorial’s location at the National Mall and giving a Chinese sculptor the contract, to Dr. King’s facial expression as depicted on the statue. The most recent criticism came from author Maya Angelou who protested an inclusion of an incorrectly paraphrased quote, which the poet said makes the civil rights leader sound ‘arrogant.’ Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a change will be made regarding the latter complaint shortly.

(Photo of Gediyon Kifle by David Sharp)

For Gediyon the most memorable moments were photographing the people who had either known Dr. King or were inspired by him. “Congressman John Lewis specifically,” he said, referring to the civil rights legend from Atlanta, Georgia. “Every time he speaks it feels like you are in that zone, at that moment, he has a way of expressing and talking about it and it feels like he is speaking about an incident that happened yesterday.” He added other figures: “People like Jesse Jackson who was there with him, and Ambassador Andrew Young. And there is the family, his children, his sister, and his wife before she passed away, hearing them speak and photographing them gives you a sense of closeness to his legacy.”

“I have tremendous respect and admiration for the people who made this happen,” Gediyon said. “A small group of them, they raised 120 million dollars, and built a memorial for a peacemaker placed near presidents and military heroes. That’s a big accomplishment that some thought would never materialize.”

Gediyon was born in Ethiopia and came to the United States with his family when he was 10 years old. “Ever since then I have pretty much lived on the East Coast. I attended East Tennnessee State University and studied Mass communication. I did not study photography,” he said. “But I paid my way by doing photography work. It all began with my mother giving me a Canon camera when I was ten years old. I give my mother credit for giving me my first toy. There has never been a dull moment since then.”

Regarding his experience with the MLK project, Gediyon said: “When you take a break and think about it, the historical magnitude of the work kind of jolts you. I mean an ordinary man being honored with a memorial between Lincoln and Jefferson. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine being in his skin, a person who was being poked from every side. And he was saying ‘be patient.’ He was 39 years old when he died. He was ahead of his time!”

Below is a slideshow of recent photos of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial courtesy of Gediyon Kifle.

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Related:
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King: Photographer captures the memorial (The Washington Times)

Video: Meet Ethiopian Model & Social Activist Gelila Bekele

Gelila Bekele, 26, is an Ethiopian model, humanitarian and social activist. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – In a video interview Ethiopian-born Model and Social Activist Gelila Bekele recently discussed her career and humanitarian projects with Tadias Magazine.

Gelila is currently signed with Ford Models, appearing in ads for Levi’s, Pantene, L’Oreal and Colgate as well as being featured in various fashion magazines including Essence, Marie Claire, and Allure.

“I couldn’t take credit for being good at modeling, but of course you have to be a business woman to have longevity,” Gelila said, speaking about her modeling work. “It’s one of those situations where you say to yourself I have not changed but I am not the same.”

Regarding her humanitarian projects Gelila focuses on access to clean water, food, and education. “Those are the three things for me that are important as a human being,” she said. “Life is a perspective, but for me if a child…has basic access to clean water, food and school and proper health care, it’s one of those situations where you are not creating for people to wait for foreign aid.”

Watch Tigist Selam’s Interview with Model Gelila Bekele

Taste of Ethiopia Introduces Organic, Packaged Ethiopian Food in Markets

Hiyaw Gebreyohannes (center), owner of Taste of Ethiopia, with his mom (left) and his aunt (right). (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Friday, December 9, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – We recently spotted a selection of ready-made Ethiopian vegetarian food at a natural food market in midtown Manhattan and learned of Hiyaw Gebreyohannes’ Taste of Ethiopia brand. The organic misir wot, cabbage and greens, along with gluten-free injera is now available at grocery chains such as Fairway as well as in food co-ops and smaller markets.

Hiyaw was born in Djibouti. His parents walked for 17 days before crossing from Ethiopia into Djibouti, and they stayed there till Hiyaw turned one-year-old. In the 1980s his family moved to Toronto, Canada and eventually opened two Ethiopian restaurants — Blue Nile and King Solomon. Hiyaw says he literally grew up in the kitchen.

“There were hardly any Abesha people in Toronto in the 1980s and I spent many nights at our restaurant with the family,” he said. “There even was a bed in the large coat check room, and another bed at the back of the bar. I spent a lot of time at the restaurant and grew up around Abesha food.”

When Hiyaw’s mom moved to Michigan and opened two restaurants there, Hiyaw ran and operated an African fusion restaurant called Zereoue in New York. He then took a year off to travel, going twice to Ethiopia before experimenting with packaging Ethiopian food in Michigan.

“I knew that I wanted to focus on Ethiopian food, and I knew I didn’t want to work in another restaurant,” he told us. When the packaged food venture succeeded in Michigan he told himself it was a no-brainer to introduce the concept in New York.

Taste of Ethiopia currently offers vegetarian Ethiopian cuisine. The organic cabbage, carrot, and collard greens are sourced locally from farms in upstate New York while Ethiopian spices such as Berbere are imported from Ethiopia.

“I’ve tried to stay as close to my mom’s recipes, and not to lose the flavors of the cuisine,” Hiyaw pointed out. “But I’m also focused on using the freshest ingredients.”

Hiyaw would like his brand to be more than just the sharing of ready-made Ethiopian food. “A big part of why I did this includes the fact that as Americans we don’t eat well,” he noted. “It’s such an irony that Ethiopia is not known for food. Ethiopian food is nutritious and healthy.”

When thinking of how to grow his business, Hiyaw not only looks at being able to have Taste of Ethiopia products on Whole Foods shelves, but also to encourage school boards to be part of the initiative of getting healthy food into schools. He mentions that his goals are reflective of national health promotion campaigns such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity ‘Let’s Move’ program.

“With Taste of Ethiopia,” Hiyaw said, “we’re also talking about a social aspect, of changing how we eat to a more healthier alternative.” Hiyaw is also looking to hire within the community as his business grows.


Hiyaw Gebreyohannes. (Courtesy photo)


Taste of Ethiopia on display at a market. (Courtesy photo)


The Taste of Ethiopia brand. (Courtesy photo)

Describing the competition in the food packaging industry Hiyaw admitted, “It’s definitely hard. It’s not just about cooking the food. If you don’t have the right labels, right look, right marketing, if it’s not on the right shelves then it doesn’t really matter what you have inside the container, no one would try your food.” Having said that, however, he knows that the market is large and there is space to work hard, make good connections with buyers, and succeed immensely.

Hiyaw mentioned Cafe Spice (distributors of packaged Indian food) as a model success story. “They started from being a mom-and-pop restaurant in New York and became a $100 million business operating out of a 60,000 square foot state-of-the-art kitchen and distributing their products across the nation,” he said. “I’m only in the beginning stages, but I look at businesses such as Cafe Spice when I’m working to expand my business.”

In terms of mentors Hiyaw feels blessed to have learned from his mom and family. “I have so many wonderful women in my life — mom, aunt, sisters,” he shared. One doesn’t usually find too many Abesha men in the kitchen environment, but he says his mother was instrumental in making him feel comfortable and teaching him how to cook Ethiopian food. “I don’t only cook Ethiopian, I also do a lot of traveling and I try cooking food from different regions. All this comes from being comfortable in the kitchen.” As far packaging Ethiopian food in particular, Hiyaw said: “I’m going to venture out there and say that I think I’m the only person doing this. For this avenue I don’t necessarily have someone that I can look up to.”

Grocery chains and natural food stores have been interested in selling Taste of Ethiopia products and Hiyaw is careful about his limitations when it comes to distribution.

“There are challenges in negotiations and making sure that you’re not over-scaling what you can do,” he said. “Sometimes people are afraid that if they don’t say ‘yes’ they may lose the opportunity, but if you do say yes and then you don’t produce the amount agreed upon then you’ve closed the door completely.”

Right now Hiyaw wears many hats. “I’m owner and assistant and cook. It’s all about being humble, not being scared, and doing the hard work,” he told us. “I’ve learned this from my mom. She did everything — cooking, washing. She was the first one to get to the restaurant and the last one to leave. I’ve modeled my business after her restaurant.” Hiyaw’s brand is named after his mom’s restaurant in Michigan (also called Taste of Ethiopia) and whose motto is: “Be Authentic.”

Hiyaw also credits his mom’s entrepreneurial spirit for igniting the same passion in him. “I told my mom at age 10 or 11 that I’d never work for anybody, and I’ve had a few jobs, but never one that was 9 to 5,” he said. “So my mom plays a big role. All I’ve ever seen her do is her own business. Being right there at the table. It’s a great thing as an entrepreneur to sit at the table.”

Like any business Taste of Ethiopia also has its own set of challenges,but Hiyaw also sees the challenge as a moment of opportunity. “Rejection, failure — these things motivate me further. It’s thrilling to be able to watch problems and scenarios play out and then see the end results,” Hiyaw said. He is also heartened by the opportunity to share his work with the community. “When I get phone calls like this,” he added “it’s wonderful that someone wants to hear what my story is.”

Hiyaw also mentioned the recent cartoon episode featuring Ethopian cuisine. “Did you the see the Simpson’s episode? I am most proud that Abesha food can be shown in a different light. I grew up listening to Ethiopia being equated with famine, and being so self-conscious, I didn’t want to have the smell of spices from the restaurant on my jacket. I preferred french fries and hamburgers. Now that has changed.”

In addition to selling Taste of Ethiopia products Hiyaw also regularly organizes underground dinners, which consist of invite-only meals prepared and served at various non-restaurant locations. One theme, for example, was the communal table and the sharing of food from several African countries. Hiyaw sees this as an opportunity to get invited guests to open their senses and experience new food cultures. Hiyaw is also working on launching a food truck to further promote his business. “At the end of the day, it’s all about good food, great packaging, and hard work” he said.

Taste of Ethiopia products are currently available for purchase in the following New York locations: Fairway, Foragers Market, Park Slope Food Co-op, Westerly Market, Westside Market, Union Market (in Brooklyn), Integral Yoga Natural Food Store, and Blue Apron. Gourmet Garage and Dean & Deluca (on Spring St) will start carrying Taste of Ethiopia in the new year, with hopefully many more stores as well.

Tseday Alehegn is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (second from left) giving a workshop at a girls leadership camp for young, rural students in Ethiopia. She has been chosen as one of the 2012 NYC Venture Fellows. (Photo at Camp Glow. Courtesy of SoleRebels)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, December 9, 2011

New York (TADIAS) Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the NYC Venture Fellows program, designed to connect promising entrepreneurs from around the world with mentors and investors from leading companies. The fellowship encourages national and international start-ups to locate and grow their businesses in New York City. The class of 2012 includes Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the Founder & Managing Director of SoleRebels — a fair trade certified green footwear company based in Ethiopia.

Bethlehem, who was born and raised in one of Addis Ababa’s most impoverished neighborhoods (Zenabwok, Total area), established SoleRebels in 2005 hoping to increase employment in her community. SoleRebels has not only created hundreds of local jobs, but it has since become an internationally recognized eco-fashion brand.

“Bringing SoleRebels directly to consumers worldwide is an integral part of our revenue and brand growth strategy,” Bethlehem said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “With our unique focus on eco-sensible, recycled products as well as cultural artisan crafting, we feel strongly that it will excite footwear customers globally for a long time to come.”

The SoleRebels brand is offered online through both Amazon and Endless.com, as well as through the company’s own e-commerce website. Its products are also sold via brick-and-mortar locations like Urban Outfitters, a boutique in Addis, and a shared retail space in Asia. “We have implemented franchise agreements in Taiwan that opened two weeks ago,” Bethlehem said. “And we have franchise proposals for Australia, Italy, Canada, Israel, Spain, Japan and the United States.”

Bethlehem estimates the retail roll-out will generate over $10 million in revenue by 2016. “We feel strongly that people all over the planet want comfy, stylish and unique value priced footwear” she said.

What makes SoleRebels unique? “In three words: authenticity, style and value,” Bethlehem told us. “At our core we are artisans who aim to create the coolest and most comfortable footwear. We do this by combining our heritage with modern design sensibilities.”

SoleRebels shoes are made by hand using indigenous practices such as hand-spun organic cotton and artisan hand-loomed fabric. Tires are also recycled and used for soles. “The process is zero carbon production because historically that is the way it’s been done in Ethiopia,” she said.

Bethlehem has garnered international recognition, and earlier this year was also named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. In that role Bethlehem has been tasked to launch a program in Ethiopia called Global Shapers as a key initiative to create opportunities for the youth. With Addis Ababa preparing to host the 2012 World Economic Forum Africa meeting, the Global Shapers community will be able to collaborate with the Forum of Young Global Leaders while operating out of more than 75 city hubs – from New York to Mexico City, Johannesburg to New Delhi, and Addis Ababa to Adelaide.

“I have created a strategy to build our Global Shapers community by selecting my group based on input through outreach conducted via social media,” she said. “Under the title ‘Come Change Your World’ I am inviting individuals to express why they, or someone they know in the greater Addis Ababa area, should be chosen as a Global Shaper.” The process of outreach and selection includes gathering real-time input, insights and feedback. Global Shapers can jumpstart their entrepreneurial careers by interacting with Young Global Leaders, social entrepreneurs, technology pioneers, foundations members, global agenda councils and more. Bethlehem is also selecting one Global Shaper to address the upcoming annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mayor Bloomberg is scheduled to address the 2012 New York City Venture Fellow program at a gathering here this month. As a Fellow, Bethlehem said, “I feel strongly that this is an amazing opportunity to take SoleRebels to the next level.”

Update:
Sole Rebels Wins 2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship (Click here to view photos)

Related links:
NYC Venture Fellows
Come Change Your World on FaceBook
SoleRebels’ e-commerce website
World Economic Forum


Related Videos:
CNN Video: Turning old tires into shoes (7:10)

CNN Video: Young SoleRebel (8:07)

CNN Video: Creating window to world market (7:24)

Interview with Solomon Assefa: One of the World’s 35 Top Young Innovators

Solomon Assefa has been named to a prestigious list of 35 of the world’s top young innovators by Technology Review magazine. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian-American Solomon Assefa was recently chosen by Technology Review as one of 35 innovators under 35. His research focuses on developing more power-efficient and faster supercomputers by using chips that communicate via pulses of light rather than electrical signals. We interviewed Solomon briefly and asked him to share a bit more about himself and his insights on technological innovation.

Tadias: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you grew up, went to school, what were your early passions?

Solomon: I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I completed elementary and high school in Addis Ababa (Del Betegel then later ICS). I then moved to the U.S. where I obtained a B.S., M.Eng, and PhD from MIT. Prior to attending MIT, I often thought about practicing law similar to my eldest brother. But I later realized that I enjoyed math, science and engineering.

Tadias: Who are your role models in the science world? and beyond?

Solomon: In the field of science, my professors and research colleagues continue to inspire me daily. In addition, my role model is my eldest brother, Bekure Assefa, who has been very instrumental throughout my life. He taught me to work hard, confront challenges with determination, and pursue my passion to the fullest. These guiding principles continue to be a source of motivation in my life.

Tadias: Can you tell us a bit more about your current research endeavors and your role in the research highlighted in the Technology Review article?

Solomon: My research focuses on replacing some of the copper wires inside computer chips with tiny silicon circuits that can communicate via pulses of light rather than electrical signals. For example, I am working on a cheap method for integration of photodetectors (which are devices that convert light pulses into electrical signals) with minimal changes to the standard process used for making transistors. We hope that optical communications based on silicon nanophotonics will enable very fast and power-efficient supercomputers.

Tadias: What are your thoughts on the growth of science and development in Ethiopia?

Solomon: A significant amount of investment in science and technology is critical for Ethiopia’s development. It is important to nurture innovators who will transform existing industries and identify new areas of growth. It is also critical to have domestic policies that encourage home-grown technological innovation.

Tadias: Best book you ever read?

Solomon: My most recent favorite book is The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. The book shows how breakthroughs happen at the intersection of various ideas, disciplines, and cultures.

Tadias: Thank you for sharing your time with us and wishing you continued success!

Solomon: Many thanks for following up with the interview questions.
—-
Click here to read Technology Review’s highlight of Solomon Assefa’s work.

Tadias TV Interview With Amsale Aberra

Amsale Aberra, one of America’s top bridal & evening wear designers. Watch her interview with Tadias Magazine - video below. (Photo courtesy of WE tv)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, July 18, 2011

New York (Tadias) – The following video features the full version of Tadias Magazine’s recent interview with couture bridal-fashion designer Amsale Aberra.

Amsale discussed her reality TV show Amsale Girls, her success in the wedding-gown industry, her memories of Ethiopia, her musican daughter Rachel Brown, and more. Amsale also offers tips to brides and advise to aspiring fashion designers.

We have also included a second video highlighting a tour of Amsale’s luxury Boutique, taped immediately following our interview with the designer.

The interview took place at Amsale’s office in New York City on Tuesday, June 28, 2011.

Watch: Tadias Magazine’s Interview With Bridal-Fashion Designer Amsale Aberra

Watch: Tadias TV Exclusive – Inside Amsale Aberra’s Luxury Manhattan Boutique


Click here to join the discussion on this topic.

Tadias TV Exclusive: Inside Amsale Boutique

Above: Inside Amsale Aberra's store in Manhattan. Tadias Magazine's interview with the designer will be posted soon.

Update:
Click here: Full version of the interview With Amsale

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New York (Tadias) – The full version of Tadias TV’s exclusive interview with fashion Designer Amsale Aberra will be posted later this week. In the mean time, here is our tour of her bridal boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue.

Amsale’s reality TV show Amsale Girls, a six-hour episode series on the women’s network WE TV, goes behind-the-scenes of this luxury bridal salon.

Her gowns range in price from $4,000 to $75,000, revealing Amsale’s sales consultants as some of the best in the business.

Watch:

Video: Preview of Tadias Magazine’s Interview With Bridal Gown Guru Amsale Aberra

Click here to join the discussion on this topic.

Cover Image: Inside Amsale bridal salon in New York. Photo by Tsedey Aragie, taken on June 28, 2011.

Preview: Tadias Interview With Amsale Aberra

Above: Amsale Aberra, one of America’s top bridal & evening wear designers. Watch her interview with Tadias Magazine - video below. (Photo courtesy of WE tv)

Update:
Click here: Full version of the interview With Amsale

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tsedey Aragie

Updated: Monday, July 4, 2011

New York (Tadias) – In a recent interview with Tadias, Ethiopian American couture bridal-gown designer and entrepreneur Amsale Aberra discussed her new reality TV show Amsale Girls, her success in the fashion industry, her memories of Ethiopia, her musican daughter Rachel Brown and more.

Amsale, 58, who came to the United States from Ethiopia in 1973, is one of the most sought after bridal and evening-wear designers in the United States. Her sophisticated and elegant dresses are favorites among celebrities and she has dressed Hollywood’s A-list, including Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Kim Bassinger, Uma Thurman, Anna Paquin, Heidi Klum, Selma Blair, Lucy Liu and Katherine Heigl, among others. Kate Hudson filmed the big screen adaptation of Something Borrowed at Amsale’s Madison Avenue boutique.

Model Maya Haile wore an Amsale gown during her wedding to renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson at their reception in Addis Ababa.

Amsale Aberra’s new reality show, Amsale Girls, is currently airing on the women’s network WE TV. The six-hour episode series goes behind-the-scenes of this luxury bridal salon that caters to high-maintenance clientele, with gowns donning price tags of $4,000 to $75,000, revealing Amsale’s sales consultants as the best in the business.

Below is the preview of our interview with Amsale. It was taped in her office in New York City on Tuesday, June 28, 2011. The full video will be posted next week.

Watch:

Sean John on Spur Tree And His Affinity for Ethiopia

Above: Sean John, owner of the New York restaurant and lounge Spur Tree, talks with us about his love for Ethiopia.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, April 2, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Jamaican-born entrepreneur Sean John is the owner of Spur Tree Lounge, located in Lower East Side Manhattan. The hip and popular eatery, which was recently selected by MACY’s Culinary Council as one of NYC’s hottest restaurants, is frequented by tourists and New Yorkers alike, including Ethiopians whose country inspired the establishment’s logo. The menu combines Jamaican and Asian cuisine. But, the moment you walk into the restaurant, there is no mistaking Spur Tree’s subtle connection to Ethiopia.

In the following video Sean John discusses the success of his business, the story behind his logo, his affinity for Ethiopia and his extensive travels throughout the African nation.

WATCH:

Outstanding Women in Science: Interview with Professor Sossina Haile

Dr. Sossina Haile is an expert in materials science and fuel cells, new technology that converts chemical energy to electricity. (Photo courtesy of Sossina Haile. Cover image via Addis Ababa Online)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – The scientific quest to find alternative sources of fuel is an expensive endeavor. And when Dr. Sossina Haile, Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at California Institute of Technology, prodded fuel cell makers in the late ’90s to come up with a cheaper prototype, they hesitated. She decided to work on a solution and created the world’s first solid-acid fuel cell at her laboratory. By 2008, two of her former students had taken the lab idea and created a start-up to develop a commercial prototype. Dr. Sossina Haile’s work has been praised for helping to push the green energy revolution, and last October she was invited to give an ‘Outstanding Women in Science’ lecture at Indiana University.

We asked Dr. Sossina Haile a few questions:

Tadias: When did you first discover your love of science? What was the catalyst?

SH: I have enjoyed science as far back as I can remember. I have always loved the fact that it makes sense and as I child I discovered I was good at it. We have a tendency to gravitate towards things in which we excel.

Tadias: Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up? The influential individuals and role models in your life?

SH: I was born in Addis Abeba, and we moved permanently to the US when I was almost ten. In all honesty, there was not a particular individual who served as a role model for me in the pursuit of a scientific career. I was extremely fortunate in that my parents supported my choices. This was particularly important since many of my classmates were, shall I say, uncomfortable, with a girl in the industrial arts class rather than home economics.

Tadias: As a Professor and Researcher at Caltech you created a new type of fuel cell. Can you tell us more about the new material discovery and the implications of its real world application?

SH: The new material allows fuel cells to operate at temperatures that are hot enough so that the fuel cell is efficient, but not so hot that the fuel cell is too expensive. Fuel cells convert chemical energy, like hydrogen or natural gas, into electricity. There are many, many reasons why a consumer can’t go out and buy a fuel cell from the hardware store today. Our fuel cells take an entirely fresh approach at trying to solve those problems.

Tadias: Last October you were invited to give the Outstanding Women in Science lecture at Indiana University on the topic of “Creating a Sustainable Energy Future.” You note that “the challenge modern society faces is not one of identifying a sustainable energy source, but rather one of capitalizing on the vast, yet intermittent, solar resource base.” Can you tell us some of the additional ways that you envision capitalizing on clean energy sources?

SH: If we are to use the sun as our primary energy source, then we definitely need to develop ways to store its energy for use on demand. In my lab we have started to do this by converting the sunlight to heat, and then using the heat to drive reactions that create fuels like hydrogen and methane from water and carbon dioxide.

Tadias: In 2008 you served as Advisor for Superprotonic, a start-up founded by a few of your former Caltech students who wanted to develop commercial prototypes of the world’s first solid-acid fuel cells created in your lab. Can you elaborate on this venture? What are the future prospects for the commercialization of your work?

SH: Superprotonic, Inc. has as its mission the commercialization of fuel cells based on the materials, the solid-acids, developed in my laboratory. Due to the economic upheavals the work has transferred to a new company, SAFCell, but the mission and the key participants are unchanged. We remain hopeful that the company will be able to manufacture fuel cells that are ultimately more efficient and less costly than others being developed today.

Tadias: What aspects of teaching and research do you enjoy the most?

SH: I delight in the discovery. When results make sense and we are able to explain something, I am thrilled. When that discovery has potential to solve critical societal problems, I am ecstatic.

Tadias: What words would you share with other young, aspiring scientists?

SH: I am asked this frequently and I find myself repeating the advice “follow your passions.” I think the corollary is that you should not be constrained by what others think of you. The beauty of pursuing scientific endeavors is that really the only thing that matters is what your brain can deliver, not all of the superficial things that can so easily distract us.

Tadias: What is your favorite way (or activity) to unwind and relax from a busy, challenging schedule?

SH: The wonderful thing about what I do is that generally I have no desire to ‘get away from it.’ But I confess that occasionally I will indulge in a good book to keep me company on the long flight back from a meeting or conference. I recently finished Chains of Heaven by Philip Marsden. It was fantastic.

Tadias: Thank you for taking the time to share your outstanding work with our readers, and best wishes in your research endeavors.

Tadias TV: Early Sneak Peek of Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem

Above: Chef Marcus Samuelsson speaking at the Red Rooster Harlem's preview event on November 10, 2010. (Tadias.com)

Tadias Magazine
Events News (Video)

Published: Friday, December 17, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Chef Entrepreneur Marcus Samuelsson opened the doors of Red Rooster Harlem to friends, neighbors and media at an event last month designed to give a sneak peak of his new restaurant.

The evening, co-hosted by Uptown Magazine, attracted an eclectic group of New Yorkers – including Harlem residents, business leaders, politicians, artists, museum curators, TV personalities and more. The two-floor space, decorated for the event with stunning photographs featuring local artists, includes a lounge downstairs where guests were treated to a memorable piano performance and live DJ music.

In the following video, Marcus gives Tadias a brief tour of Red Rooster Harlem. Samuelsson notes the availability of this new space for world music entertainment programs, including live shows by Ethiopian singers and performers.

WATCH:

Tadias TV Explores Washington’s Ethiopian Neighborhood

Above: Andrew Laurence gives Tadias crew a tour of the U Street neighborhood packed with Ethiopian owned eateries.

Tadias TV
Video by Kidane Mariam

Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2010

New York (Tadias) – We recently took a quick trip to Washington’s U Street neighborhood nicknamed ‘Little Ethiopia.’ Andrew Laurence, a long time resident of D.C. – whom CNN recently called the “unofficial historian” of the block – shared with us some interesting insights.

Here is Tadias TV’s brief tour led by Andrew Laurence.

Video: Tadias TV Explores Washington’s Ethiopian Neighborhood

Injera In Harlem: Black Atlas Spotlights Zoma

Above: Nelson George shares Ethiopian food with Tigist Selam
at Zoma in Harlem as part of a travel piece for BlackAtlas.com.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New York (Tadias) – In a video posted on BlackAtlas.com, the website’s travel expert-at-large Nelson George visits Harlem, highlighting the historic neighborhood’s evolving culture. Near the end of the segment, the filmmaker stops by Zoma restaurant, located on 113th & Frederick Douglas Boulevard, for a taste of Ethiopian food. He was accompanied by his friend actress Tigist Selam, host of Tadias TV.

“Growing up mainly in Germany, I always romanticized Harlem for it’s political and cultural significance, and when I moved to New York from London in 2005, I already knew that I wanted to live in Harlem,” says Tigist. “What I didn’t know about was the existing and rapidly growing Ethiopian community in Harlem.”

She says: “These days, I am happy to claim Harlem as my home. Thank you for allowing me to share my favorite dish with Nelson George and Black Atlas!”

Watch

Part Three Exclusive: Teshome Mitiku Plans to Return to Ethiopia

From left - The drummer Tesfaye mekonnen (Hodo); guest singer from Asmara police orchestra, Teshome Mitiku & Bass and sax player Fekade Amde Meskel of Soul Ekos Band. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Martha Z. Tegegn

Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010

Washington, D.C. (Tadias)- The last part of our exclusive interview with Ethiopian music legend Teshome Mitiku features his years abroad, his musician daughter Emila, and his plans to return to Ethiopia in the near future.

The artist, who is set to make a historic appearance at the upcoming Chicago Jazz festival, says he is also planning a trip home in connection with a documentary movie being made about him and his daughter by a German production company. The film entitled “Father to Daughter,” is about the transfer of music from one generation to another.

In last week’s segment, Teshome discussed the tense political climate of the late 1960′s that would eventually force him to abruptly leave Ethiopia for Denmark.

Click here to read part one.

Click here to read part two.

What was the first thing you did when you got to Denmark?

I took a cab from Copenhagen airport, and told the cab driver “Take me anywhere where they have music, club, bedroom and food” (Laughter). The cab driver took me to a place called British Pub. It was cold, there was a hotel and I slept for a while, got up and took a shower and dressed sharp in a nice Italian suit, and then went downstairs to get something to eat. I ordered steak and whisky (Laughter). A few minutes later the band started playing and more people started to come in and the mood was getting better and better. I moved to the bar stool and ordered another whisky. Later, I asked the piano player on the stage if I can sing with the group? They were stunned. Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? Then the piano guy said, “I have to ask the manager first.” I replied “go ahead and ask.” The funny thing is my character had apparently convinced them that I was some sort of royal. I was not aware of it at the moment but I was later to learn that it was not very normal in those days for a sharply-dressed black man to show up in a Copenhagen bar, order a steak and whisky and request to play the piano (laughter). They were not used to it. The manager came and immediatly asked, “Where do you come from, are you a Saudi Arabian prince?” (Laughter). They have never seen a black man dressed like that in their life. I was in a nice Italian suit. The manager said “Ok. Let me ask the band leader.” The band leader was named Stefan. He said “Okay, come on,” so I went up there and did some Nat King Cole song, I think it was Monalisa and about three more songs and people liked it and wanted more. Well, I said okay! Then the lady of the house, the boss, the owner, she came and invited me for a drink and asked me all about myself. I told her that I just arrived that morning from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And she asked me, “Would like to continue to play with the group?” I said yes. Then she formally introduced me with the band leader Stefan, who to this day is my great friend. There I was offered a job, free lodging, laundry and food. So I started singing there.

Wow, how long did you stay there?

I played at the pub for about three months. Then we had a show at a nursing college in Malmo, an international city in Southern Sweden. We stayed there for a while and I begun to contemplate to move to Sweden because when I was there I discovered that they have a great music academy in Malmo. I also learned that you have to be fluent in Swedish in order to attend the school. So I applied for language school in Sweden and they accepted me, that’s how I moved to Sweden.

How difficult was it to learn the new language?

It wasn’t difficult. People think language is difficult, but if you are a musician you shouldn’t worry about language. After I studied Swedish things became easier. I started reading the newspaper. I could communicate with people. So I went ahead and applied to the music academy. I took the test. My dream was to be a conductor. They accepted me at the music school. But I changed my mind and enrolled at the University to study sociology and history instead.

What led you to change your gear from music to sociology and history?

I did not leave music but I wanted to study more. I was in a state of mind where I was struggling with several personal questions. It was a transformational period for me. In a way, I was still maturing and still growing up. I have done music but I also wanted to fulfill the high hopes my father had for me in education. My father always emphasized the importance of getting an education. He was a lawyer, he knew law and loved academia. He was dissatisfied with the Ethiopian justice system till the day he died. Our house was made of intellectuals, we talked a lot (laughter).

How was school like for you in Sweden?

I lived in the library for so many years. I would get up 6 AM like a soldier and at 7 o’clock I am at the library reading. I would do that until 12 or 1 pm and take short lunch break and get back and read. I was a good reader. I used to read five to six books a week on all subjects including philosophy, psychology, history, you name it. Books eventually became my friends, my house is full of books. I can not go anywhere without a book. So, I wanted education and knowledge. I wanted to learn everything. Whatever it takes. I remember trying to push myself to understand Albert Einstein’s theory, “ if he can understand it, I sure can,” I would say to myself. I was pushing myself. That part of me still exists.

Does that mean you weren’t playing music then?

Oh no, I was still playing music. In fact, I was part of a 12 piece jazz band and we used to play on weekends in Sweden and even travel to different states. In summer I was playing Swedish polka. So I earned money as well. I also had a full scholarship for my education.

How were you able to balance all that – new culture, language, school, music, life?

It was a lot to process. The Music part was easy, it came naturally to me, it was part of me. However, school was a bit unnatural, out of my tempo, so I had to work harder at it.

What drives you?

What drives me? Curiosity, discovering the unknown drives me. I like being surprised through new knowledge. In my university life I was an A student.

Were you ever homesick? Did you miss Ethiopia?

I longed for Ethiopia. For me she is embedded in my heart. I love her. Yes, I was very lonely and always longed for my country. I would wake up in the middle of the night when everybody is sleeping and walk to the dorm where there was a piano. I would improvise until sun break. That’s how I released my homesickness.

I am going to ask you a sensitive question. Does this mean you haven’t seen your mom since you left forty years ago?

I have not seen my mother since I left Ethiopia, yes. I haven’t seen her, we talk on the phone…but I haven’t seen her and she always…her dream is to see me before anything happens. But, God willing we will probably see each other soon.

Do you plan to go back?

Yes

When?

Sometime soon (laughter). I have certain core principals that I cannot compromise. We have to have mutual respect for our cultural diversity. My wish for Ethiopia is peace, stability and prosperity based on just principals. I have confidence in the new generation.

Well, you are going to be very surprised. For example, your Sefer (neighborhood) Qebena is different. Even the river has dried.

(Laughter) Yes I know, Qebena doesn’t exist in the way I knew it, only Mama. But I will go there, hopefully, soon…

Let’s talk about your daughter Emilia, the Swedish pop singer. You must be proud of her.

I am very proud of her. I have no words to express it. I used to call her my pearl, my life, my everything.

Is she the only one?

Yes, she is the only one. She has given me a reason to live ever since she was born. She is very smart. Emilia speaks five languages French, Swedish, English, German and Spanish fluently. She got the linguistic part form her mom and the music part from me. She is my everything. My pride. We text each other all the time, we communicate often. She is based in Sweden but lives in Germany and Hungary. I wanted her to be a musician. I encouraged it very much. Even when she was a baby I used to play Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky for her. When she was just two years old, I put her on the piano and told her “This is what you will be doing all your life” (laughter). So she fulfilled that dream for me. I clearly remember the night when she won the Swedish Award. It is equivalent to the American Grammy. She won for best singer, best video, best composer of the year. I mean, I was excited. She was in Japan and watching it via satellite. I was here that night. I was so proud and happy. I picked up the phone and called Voice of America and declared that my daughter has done it, just as Abebe Bekila did it for Ethiopia (laugher) . I was so proud!

Does Emilia speak Amharic?

A little bit, yes. She used to go to Sunday school to learn Amharic as a child. But she stoped when her teacher moved to another place. She also used to take piano, and ballet. She was a very busy child.

Does she plan to do a show in the U.S?

Yes, she actually has an album coming up that will be released in the U.S. market. We are also planning an album together.

Why did you relocate to US?

Well, everything with me has to do with music. I came to visit my brother Teddy sometime in the early 90s. When I came here I was shocked. I never thought that such a large number of Ethiopians had migrated to this part of the world. I mean everywhere I went there were Ethiopians. I said to myself, “ What am I doing in Sweden? This is where I need to be. Then I went back to Sweden, discussed my idea with Emilia. I said “now that you are grown, it is time now for papa to go discover life” (laughter). I gave my apartment to a friend and I was gone. As soon as I arrived here, I got involved in a lot of Ethiopian activities, including music, fundraising for different causes. I became socially involved with the community. That kept me going. I am currently working on a CD.

When is that coming out?

Perhaps in December. I would like to get involved with a lot of musicians, both legendary and contemporary and mix it with American music.

You are scheduled to collaborate with the American Jazz band the Either/Orchestra at the prestigious Chicago Jazz festival in September. How did that come about?

The Either/Orchestra had re-recorded one of my songs called Yezemed Yebada and one day I was driving in the area and heard the song on WPFW radio. I am like, what is that? This is my song? So, I pulled over to the side and called the DJ at WPFW. I asked him, “who is the composer of the song?” He read the album and said Teshome Mitiku. I said: “You are talking to him now.” They were pleasantly surprised. I asked about the orchestra and they gave me information about them and the DJ said they were located in Boston. I picked up the phone and called the leader Russ, I told him who I was and eventually we became friends. He called me about a month ago and invited me to join the group for preparation in Chicago and Boston. When I rehearsed with them, it was a great feeling. The band is fantastic. Our show in Massachusetts was sold out. I saw a lot of people there that enjoyed Ethiopian music, friends of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. They loved it. We are now getting ready for the Chicago festival. I am honored to join the band; I am actually going to be doing a couple of more shows and we are talking about more future projects, I am excited.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Yes, I would like to mention that a German production company is currently filming a documentary based on my life and Emilia’s entitled “Father to Daughter.” It’s about the transition of music from one generation to another. They are half way done. They came and filmed here. They have also been filming in Europe. Now, they want us to go to Ethiopia to complete the shoot. I plan to go. So that will be my first trip back to Ethiopia since I left four decades ago.

Is your daughter going with you?

Oh yes, but that will not be her first time though. Emilia was in Ethiopia last year. She was in the middle of preparing for the 2009 Eurovision Song competition and she was very nervous about it. So one day she calls me and she says: “Papa I have to go to Ethiopia to get a blessing from my grandmother before the contest. Can you come with me?” I said to her, “I want you to do that. I can’t come with you becasue I am working, but I want you to go.” So she did. She went to Addis Ababa straight to her grandmother’s house and stayed there for a week. So the two women call me up. My mother was crying, Emilia was crying. My mother said to me, “ Teshu now my life is fulfilled. Today is the happiest day of my life.” When Emilia was there she took a photo of my old house, the house I grew up in Qebena. When I saw that picture, it brought back so many memories that I had to write a song about it. It will be in my next album. It is called Enen Ayew (I saw myself).

Thank you so much Tehsome for your time and good luck.

Thank you so much to Tadias for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. You are the very first magazine that I talked to. I really appreciate your magazine and your writers, you guys are great. Tadias is one of my favorite Ethiopian publications. Don’t change anything unless you have to, let it change itself.

Related:
Part One: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku
Part Two: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku

Swedish pop singer Emilia (Teshome Mitiku’s daughter)- You’re My World (2009)

Listen to Gara Sir Nèw Bétesh – song written by Tèshomé Mitiku and played by Soul Ekos

Part Two: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku

From left - The drummer Tesfaye mekonnen (Hodo); guest singer from Asmara police orchestra, Teshome Mitiku & Bass and sax player Fekade Amde Meskel of Soul Ekos Band. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Martha Z. Tegegn

Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010

Washington, D.C. (Tadias)- Part two of our exclusive interview with Ethiopian music legend Teshome Mitiku highlights his reasons for his abrupt departure from Ethiopia forty years ago, his favorite song from that era and his experience working with Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethio-jazz. Teshome is scheduled to accompany the Either/Orchestra at the 32nd Annual Chicago Jazz Festival in September.

Click here to read part-one.

You were a teenager when you started performing in clubs. How did your parents feel about that?

My father had already passed away. My mother was very supportive. My mother’s only concern was that I continue to go to school, but she never stopped me from playing, just worried about me. She is a great mother. She was a great singer too. She used to sing Bati, Ambasel, Anchi Hoye. Her words and lyrics were poetry and they are very touching. I mean I used to sit and cry as a child when my mother used to sing while she was washing clothes, ironing or cooking. So I guess my mother’s emotional singing had an influence on me. My mother was always my friend. As a teenager when I started working in clubs and begun making money, I used to take her to a hair dresser, to a café, piazza, everywhere and whatever she wants I used to buy. My mom always came first for me. So I have always done that, I still do that. She is a beautiful woman with a heart of gold. My mother loves her life, even today she tells me “as long as you are doing good I am happy.” What I really appreciate about her is she brought me up as a care-free kid. She allowed me the freedom that I needed. And when I left the country, I thanked her for it.

You left the country abruptly. When did you leave Ethiopia and why?

I left the country on January 27, 1970. The last few years of the 1960s was a very critical time in Ethiopia. Even though the music scene was upbeat, there was also an undercurrent of social discontent. We were not political at all, but we were very popular at the time and people used to come from all corners to watch us. I believe the security people had an eye on us. So, at the end what happened was that we did a show at the Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa. That was, as I recall, the last major show I did in Ethiopia.

Why so?

Because they made it so, they made it the last time, it wasn’t me. When Soul Ekos band was performing at the University, there were about four to five thousand people there. I mean Lideta Adrarash (Hall) was packed; everybody was there. It was a period when students were engaged in open rebellion against the authorities. So the army and the police were there keeping an eye on the kids and the situation. So when we took the stage Seifu Yohannes did the first three songs. And when my turn came and I was warming up to do the usual popular songs, the crowed started to demand that I play Fano Tesemara. I replied “I cannot sing that right now, are you crazy?”

Why? Was it a political song?

Oh yes (laughter), Fano Tesemara was a political song (Fano Tesemara ende Ho Chi Minh ende Che Guevara). Then I said, I can sing it for you but can you handle what’s gonna happen afterwards? The kids shouted “yes Teshe come on.” And I said to them let me first sing Almaz Min Eda New. They would not have any of it. I mean they were demanding that I sing Fano first. Then I had to speak with the police about it. They were vigilantly watching, the army, the Kibur Zebegna (the imperial guard), all of them were there with their AK-47s. The security was literally on the stage. So I asked the army guy, “what do you want me to do now?” By then the students were already singing Fano Tesemara and they were saying Meret larashu (land to the tiler) and so on. I turned to the the army captain again. He said “Go ahead, you can sing it.” The crowd went wild.

You took a chance.

Yes I did, I was allowed to sing it, but that was the end of happy and innocent days for me. I never had any more peace after that. I was continuously harassed, investigated, and was suddenly asked to pay three hundred and fifty thousand Ethiopian Birr in tax. I was shocked. I said what? Then, once I was scheduled to perform at Zula club they came and took me to Sostegna tabia (3rd police station) and kept me for three days with all sorts of fabricated accusations. I had the sense that they were planning to put me away for good. That’s when I left Ethiopia.

Where did you go?

I had a visa for Sweden and Denmark, and I went to Copenhagen for a while.

Before we talk about your years abroad, what is your favorite Soul Ekos song from those days?

Woooooooow, wow wow, very hard question…they all hold special place in my life but I think Mot Adeladlogn I love the poetry. It is almost like Romeo and Juliet. It is romantic.

During your brief but illustrious career in Ethiopia, you also worked with several Ethiopian greats, including Mulatu Astatke. What was that experience like?

Working with Mulatu is like having a buffet of music. Mulatu is music himself. I have collaborated with him on many occasions. I worked with him way back in the 60s and later in the 90s here. We did Wolo songs together. I love working with Mulatu. He gives the singer or the artist a chance to express himself. He never competes with you or tries to push you. He always tries to understand the music first. Once he gets it, then he lets you express it. When you work with him it is you who is working. I wish I could work with him more often than I did.


This photo was taken at Bingo Club in Asmara in 1969. Shown third from left is Theodros ( Teddy )
Mitiku, the 9th person is Alula Yohannes and next to him is Teshome Mitiku. (Courtesy photo)


The band members and friends vacationing in Asmara, where they used to play on weekends at
Kangawe Station, an American Military base. Teshome is almost seated. (Courtesy photo.)


Related:
Part Three Exclusive: Teshome Mitiku Plans to Return to Ethiopia
Part One: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku

Listen to Gara Sir Nèw Bétesh – song written by Tèshomé Mitiku and played by Soul Ekos

Swedish pop singer Emilia (Teshome Mitiku’s daughter)- You’re My World (2009)

Part One: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku

From left - The drummer Tesfaye mekonnen (Hodo); guest singer from Asmara police orchestra, Teshome Mitiku & Bass and sax player Fekade Amde Meskel of Soul Ekos Band. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Martha Z. Tegegn

Published: Thursday, August 5, 2010

Washington, D.C. (Tadias) – Teshome Mitiku has not returned to Ethiopia since his abrupt departure in 1970. In a recent exclusive interview with Tadias Magazine, the legendary artist who is scheduled to make a historic appearance accompanying the Either/Orchestra at the prestigious Chicago Jazz Festival in September, talks about his extensive music career, his memories of Ethiopia and his famous daughter, the Swedish pop star Emilia.

Teshome burst into Ethiopia’s music scene during a period in the 1960′s known as the “Golden Era.” He was the leader of Soul Ekos Band, the first independent musical ensemble to be recorded in the country. The group is credited for popularizing Amharic classics such as Gara Sir New Betesh, Yezemed Yebada, Mot Adeladlogn and Hasabe – all of which were written by the artist.

Prior to settling in the United States in the early 1990′s, Teshome spent over 20 years in Sweden, where he continued to hone his music skills, earn a graduate degree in Sociology, and witness his daughter grow up to become a Swedish ballad and pop music singer.

We spoke with Teshome Mitiku over coffee on U street in Washington, D.C. in what the artist says is his first exclusive interview since his hurried journey out of Ethiopia 40 years ago. The soft-spoken and humorous artist, who sprinkles his answers with sporadic laughter, discussed with us his distinguished career spanning four decades and three continents.

Here is part-one of our 3-part series, which will be published in weekly installments.


Teshome Mitiku, courtesy Photo.

You began your career as a teenager in an era known as “Swinging Addis.” What was
the music scene like in Ethiopia at the time?

It was fantastic. It was an upbeat time. The 60s was an era where things developed from one form of life to another. So it was a transitional period for the whole country. New ways of thinking and doing things were emerging in singing, playing, and producing. The big band era was giving-way to small bands including groups such as the Soul Ekos band, the Ras band, etc. Music instruments were changing as well. Everywhere you went there were groups playing, clubs were packed. I was still in high school at the time, but I was already playing in different clubs with several settings. Then we ended up forming the Soul Ekos band. For the last two years of the late 60′s, I played with this band, which was the most popular band in Ethiopia. Although more such bands have flourished, I don’t think anybody could replace that group.

You were one of the founding members of the band. What are your memories of Soul Ekos?

My memories of Soul Ekos band is just full of love. We were ahead of our time in many ways. We were very organized, disciplined, we had a manager and each guy in the band loved his instrument. There was no question of when to rehearse or how to rehearse it. We were playing in clubs, touring and taping. Our ideas of bringing about modern ways of playing music was getting popular. We did the recordings like Gara Sir New Betish, Hasabe, Yezemed Yebada, Mot Adeladlogn and many many more. Each one of us loved playing together. So what we did was that we rented a big house in Entoto, which had nine bedrooms and a giant living room.

So you guys also lived together?

(Laughs) Yes that is how much we enjoyed each other, we lived together. Each one of us had our own bedroom though (more laughter). We would get up at 7 o’clock and by 9 we were on stage in the living room for rehearsal until 1 o’clock, and we take lunch break until 3 and get back and rehearse until 6 then we go home. But home is where we practice so everybody did whatever they wanted to after 6. We saw too much of each other, but it never felt like that at the time.

Were you making enough money to support yourself?

We were the highest paid band. But we never placed money at the center, the music was our center. But we had income. I mean we were playing on weekends at Kangnew station in Asmara (then part of Ethiopia) and we used to play at hotels, clubs, schools, universities so the income was there. We were booked everywhere. We were flying left and right nationwide and internationally. We went to Sudan, Kenya all kinds of touring. We were a busy band.

Do you still keep in touch with some of the band members?

Yes, Teddy (Tewodros Mitiku) the saxophonist, is my brother, so we keep in touch. He lives in Maryland and I live in Virginia, so we meet and we call every now and then. I also keep in touch with Alula Yohannes, the guitarist we call each other on the phone we are even thinking of performing together. There was sort of a small reunion way back in 1995 but that reunion wasn’t really a soul Ekos reunion it was a reunion of guys playing in the 60s. So we got together and played at the Hilton here, it was the relaunch of my carrier in music. So, we might do that again. But some of our guys have passed away: the singer Seifu, the trumpeter Tamrat, the drummer Tesfaye. Among the original Soul Ekos band, only four are still living: Teddy, Fekade, Alula and I.


Members of the former Ekos Band: from the left Alula Yohannes, Tesfaye Mekonnen, Tamrat,
Amha Eshete (band manager), Teshome Mitiku, Feqade Amdemesqel & Tewodros Mitiku. (CP).

When did you start playing music?

I started playing music in zero grade. At the time they actually had zero grade (laughter). When you pass zero grade then you go to first grade. Zero grade was where you learned your ABC’s and after you master the basics then you pass to first grade. Otherwise, you can stay in zero grade for a long time. It is after completing Kes temhirtbet, fidel and Dawit that I landed at Haile Selassie day school (Kokebe Tsiba) in Kebena, where they put me in zero grade. When I got there, I already loved singing. I loved music. I remember while getting ready to pack for school I would listen to songs on the radio, and I would just stand there and listen to the music and be late for school. I had that much love. I especially loved begena and kirar instruments. I used to stand there and listen. I also remember some of the zebegnas (guards) in Aswogag Sefer area where they used to play accordions, flutes, washint and stuff so I used to sit there with the zebegnas while the class was waiting for me.

You have made up your mind then?

Yes, early on– and I used to drum around the village. So, when I came to first grade I had a chance to study under a Danish music teacher named Paul Bank Hansen at the Haile Selassie day school music class. They gave me an entrance exam on singing, rhythm, and the concept of music and I passed it. And Mr. Hanson, who was my teacher then, said to me he would like me to become a member of a group he was building. So, there were about 40 to 50 students selected for music education. My brother Teddy Mitiku was one of them, and some of the guys from our band Tamrat Ferendji and Tesfaye Mekonnen, etc, most of them are from there. So, my teacher’s wife, Margret Hanson, started teaching me piano. I went to her once and asked: “Mrs. Hanson, can you please teach me how to play this thing.” I was referring to the piano, the grand piano in her house. She was shocked by my question and said: “Oh I will do that but you also have to promise me something. You have to keep time and come everyday from 4pm to 5 pm and I will teach you piano.” So she used to buy me candy, cookies, there was a Coca Cola and other some soft drinks. I sat beside her and started playing. That’s how I started playing the piano and went on to learn trumpet, violin, and drums. But the trumpet, my father didn’t like it. He said it will probably hurt your lungs. But I used to get up at 6 o’clock and go to school at 7 to raise the flag, so the entire neighborhood will hear my trumpet. Then in the afternoon I will blow my trumpet again and put down the flag and return it to the director’s office and go home. I used to do that on a regular basis.

You are also a song-writer. What is the writing process like for you?

The writing process for me is based on happenings, what happens in your life. All these songs didn’t come out of the blue, each one of the songs got their own history and their own rhythm. Even right now too, writing is based on situations and conditions. It is the state of mind I am in. Most of the songs that I wrote are really a reflection of the condition that I was in at the time. Like Gara sir new betish, for example, is about our house in Kebena where I grew up. When I wrote it the title was kebena new betish, that was the idea. And the house where I was born in and grew up in Ethiopia was just right under the hill (gara) and Kebena river is right under the bridge very close to the water. So I was in a state of mind where I was unemployed at the time because of a disagreement I had with the owner of the clubs. So I used to stay home, sit at home on the balcony and drink Saris Vino. My mother used to say, “Teshu what are you doing? “and I would say “just thinking” my mother would respond “don’t worry everything will be alright.” That’s when I sat down and started writing about our home, school and the girls at school and everybody that I know around me. So I wrote kebena new betish and after I wrote that song I went to the band and said lets hook this up. The band loved it. Then I started working at a club again, when we started playing the song and everybody at the club loved it. I mean the whole setting was different, the orchestration was different, the beat was different and the singing style was different. And it just became tremendously popular, even today. A legendary song. I don’t think they can replace that song.

It’s been re-recorded so many times by different artists. How do you feel about that?

I love it. I love the young generation. You know, that is the reason we recorded it so the next generation can pick it up and change the style and play it in different modes. I really appreciate them. Other radios talk shows have asking me about it and I said it is good. I wish all Ethiopians were like that. We should renew the style and do it again. The song is very open and you can add anything you want to it. One just needs to invest a little time on it.


Related:
Part two: Exclusive Interview With Ethiopian Legend Teshome Mitiku
Part Three Exclusive: Teshome Mitiku Plans to Return to Ethiopia

Listen to Gara Sir Nèw Bétesh – Tèshomé Meteku (Ethiopiques)

Swedish pop singer Emilia (Teshome Mitiku’s daughter)- You’re My World (2009)

Spotlight on Photographer Aida Muluneh – Video

Aida Muluneh has been named the winner of the 2010 CRAF International Award of Photography in Italy. (Photo from Tadias video)

Tadias Magazine
Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, July 25, 2010

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh has been named the recipient of the 2010 CRAF’s International Award of Photography at a ceremony in Italy.

The 2010 prize, which was given to Aida by the scientific commission of CRAF, has previously been awarded to notable figures of the international photographic scene, including Charles Henri Favrod, Erich Hartmann, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter Galassi, Paolo Gasparini, Josef Koudelka, Joan Fontcuberta, Anne Cartier-Bresson, Naomie Walter Rosenblum, Alain Sayag, Margit Zuckriegl, Erich Lessing and Bernard Plossu.

“Aida Muluneh directs her attention as a photographer in particular towards the women of the African diaspora, concentrating on the bonds and the disagreements between the generations, the joys and the pains of life,” the organization said in explaining its reasons why it chose to honor the Ethiopian photographer. “Her subjects transmit, with a mixture of grace and power, the vicissitudes related to the phenomenon of the dispersion of the African people.”

The prize committee said the accolade is also a recognition of Aida’s continued efforts to establish a photography educational-institution in her native country. “In the year that CRAF has dedicated to Africa with the exhibit ‘Glimpses of Africa’, the International Award of Photography awarded to this young and very accomplished photographer – who is what’s more socially committed to the creation of a school of photography dedicated to young people, in Addis Abeba – is also intended to be in recognition of all of the young and emerging African photographers,” the group said.

In the following interview with Tadias.com, Aida talks about photography, working in Ethiopia, and her new book entitled Ethiopia: Past/Forward.

We note that photos displayed during her discussion of the book are not necessarily included in the book. The film clips and music, which accompany her interview, are part of the artist’s recent documentary movie also entitled Ethiopia: Past/Forward.

WATCH

The interview with Aida Muluneh was taped in New York prior to her most recent award. ( Kidane Films)

Photos: Ebullient Teddy Afro Celebrates 34th Birthday During NYC Show

Teddy Afro receives birthday cheers from his fans during his sold-out concert in New York on July 17, 2010 (Photo by Kidane Mariam )

Tadias Magazine
Events News – Photos by Kidane Mariam

Published: Monday, July 19, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Teddy Afro celebrated his 34th birthday during his sold-out show in New York this past weekend.

The artist, who treated the audience to a spectacular show on Saturday night, was greeted by his adoring fans with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” as he kicked-off his concert after midnight. Organizers say between 800 – 1,000 people attended the event. A number of people also stood outside unable to find tickets.

Teddy Afro kept his audience rocking for over three hours with powerful renditions of his iconic songs and his trademark message of love and unity: Fiqir Yashenifal – Amharic for “love wins.”

Ethiopia’s biggest pop-star also took the opportunity to introduce the founders of Color Heritage Apparel, which specializes in Reggae and Ethiopian wear, and announced a possible collaboration to develop a Teddy Afro clothing line down the road. Winston Jack, the head of the fashion company tells TADIAS that they are exploring the idea but nothing is finalized yet. “It is still in the early stages of discussion,” he said. “We will announce it through a press release when it happens.”

Here are a few images from Teddy Afro’s concert in Manhattan, which took place at 630 Second Ave. on July 17, 2010.

Liya Kebede: Protests Aren’t What We Should Remember About The G8

Above: Supermodel, actress, and maternal health advocate,
Liya Kebede applauds the G8 for its $5 billion commitment to
maternal health. Photo: Liya at the Usher Fragrance Launch.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New York (Tadias) – In an article posted on The Huffington Post, Supermodel and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede highlights a topic that failed to garner media attention amid news of protests and arrests during the recent G8 summit in Canada.

“Something important was overlooked — critical progress towards saving mothers’ lives. During this meeting of the world’s top leaders, mothers were finally at the top of the agenda. Almost every death resulting from childbirth is preventable yet politicians have historically shown little will to save these women’s lives. Last weekend, the G8 leaders proved otherwise with a $5 billion commitment to maternal health. Not only is this great news for women across the globe, but essential for the health of their children and the future economic development of their communities,” writes Kebede, who serves as the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador.

“In Ethiopia — where I was born — most women still give birth alone. Medical facilities are often too far away, overcrowded or under-equipped to help them. Across Africa, dedicated health workers like the doctors at the Durame Hospital in Ethiopia struggle to serve too many with too little. The nurses, midwives and doctors at these hospitals are superheroes — they work tirelessly to save lives every day — but they cannot do it alone. With funding from the G8 and G20 countries, we can support these hospitals and set up clinics to serve isolated communities. For many women and children, especially those with health complications, this would mean the difference between life and death.” Read more.

Related:
Liya Kebede Makes TIME 100 List

Video: Supermodel Liya Kebede talks maternal health on Riz Khan – 11 Oct 2007

Watch: Interview with Meklit Hadero

Tadias spoke with Meklit Hadero last week following her recent performance at Le Poisson Rouge in New York.

Tadias Magazine
By Kidane Mariam and Tigist Selam

Updated: Sunday, June 6, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Tadias TV caught up with Meklit Hadero during her recent concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on June 1st.

The Manhattan appearance was a homecoming of sorts for Hadero, who spent part of her childhood in Brooklyn. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science before settling in San Francisco where she launched her music career in 2004.

The Ethiopian native, who left Addis Ababa as a toddler, tells Tadias she plans to return to Addis later this year to perform at an Afro-Roots concert. Her debut album On A Day Like This has garnered national attention with repeated highlights on NPR. Reviewers have compared her sound to that of Music legends Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell.

WATCH:
Video: Tadias’ Interview with Meklit Hadero

Tigist Selam interviewed Hadero at Le Poisson Rouge after her concert
with The Olatuja Project on June 1, 2010. (Video by Kidane Films)

RELATED
Listen: NPR Revisits Conversation With Meklit Hadero

Meklit Hadero “Leaving Soon” music video from Salvatore Fullmore on Vimeo.

The Nun Pianist: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru performed for the first time in 35 years at the Jewish Community Center in DC on July 12, 2008. (Photo: Makeda Amha)

Tadias Magazine
Arts News

Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010

New York (Tadias) – The 85-year-old nun and renowned classical pianist and composer Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, whose music has been popularized in recent years by the Ethiopiques CD series, is attracting younger audiences.

“Every time I have put this on at least three new conversions occur, where the listeners go on to permanently install this woman’s music on their stereo,” Meara O’Reilly notes in a recent highlight on Boing Boing. “My neighbor even stalked me once just so she could listen to it more, until I just gave her my extra copy.”

Here is the rest of Meara O’Reilly’s post:

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou is a nun currently living in Jerusalem. She grew up as the daughter of a prominent Ethiopian intellectual, but spent much of her young life in exile, first for schooling, and then again during Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia’s capitol city, Addis Ababa, in 1936. Her musical career was often tragically thwarted by class and gender politics, and when the Emperor himself actually went so far as to personally veto an opportunity for Guèbrou to study abroad in England, she sank into a deep depression before fleeing to a monastery in 1948. Today, she spends up to seven hours a day playing the piano in seclusion and even gave a concert to some lucky ducks in Washington D.C. a few years ago. A compilation of her compositions was re-issued on the consistently great Ethiopiques label. You can read more about her life at the Emahoy Music Foundation.

Teff luck: What Has Piracy Got To Do With The Price of Injera?

Above: The media never resists stories of sea attacks, but
there is another type of piracy that hardly gets attention:
the looming intellectual property warfare in Africa.

Publisher’s Note: This week we have feature opinion piece on
piracy, patenting, and intellectual property in the developing
world by contributing writer Nemo Semret.

Nemo Semret, who is based in New York City, is an individual
who is concerned about the expanding scope of intellectual
property among many other things.

Tadias Magazine
By Nemo Semret

Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A few months ago, three Somalis pirates were at the center of world news as they haplessly tried to extort money from an American ship in the Indian Ocean. Three guys coming out of an anarchic isolated part of the world, risked their lives at sea. Two were killed and one now faces the death penalty in the US. Around the same time, three Swedes were found guilty of piracy — as in facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet. In the widely publicized case of The Pirate Bay, a Bittorrent index service, three techies with the digital world at their fingertips, thumbed their noses at the law and faced, at worst, some time in the notoriously comfortable jails of Sweden.

The obvious analogy and contrast between these two stories is of course an easy target of ironic comment: piracy, old/new, physical/digital, poor/rich. But it also got me thinking about longer term connections. Indeed, which of those two events is more important symbolically for the future political economy of Africa? Which has more to do with the price of injera or ugali?

Armed men attacking ships at sea was a curious manifestation of the 18th century popping up in the 21st century. Western media and comedians in particular reacted to it as they would to a woolly mammoth buried in the permafrost of Siberia for 10,000 years suddenly thawing and starting to ramble around, Jurrassic Park-style. A pirate story is hard to resist, pirates captivate the imagination of kids, they make western adults feel smug about their own “more civilized” society where such things disappeared 200 years ago, but they also have a kind of radical chic, there’s a certain coolness to their image as rebels standing up to “the man”. They are many interesting things, but there’s also a less exotic reality: those pirates are increasing the cost of shipping anything through that part of the Indian Ocean, which in turn affects the cost of everything from food to energy in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and even further inland, endangering the livelihood of millions of people in the region. Like drug traffickers, in reality they harm not only the world at large but mostly their own people. Unfortunately there’s nothing new about that. In fact, the story of Somali pirates over the last few years fits with the well-worn gloom and doom scenarios of Africa in the 21st century: failed states, increased marginalization, the danger of slipping into a modern dark ages, etc. you know the story.

But how about those Swedish Internet pirates? What do they have to do with Africa, where copyrights and patents have never been respected, and where there isn’t enough bandwidth for it to matter on the global scale anyway? A lot actually. It has got to do with something huge that is quietly reshaping the world: the ever expanding scope of intellectual property. Ok, just in case that was not emphasized enough, this is the thing we’re talking about: the expanding scope of intellectual property. The digitization of entertainment and the difficulties that industry faces from file-sharing are merely the tip of the iceberg. By now it’s old news that, thanks to technology, things that were previously easier to limit and control are now easy to copy and share. But also and more importantly, many things which previously were “free” are now going to get entangled in webs of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and so on. And now we are entering the phase where this will profoundly affect the lives of all of humanity, not just the world of computers and information.

Digital coffee – a trip down memory lane

Years ago (”Digital Coffee”, Nov. 1999), I tried to make the link between coffee and intellectual property, using a comparison of buying $1 of Starbucks stock versus $1 of coffee on the commodity markets. So let’s see where we are today with that hypothetical $1. As illustrated in the chart, invested in SBUX stock in 1993, it grew to $6 by 1999, and would be worth $15 in 2009. While the poor dollar invested in coffee itself, which had reached $1.30 in 1999, would continue to inch up, reaching $1.75 by 2009. The conclusion that, if you consider the chain of value that leads to a cup of coffee, “at the end of the chain it’s $100 a pound, while on the commodity markets it’s $1 a pound, and the grower probably gets $0.10″, has been exacerbated. The coffee farmer, despite doing the most difficult part, gets a shrinking share of the total value. Most of the value in the final product of coffee is really information; it’s in the distribution, and marketing of the coffee experience. That “information goods” part of coffee, which is intellectual property even if it’s not rocket science, is worth more and more while the physical commodity is worth relatively less and less. (That doesn’t happen with oil because there’s a finite supply). And it’s a huge market as I pointed out then, coffee is second only to oil among the world’s commodities in total value. Therefore the producers needed to figure out ways of get in on the information goods game.

Fortunately, awareness of this reality has increased dramatically in recent years. For example, a movie called “Black Gold ” brought some attention to the plight of coffee farmers in the global economy. The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office engaged it in earnest, staked a claim in the digital coffee realm by trademarking some of the Ethiopian coffee names. Starbucks correctly identified this move as encroaching on their territory (the “information goods” side of coffee) and this caused a huge battle which was widely covered. With the help of organizations like Oxfam, the EIPO managed to move the battle to the court of public opinion. Thus Starbucks an extremely successful western corporation of whose brand “social responsibility” is a core part, whose customers are the very stereotype of the bleeding heart liberal, found itself in the position of the big bad exploiter of poor third world farmers. It was a strategy worthy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: if you are a smaller, move the battle to a territory where your enemy’s superior firepower is worthless. Game over. Starbucks capitulated, and EIPO got not only the trademarks, but a promise from Starbucks to help the country in more ways than before. My hat goes off to EIPO and Oxfam for this.

Would you rather collect rent or charity?

But coffee is only one example. A dutch company called “Soil & Crop Improvement BV” is patenting a method of processing of teff flour. The invention results in a gluten-free flour, which helps people with Celiac disease. Celiac is a common genetic disorder, affecting people all over the world. For example in the United States, more than 2 million people have the disease. The disease makes the victim unable to eat gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley, which covers a pretty large fraction of the typical western diet. Thus gluten-free food has a huge market. Sounds like there might be a lot of money to be made from Teff!

So let’s see what this patented invention consists of. As far as I can tell, it has two main ideas. First, you wait a few weeks after harvest before grinding the teff, so that the “the amount of undigested sugars in the starch” is lower than it would if the grain was ground immediately. Second, you pass it through a sieve, so only the small grains go through. Pretty simple stuff. Which of course is good! Saving lives is great, and simple solutions that save lives are the best. Except the whole patenting thing… You see, there’s this thing called “prior art”. In the many centuries since Teff has been the staple in Ethiopia, surely someone had the idea of waiting a few weeks before grinding it and taking the finer grain! But those ideas now belong to a dutch company, because the Netherlands has the intellectual property infrastructure that Ethiopia doesn’t. The winner is determined not necessarily by an actual innovation but by things like having patent offices, and membership in the World Traded Organization. So if this works out and it turns out that 100 million Celiac disease sufferers will switch to a Teff-based diet, the bulk of the profits will flow to the dutch company, not the Ethiopian teff farmer. Sound familiar? SBUX redux. Except in this case it might even go further. It’s not “just” a marketing and distribution advantage which gives a larger slice of the total value, the patent owner can actually bloc the farmer entirely out of that market!

Now there’s nothing particularly evil about Soil & Crop nor is there about Starbucks. In fact, for what it’s worth, they both seem to try to be “socially responsible” corporations. But there’s a big difference between charity and obligation. Suppose you own a house and a tenant came to you and said: “let me take your house and in exchange, each month that I earn more than I spend, I promise to share some the excess to help your kids go to school, and buy you some gifts” You’d say: “Wow, thanks you are very generous Mr. Potential Tenant. But no thanks, here’s a lease, just sign here and pay me the rent.” Right? In other words, you would prefer to have a profitable business relationship with them, rather than accept their charity. So why, when it comes to multi-billion dollar markets for living products that are indigenous, why should it be considered OK that companies can own the brand, the patents, and all the associated information goods value, thus controlling 90% of the final value, while tossing the original owners a few crumbs of charity? Why is enough for them to make the profits and “give back” on a discretionary basis? Shouldn’t they pay rent instead of give charity? So perhaps the “digital coffee” conclusion didn’t go far enough. Now commodities are not just becoming information i.e. controlled by branding and marketing, they are becoming intellectual property, through copyrights and patents too. But who owns this property and who should own it?

Even the birds and the bees

This question affects more than just the potential export markets. The owners of the intellectual property can actually come and extract money even from people who were doing the same thing they’ve been doing before the patent ever existed! For example, in a famous case, some farmers in Canada are forbidden from growing crops that they use to grow — rapeseed (canola) — because they might accidentally mix patented seeds into their crops. Even if they don’t want to use the new seeds and try to avoid it, because birds and bees (and wind among other things) will accidentally mix seeds over large distances, the farmers will infringe on these patents that belong to Monsanto and have to stop…. even though they are only doing the same thing they did before the patent. They have effectively been check-mated out of their own traditional business.

You might think that could never happen in Africa right? The very idea of enforcing a patent against a farmer in rural Africa seems laughable. But think ahead. Intellectual property is a key condition to participating in World Trade Organization and the international community in general. Even China is being forced to do something about copyrights to please the WTO. Not being part of WTO is a huge handicap, and Ethiopia is trying hard to get in, like any country that wants to be part of the world economy. So at some point, it’s quite possible that Ethiopians could find themselves in the position of having to choose between accepting the established intellectual property system under which they are screwed, or rejecting the system at enormous costs i.e. going the pirate route.

Which brings us back to our Swedish pirates. Putting aside their guilt or innocence, they exist because a huge number of people feel locked out of the “information goods” and these people create an enormous black market for copyrighted movies, music, and software. And bittorrent, the protocol their service facilitates, just happens to be the most efficient current form of file sharing, so they are current poster children, the latest incarnation of Napster, in the on-going saga of intellectual property on the Internet. But it’s not just pirates. The world of property in information is a dangerously unstable one even among the big players. A long time ago, a researcher from IBM explained the world of corporate patents to me as follows. Patents are like nuclear weapons, they don’t want to use them but they have to have them because their opponents have them. They hold them as deterrents, they sign patent “treaties” where they agree not to sue each other and cross-license patents to each other. But sometimes they actually use these “nuclear weapons” i.e. they sue: vast sums of money are extorted, untold hours of effort are expended in futile wars, and companies are driven out of business, etc.

So if things like coffee and teff are going to become information goods, then what kind of world are we heading into? If you extrapolate from other areas where intellectual property dominates, namely software, digital entertainment, and pharmaceuticals, the current trends do not bode well for the vast majority of humanity. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, much faster than what has occurred with physical commodities over the last couple of centuries. Those who are locked out of the web of intellectual property ownership will be like non-nuclear powers in a nuclear world, except the super-powers won’t be a stable pair, it will be a multi-polar unstable world, with constant threats and actual disastrous fallouts… and of course pirates! Imagine a world of patented food, and the inevitable black market like narcotics today but much much bigger.

But are we really heading toward this dystopian future of bio-patent wielding powerhouses dominating the world, alternately fighting each other and enslaving the rest? Well of course not necessarily. Fortunately, some farsighted people are already on the case some scientists are calling for a bio-patent ban for example. One of them in fact is an Ethiopian. These are scientists, so of course they are not against scientific advancements and their practical use; they are protesting some forms of ownership. Maybe there will be open-source bio-technology and pharmaceuticals, that are as successful and significant as open source software, and all the key processes and ideas of future life will be freely or fairly available to the whole world. But maybe not. What if that open-source nirvana fails to occur? Banning bio-patents may not be the right answer anyway. Until the right balance emerges in this “informationalization” of everything, all sides have to arm themselves to the teeth for intellectual property warfare lest they be marginalized and reduced to piracy. We are probably already in the early stages of a mad scramble, just like the scramble for African raw materials during the industrial revolution/colonial era. Now it’s not grabbing land with timber and gold but about claiming as much as possible of the DNA of plants and animals, patenting potentially lucrative variations of traditional processes… In the case of Ethiopia for example, it’s not just coffee and teff, it’s also (to take random example, I’m sure there are many more) flaxseed, an important source of Omega-3 acids. Hey has anyone filed a patent for a process to create a convenient form of Telba?

Interview With Grammy-Nominated Musician Kenna

Grammy-nominated musician Kenna is leading a team to climb Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about the clean water crisis. (CP)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Friday, January 8th, 2010

New York (Tadias) – Grammy-nominated Ethiopian-American musician Kenna (né Kenna Zemedkun) is leading a team of friends including Jessica Biel, Lupe Fiasco, Isabel Lucas, Elizabeth Gore, and Alexandra Cousteau to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and one of the world’s largest stratovolcanoes, in an effort to raise more awareness about the global clean water crisis. Today marks Day 1 of the journey. The climb aims to raise funds for The Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and PlayPumps International.

You can follow the climbers’ progress through their highly interactive site Summit on the Summit (SOTS) as they post photos & video clips and tweet their way to the top. According to a BNC-issued press release “The on-the-ground base camp in Africa, will also be outfitted with high- powered HP PCs to help track each climber’s progress, monitor weather conditions, and capture every aspect of the ascent. Throughout the climb, the team will use HP thin-and-light notebooks to communicate and share photos as well as videos from Mt. Kilimanjaro with fans on www.summitonthesummit.com.” A documentary of Summit on the Summit will also be aired on MTV on March 14th, 2010.

Over a billion people worldwide currently do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. You can join the SOTS effort by donating to their ‘sponsor a foot’ campaign online.

We sent Kenna a few questions about music, his interest in the global water crisis, and his inspiration for the climb. Below are his responses from base camp in Tanzania.

TADIAS: Tell us a bit about youself. Where you grew up? who/what were the main influences in your life? How you got involved in music?

Kenna: Born in Addis, raised in USA. My father is a major influence, but musically it was MJ and is U2. I went to high school wih the Neptunes… God hooked it up.


TADIAS: You mentioned that Summit on the Summit was inspired by the health challenges that your father faced. Can you elaborate?

Kenna: I relate to the water issues through my dad. I was born in Ethiopia but raised in both the inner city and the suburbs of America where water has not been a direct issue for me. Although water is an issue in America, my connection with it is from the fact that my dad suffered as a child from water-bourne diseases. When he told me about his ailment as a child, it really struck a chord and triggered the development of SOTS. But my dad has always encouraged me in being a good citizen and gave me plenty of opportunities to be involved with non-profits. I have been blessed to be a part of the development and curriculum for non-profit projects in my community. If he hadn’t survived, I wouldn’t be here. That is what resonates with me.

TADIAS: Why did you pick Mount Kilimanjaro as the challenge?

Kenna: Because it takes serious effort to do this. It takes serious commitment. We needed to do something extreme to highlight such an extreme human rights issue.


TADIAS: What are you taking with you on this climb for inspiration?

Kenna: I have a note from my dad that says he “knows of my ability to elevate myself through conscious moves.” And that he is proud of me.

TADIAS: What message would you like to share with our readers?

Kenna: It is our time to show the true power and beauty of our culture. We have an inheritance of greatness. Rise up and be counted. It is now. It is today. We are God’s people. Let the world know.

Watch: Kenna’s Speech about Summit on the Summit

Top 20 Most Read Stories of 2009

Above: Tadias' interview with Sarah Nuru, soon after she was crowned Germany’s Top Model last spring, was one of our most read stories of 2009.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, December 27, 2009

New York (Tadias) – As we prepare to usher in 2010, we’ve pulled together a list of our top 20 most popular stories of the year.

We would like to take this brief moment to thank our numerous readers and wish everyone a happy new year!

1. May 2009
Sarah Nuru was crowned Germany’s Top Model
Sarah Nuru was crowned Germany’s Top Model last May after she beat out 21,000 contestants to claim the coveted title. The 19-year-old fashion model from Munich, whose parents immigrated from Ethiopia, has earned the nickname “Sunshine” from Germany’s Next Top Model, and was wildly popular with her competitors. Read our interview with Sara.

2. March 2009
First Ethiopian-American Judge Hard at Work in Florida
Nina Ashenafi Richardson, an Ethiopian-American judge, who was elected to the Leon County bench in Florida on November 4th, 2008, is hard at work in the Sunshine State’s capital county. She told the Tallahassee Democrat that although her workload is heavy, she is mindful of the responsibilities and privileges of her new position. “At the county court level it’s a lot of volume, and you have to make sure you keep up with it,” she said of the plethora of criminal and civil cases that she now presides over. “I love it. Every time I come into the courthouse I continue to feel so privileged and honored to be here.” Read more.

3. June 2009
Ethiopian American Named 2009 World Food Prize Laureate

4. June 2009
Book Review: Verghese’s ‘Cutting for Stone’
The title of Abraham Verghese’s first novel, Cutting for Stone, is intriguing, perhaps unrewardingly so. In the book’s epilogue, Verghese, a surgeon and professor at Stanford Medical School, closes with the following explanation, “Medicine is a demanding mistress, yet she is faithful, generous, and true […] every year, at commencement, I renew my vows with her: I swear by Apollo and Hygieia and Panaceia to be true to her, for she is the source of all…I shall not cut for stone.” Read more.

5. March 2009
Ethiopian-born Businessman on Forbes Billionaire List
Ethiopian-born businessman Mohammed Al Amoudi, 63, who is now a Saudi citizen and resident of Jeddah, ranks 43 among the world’s richest people, Forbes Magazine announced. The self-made businessman, whose net worth is estimated at 9 billion, amassed his wealth in construction and real estate in Saudi Arabia before investing on energy. He is one of Sweden’s biggest foreign investors with ownership of Svenska Petroleum and Swedish refinery Preem. Read more.

6. July 2009
Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Soccer Tournament 2009

7. December 2009
Interview with Marcus Samuelsson
It has been a busy year for Marcus Samuelsson. A few weeks after the release of his book New American Table, Samuelsson was invited by the White House to prepare the Administration’s first State Dinner honoring the Prime Minister of India. “It was an honor for me not only to be asked but also to do it,” Samuelsson tells Tadias. Samuelsson says he was primarily thinking of diversity while preparing the State Dinner assisted by ten members of his own staff. “I tried to think of diversity on different levels, not just the food,” he tells us. Click here to read the interview.

8. March 2009
Yared Tekabe’s Groundbreaking Research in Heart Disease
Dr. Yared Tekabe enjoys doing most of his reflections while sitting anonymously with his laptop at cafés in Harlem. When he’s not there, Tekabe is busy running studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at his lab in Columbia University’s William Black building in upper Manhattan. Last November, Tekabe’s groundbreaking work on non-invasive atherosclerosis detection and molecular imaging was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, along with an editorial citing its clinical implications. Read our interview with Dr. Yared Tekabe.

9. June 2009
Remembering Michael Jackson
As the world waited for Michael Jackson’s public memorial at L.A.’s Staples Center, New York held its own remembrance ceremony in Harlem on June 30, 2009 at the world famous Apollo Theater, which helped propel the legendary singer to international stardom in 1967. And outside, admirers wrote their condolences on a temporary mural wall, and lit candles, placed flowers and souvenirs by the wall. They cried, sang and danced into the night.

10. August 2009
New York: Audience Gives Thumbs Up to Guzo

11. September 2009
Interview with Dr. Abraham Verghese
Earlier this year, Tadias reviewed Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, an epic novel about a young man’s coming of age in Ethiopia and America. In an exclusive interview, Tadias Magazine spoke with Abraham Verghese about writing, medicine, the healthcare crisis, and how to lead double lives. Read more.

12. October 2009
The Prestor John Sessions: Interview with Tommy T
We spoke to Tommy T about life as a Gogol Bordello member, the influences on his music, and the story behind The Prestor John Sessions. Normally Tommy T punctuates everything he says with so much humor that it’s difficult not to be immersed in sporadic moments of pure laughter. His message in this interview, however, remains serious: Are you ready to change the way you listen to and classify music? Read more.

13. July 2009
Interview: Theater Director Weyni Mengesha
We interviewed the critically acclaimed Theatre Director Weyni Mengesha, one of the founding artists of Sound the Horn – the organization behind the annual Selam Youth Festival in Toronto, Canada. Read more.

13. October 2009
A Conversation with Haile Gerima
For filmmaker Haile Gerima the travails of life are much like moving images – “a constant journey of restlessness and complexity, until the final rest.” Haile’s latest film Teza made its U.S. premiere in Washington D.C. last fall. The film focuses on the tumultuous years of the Mengistu era, as told by an idealistic Ethiopian doctor who recounts dreams and nightmares. We spoke with Haile at his Sankofa bookstore, conveniently located across from Howard University where he has been teaching film since 1975. Click here to read the interview. Here is a sneak preview of Teza:

14. May 2009
Interview with Guzo’s Cinematographer Zeresenay B. Mehar

15. November 2009
An Exquisite Pocket Watch And The Emperor Who Owned It
An exquisite pocket watch, made for the Ethiopian King dating back to 1893, was recently sold at Sotheby’s auction block in Geneva at price of 52,500 Swiss Franc, the equivalent of 51,595.95 U.S. dollars. Read more.

16. November 2009
Prester John: Medieval Ethiopia’s Mythology and History
“Prester John Sessions is the title of the first solo album of Tommy T Gobena, a talented and innovative global musician, who, I believe, is succeeding in his attempt to grasp the meanings of his diasporic sojourn vis a vis his Ethiopian roots. This article is inspired by the title of his album and is written to express my solidarity with his visions and dreams.” (Professor Ayele Bekerie). Read more.

17. May 2009
SoleRebels: Eco Ethical Fashion From Ethiopia
Earlier this year we received a note from one of our readers in Ethiopia. “I’m thinking you might enjoy hearing a grassroots perspective on eco ethical fashion from Ethiopia’s 1st IFAT certified fair trade company” it stated. “it is my great pleasure to introduce our firm, soleRebels to you.” We’ve heard of fair trade Ethiopian coffee and clothing. And now Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Co-Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels is successfully running Ethiopia’s first fair trade footwear company. Click here to read our interview with Bethlehem Alemu. And few months after our interview, AFP followed up with the following headline: SoleRebels, Ethiopian answer to Nike.

18. July 2009
Sunset Blvd: Yonie’s TV Show
We first featured Ethiopian-American artist Yonie in our May 2003 issue as he single-handedly and successfully promoted his music on Seattle’s KUBE 93 FM and X104.5 FM radio stations. Yonie caught up with us in 2009 and let us know that he’s still on the fast track. “Since we last spoke I’ve been up to a lot,” he said. ” I moved to LA in 2005 to pursue acting….engulfed in a world of pretty women, million-dollar mansions and A-list celebrities…” Not surprisingly, Yonie caught the attention of producers who approached him about having a TV show based on his new life in Hollywood. Here is the trailer:

“SUNSET BLVD” tv series trailer from http://sunsetblvd.tv on Vimeo.

19. May 2009
Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz

20. November 2009
Tadias TV Interview with Danny Mekonnen

Interview with Marcus Samuelsson

Above: Marcus, pictured here in the White House garden, was
selected to prepare the Obamas’ first State dinner. (Courtesy).

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New York (Tadias) – It has been a busy year for Marcus Samuelsson. A few weeks after the release of his book New American Table, Samuelsson was invited by the White House to prepare the Administration’s first State Dinner honoring the Prime Minister of India.

“It was an honor for me not only to be asked but also to do it,” Samuelsson tells Tadias.

Samuelsson says he was primarily thinking of diversity while preparing the State Dinner assisted by ten members of his own staff. “I tried to think of diversity on different levels, not just the food,” he tells us.

Below is our interview with Marcus Samuelsson about the White House State Dinner, his new book, and living in Harlem.

Tadias: When did you begin thinking about writing New American Table?

Marcus: I began working on the book in my head around 2004/2005, right around the time I became an American citizen. I really started to think about diversity. How do I explain Ethiopian heritage? How do I define my Swedish heritage? I am privileged to be in America where I can actually be Ethiopian, Swedish, and American. And as Maya and I got more and more together we started thinking about how to keep our identities through food. And not only that but I realized that all my friends are immigrants. It’s Jewish people marrying Arabs, Pakistanis marrying Germans, Latin people marrying Swedish people. And all of them are keeping their food heritage. And more so than language, it’s through food that they are keeping their identities. Food is a celebration of diversity in America. I don’t know any other nation where you could keep all these cultures alive and on top of everything you are also American. And I thought that it was really cool. There is also the recognition of the growth of immigration. Think about how Ethiopians came to this country. In cities now we have on average about six or seven Ethiopian restaurants. That’s incredible. And it’s a way for us to keep our identity. And it’s not only the Ethiopian community that I’m talking about. I’m talking about Vietnamese community in Minneapolis, Latin community in Chicago, Nigerian community in Boston. We know it’s Latin in Los Angeles and Texas and so on. Those are the obvious ones, but I’m talking about the not-so-obvious diversity; the Koreans in New Jersey, Middle Easterners in Detroit.

I always write. I always take notes wherever I am. Food is my language. I cook with friends, I cook in the restaurants, for magazines. I always write and connect my recipes to my outlets. My creativity goes with the diversity. I didn’t want to make a narcissistic book about me, but about everyday people. That’s why I do the collages in the book. The book only works if it’s about the everyday person, the New American. Everyone from kids to the elderly can recount stories of food. Whether it’s stories from the Second World War or stories about leaving Ethiopia, or stories about leaving Sweden, they are all stories about us.

The other thing to note is the enormous Farmers’ Market boom. I wanted to include this in the book. When I came to New York you could barely buy cheese or great bread. Now you have a resurgence of artisanal food makers, and I wanted to touch on that. People are going back to ‘local’ to ‘organic’ to ‘seasonal.’ I wanted to celebrate that. We are slowly going in a greener direction. And that’s the conversation about food that I want to keep having. I’ve already written a book about restaurants. I’ve done that. Going forward it will have to be about people, and how people inspire me. I’m not a politician, I’m a chef, and so I tell my stories through food. Like an artist’s paintings would show what he’s going through or what he’s reflecting on.

Tadias: When was the moment, during your work or travels, where you felt that what you were experiencing should become a book?

Marcus: I’ve been American for a while now and in the beginning of the book I talk about becoming American. As a Black person I wanted to come to America rather than stay in Europe because there are more opportunities here as a person of color. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling. Of course you have doubts and you don’t know if it’s going to work out, but you work hard and it will. This book was also written at a very particular time. This was written post 9-11, in the middle of the Iraq/Afghanistan war, very patriotic stuff. I feel that sometimes the image of America in the rest of the world is not that great, but I feel that diversity, food, these are things that we are getting right. These are things that we can be inspired by. This book was written in a time of transition. I began writing in the Bush era and the book is out in the Obama era.

Tadias: Can you share one or two of the untold stories behind the food that you describe in New American Table?

Marcus: There’s a couple, friends of mine. She’s Pilipino and he’s Swedish and African-American. Every year they have a dinner where when you go to their house they have about 25 different dishes. And the food is from Black culture, Pilipino culture, Swedish culture. And they’re not chefs. That’s inspiration. Their friends are just as diverse, from Ethiopia to France. This is the diverse food life that I wanted to live, and now I’m living it. You know even when Maya cooks Doro Wat and our friends who are not Ethiopian are enjoying the dish, what are we doing? We’re telling a story about Ethiopia. So all of us who are Ethiopian-American are actually ambassadors for our own country. There is an exchange of culture here but we’re not asking you to change your religion or faith or beliefs. We are simply the culture and we are sharing the food. So we’re shifting the dialogue to something positive, something tangible.

Tadias: Looking back at the history of food in America and the traditional American dining table, how would you describe it now?

Marcus: Well this is an evolution. We were very much England/Europe-inspired for a long time. And now you’d hear someone say “Hey I had sushi last night, and I had Ethiopian the night before.” So you’ve gone a complete 180. We’re completely embracing diversity through the food, and before we were taught to hide it. So it is a sense of arrival to say “I had sushi, I just tried a Moroccan restaurant, I had Indian the day before.” Even in cooking the State Dinner we were cooking an ethnic meal at an American State Dinner.

Tadias: How was the experience of preparing the White House State Dinner?

Marcus: It was the highest honor. That was Barack Obama’s first State Dinner so it was extremely important for him. And it was an honor for me not only to be asked but also to do it. Michelle wanted a vegetarian dinner as much as possible as Mr. Singh is vegetarian so we came with fresh but very humble ingredients. These were not the ‘best dishes of Marcus Samuelsson.’ For me, when I did the State Dinner I wanted to show the best of America and the best of India. I also wanted to show the White House as someone’s home. Therefore we introduced a bread course, where we broke bread and had both corn bread and naan bread, which they’d never had at a State Dinner before. It was the first time that all fresh ingredients and herbs were supplied from the White House garden. We had lentil soup, which was very Indian for me, but we also had American seasonal apples. The dumplings and green curry prawns were Indian but we also served All-American dessert, Pumpkin Pie, and we served All-American wine. So it was a complete marriage for me looking at both cultures. The smoked collard greens served were from African American culture. Why not serve that as a testament of diversity instead of making the best possible Foie gras that you could do? I also brought my staff, half of them were girls and half were guys. Some were African-American, some of them were Jewish, so I tried to think of diversity on different levels, not just the food.


Marcus picking herbs from the White House garden (Courtesy photo).


Marcus at the White House kitchen chopping herbs that he picked from the
White House garden in preparation for the Obamas’ first State dinner.

Tadias: How many staff did you take with you?

I brought 10 with me.

Tadias: So what are your next steps? What’s in the horizon? What kind of ventures are you thinking of now?

Marcus: Moving forward, I’m thinking, “What can I do in Harlem?” I’m thinking about public school and food. I’d also like to bring more Farmers’ Markets to Harlem. I live in Harlem and I go in stores and there are no green vegetables in the market. You can go to any market in Ethiopia regardless of income and you can get local eggs and organic. Here, if you don’t have money you eat poorly. It’s one of the only countries where low income and eating poorly is connected. I would like to change that. At least I would like to raise awareness by cooking in the community, or definitely enabling people with low income to have better choices when it comes to food. So those are the kinds of things that I care about.

Tadias: What do you like most about Harlem?

Marcus: Harlem? I always wanted to live in Harlem. Harlem was the community that I knew about when I was in Sweden. It was what I knew about America and African-American culture. I’ve always thought about Harlem. And I also think that if Harlem’s going to change then people like myself and others should stop talking about Harlem and move to Harlem. Harlem is not going to change because we talk about it. It’s going to change because we do something. And I put my money in the economy. For me it’s not a PR stint. For me it’s a lifestyle. I sold my place and moved to Harlem to experience it. And I can’t write about an experience without having lived it. When I shop at C-Town, for example, it’s not because I’m happy to shop there, it’s because I want to have the same experience that the person who lives in this community has. When Maya wants to go to Whole Foods or somewhere else, I say, “Well we can do that too but we also have to buy from here as well because we gotta know what the hell we’re talking about.”

Tadias: Any other thing you’d like to add?

Marcus: I look forward to going to Ethiopia for New Year’s and I look forward to eventually have a cooking school in Ethiopia. To have a hospitality school in Ethiopia – that’s my ultimate goal. I’ve experienced a lot of stuff, and it’s also my job to give back and to challenge people who have money to contribute. It will bring a different dialogue. It’s like what bringing Lucy here does – it starts a dialogue. Same thing with the Discovery Show about the oldest human being, or what Ras does with his film, ‘The Athlete’ when he narrates the story from an Ethiopian perspective. It’s what you guys do; it’s bringing a different view, which is incredible. It’s important to keep producing, keep writing. Even what Maya does; she’s in Korea right now doing a shoot for Olympus Camera. For other people to see that that’s possible is incredible. I’m in awe of all that. I also love one of the pieces that you wrote about Ethiopians that have done stuff in America, because you do exactly what I think about a lot – to inspire to aspire. You read that article, and if you’re not in that article, you want to get in that article. It’s fantastic. It’s inspiring. Regardless of who it is, it’s more about the message.
—–
About the Author:
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

Video: Marcus with MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Prester John: Medieval Ethiopia’s Mythology and History

Image from the cover of the Prester John Sessions, Tommy T. Gobena's first solo album.

Tadias Magazine
By Ayele Bekerie, PhD

ayele_author.jpg

Published: Monday, November 23, 2009

New York (TADIAS) – Prester John Sessions is the title of the first solo album of Tommy T Gobena, a talented and innovative global musician, who, I believe, is succeeding in his attempt to grasp the meanings of his diasporic sojourn vis a vis his Ethiopian roots. This article is inspired by the title of his album and is written to express my solidarity with his visions and dreams. The essay attempts to construct a historical narrative of what Ethiopian historians call the Zagwe Dynasty and the Medieval Hatse (King of Kings or Emperors) States, for they were two significant historical periods that are not only directly connected to the legend of Prester John, but they are remarkably endowed with religious tales and accomplishments. It is my contention that these two periods might help us understand the historical dimension of what Tommy T calls ‘Prester John Sessions.’

In his interview with Tseday Alehegn of Tadias Magazine, Tommy cites Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal as a source for the title of his album. In Hancock’s book, he learned about a legendary and powerful Ethiopian king named Prester John, who was sought as an ally by European rulers of the medieval period. Europeans persistently sought the king with the hope of establishing an alliance against Moslem forces who occupied Jerusalem. The strong global sentiment for the legendary Ethiopian king became a source of inspiration to Tommy T, who used the name as a title of his album. In so doing, Tommy T has elevated his artistry by composing music linked to medieval Ethiopian history.

Who is Prester John? According to John Reader, “the earliest-known reference to Presbyter Iohannes (medieval Latin, meaning Prester, or Priest John) appears in an 1145 CE manuscript of Otto, Bishop of Freisingen, referring to him as a powerful Christian priest-king ruling a vast empire vaguely supposed to be somewhere in middle Asia.” The priest-king is equivalent to Hatse of Ethiopia or Pharaoh of ancient Egypt or Kandake of Meroé. It is a collective term that is assigned to divined rulers. Kandake was the title for women rulers of Meroé in the present day Sudan.

Ethiopia of the medieval period often designated geographically as a part of ‘Indies.’ Munro-Hay cites what he calls “the mediaeval planispheres and portulans” who identified Ethiopia as the “Indian land of rumor and legend.”

The earliest reference to Prester John corresponds in the Ethiopian chronology to the period of the Zagwe Dynasty (1137-1270 CE), a dynasty that thrived in Lasta, northern Ethiopia and its seminal achievement, the rock-hewn Lalibela churches, is now recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, which means that the churches are internationally protected and preserved so that successive generations would be able to enjoy the marvels of architectural feat. The kings of the Zagwe Dynasty presided over an excavation of eleven churches from a single rock. These churches were carved in the twelfth century and they are still in use for mass and other religious activities. In other words, the churches are an enduring expression of devotion to faith and a constant source of global fame.

The kings of the dynasty built churches in Lasta so that Jerusalem continues to live. In fact, the eleven rock-hewn churches built in Lasta are called the churches of the second Jerusalem. The dynasty’s achievement has reached Europe. In fact, they have contributed to the invention and perpetuation of the legend of Prester John.

On the other hand, some historians trace the name Prester John to one of the kings of the Maji. Jasper, one of the kings, is known as Prester John and all his successors assumed the title thereafter. According to this account, the title Prester was chosen “because there was no degree in the world more elevated than the priesthood. The name John was selected in reference to John the Baptist or John the Evangelist,” writes Munro-Hay, citing the story in the Book of the Three Kings (the Maji).

Furthermore, a map published by Sebastian Munster at Basle in 1544 locates the kingdom of Prester John in the northern highlands of present day Ethiopia. Prester John is also mentioned in maps drawn in an earlier period, such as the Egyptus Novelo map of Florence (1454) and the Mappomondo of Venice (1460). This particular period corresponds to the period of the ‘restored’ Solomonic Dynasty. It is also known as Shoan Dynasty. This period has produced great Ethiopian emperors, such as Hatse Yekuno Amlak (1270-1285), Hatse Amda Tsion (1314-1344), Hatse Dawit I (1382-1413), Hatse Yishaq (1414-1429), Hatse Zer’a Ya’qob (1434-1468), Hatse Libne Dengel (1508-1540), and Hatse Tserse Dingel (1563-1597). The Dynasty, which was founded by Hatse Yikno Amlak in 1270 in Shoa, the central highlands of Ethiopia, had 26 Hatses and lasted for 302 years. According to Tadesse Tamrat, “the borders of this kingdom extended roughly to the northern districts of Shoa in the south, the region east of Lake Tana and the upper Blue Nile in the west, and the edge of the Ethiopian plateau in the east.”

The Hatses are divined and their power is defined in the Fetha Nagast, or Law of the Kings. Their power is both ecclesiastical and civic. Kebra Nagast, or the Glory of Kings, on the other hand, is a sacred text linking the genealogy of the Hatses to Menelik I, the founder of the Solomonic Dynasty.

In the period of the ‘restored’ Solomonic Dynasty, “there were also Muslim principalities in the area, along the coast from the Dahlak archipelago in the Red Sea to the Somali town of Brava on the Indian Ocean.” The Muslim principalities were strategically located and benefited a great deal by controlling trade routes in the region. Tadesse observes that “by the end of the thirteenth century, powerful Muslim communities had emerged which were to constitute various well-organized principalities and states: the most important in the interior were Shoa, Ifat, Fetegar, Dawaro, Hadya, Bali and Adal.”

The Sultans of Muslim communities entered in both peaceful and hostile relations with the Hatses of the Ethiopian plateau. During the medieval period, they managed to maintain their autonomy, even though most of them were obliged to pay tributes to the Hatses. Some of the Hatses chose peaceful coexistence with Muslim principalities, while others used force to convert the Muslims to Christianity. In the sixteenth century, a rebellious Muslim leader emerged and succeeded in conquering vast regions controlled by Hatses. The Muslim leader was Imam Ahmed, who defeated the army of Hatse Lebne Dengel at the Battle of Shimbra Qure.

According to Ayele Teklehaymanot, ‘love for things Ethiopian’ began in Europe in the middle Ages. Europe desperately searched for the legendary Pester John in the Indies, which was a geographical term of the time that refers to eastern Ethiopia (India and the Arabian Peninsula) and western Ethiopia (the Horn of Africa, and north east Africa). The Europeans were desperate in their desire to wrest back Jerusalem from Jihadist occupiers. It is also important to note that the geographical interpretation of Indies also placed Ethiopia in Asia. For instance, Honorius D’Autumn, at the beginning of the XII Century CE, asserts: “Sunt vero termini Africae: nilus ex parte orientis…” To Giovanni Battista Brocchi of the fifteenth century CE, the subjects of the ‘Prester John’ were distinguished as Ethiopians and Indians.

“In the year 1400 King Henry IV of England sent a letter to the ‘King of Abyssinia, Prester John.” Tadesse Tamrat, the eminent Ethiopian historian and author of the definitive book, Church and State in Ethiopia (1972), identified the Ethiopian king for whom the letter addressed to as Atse Dawit, the father of the famous and learned emperor Hatse Zer’a Ya’qob, who authored several sacred books. Historians are not certain whether the letter reached Hatse Dawit. However, a copy of the letter is found in the British Royal archives. Portuguese and Roman writers of the middle Ages translated Hatse to mean priest-king.

The genesis of Prester John, as I indicated earlier, coincides with the period in Ethiopian history that may be characterized by a great deal of religious revivalism. This period includes the Zagwe Dynasty of Lasta and the ‘restored’ Solomonic Dynasty of the central Ethiopian highlands. Temporally, the period extends from eleventh century to the sixteenth century of the Common Era. During this time, the Ethiopian rulers were directly involved in the teachings, writings and administration of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

It is also important to note that the period was a period of the consolidation of Islamic states and sultanates. One might add that it was also towards this period that history recorded the internal turmoil that resulted in the rearrangement of the region with irreversible settlement of the Oromos on the central and northern highlands of Ethiopia. Their concept of Gudficha made it easier for diverse ethnic groups on the highlands to interact with the Oromos. Islamic states have also expanded beyond the traditional borderlands and lowlands of the country.

The Late Stuart Munro-Hay in his book Ethiopia Unveiled: Interaction Between Two Worlds, extensively documented the meeting of Europe and ‘Prester John.’ According to Munro-Hay, in 1427 the ‘Prester John’ sent two ambassadors, one Muslim and one Christian, to Valencia to see Alfonso V, king of Aragon (Spain). ‘Prester John’ Yeshaq or Hatse Yeshaq ruled an empire that had seventy-two kings; twelve were Muslims and the rest Christian. What is notable about this account is that ‘Prester John’ appeared to have succeeded in presiding over both Muslim and Christian states. His decision to send Muslim and Christian emissaries to Aragon may suggest the prevalence of peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia. ‘Prester John’ did not participate in the ‘crusade’ to liberate Jerusalem, perhaps unwilling to disrupt the peace he established in his multi-religious empire.

King of Aragon’s envoy to Ethiopia carried with him a letter dated 15 May 1428 to “the most eminent and most victorious monarch, the lord Ysach [Yeshaq], son of David, by the Grace of God, Presbiter Johannes of the Indies, master of the Tablets of Mount Sinay and the Throne of David, and king of kings of Ethiopia.” The letter, which is still available at the Aragon Archive in Barcelona, Spain, hints at that time a strong Ethiopia whose leader was victorious and who also, sought trade and diplomatic relations with Europe. Hatse Yeshaq even suggested marriage alliances with the Aragon royal family. It might be worthwhile to note that the earliest written reference to Somalia is found in a praise poem written in Amharic for Hatse Yeshaq, whose empire reached the northern Somali coast.

Several Arab historians and geographers profusely documented the history of the Hatse Medieval States, apart from local large historical documents and royal chronicles, their deeds. The Arab historians narrated in greater details the powers and territories of both the Hatses and the Sultanates. We also learn that the Hatses sent emissaries and letters to Europe in order to establish diplomatic and trade relations. The Hatses have fought with the Muslim states and often settle their political disputes by acknowledging their relative power position.

Ibn Yaqub in 872 wrote about the Hatses’ control over the Dahlak islands on the Red Sea. Masudi in 935 reported that Hatses controlled the port of Zeyla in the Gulf of Aden, as well as the Dahlak Islands on the Red Sea. Ibn Hawkal in 970 agreed with the reporting of Masudi.

The geographer Idris included northern Somalia as part of the sovereign of the Hatses. Another Geographer Ibn Said in the thirteenth century identified the Wabe Shebele River as a divider between the territories of Ethiopia and Azania. According to Ibn Said, the northern half of Moqadishu was under the rule of the Hatses. Ibn Fadal Alah Omari in the fourteenth century wrote about the vast empire of the Hatses. The territory extends from Indian Ocean to Gulf of Aden to Barka Valley of northern Eritrea. The fourteenth century Ethiopia had ninety-nine big and small states governed by kings and sultanates. These states paid their tributes to Hatses or king of kings of Ethiopia.

The Arab historian Omari included the following states under the sovereign of Hatses: Somhar, Hamasien, Nara, Tigrai, Sehart, Amhara, Shoa, Damot, Genz, Adasso and Mora. The South Eastern territories have also paid tributes to the Hatses. These territories were: Yifat, Dewaro, Arababani, Hadiya, Sharka, Bale and Derra. These historians have also documented the presence of fifty linguistic groups within Medieval Ethiopia.

Historians also researched the accounts of Portuguese travelers. Some even suggest that the legend of Prester John inspired the Portuguese to build ships and navigate the oceans. Given the fact that the Portuguese travelers were among the first foreign visitors received by the Hatses, it was clear that they took the legend very seriously. For instance, Francisco Alvares, who visited Ethiopia for six years at the time of Hatse Lebna Dengel’s rule, referred to him as Prester.

Among the Hatses, Amde Tsion was regarded by far the most powerful. He ruled over both the Christian and Muslim states. The Aragonese king Alfonso V noted in his letter dated 18 September 1450 identified Hatse Zer’a Ya’qob as the ‘most illustrious and most serene prince Lord Jacobo, son of David, of the House of Solomon, Emperor of Ethiopia.’ According to Mersea Hazen Wolde Qirqos, Hatse Zer’a Ya’qob was highly educated. He sponsored the translation of several sacred books from Arabic to Ge’ez. He also authored several holy books himself. According to Richard Pankhurst, “Imperial power was probably at its greatest during the time of the great centralizing emperor Zar’a Ya’qob (1434-68).

It is worthwhile to note that the Medieval Hatse rulers have established governance over the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation-state. It can be argued that the seeds for modern state of Ethiopia may have been sown much earlier than what is usually believed. Tommy T’s ‘Prester John Sessions’ is a glaring reminder of our persistent quest in our long history, for transforming a shared time and space into one Ethiopia.
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This article is well-referenced and those who seek the references should contact Professor Ayele Bekerie directly at: abekerie@gmail.com

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Grammy-Nominated Singer Looks Forward to Motherhood

Above: Grammy-Nominated singer Wayna is expecting her
first child. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, November 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Grammy-nominated singer Wayna says she is looking forward to a new challenge – motherhood. “The most important news of my life these days is that my husband and I are expecting our first child next May,” Wayna shared in her exclusive interview with Tadias Magazine. “This is a dream come true, and I’m enjoying every moment of becoming a mom. It is an amazing feeling.”

Wayna has also been collaborating with up-and-coming Ethiopian-American artists on an album to be released at the end of the month. Here is the interview:

Tadias: What’s on your plate these days?

Wayna: I am part of a collective of Ethiopian and American artists called the Kaffa Beanz. It includes myself, the Prophet of BurntFace, B Sheba, Gabriel Teodros, and AP. We did a collaboration album called Andromeda using traditional Ethiopian samples and hip hop beats. It started out as a project we were doing for fun. But one by one, the songs starting coming together so well that by the time we were finished, we felt like we’d created something special and uniquely Ethiopian-American — something that reflected our taste as soul and hip hop artists, but that also showcased our culture.

On November 20th, we are all coming together from all parts of the country to do a special performance/release party at Zanzibar on the Waterfront in Washington, DC. It’ll be the first and maybe the only time we’ll all be under one roof, so I want to invite everyone within reach to come out. We’ll be performing and selling the album which is a limited release, and the concert will also feature a performance from me and from, Togolese rapper, Tabi Bonney. Every African who loves hip hop or soul should be there.

Tadias: You also write most of your songs, what is that process like for you?

Wayna: The writing process is always different for me. Sometimes, I’ll get a beat and listen for a melody, and then choose lyrics that fit however the music makes me feel. Other times, I’ll have a concept or a hook in my head already and work with a producer or my band to build the music around it. There are also times when I sit at the piano and come up with something on my own. One of the things I enjoy about writing the most is that its unpredictable, and I never know where or how a song will take shape.

Tadias: Your last album garnered a Grammy-nomination. Do you reckon your next LP will be on the same level?

Wayna: No, I hope it will be better. My #1 goal is to keep growing. I still feel like I’m new to being an artist, because I spent so much of my life being a professional and working in an office. So, I’m growing a lot still, and thankfully the music usually reflects that.

Tadias: By the way, where were you when you learned of the news about your Grammy nomination?

Wayna: I was in South Africa at my girlfriend’s wedding. We had just started a post-wedding vacation in an area of the country where there was no access to the Grammy broadcast, so I woke up early the morning after and went to the hotel lobby to check the Grammy site. Before I even got there, there were a flood of emails in my myspace account congratulating me.

Tadias: You seem to travel a lot. Are there any highlights from the tour you’d like to share with us?

Wayna: Yes, its been a busy year for me, I’ve had stops in NYC, Philly, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin and many other cities. Probably my most memorable of these dates was sitting in with the Roots at their weekly jam session at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. It was sold-out, and there I was standing with one of my favorite bands ever. Artists are supposed to just come and jam, no rehearsal no discussion about what your going to do. So, I started with Slums of Paradise, a song I wrote about Ethiopia on my first album, Moments of Clarity Book 1, and they made a beautiful groove behind it, and the crowd loved it!

I’ve also gotten to do shows abroad in London, Toronto and a 3 month residency in Ethiopia, where I played at Harlem Jazz, the Sheraton, the Alliance, the Hilton, and Coffee House. That was probably my most life-changing experience, because I got to live life in my country and to see the music scene there first-hand. My favorite recent overseas trip though has got to be the Selam Youth Festival in Toronto this past summer. The kids were so talented and dedicated, and Weyni Mengesha put on an amazing production. I was really proud to be a part of that.

Video: Wayna at the 2009 Selam Youth Festival in Toronto

Tadias: Which artists would you say have the most influence on you?

Wayna: I love different artists for different things. Bob Dylan for his lyricism, Kim Burrell for her vocals, Stevie Wonder for all of the above, Erykah Badu for her stage show…the list goes on and on. But one of the things I’m excited about for the year ahead listening to new artists and genres that I haven’t been as exposed to. By next year, I’m sure I’ll have a whole new list.

Tadias: Which artists have you not worked with yet, but would love to?

Wayna: My dream collabo is with Andre 3000 of Outkast. He seems to be the kind of artist and producer who has no boundaries for himself, and that is exactly the kind of creative energy I want to be around.

Tadias: You have also teamed up with DC’s rising star Wale to remix ‘Billyclub’ a song about police brutality. Was that inspired by your arrest at Houston Airport?

Wayna: Yes, I had just gotten back from Houston when I was scheduled to perform at the DMV awards. We played “Billyclub,” and because the experience was so fresh in my mind, the show was unlike any other we’d ever done. Wale was in the crowd. We talked about doing this remix, and it came together a few months later. He just got off tour with Jay Z and performing as the house band at the MTV music awards, so I’m excited that we got to do the song together. But mainly, it was an opportunity to vent about whatever feelings I had left over, so I so could just move on. A video for it is soon to be released and the audio is available for a free download.

Tadias: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?

Wayna: The most important news of my life these days is that my husband and I are expecting our first child next May. This is a dream come true, and I’m enjoying every moment of becoming a mom. It is an amazing feeling.

Tadias: Thank you Wayna and we offer you our heartfelt congratulations.

Video: Wayna Reflects On Her Houston Arrest

FOX News: Wayna Performs Billie Holiday Tribute

Obama’s half brother steps into spotlight

Above: President Obama’s half-brother Mark Okoth Obama
Ndesandjo at press conference during an event to launch his
new book Nairobi to Shenzhen in Guangzhou, China, on Nov.
4, 2009. His academic accomplishments parallel that of his
older brother: he holds a bachelor’s degrees in physics and
math from Brown University, a master’s degree in physics
from Stanford and an MBA from Emory. (Getty Images).

Washington Post
By Keith B. Richburg
Thursday, November 5, 2009
GUANGZHOU, CHINA — The mixed-race son of a brilliant but troubled Kenyan academic and a white American woman writes an emotionally wrenching book about his search for identity and self. But this is not the familiar story of President Obama. It is the tale of his publicity-shy younger half brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, who has lived in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for seven years and has just produced a loosely autobiographical work of fiction titled “Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East.” Read more.

Video: Obama’s brother writes a book, talks about abusive father

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Interview with Dr. Abraham Verghese

Physician and author Abraham Verghese. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Shahnaz Habib

Published: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this year, Tadias reviewed Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, an epic novel about a young man’s coming of age in Ethiopia and America. From fascinating social and political portraits of Ethiopia in upheaval, Cutting for Stone zooms into a territory where few have gone before: the drama of the operating theater and the mysteries inside the human body. There can be no doubt that this novel is the work of a seasoned writer who has led many lives in many places.

Time and again, Dr. Verghese has dipped heavily into his own life for furnishing the material for his writing. His experience as a physician in the rural south, caring for terminally ill AIDS patients has been heartrendingly documented in his memoir My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story. Later, in The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss, he described a beloved friend’s struggle with drug addiction, rendering a poetic, raw tribute to male friendships. In his latest book and first novel, Cutting for Stone, the protagonist is a young doctor, raised in Ethiopia, who seeks his fortune in America.

Verghese’s own career as a physician in the United States has taken him from his grueling days as a foreign medical graduate (recounted in The New Yorker article, The Cowpath to America) to becoming the voice of empathetic medicine. As founding director of Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas and in his current role as a senior professor at Stanford University, Dr. Verghese is a champion in the field of Medical Humanities. He is passionate about bedside medicine and physical examination and values the human element that these rituals bring to the facelessness of modern medicine.

In an exclusive interview, Tadias Magazine spoke with Abraham Verghese about writing, medicine, the healthcare crisis, and how to lead double lives.


Abraham Verghese (photo by Joanne Chan)

Can you begin by telling us a bit about all the different places that are a part of you?

My identification with place is complicated. Ethnically, I feel very much Indian. My parents are Indian and I feel very conscious of their legacy, But countrywise, I strongly identify with Ethiopia, having grown up there. And then of course, America is the place that welcomes everybody. So this is home unequivocally, and I am very proud to be American. So there are all these different threads that run through my life.

I remember the passage in the book where Hema speaks of Addis as an evolving city whereas Madras seems to have finished evolving. Was that something that struck you as a primary difference between both places?

Yes, when I went to India and lived in Madras, that was one of the things that struck me about the city. Traditions and ways of life were very established in Madras whereas so much was in transition in Addis. And then when I came to America, it was very different again. There’s a scene later in the book where Marion arrives in America and feels completely unprepared for the scale and scope of America.

You also show how, even through its upheavals, Addis was a cosmopolitan city of the twentieth century. You help the reader picture the different peoples who had congregated in Addis. Can you give us a sense of your relationship with Addis?

I don’t have any family in Addis but I do have friends there and I have strong connections to the medical world in Ethiopia. Also, the present Prime Minister of Ethiopia was a medical student one year behind me. When civil war broke out and the military took over the medical school, he became a guerilla fighter and I left. So I have been back twice – once to do an interview with him for a magazine and the other time for a medical symposium.

Could you tell us something about your writing process? You must have drawn a lot on your memories of growing up in Ethiopia but it is also clear you did a lot of research on Ethiopian history and politics.

I think the research happens in parallel with the writing. I was consciously trying to learn more about the Italian time in Ethiopia because it was a very colorful legacy. Every colonial power leaves their stamp on their country and we are very familiar with the English stamp on India or the French stamp on Cameroon but the Italian stamp on Ethiopia is not very well-known. So I spent a lot of time on that. But the research was in parallel with the writing because as I wrote I would stumble on something that I needed to know more about and so that would set me off in another direction. One of the great joys of research is that you find unexpected things in unexpected places. You are looking for one article but you find another right next to it that leads you to include something you might never have otherwise written about. There’s a lot of serendipity.

Elsewhere you talked about the incremental method of writing in which you write a little bit everyday.

I think I was talking about the incremental method of doing anything. If you do a little of something every day, you gradually get better at it. Instead of finding great blocks of time, you just have to find a little time every day.

So do you have a daily writing practice?

Not really. I write whenever I can and sometimes it winds up being everyday for several days at a stretch of time but sometimes I cannot get to it every day.

I also heard that you have a room on the campus, something like a secret bunker, where you can go and write. Tell me it is true and not a legend.

No, it is true. When I took this position I negotiated for a second office, separate from the student-related, that I could disappear into.

And you also negotiated two days a week to write.

Well, everybody here has protected time to do their research and so during my protected time, instead of going to a lab and doing experiments, I go to my lab and conduct my kind of experiments. In fiction, nonfiction. In any kind of writing, really.

How important is it as a writer to have a place for writing?

I actually don’t think it is very important. I think people make much too much of having a place and how it has to be just right. I can actually write anywhere and often do. The most important thing when you are trying to write is to simply sit down and try to write, it doesn’t matter where. If you are waiting for the right environment before you can write, then you are probably not prepared to write.

What would you say is the unlikeliest place that you have written in?

(Laughs) Probably airports. Everyone’s waiting to take off and frustrated that we are late or whatever and I am barely aware that anything is going on.

Pico Iyer talks about airports as the ultimate postmodern metropolis. He probably gets a lot of writing done in airports as well.

I am not surprised. He travels a whole lot more than I do.

In fact, in his book Global Soul, he talks about a new generation of transnationals who belong to so many cultures that they belong to nowhere. He calls them Nowherians, or fulltime citizens of nowhere. Do you think you are a global soul?

I feel I am not completely a global soul. I have sequential interactions with different countries and even within the US, I have steadily migrated from Tennessee to Iowa to Texas to California now. I hope this is the last stop. I hope I am not destined to go to Guam and Hawaii!

But even when our migrations are sequential, our memories are not, right?

Yes, very true. They are seamless and overlapping and the only constant is you. You are the only one linking the different places.

There is that beautiful passage in the book where you talk about how listening to Tizita takes the narrator right back to Ethiopia, whether he is in Adams Morgan or in Khartoum.

Yes, music is so mysterious that way in its connection to the brain and its ability to transform us. We all probably have a song that can transport us back to a different part of our life. And it is very difficult to make that song come alive for someone else us. I could not bring the song to the reader but I could try to bring that sense of identification, the nostalgia that it evoked. And of course, that song [tizita] itself is about nostalgia. I worried a great deal about whether I could pull it off. But we all have our tizitas, our songs of some kind.

To get back to the subject of medicine and writing. You speak in this book as well as in interviews about the ritual of examining the patient. Examining the patient is a lot like reading, isn’t it, with the patient as the text?

Yes, but it’s also much more than that. At one level the patient is a text to decode, a mystery to unravel, and that is certainly important, it’s the most attractive part of being a diagnostician. But this is not a natural relationship, between the doctor and the patient. In fact, it is terribly unnatural. They are coming to you because they are in some sort of distress and you are meeting them because you have made this career choice to help people and so it’s a very strange relationship and even though it seems routine, there is nothing routine about it. Its’ really quite loaded. So after you meet them and decode the text, you are, by your presence, by your engagement, providing the kind of comfort no one else can provide. The analogy I use is “when you are drowning, the only person who can save you is someone who knows how to swim”.

I find it terribly important to be conscious of that dynamic, even if the patient is not. Somebody else once described this by saying “one of our roles is to save the patient from their nihilistic tendencies.” A sick individual’s instinct is taking him or her towards nihilism, to imagine that the world is cruel, that there is nothing worth living for, and the doctor’s job is to counter that.

Have there been other writers who write about medicine whom you count among your influences?

There are a lot of writers who write well about the business of medicine. Atul Gawande for instance. And I have always admired that kind of writing. But I feel that by writing fiction about medicine, you are conveying a higher form of truth. I guess that’s my bias. (Laughs) If you pull it off well, like in “The Citadel” for instance, then you have captured the reader’s imagination. If I manage to get you to enter the world of the novel and completely forget your everyday life, you don’t just find out about medicine, you live medicine. You live it through Hema, you live it through Ghosh, through Marion, and you come out at the other end and its 2009, but you feel like you have lived a lifetime and you have all the lessons of a lifetime. So I am drawn to those fictional narratives, not necessarily written by physicians, but which convey medicine in a convincing and inspiring way.

And in many ways, reclaiming the humanity of medicine is also the focus of your field of medicine, isn’t it? Can you tell us a bit about why that is important?

I think we live in an age of tremendous fracturing in medical care. It’s very difficult to find one person to take care of you, you end up going to six different people. We are in great danger of getting lost in the technology. We can easily mistake data for wisdom but it is not the same as wisdom. So I have been emphasizing the physican-patient relationship, that this interaction is timeless. No matter how routine it seems, no matter how many imagings and scans can help us see the patient inside out, we still need our presence with the patient. We should never underestimate the patient’s desire to get some help and that subtext of wanting comfort to be comforted, and that all-important ritual of baring their soul and baring their body and allowing you to touch them. And if you shortchange all that, you lose the patient’s faith.

Is there more attention paid to medical humanities now than, say, fifty years before?

I think there is more conscious attention to it as a field of study. It is amazing to me that there is a label that says “medical humanities” on it. But it’s a double-edged sword because medical humanities as a discipline has been hijacked by the English literature and semantics people. In many medical schools, the medical humanities division is run by someone with a Ph.d in English Literature and they have made this into a discipline that I worry is getting disconnected from the field of medicine. Some of those people look down on a physician who wants to teach medical humanities as if the physician does not have the right credentials for teaching this. And I wonder what is their credential to teach this, if they have never walked in a physician’s shoes?

I ran a program on medical humanities in San Antonio and I felt that my mission there was to restore medical humanities to medicine and take it out of the abstract. I am not against someone getting a Ph.d in medical semiotics and breaking down narrative and all that, but let’s not confuse that with talking to a medical student who is trying to picture himself at the bedside of a dying patient and introducing that student to Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich. And that’s what medical humanities is to me.

In a way it actually mirrors the other disconnect, the one between patients and doctors at the bedside.

That is exactly right. They are parallel disconnects and in both cases there is a hubris – “don’t talk to us about medicine, we know all about it though we have never seen a patient, and we have no idea what a medical student is going through, we know what’s best for them, we are going to teach them about medical humanity.”

What do you think of Obama’s vision for healthcare and how do you think that will affect medical humanities?

I am convinced that some change is forthcoming. But at what level? The bottom-line is that this is a very expensive healthcare system. And I worry that Obama’s plan is to expand coverage and do all these wonderful things but he’s going to find the money for it, not by saving costs but by saying, well if we do preventive medicine, we will save this much money; if we do IT, we will save so much money. And all those are laudable but it’s somewhat pie in the sky. I think what we really need to do is cut costs. But every dollar spent on healthcare is a dollar of income for someone. So when you try and cut costs as Hillary Clinton tried to do, you are taking away income from doctors and pharmaceutical companies and x-ray manufacturers, and you run into this buzz-saw of lobbying that will simply decimate you. So Obama is trying to sidestep that by not addressing the cost issue, but I really think the hard solutions are painful, and will cause a lot of people to make less money than they are making and that will make them unhappy but I really don’t think there is another real solution. Frankly, we badly need more primary healthcare providers so that when you are ill you can go to your doctor. But right now there are more people who can put a catheter up your coronary arteries than treat you if you have the common cold. I think as a nation we have to understand that we cannot replace the presence of the physician with machines.

You have a fulltime job as a doctor and then you have this other life as a writer. How do you balance both – what does a writer need to balance two completely different lives?

See, I don’t accept that premise, that these are two different lives. I see it as one seamless life. I am always puzzled when people make this distinction between writer and physician. Really, its all one enterprise. But in terms of getting a piece of writing out there, the fact that I am a physician has nothing to do with it and putting MD next to my name would be irrelevant. So in that sense, if you were asking me what is the primary ingredient a writer needs, whether they are also a doctor or an actor or a garbage collector, I think it comes down to perseverance, and the willingness to revise revise revise until you get it right. The art is really in the revision.


About the Author:
Shahnaz Habib is a freelance writer, based in Brooklyn.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

CNN: Gelila Assefa Puck – Fashion with African inspiration

Gelila Assefa has an eye for style. She launched a line of high-end handbags in 2006 and she has strong connections to Ethiopia, putting much of her energy into her charity work there. (CNN International)

CNN Video: African Voices


Giving back to Ethiopia
Couture fashion designer Gelila Assefa Puck talks about why helping
the children of Ethiopia is close to her heart.


Just mad about each other’
Gelila Assufa Puck talks about how she met her husband, celebrity
chef Wolfgang Puck.


New York: Audience Gives Thumbs Up to Guzo (Watch Video)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, August 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The award-winning Ethiopian film Guzo premiered at Helen Mills Theatre in New York City on Saturday, August 8, 2009 and received big thumbs up from the audience.

Robel and Lydia, two Addis Ababa urbanites, felt they had what it takes to live and survive in the countryside, doing the daily chores and farming with their respective host families. By day 17 they “wanted to go home.” Guzo does a spectacular job of capturing rural life, from grueling long walks to the market to late night Areqe inspired talk and dance. Robel and Lydia learn it is no small feat to survive and raise a family under such harsh and oftentimes monotonous conditions. Robel’s host mentions he will not miss Robel at work but bends his head and weeps when he realizes their days are numbered. A farmer’s wife, Belge, confesses that Lydia is the first female friend she’s had, and knows she will miss her for years to come. Guzo pulls at your heartstrings, often making you laugh till your belly aches and then suddenly forcing tears to well up in your eyes. It captures the beauty of Ethiopian culture, tradition, and all the heartache that comes with living with little resources. Although both Robel and Lydia claim that one cannot fully understand and appreciate rural life until they live it everyday, watching them work and survive 20 days brings one as close to the feeling as one could ever get.

The following Tadias video captures the audience’s reaction to Guzo.

Ethiopian Beauty Queen Wins Best Female Model Contest

Kidan Tesfahun, 24, of Ethiopia has won this year's Best Female Model of the World contest held in Spain.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, July 27, 2009

New York (TADIAS) – 24-year-old Kidan Tesfahun, Ethiopia’s Miss Millennium Queen, has been named Best Female Model of the World 2009 at a fashion modeling contest organized by Sukier Models International in Alicante, Spain, on 24th July 2009, her representatives announced.

According to the competition’s director and founder Sukier Vallejo Marte: “The contest was created with the idea of attracting new faces and talent for future projects both domestically (in Spain) and internationally…”

Tesfahun, who had previously represented Ethiopia at the Miss International 2007 and Miss Earth 2008, says her newly gained title adds confidence to her future prospects in the modeling industry.

“From here on I guess the sky is the limit for me,” the aspiring model said. “I have gained the professional acceptance I always knew I should have, and I am indeed grateful to the Almighty Lord for guiding me and making my dreams come true.”

She is the second Ethiopian model this year from the Ethiopian Millennium pageant to win an international beauty competition. Bewunetwa Abebe, 19, was crowned Model of Africa at the 2009 International Beauty and Model festival in China.


24-year-old Kidan Tesfahun – Best Female Model of the World 2009.


Kidan Tesfahun pictured here at the Miss Earth 2008 contest.

Tadias Interview With Sara Nuru: Germany’s Next Top Model

Germany's Top Model Sarah Nuru. (Photo by Oliver S)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New York (TADIAS) – The following is an interview with Sarah Nuru, who was crowned Germany’s Top Model last month after she beat out 21,000 contestants to claim the coveted title.

Heidi Klum, the top model host, made the announcement in front of a packed crowd of 15,000 in the Cologne Lanxess Arena.

The 19-year-old fashion model from Munich, whose parents immigrated from Ethiopia, has earned the nickname “Sunshine” from Germany’s Next Top Model, and was wildly popular with her competitors.

Here is our interview with Sara.


Photo by Oliver S.

TADIAS: Sara, thank you for your time and congratulations on your tremendous
accomplishments. How does it feel to be crowned Germany’s Next Top Model?

Sara: Thank you very much, I feel very happy. Yes it is quite amazing what is going on right now. It will probably take time until I really recognize this amazing development. But so far, it is a wonderful experience and right now a very exciting time for me.

TADIAS: What does this title mean for your future career?

Sara: To be honest, the title is a great door-opener but I will not lay back and enjoy the title . I have a great chance to make the very best of my benefit. Since the 21st of May, the day I became Germany’s next Top-model, I was hardly at home, worked day and night and really enjoyed my new life as a model! That’s how I imagined it.

TADIAS: This is historical in a sense that the media is saying that you are the first black person to be crowned Germany’s Next Top Model. Did you feel additional pressure because of your cultural background?

Sara: Well, I feel honored that you call it “historical”, but I wouldn’t make a big thing of it . For me, it is of course fantastic to be a black model. I’m very happy that I became the winner of Germany’s next Top-model beside so many beautiful and talented girls. I’m Ethiopian through my parents that’s a fact and I’m absolutely proud of it. But I can’t imagine that my skin color had a big effect for my victory at this show .

TADIAS: Where do you see yourself in a few years?

Sara: It is quite difficult to predict a career, but I have a reliable agency and already great jobs and four big campaigns to work for. Of course, it is desirable for every model to be successful in the international model business. But I am someone who is down to earth and I, of course, will work hard and be calm and serene in attending to my ways.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Sara: Thank you to everyone who believed in me. And, yes, just like I said stay true to yourself and never forget were you came from.

TADIAS: Good luck Sara.

Sara: Thank you very much and all the best.

Sara Nuru – One of Her First Interviews After Her Victory

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Part Two of Ethiopians in Hollywood: Filmmaker Zee Mehari (VIDEO)

Tadias TV
Published: Monday, May 4th 2009

New York (Tadias) – Part two of Tadias TV’s Ethiopians in Hollywood series features writer and director Zeresenay (Zee) Berhane Mehari, who worked as Cinematographer and Second Unit Director on Aida Ashenafi’s highly acclaimed new film Guzo (Amharic for Journey).

The film, which won best picture at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival, chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks are forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege. The film is scheduled to premier in Washington DC on May 9th at the Lisner Theater (GWU).

Zee first appeared on Tadias on our June-July 2004 print issue. The following interview was taped in Los Angeles last month. Part one of this series highlighted Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz, who discussed his role as one of the judges at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival and his experience as a filmmaker.

Part One with Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz

Interview with Academy Award Nominee Leelai Demoz (Tadias TV)

Above: Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz (Tadias).

Tadias TV
Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New York (Tadias) – In the following interview with Tadias TV, Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz, speaks about his role as one of the judges at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival and his experience as a filmmaker. The documentary Guzo (The Journey), directed by Aida Ashenafi won first place in this year’s competition. The film is scheduled to premier in Washington DC on May 9th at the Lisner Theater (GWU).

Leelai’s interview was taped in Los Angeles. Part two of our Ethiopians in Hollywood series features filmmaker Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, who worked as Cinematographer and 2nd Unit Director for Guzo.

Part Two: Featuring Filmmaker Zeresenay (Zee) Berhane Mehari

Related: Interview With Director Aida Ashenafi
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff
Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The film chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks are forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege. Read more.

Video: Ethiopians Bid Farewell to Tilahun Gessesse at State Funeral

Update:

Ethiopia hosted a state funeral for its legendary vocalist
Tilahun Gessesse. It is the first such state funeral in the
nation’s history. Ethiopians have lost the greatest popular
musician the country has ever produced.


Ethiopia is mourning what many describe as one of the greatest -
if not THE greatest popular musician – the country has ever produced.

Read more at BBC.



BBC

Legendary Ethiopian Singer Tilahun Gessesse Dies at 68

Monday, 20 April 2009

The popular Ethiopian singer, Tilahun Gessesse, has died at the age of 68.

He had been the most dominant figure in Ethiopian music for more than half a century and will receive a state funeral later this week.The country’s radio and TV stations broke into their programmes to broadcast tributes. He started singing in the days of the Emperor Haile Selassie, and was for a time the lead singer in his imperial bodyguard band. The BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says that over the years, his plaintive tenor voice sang of love, family and friendship, as well as the more public themes of liberty, unity and justice. He had been in poor health in recent years because of diabetes. Read more.

Queen of Sheba Represents Ethiopia at Choice Eats 2009 (Tadias TV)

Tadias TV
Cover photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias Magazine

New York – The following video shows the second Choice Eats tasting event organized by The Village Voice, the nation’s first and largest alternative newsweekly. Among those dishing out delicious and eclectic cuisine was Philipos Mengistu, owner and Executive Chef of Queen of Sheba, and his wife, Sara. The event took place on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at the historic 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Enjoy!

Grammy-nominated Wayna Speaks to Tadias

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian-American artist Wayna spoke to Tadias Magazine regarding her recent arrest at Houston airport and her blossoming music career. The Grammy-nominated singer is scheduled to perform at Edens Lounge in Baltimore on April 2nd; the Blue Note in New York City on April 3rd and the Zanzi bar in Los Angeles on April 5th.

Tadias: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Wayna: Thanks guys. I’m feeling better every day.

Tadias: Regarding the Huston airport incident, can you explain what happened to your fans?

Wayna: Yes, I had just completed a mini tour of Texas and was en route to Miami. In my shows, I have a song called Billy Club about police brutality and I use a prop when performing it — a club to illustrate the song’s meaning. So I was late to catch my flight and had a large suitcase I was checking in and my performance bag I was carrying on, which has all of the things I usually bring to a show. The night before, I had printed 60 promo cds to take to the music conference in Miami and had crammed everything in my performance bag. In my rush to catch the flight and my general tiredness after driving and playing throughout Texas, I forgot to take the prop out of my bag and put it in my checked luggage. When the security found it, we were laughing about it. They said, we’ll just fill out this paper work and get you on your way. But I was in Harris County, Texas, the death penalty capital of the world, and before I knew they said that the assistant District Attorney wanted to press charges, and they were going to arrest me. I was stunned. But after I met with the lead DA and all the facts came out, the charges were dismissed “in the interest of justice” the report said, and I was on my way.


Wayna at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards.

Tadias: Beyond the headlines, how do you feel about your
career and your Grammy nomination?

Wayna: I am really excited for the new opportunities the Grammy nod has created. New blessings are coming everyday, and I’m working hard to be ready for all of them. I have a new project coming out this summer, a couple of great collaborations in the works, and a lot of shows, including a performance in the Congo.

Tadias: Are you surprised by the media attention surrounding your arrest?

Wayna: I was really surprised, yes. I suppose a scandalous story — justified or not — is more interesting to some media than all of the other things that have happened in my career. But I can’t get caught up in that. My job is to stay focused and positive and to do the best I can. I will make my share of honest mistakes, but I know God will protect me.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Wayna: I just want to thank all the people who prayed for me and shared their support. I’m relieved and grateful that the truth came out, and that I can move on and concentrate on the good things ahead.

——–
Related from Tadias Archive

Ethiopian-American Artist Prepares For Grammy Awards

Wayna: A Soulful Diva in the Making
(First published in our November/December 2004 print issue:
An exclusive interview with Tadias when Wayna launched
her music career).

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn
Updated: Sunday, February 8, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Friends and family may know Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen (Wayna) as the young University of Maryland alumna who double majored in English and Speech Communications, and went on to serve as one of the first Ethiopian American researchers at the White House under Former President Bill Clinton. Recently, however, Wayna has waded into new waters and is beginning to make a name for herself among America’s favorite musicians. She’s nominated for a Grammy. Read more.

First Elected Ethiopian-American Judge

Above: Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson received the oath of office from Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court Peggy A. Quince on on Friday, January 30, 2009.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, March 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Nina Ashenafi Richardson, an Ethiopian-American judge, who was elected to the Leon County bench in Florida on November 4th, 2008, is hard at work in the Sunshine State’s capital county.

She recently told the Tallahassee Democrat that although her workload is heavy, she is mindful of the responsibilities and privileges of her new position.

“At the county court level it’s a lot of volume, and you have to make sure you keep up with it,” she said of the plethora of criminal and civil cases that she now presides over. “I love it. Every time I come into the courthouse I continue to feel so privileged and honored to be here.”

Born in Ethiopia, Nina came to the U.S. as a young girl and was raised by her late father Professor Ashenafi Kebede, the renowned Ethiopian composer and musicologist, who was the Founder and first Director of the National Saint Yared School of Music in Ethiopia. In the United States, he taught Ethnomusicology and served as the Director of the Center for African-American Culture at Florida State University, where his daughter later earned her law degree. He was also the Director of the Ethiopian Research Council, comprised of Ethiopian and American academics and professionals, which was founded by African American scholar Leo Hansberry.

Judge Nina, a mother of two, who is married to former State Legislator Curtis Richardson, was also the the first African-American woman to head the Tallahassee Bar Association and the first African-American to lead the Tallahassee Women Lawyers (TWL).

Tadias congratulates Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson on her accomplishments!


Judge Ashenafi Richardson was ceremonially assisted into her judicial robes by her
husband Curtis B. Richardson, and daughters on Friday, January 30, 2009.


Related:
Judge Nina’s Father:

Dr. Ashenafi Kebede, one of Ethiopia’s greatest cultural treasures – composer, conductor, ethnomusicologist, historical musicologist, music educator, novelist and poet – he died on May 8, 1998, at age 60. Read more at Florida State Times.

Beyonce Plans Ethiopia Concert

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: March 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Beyonce Knowles, the R&B star and actress who plays the legendary Etta James in the movie Cadillac Records, is gearing up for an international tour, which may include Ethiopia, Entertainment Weekly reports.

Beyonce’s last performance in Ethiopia took place at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, on October 17, 2007.

As to her 2009 schedule, EW says: “While details are still being worked out, she has dates tentatively penciled in for the U.K., Ethiopia, Japan, Brazil, and more, plus a run through the U.S. this summer.”

“I’ve been working on this tour for eight months,” Beyonce told EW. “It’s crunch time! I’ve been rehearsing and trying to make sure I put my set list together. Right now I’m anxious and I can’t sleep — I’ll be wanting to be at rehearsal. That’s the only thing I can think about. But I can’t wait.”

The report also says Beyonce will begin her year-long international tour in Canada later this month.

Chester Higgins: Omo Spirit Narrative

Tadias Magazine
Publishers’s Note:

Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The following narrative is penned by Chester Higgins, Jr. He is one of the most significant photographers of his generation. He has been a staff photographer at The New York Times since 1975. One of the most indelible images of Emperor Haile Selassie was captured by him in 1973 in Addis Ababa. Higgins’ most recent photographs focus on the peoples of the Omo Valley of Ethiopia.

Omo Spirit: by Chester Higgins, Jr

Chester Higgins, Jr

I’m from that house, perched on a slope — near the gully, in that farming village of 800 people, inside the triangle of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. At the small age of nine, a dazzling light appeared in my room in the middle of the night, snatching me from sleep. At first, I was fearlessly curious. When I heard a voice coming out of the light, I screamed. Only decades later did I come to understand and appreciate the significance of this night and accept that perhaps I had been reached, my coordinates known, by the light of the Spirit.

In my part of the country people spoke matter-of-factly of “the Spirit.” I witnessed my Great Aunt talking away the pain of burned flesh and mixing herbs, and the enthusiastic, often shuddering, joyous celebration of the community of men and women touched by the Spirit each Sunday. Today, I find that interplay between our world of flesh and the Spirit still existing in Ethiopia. I felt it most acutely when I traveled this year to the South among the Omo people.

A year ago, I began to research these diverse groups of southern people who live in a triangle of Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. Since my first trip to Ethiopia in 1973, I have heard stories of their life, once isolated, but lately being encroached on by tourists and insensitive government policies. The loss of land has made survival for some of the Omo groups precarious. I have long wanted to work with them.

Searching images and writings about these ancient groups, I found little to suggest their voices have been heard or their true faces seen. Too often when we photograph “exotic” cultures—people of Nature— otherness prevails. Would the people trust me enough to allow me to work with them? Something deep stirred within me. My challenge became to give voice to the sacred Spirit buried inside the veins of each of them.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

When I first encountered the Omo, I had to think about how much of what was before me was a shadow of the past, smoke of the present or a light from the future. In their homeland the relationship among the people, the land and the sky guides life in very pragmatic ways, revealing something about their spiritual sense of the cosmos. Against a dramatic starry backdrop, the Omo look for the sun’s appearance in different places on the horizon to tell the seasons. When twilight reveals the four stars of the Southern Cross, the two Pointers rising in a straight line at sunset and falling to the horizon at sunrise, they know the Omo River will soon flood. It is time to migrate to higher ground. When the flood recedes, they return to plant their crops.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

Culturally, the Omo’s definition of beauty and self-worth is radically different from the Western ideals I grew up around. Spiritually,they are human vessels brimming with the Spirit, very much akin to the folks of my childhood. They are anchored between the ground and the sky, flanked by yesterday and tomorrow. Looking into their eyes, I found myself in an intensity of spiritual reflection I was familiar with. Each subject’s face, countenance, accessories, decorative paint, scarification or tattoos and piercing was merely the starting point.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

What matters is what is going on inside. Could I find and connect with an engaging Spirit within people in what appeared to be such an alien culture? I came to each village with an interpreter specifically to sit with the village elders. I carefully selected candidates for my portraits, reaching out to touch each person to sense if our Spirits would spoon into each other. To make authentic interior images, I must have the complete cooperation of the subject.

I brought a full studio to southern Ethiopia. Technically for me the most important consideration in any photograph is light — or its absence. I find the light in Ethiopia to be the clearest. In the Amharic
language, the word for light is mebrat—a woman’s name. At an early age, I found pleasure in studying the nuances of light, watching its dance and its penumbra. I like to say that light is my mistress. She has been a major asset, helping me see more clearly.

Before the portrait sessions, I anchored cloth backdrops to light stands or just set up lights against a natural backdrop — creating a studio without walls. The burst of strobe first frightened my subjects, but once they understood that the careful preparations were directed at producing clearer representations of themselves, they began to place their trust in me, opening to reveal a deeper self, peeling away suspicion and reservation. To behold fully what is in front of my eyes, I always put my trust in the Spirit within to recognize the Spirit outside. When everything is complementary, an embrace can take place. I am invigorated when I feel this connection; it just happens. I believe the Spirit allows itself to be visualized, but refuses to be made a captive. But only when it manifests through the flesh can a subject’s interior be revealed.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

During my sessions with the Omo, I felt that our Spirits embraced, leading me through moods and perspectives unique to the moment — and unique to them. I’ve since returned to New York, but the Omo people remain in their ancestral home, watching the heavens, by day the sun and at night the stars, that comfort their mystical dreams — dreams too deep for me to fathom. I made a visual litany with my camera, capturing the lines in their faces that mirror their spiritual trekking in time. I think of these images as a testament to spiritual moments that will remain an afterglow to their physical existence — much like a speeding meteorite, yet another expression of existence by the Spirit.

Learn more at ChesterHiggins.com

10 Questions for Henry Louis Gates Jr.

TIME
By Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“If we all traced our family trees 50,000 years back, we’re all
in Ethiopia. There’s no question about that.”

- Henry Louis Gates Jr.

You recently wrote about the complex feelings Abraham Lincoln held toward black people. Could you expand on that? Bill Bre, BREMEN, GERMANY

A fundamental part of Lincoln’s moral compass was his opposition to slavery. But it took him a long time to embrace black people. We were raised with a fairy-tale representation that because he hated slavery, he loved the slaves. He didn’t. He was a recovering racist. He used to use the N word. He told darky jokes. He resisted abolition as long as he could. But in the end, he was on an upward arc, one that was quite noble.

Can you define the word race? Treva Gholston STONE MOUNTAIN, GA.

People use the words ethnicity and race interchangeably. But race is not a biological concept. It’s socially constructed. We are [influenced by] the environment in which we live, but our physical features are inherited from our biology. If we all traced our family trees 50,000 years back, we’re all in Ethiopia. There’s no question about that. Read more.

The Colors of Ethiopians: Where Are You From?

Above: Tigist Selam received her Bachelors in International
Relations from San Francisco State University and her Masters
from Goldsmiths University of London. She works and lives in
New York.

Tadias Magazine
Opinion
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New York (Tadias) – “Where are you from?” I am so over it. I am tired of explaining myself over and over again. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore the question? Let them assume?

And once I tell them where I’m from I get responses like: “Oh, really?” “Interesting.” “That’s different. I would have never guessed.” And the list goes on. Now, what can I say to that?

No, not really how the heck am I interesting when you don’t even know me…different from who?”

Killis, Killis, Killis!” That’s what cheeky children would yell in the rural areas of Ethiopia, pointing their finger at me with great laughter. All I do is smile, too shy to respond in my broken Amharic. When I am introduced to other Ethiopians, the majority are uncertain whether they should speak to me in English or in Amharic. I introduce myself as Tigist and it confuses them more.

“Oh, are you Ethiopian?” they ask with a surprise look. Often it is assumed that I am of a different race and people sometimes talk to me in languages I don’t understand.

Once in London a five year old Ethiopian boy, Yohannes, asked me in his posh British accent:

“Tigist, are you black or are you white?”

“I am grey”, I answered.

I am Ethiopian and German. I was born in the United States. I grew up in Nigeria, Argentina and Germany. When I was sixteen I moved to the United States and later on to the United Kingdom. At the moment I am back in the United States, unsure of where I am going next. But no matter where I go, I always get the same question:

Where are you from?
Where did your parents meet?
Where are they living now?
What languages do you speak?
Where did you grow up?

Basically, I have to give them my life story before I can even ask them a question. Usually it’s just out of genuine curiosity, and in those instances I’m willing to share my story. Sometimes it’s even fun to let them guess where I’m from. Depending on where I am at that very moment, I get the most bizarre answers. I have heard everything but Asian as a guess.

No one has ever reckoned I would be Ethiopian and German. Sometimes I just agree to whatever they say and see how far I can take it. Other times, they are just shocked and look at me saying, “But you look like…” As if I don’t know what I look like.

There is seriously nothing that can shock me anymore. I’ve heard it all before, and take it with humor. I try to use my ambiguity to my advantage. I constantly walk in and out of cultures, capable of fooling, perhaps anyone, at least for a while. It’s not always funny though. There are times when I get real ignorant questions such as:

“Has Ethiopia been colonized by Germans?” or even “Is Ethiopia in Africa?”

Most of my friends refer to me as “My Ethiopian-German friend.”

Once people get to know me, however, they get over the fact that I am Ethiopian and German. But still, they find it really amusing when I have to explain myself to others.

What Obama’s Presidency means to my daughter from Ethiopia

BY Jill Vexler

Updated: January 25, 2008

New York (Tadias) – About six months ago, my then seven year old daughter, Tibarek, awakened early one morning and called out to me. “Jilly, I had a dream. Joe Biden won! And that means that if he wins, Obama will win, too. So, you don’t have to worry!” I told her that her dream was wonderful and I hoped she was right. “Kids just know these things. Adults just have to listen to us sometimes.”

My prescient daughter was right and on Nov. 5th, I awakened her to say, “OBAMA WON!” “Stop kidding me!” she responded with a smile. “You’re sure?” And we, like the vast majority of Americans and the world, started our day with a profound smile.

I’m still digesting Obama’s victory and what it means to me. Each time I hear someone on TV, I think “Oh, that’s what it means.” Optimism. Potential. The fruits of hard work. The core of what America means to the world. My elation that a man of high intelligence, calm and caring has won is reinforced by the flood of emails from friends around the world who are SO excited with us – the friend in Amsterdam who was invited to FIVE parties to watch the results, the friend in Tel Aviv who sees a new day in the Middle East, my “sister” in Mexico City who is crying with emotions for future generations.

There’s also a profoundly personal joy in Obama’s victory that I haven’t fully articulated, but it goes something like this: Because I am Tibarek’s mom, I feel an extra connection to the joy of the African American and African communities here and all over the world that a black man is the new leader of America. I am overjoyed that Tibarek has been in the US during this formidable time, when women leaders are the norm, Spanish is the language she hears and is picking up, and black faces are those of our leaders. She’s living a life in which news that “Uncle Bruce and Uncle Mitch are getting married!” is met with “I thought they already were.” Her visual vocabulary is vast with fluid definitions of who’s who and who can be what. Rabbis and Episcopal priests are women. Her elementary school teachers are Chinese American, African and Caribbean American, white, Latina, scarf-wearing Muslims. Her generation sees diversity as the norm while ours saw “white men” as the norm. She voted with me for Hillary for Senator and Obama for President; we canvassed for Obama in Pennsylvania; we talk about policy and fairness. I love it that she will see little girls who look like her living in the White House. I am proud to have participated in activities which show her in the importance of being involved.


Tibarek checking in at a polling station


Campaigning in Scranton, Pennsylvania

And herein, I feel an almost secret connection, perhaps my own little invention, of closeness to the man and his family. Obama’s white anthropologist mother brought him up in a world where different cultures, looks, languages, religions and nationalities were daily fair. This was formative. His deeply ingrained values are reflected in his ease with cultures, from his approach to foreign policy to his take on domestic diversity. Each time Obama talks about world cultures, diversity in America, intercultural understanding, his comfort with true multiculturalism exudes. Problems are not swept away but are approached under a larger umbrella of respect for the human experience and the need to understand multiple perspectives. With this in the forefront, Obama and his team bring new energy and intellect to find creative solutions. What a glorious contrast with the Republicans for whom an understanding of multiple perspectives was seen as unpatriotic.

I am Tibarek’s white anthropologist mother who also lives in the world where a huge embrace of “other” is the norm. Two years ago, Tibarek’s Ethiopian mother entrusted me to take her beyond the family’s limited resources, expand her world, grow and blossom. I promised her I would and am taking this amazing person along for every possible opportunity that comes our way or that we can create. I hope I am giving Tibarek the tools for living in a hugely diverse world, enjoying differences and learning from them. I want her to know and be comfortable with her many identities: African, Ethiopian, American, Texas, from a bi-racial Jewish family with Episcopalian god-parents and friends and family from every point on the globe. And I hope she, like Obama, will take the ball and run with it as she makes positive contributions to the world she will encounter.

From knocking on doors in Pennsylvania, I figure she’ll soon be knocking on another door on Pennsylvania Avenue, this time for a play date.


Scranton, Pennsylvania

Cover Image: Jill Vexler, a New York City based anthropologist,
who specializes in curating exhibitions about cultural identity
and social history, with Tibarek, her seven year old adopted
daughter from Ethiopia, outside the polling station in Greenwich
Village, NYC
.

Hot Blog: Miss Ethiopia 2009 hails from Gambella

Above: Winner of the title of Miss Ethiopia 2009 Chuna Okaka
(C) poses with the first runner-up Meron Getachew (L) and the
second runner-up Samrawit (R) during the Miss Ethiopia 2009
Beauty Pageant in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Jan. 18, 2009.
(Xinhua Photo)

Ethiopian News Agency

A 22-year-old university student from Gambella won the title of Miss Ethiopia beauty competition held here on Saturday.

The winner, Chuna Okok, a sophomore at the faculty of business and economics, Addis Ababa University, outranks all of her 20 competitors.

She won Miss Ethiopia 2009 contest and received an award of diamond ring worth 60,000 Birr, according to competition organizer Ethiopian Village Adventure Playground.

The 1963 Miss Ethiopia winner Ejigayehu Beyene has put the crown for this year’s Miss Ethiopia winner, Chuna Okok.


Winner of the title of Miss Ethiopia 2009 Chuna
Okaka (R) wears the cordon during the Miss Ethiopia
2009 Beauty Pageant in Addis Ababa, capital of
Ethiopia, Jan. 18, 2009.(Xinhua Photo)

After being named Miss Ethiopia of 2009, Chuna said that she was excited to win the title as it would leave a message that Ethiopia is a home for beautiful people in its all regions.


Girls attend the finals of the Miss Ethiopia 2009 Beauty Pageant in Addis
Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, Jan. 18, 2009. Chuna Okaka won the title of Miss
Ethiopia 2009. (Xinhua Photo)

Chuna is to take part in Miss World Cultural Heritage of 2009 due to be held in Namibia this year, according to the organizer.

She would have great contribution in promoting her homeland Ethiopia, the organizer said.

UNA Student Alliance Making a Difference in Ethiopia

Above: The UNA Student Alliance at Cupertino High School
in California, formed by students Derek Zhou and Alex Pommier,
held a fund raising event at their school on Saturday, December
20, 2008, raising funds to send school supplies to the the small
village of Gira Dima in Ethiopia.

By Mary Granholm

Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mountain View, CA (Tadias) – When Derek Zhou won the United Nations Association (UNA) Essay Contest in our chapter two years ago he said he wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. He is certainly doing just that. He and Alex Pommier, students at Cupertino High School, formed a UNA Student Alliance, recruited a Faculty Advisor, Bob Pelz, and 58 student members, and researched needs and organizations through which they might work.

They chose The World Family, a local organization supplying clinics and hospitals in Ethiopia, and now building a community center nearly completed, in the small village of Gira Dima in Ethiopia, that has no electricity or potable water. This center will have a clinic, classrooms, gathering place, and gardens, among other things, and solar panels will be installed to provide electricity. The students feel that education is the greatest key to making a difference in the lives of people and decided to focus in that area. They are collecting school supplies and hope to get a container off by spring.


Sorting School Supplies to Ship to Ethiopia (All Photo credit: Cupertino High
School United Nations Association’s photo stream at flickr)

These remarkable, dedicated, and visionary students held an event on Saturday, December 20, at their school, at which they held an auction and raffle of donated items. Art work, jewelry, restaurant meals, a helicopter ride, a lecture series, and even a 2-week stay for 8 people at a Hawaiian time-share were some of the rewards. They have now raised $6,500 toward their goal of $8,000, which is the cost of shipping a container. Incidentally, if you need an auctioneer, Derek would make a great choice.

Some of the students and their adviser hope to spend a month in Gira Dima in the summer.

Learn more at www.theworldfamily.org

About the Author:

Mary Granholm, a retired school teacher, serves as President of the UNA- USA Midpeninsula Chapter.

Tadias’ 20 Favorite People of 2008

By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 29, 2008

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

20) Selam Mulugeta (Former Obama Campaign Staffer)

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

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

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

18) Beejhy Barhany (Founder, BINA Cultural Foundation)

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

17) Chef and Author Marcus Samuelsson

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

16) Haile Gerima (Award Wining Director)

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

15) Yohannes Gebregeorgis (CNN Hero)

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

14) Getatchew Mekurya (king of Ethiopian saxophone)

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

13) Aida Muluneh (Photographer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) Artist Assegid Gessesse (“Memory Tourist”)

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

8. Teodross “Teo” Avery

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

7) Zelela Menker

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

6) Kedist Geremaw (Obama Organizing Fellow)

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

5) Abaynesh Asrat, Founder & CEO of NNN

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

4) Professor Donald Levine

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

3) Professor Ayele Bekerie

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

2) Ted Alemayuhu (Founder & Chairman of USDFA)

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

1) Tibarek (Tadias’ Favorite Person of the Year!)

Eight year old Tibarek, who traveled with her adoptive mother from their home in New York to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to knock on doors for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, is our favorite person of the year! We choose Tibarek not only because we love her charismatic personality, but also because she symbolizes the diversity and vibrancy of the Diaspora’s next generation. Read more.

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



The Obama Era Begins – Reactions

Above: Election night in Harlem.
(Photo by Jeffrey Phipps for Tadias Magazine)

Updated: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New York (Tadias) – How do you feel? That was the question we posed to some of our readers and contributors right after the historic election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. Here are their reflections:

Taqiyya Haden (New York)

“OBAMA!” That’s my new greeting! Unfortunately I’m not sure of the meaning. It is rumored to mean ‘crooked, not a straight line’ and if so it is still appropriate considering the turns we took to get our first Black President. Or we could just start greeting each other with “44!” Whatever sounds and feels right in the moment.

I almost broke down crying seeing the Beautiful Black First Family walk out. This is the first presidential election in my short 30 something years of life that I was passionate about, stood in the cold for and debated about almost daily. I had all confidence that he would win. I genuinely believe the American people that still suffer the pathology of racism know that he is the only one available and able to solve our foreign affairs issues.

The rest of the world is watching and that is so important. No matter how great this country is and (I have a hard time saying that at all as an African American) it has been founded and became prosperous on the oppression of people that look like President Obama. The United States has been looked upon, justifiably as having a hypocritical system of government by the rest of the world. Democracy has not proven to apply to all citizens. The images alone of this election will decrease those feelings.

My hope is that we all stay energized , excited and maintain a belief in our political power that we have so often ignored or felt so defeated unwilling to try. My fear is some that voted will rely too heavily on Barack Obama and basically go back to being lazy and ignorant now that he has won.

If we are willing to see this as a win for all of us we may be more willing to hold ourselves accountable for change. It did not end last night, this is only the beginning. To my specific community of Africans and African Americans in Harlem we must stay involved and I ask that we think globally but act locally.

And finally…isn’t this the most brilliant and attractive family to move into that house?!

Kedist Geremaw (Obama campaign organizing fellow, Washington DC)

It felt like giving birth to a child ( I am saying this from a birthing experience) in this case the pregnancy lasted close to two years. It is a relief…history was made and a person with a name like Barack was elected the president of USA. My faith in human kind is restored. As Barack Obama said “Your name shouldn’t be a hindrance to your success”

Kedist Geremaw
Obama campaign organizing fellow
Washington DC

Professor Ayele Bekerie ( Cornell University)

On November 4, 2008, I was the first person to enter the polling place in my district at 6 am. I voted for Barack Obama. When I voted, I had a feeling that the vote is going to be a winner. Lo and behold, Obama won big. History is made and and I was in it.

I felt that I played a role to bring the good news that the whole world desired. I felt like that I played a role to bring joy, even if for few moments, to the millions of fans of Obama in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Tanzania, for that matter the continent of Africa. The world is one with the United States of America.

The election of an African American to the highest office in the country, to be the Commander In Chief, is indeed a testimony to the greatness of the American people. Dreams come true in America. Parents of many hues and backgrounds can confidently tell their children now to dream big and realize their dreams.

Obama turned the page of history. Obama wrote a new chapter in American racial history. Relations among racialized groups will not be the same again. Common purpose defeats divisiveness. Conversation outstrips talking points. Intelligence triumphs over ignorance.

Best wishes,

Ayele

Professor Donald N. Levine (Chicago)

For me this election fulfills an eight-year dream. In 2000 then U of Chicago colleague, neighbor, and state representative Barack Obama came to our home for a coffee, to introduce him to friends and mobilize support for his first national campaign when he ran to be congressman from our district. Although he lost that campaign, a loss that depressed him about his prospects for a political career, those of us who heard him then could not believe that he would not bounce back and get stronger than ever.

It’s true, when Barack announced his candidacy for president, I had mixed feelings, believing that it was premature for him to run for the position at that juncture, even though he was qualified. It was when a friend pointed out that his presidency would amount to a transformative experience, for the US and the world, that I caught the significance of the timing and went to work on his behalf, with Ethiopian groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the primaries, and with phone calls to voters in Ohio and Indiana in the general election.

And now it has happened. It has been a totally healing, clarifying, and energizing experience. Blessings to us all!

Hot Blog: Tadias Endorses Obama

At an Obama rally at Columbus Circle, New York City. Sat, Feb 2, 2008. (Tadias Magazine photo)

Tadias Editorial
Editorial

Published: February 4th, 2008

New York (Tadias) – This year Ethiopian Americans will participate in one of the most exciting and consequential elections in decades. Both candidates would make dynamic presidents. And, if elected, will make history. We have no difficulty in selecting which one of two will eventually become a more powerful historical figure. We strongly endorse Senator Barack Obama.

The senator from Illinois distinguishes himself by appealing to basic human decency. He transcends false divisions rooted on race, language, gender, region and religion. His public service record in Chicago, his time as a civil rights lawyer, his years as constitutional law professor, and his Senate experience all prove that Obama is a seasoned candidate who can bring about much needed change in American politics. Senator Obama has demonstrated passion and dedication on issues that are important to Ethiopian Americans, such as immigration, education and health care.

Senator Obama is a son of an immigrant. His father was born and raised in Kenya. Obama’s father travelled to the United States on a scholarship to pursue his education at the University of Hawaii. It was there where Obama’s parents met. Obama’s father eventually went to Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. and later returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982. Obama travelled with his mother from Hawaii to Indonesia and lived in both California and New York before working in low-income communities in Chicago, Illinois.

A Columbia and Harvard alum who graduated as President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, his credentials can match or surpass any other American president. But Obama’s asset is his vision, his courage, and his integrity. His words touch every heart – the MTV generation rallies for him as much as do those who lived in the Kennedy era. Last night’s Superbowl Champs, NY Giants, have decided to skip the traditional festivities in Disneyland, officially endorse Barack Obama and plan to attend Obama’s speech today in New Jersey. He is leading across borders echoing MLK’s words: “Unity is the great need of the hour.”

There is a bit of each and every one of us in Obama. His story is our story. We believe that an Obama presidency will instantly reverse the public relations damage done by the current administration and defuse anti-American passion around the world. We encourage Ethiopian Americans to vote for Senator Barack Obama.

It is only appropriate to close this endorsement with Obama’s own words as he addressed the people of South Carolina who gave him a historical landslide victory:

“And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we’ve carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:

“Yes. We. Can.”
—–
Related:
Ethiopian Americans May Swing the Vote in Virginia (TADIAS)

Do you Couchsurf? Note From Canada via Ethiopia

Above: Maskarm k Haile in Sosussvlei, Naimibia. Sand dunes
of Sossusvlei are known to be the highest dunes in the world.

Tadias Magazine
By Maskarm K. Haile
maski_author_image.jpg

Published: Monday, August 25, 2008

Addis Ababa (Tadias) – I live in Canada and I am writing this from Ethiopia on my way to Sudan. Couchsurfing all along.

How many of us crash on our friend’s friend or friend’s cousin’s couch when traveling? We may even put a little extra effort into researching and getting connected to “someone who knows somebody” at the destination we intend to arrive at.

These days budget travelers are using the internet to build a network of individuals who are willing to let them crash on their couch – creating a better world, one couch at a time. It is called “Couchsurfing”.

Couchsurfing is not about getting a free accommodation only, it’s about creating more meaningful relationships that go beyond race, culture and other barriers, across borders, countries and continents.

I have always been a travel junky. I love meeting people and experiencing new cultures. I constantly look for ways to travel safely and cheaply. So finding couchsurfing was a coming home of sorts. Not only for the free accommodation, but also getting to meet people from all walks of life made it much more appealing to me. The organization has 630,976 members in 231 countries representing 44,359 cities. Its mission: “CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”

Since I have become a member officially I have successfully surfed 15 couches in 12 countries including Canada, England, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and made 110 real life friendships and contacts along with 4 virtual ones. I also serve as a Nomadic Ambassador organizing events and meeting couchsurfers along my Trans-Africa travels. The couchsurfing site is fully run by volunteers from around the world and it restores faith in humankind and the world we live in. It’s even more mesmerizing how quickly we learn to trust one another, when the host who has just picked you up from the airport, for example, drops you home and gives you their house keys because they need to be somewhere else that night.

maski_travel1.jpg
Moment with a polar Bear, Northern Ontario, Canada

maski_travel3.jpg
Southern Ethiopia – in Turmi village, Humer Region

maski_travel2.jpg
Lake Malawi

maski_travel4.jpg
Namibia

maski_travel5.jpg
At the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent

There is always excitement about meeting new couchsurfers. Whether you meet for a visit at a local museum, a cup of coffee, or a gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant one thing is guaranteed, there is a conversation flow that goes on, be it on travel, politics, culture, relationship, environment, family – every topic is discussed with understanding and interest. The amount of knowledge and wisdom shared with fellow couchsurfers never ceases to amaze me, as well as their continued effort to make this world a better place.


About the Author:
Maskarm Kebede Haile resides in Montreal, Canada. Her first travel journal, My Humanitarian Journey to Africa, appeared in Tadias in 2003.

You can learn more about Couchsurfing at couchsurfing.com

Hot Blog: Obama and Ethiopia: From Gloom to Leadership

Opinion
By Donald N. Levine
levine_cover_inside.jpg

Published: Monday, August 18, 2008

New York (Tadias) – What a season! In Ethiopia and in the United States, we hear similar laments: inflation brings miseries; rich/poor gap widens; sick people lack care; environments worsen; human rights burn; energy grows scarce; media cave in; schools are inadequate. And we face baneful consequences of invading another country in an ill-conceived quest to stamp out perceived security threats. It’s enough to make you feel gloomy.

So whence the mood of buoyancy, fresh determination, breakthrough ideas, and enlarged visions in the U.S.? It’s through a leader who works to bring folks together to address crippling problems in a forthright, competent, and consensual manner. Not a power-mongering demagogue, Barack Obama projected a vision when he told his followers: “This election victory is not about me. It’s about you!” It is about seeing how much good can come from harnessing the free proactive power of millions. In the words of Common Cause president Bob Edgar, “We are the leaders we have been waiting for.”

Barack Obama’s power stems also from identifying with figures who inspired us in dire times–Franklin Roosevelt, for calming a torrent of paralyzing fear; John F. Kennedy, for fostering idealism while facing down threats; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for incandescent dreams; even Ronald Reagan who, despite regressive economic policies, raised a dispirited public’s morale.

Ethiopians, too, recall many who brought inspiration in times of peril: Emperor Yohannes who fell fighting against invaders; Emperor Haile Selassie who stood tall at the League of Nations; and, among many who opposed Italian Fascism, heroes like Lorenzo Taezaz, Abuna Petros, and Mulugeta Buli. They remember Kifle Wodajo, who promoted democracy under a regime unschooled in its ways. They admire innovators, such as General Siye Abraha, who renounced ethnic chauvinism for multiethnic inclusiveness; Elias Wondimu, who built a publishing program of high standards and an institute for nonviolent solutions; Judge Bertukan Midekesa, who survived a horrendous prison with great forward-looking spirit; and Pastor Daniel Gebreselassie, who helped many thousands of prisoners and resolve Ethiopia’s political paralysis.

Barack Obama draws on his appeal to an empowered citizenry and his stock of inspiring figures to energize an audacious search for fresh solutions to current dilemmas. I’ll name but three.

Transforming energy use
In stunning contrast to a regime that denies global warming, reduces environmental protections, dismisses science, and favors expanded use of oil, Barack Obama vigorously promotes conservation, respect for science, and search for alternative energy sources. His bold new energy plans include ways to slash oil consumption, cut greenhouse gas emissions 80%, create five million green energy jobs, and expand renewable energy sources.

Transforming foreign policy
Invading Iraq, Americans now believe, was a disaster on every count: politics; ethics; economics; security. That invasion stemmed from a mindset that reduces international issues to a divide between good guys and evil guys, eager to use force against the latter. Already when campaigning in January 2000, Bush proclaimed: “When I was coming up, it was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.” Obama’s early rejection of the Iraqi war option as leading inexorably to “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences” reflects a mindset committed to analyzing what makes the U.S. truly secure. This includes promoting an international context in which we say, “to those yearning faces beyond our shores: ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future.’”

Reconfiguring political energy
The Bush administration has shown its blatant disregard of American citizens in so many ways. These include ignoring danger signals and providing pitiful relief for the Katrina disaster; squandering an opportunity to mobilize Americans for public service after 9/11 by asking Americans only to go shopping; and undermining democratic institutions by abrogating provisions of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In sharp contrast, Barack Obama’s fidelity to the Constitution was shown abundantly in his years of teaching Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, and his commitment to reversing the politicization of the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice. Obama plans to expand opportunities for Americans to engage in national and community service and the Peace Corps, and to engage retiring Americans in service on a large scale. He has a stunning track record of listening to the voice of citizens, and understands that in democracy the press needs to censure government, rather than the government to censoring the press.

The Appeal to Ethiopians
Ethiopian Americans tell me they find the Obama candidacy worth supporting for one or more of three different reasons. Like other Americans, Ethiopian Americans find hope in a wide range of his policy proposals, like the sample listed above (and others; see barackobama.com). They also see how the directions Obama promises for the U.S. may offer a model for Ethiopia. And many hope that an Obama administration might reorient American policy toward Ethiopia and the Horn in more constructive directions.

Forward-looking Ethiopians, including many in the Ethiopian Government, see promise in adapting advanced green energy technologies and thereby enabling Ethiopia to leap-frog the stage of industrialization that the West and East Asian countries have undergone. For the U.S. and other donor nations, this implies a shift from stopgap relief mentality and old-scale types of capital investment to technologies that harness solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, compact water turbines, and better waste management.

Forward-looking Ethiopians, including many in the Ethiopian Government, see the pitfalls of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and even more so the consequences of the scorched earth policy in the Ogaden. They prefer the sort of policy that Germame Neway pursued, working to integrate Ogaden inhabitants into the Ethiopian nation by offering them abundant life-enhancing services.

For the U.S., an Obama approach would avoid the shortcomings of basing African engagements so much on a trigger-happy counter-terrorist disposition, a change that former Ambassador David Shinn and former Chargé d’Affaires Vicki Huddleston have advocated.

Finally, Obama’s commitment to mobilizing citizens for public service and respecting human rights has conspicuous relevance to changing Ethiopia. It would imply support for empowering “the bottom of the pyramid.”

Regarding U.S. policies, it might expectably lead to more effective support for Ethiopians who want to promote a free press, including local radio that gives voice to people, and capacity-building for the advancement of nonviolent solutions and protection of human rights.”

Ethiopians can experience the same turn-around, in ye-bet agar as well as in ye-wutch agar, that Obama’s campaign for change promises. Awo Inchilallen!

For now, what better way than to join forces with Ethiopians for Obama? Or even join with neighbors from the larger Horn of Africa to set up a new support group: why not SEEDS [Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia]-Americans for Obama?”

—-
About the Author:
Donald N. Levine served as the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education. He is a colleague of Senator Barack Obama from their teaching days at the University of Chicago.

Cover image: From a photo booth with Obama wearing a traditional Ethiopian shawl at D.C. Soccer Tournament 2008 (Tadias)

The Untold Story of Ethiopians in Cuba

Aida Muluneh (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2008

New York (Tadias) – In 1979, under Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam, the Ethiopian government sent thousands of Ethiopian children to Cuba to be educated. Cuba, an ally of Ethiopia in the Ethio-Somali war, offered housing and education for war orphans. The Cuban government accepted 2,400 Ethiopian students, aged seven to fourteen, to study at Escuelas Secundarias Basicas en el Campo (basic rural secondary schools) – on the small island of Isla de la Juventud.

The following is an interview from our archive with photographer Aida Muluneh, who is filming a documentary about their lives in Cuba.

Tadias: How did you become interested in the “Ethio-Cuban” story?

Aida: I went to a group photo exhibit in Havana in 2003 and prior to my trip I had heard about the Ethiopian students in Cuba. After searching for them, I finally met around 30 students who had been in Cuba for over twenty years. It was an amazing experience meeting these fellow Ethiopians. I soon realized that I had to come back. So in 2004, I went back and begun interviewing them to start telling their story and also to help them get out of Cuba.

Tadias: Why haven’t they left Cuba? And why haven’t they returned to Ethiopia?

Aida: They have had the opportunity to leave Cuba and return to Ethiopia; however they have no means of supporting themselves in a country they left twenty years ago. There is no incentive for them to go back to Ethiopia and resettle because life would be just as difficult, if not worse in Ethiopia. As for other countries i.e. Europe or North America, the remaining student just recently qualified for their UN refugee number. This basically means that they can get in line for a chance to immigrate to those countries.

Tadias: This was a coordinated effort between the Cuban and Ethiopian governments. What efforts did Cuba make to help Ethiopian immigrants adjust to Cuba?

Aida: The Cuban government has been extremely supportive within their means from day one. Even prior to the students arriving, Cuba played an instrumental role in helping Ethiopia during the Ethio-Somlia war. Therefore, upon the student’s arrival, the children were given the basic necessities in order to become acquainted with life in Cuba. One thing that needs to be put into perspective is that as a young child, it is difficult to adjust to any place that is foreign, especially when one is so far away from home. The Ethiopians expressed to me that as children they had missed their country more then anything and I believe this yearning to return is what made it extremely difficult for many. The Cubans have gone above and beyond in providing support to the Ethiopians to this day.

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Above: Teenage Ethiopian Girls in Cuba

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Above: Ethiopian boys in Cuba

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Above: Teenagers in Cuba

Tadias: Although The Unhealing Wound focuses on those Ethio-Cubans still in Cuba, we understand there have been a number who have managed to leave Cuba and live elsewhere. When did they leave and where do they live now?

Aida: In addition to providing primary education, the Cubans have also educated University students during this time period. For many of the Ethiopian students who attended universities in Cuba they have managed to return back to Ethiopia and find viable means of supporting themselves. In fact during the Derg period, many of the students that completed their education were given housing and job opportunities upon their return to Ethiopia. However, after the fall of the Derg government, many of the students felt that returning back to Ethiopia would lead to further economic hardship. In 1991, the Soviet Block fell and many of the students begun leaving to countries such as Spain, Greece, Holland, U.S., etc. I am not exactly sure how many returned to Ethiopia and how many went to other destinations. My assumption is that the greatest number of Ethiopian-Cubans are in Spain.

Tadias: Is there a network of Ethio-Cubans abroad that help others still in Cuba to immigrate to other countries?

Aida: As far as I know, there is no organized effort by Ethio-Cubans that continuously assists the Ethiopians to leave Cuba and resettle to a third country. Although it is a tightly knit community in Cuba, once abroad, it’s more so through the efforts of individuals helping new comers than an established network.

Tadias: What kind of relationship do Ethio-Cubans have with Cuba? Do they identify in any way as Cubans?

Aida: From my observation of the Ethio-Cubans, there is a special relationship between the Cubans and these Ethiopians. It is clear that they still identify themselves as Ethiopians but they have fully taken on Cuban mannerisms and cultural habits in the ways they interact with others and express themselves.

Tadias: You mentioned that many Ethio-Cubans faced challenges in adjusting to their new environment when they moved to Cuba. What were some of those challenges?

Aida: The challenges were similar as any immigrant faces when they arrive to a new country, but imagine that through the eyes of a ten year old. The first problem that they had was the climate. The temperature was a big issue. They were moving from the highlands of Ethiopia to a tropical island. The second was the food. The food in Cuba consisted of pork, rice and beans in contrast to eating Injera their whole life. Then, of course, language and homesickness were major issues.

Tadias: You left Ethiopia as a child as well. Is there a relationship between your interest in the Ethiopian students in Cuba and your own experience?

Aida: There was definitely a relationship to my life. I went to boarding school at a young age in Cyprus away from my family. One of the things that attracted me to the whole story and enabled me to empathize with them was the struggle I faced as a child who felt alone in a foreign land.

Tadias: Does the Ethio-Cuban story fit into the themes that you address in your photography work?

Aida: My beginning as an artist is in photojournalism and this story at first was supposed to be a series of photographs about these Ethiopians. However, I decided that their story was too compelling to be told solely in still photography. The Unhealing Wound is an exploration of themes that captivate me as a photographer and a filmmaker. It all comes down to capturing life and in this case it is capturing our past history and also documenting the history as it is happening. I hope that thirty years from now, anyone can look back at this film and have a better understanding of our struggles, triumphs and sacrifices as Ethiopians in the landscape of the immigrant life.

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Above: Aredo. Photo by Aida Muluneh

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Above: Motbaynor. Photo by Aida Muluneh

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Above: Teddy. Photo by Aida Muluneh

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Find out more about the film at pastforwardfilms.com.

Hot Blog & Hot Shots: D.C. Soccer Tournament

Hot Shots: D.C. Soccer Tournament

By Tadias Staff
Photos by TF & Tadias

(Updated Monday, July 7, 2008)

Washington, DC (Tadias) – North America’s largest African soccer tournament, hosted by the Ethiopian Sport Federation of North America (ESFNA) was held in the nation’s capital this year. The Washington D.C. Metropolitan area is home to the second largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian immigrants attended the event on July 4th weekend.

This year’s vendors were particularly enthusiastic about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Products sold in booths at the tournament site ranged from Obama t-shirts, a photo booth with Obama wearing a traditional Ethiopian shawl, and even Obama juice.

Other vendors used their booth to host traditional coffee ceremonies, sell children’s books, and food while music blasted simultaneously from competing vendor booths. A large tent had been set up at the center of the vendors area where people would flock to take cover from occasional rain.

Friday nights line-up of music artists at RKF stadium included Tilahoun Gesesse, Mahmoud Ahmed, Kuku Sebsibe, Gossaye, and Mike-E.

Here are hot shots.

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Above: Ababa Tesafye attended the event as guest of honor. He celebrated his
birthday on July 4th. The announcer did not mention the beloved children’s television
entertainer’s age. People familiar with Ababa Tesfaye say he does not know the year
he was born.

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At the Ethiopians for Obama booth. We even spotted a vendor selling Obama Juice.
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At the international Ethiopian Women Association booth.
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From Left: Meron, Asse, Tseday (Tadias), Liben (Tadias)
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Related: D.C. Soccer Tournament to Offer Family Friendly Celebration

Hot Blog: Are Ethiopians Racist?

Photo by Gabriella Muttone

Publisher’s Note:

Steven Ivory has been a music and culture journalist for more than twenty-five years. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Essence, Vibe, and The Source, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

This article had been published on the Electronic Urban Report (EURweb.com) and the African-American Village prior to its publication here with the author’s permission in January 2003.

Steven told Tadias that Ethiopians who have read the essay have responded to him with warm words and expressions of regret.

“So many Ethiopian people have written in kindness and apology”, he said. “There is no need for this, I know that the actions of a few don’t speak for a whole race.”

We have selected this piece from our archives with a hope that it might spark a healthy debate on the issue.

My Own Kind
By Steven Ivory

For several years, I’d passed the restaurant while driving through that side of town. It looked like an interesting spot; I said I’d stick my head in there one day.

But when that day finally came, it reminded me of the scene in the movie “48 Hours,” where Eddie Murphy ventures into a bar that happens to be a white country & western joint. My arrival was not nearly as spectacular, but I did elicit my share of curious glances.

A bartender can set the mood for a patron, and the man pouring my drink was pleasant. However, our good-natured chat about the weather and the day’s headlines wasn’t enough to take the chill off this room. I casually looked around the place and couldn’t find one face that appeared to hold much love for a newcomer.

Taking another sip of my beer, I told myself that maybe it was just me. What did I expect, a welcoming committee? I reminded myself that many social establishments often react a little coolly to non-regulars. Maybe what I was feeling didn’t have a damned thing to do with anything but familiarity.

The restaurant was more than half full, but I had the tiny bar all to myself, so I was glad that two men and a woman in the mood for libations joined me. For all the acknowledgment made, though, I might as well have been invisible. When another man moseyed in and took a seat at the end of the bar, he somehow ended up in the trio’s jovial conversation. So they weren’t blind or anti-social, after all. I deduced that it had to be my cologne.

Or, just maybe, it really WAS me. And maybe I really DIDN’T come in here for just a drink and cordial camaraderie. Maybe, deep, deep down inside, I’d come in here to make some kind of point. I certainly was open to conceding as much to myself.

And so, with very little chance of my self-examination being interrupted, I sat there and gave it all serious, honest consideration – and confirmed that I truly did have honorable intentions. I figured I’d come in here, have a drink, dig the atmosphere and thus add it to my list of places to go. For reasons that evaded me, it wasn’t working out that way.

I couldn’t ignore the irony, of course – the very notion that hundreds of years later, there’d be the issue of us getting along. For many years, I’ve heard all the reasons. Inevitably mentioned are issues of culture and the idea that any problems among us are, ultimately, the residual affect of slavery in America. Did that sinister deed, besides everything else, somehow drive a wedge between brothers under God’s sun, a division that, after all these years, still remains?

And who says that we, in particular, must get along, anyway?

But we SHOULD … shouldn’t we?

Once again alone at the bar, I was pondering it all when the bartender spoke.

“My friend, may I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Why did you come here tonight?”

I explained that I’d never been here before and I thought it adventurous to try something new.

“Just a drink? Or did you also hope to meet some of our women?”

It all sounds so offensive now, but you had to be there. His words came sincerely – out of curiosity more than anything else and, I suppose, concern. I thought about his question.

Maybe, I replied, I ventured in here hoping, perhaps, to discover some measure of kinship. Or, as corny as it might sound, just a little bit of myself.

“But it’s Friday night, my friend,” he said.

“There are many other places in this city for you to be. Would you not want to be with … your own kind?”

I know – it all could have made for some compelling banter. However, after seeking conversation over the course of two beers, all I wanted to do now was leave. I tried to pay my tab, but the bartender simply smiled.

“It is on the house, my friend,” he said.

Translation: Just leave, my friend. Please.

As a Black man born and raised in America, I’ve dealt with prejudice, racism and mistrust in many configurations. Sometimes it is subtle and other times not so subtle, and you can encounter it anywhere, from anybody. Still, it never occurred to me that I’d face any of those things on a Friday night in an Ethiopian restaurant.

From the tiny bar I gathered up my pride and headed out in search of “my own kind” – and hoped that I’d know them when I saw them.

Related Links and Tadias Stories:

Color, Controversy and DNA

Ethio & Afro American Relations: The Case of Melaku E. Bayen and John Robinson. By Ayele Bekerie
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TAAMRAT EMMANUEL “DISCOVERS” HARLEM, 1931. By Jody Benjamin
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Harlem rekindles old friendship

By Tseday Alehegn & Liben Eabisa

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

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

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


Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, after the meeting with the Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia on Sunday, November 4, 2007. Photo by Liben Eabisa.


This photograph of Emperor Haile Selassie was presented by Abyssinian members as an appreciation gift to Reverend Butts. Photo by Liben Eabisa

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


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


Adrienne Ingrum, Publishing Consultant and Book Packager, chats with Tseday Alehegn, Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine. Ms. Ingrum is working on a proposal to create a writers cultural exchange program. Photo by Liben Eabisa.

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


Jamelah Arnold, member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia. Photo by Liben Eabisa.


Aliya J. Nelson, Attorney at Law, also member of the delegation to Ethiopia. Photo by Liben Eabisa.

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

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

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

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


Ethiopian-American social entrepreneur Abaynesh Asrat (clad in white Ethiopian dress, above middle), Founder and CEO of Nation to Nation Networking, accompanied the group during their Ethiopia trip. Photo by Liben Eabisa.


Althea Vyfhuis. Photo by Liben Eabisa.

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

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

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

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


Brenda Morgan. Photo by Liben Eabisa.


Sheila Dozier, Edwin Robinson, and Dr. Martha Goodson. Photo by Tseday Alehegn.

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

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

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

Related Links and Tadias Stories:

A special visitor from Ethiopia discovers Harlem in 1931 (Tadias)
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African American & Ethiopian Relations (Tadias)
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The Case of Melaku E. Bayen & John Robinson (Tadias)
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Hot shots: WWO honores Liya & Spitzer

Publisher’s Note: We ran this article on Wednesday,
October 17th, 2007. Today’s edition includes photos by
Stuart Tyson (courtesy of WWO) from the gala. Enjoy!

Liben Eabisa
—————-

WWO honores Liya Kebede & Silda W. Spitzer

By Tseday Alehegn

New York (Tadias) – The Worldwide Orphans Foundation, dedicated to transforming the lives of orphans around the world (with work in eight countries, including Ethiopia), held it’s 10-year anniversary gala at Cipriani Wall Street on Monday evening.

Co-Chairs Janet Kagan and Mary Knobler announced that the organization had raised approximatley 1.4 million dollars.

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Dr. Aronson and Mary-Louise Parker

Tony award-winning actress Mary Louise Parker presented the Honorary Orphan Ranger Award to Supermodel Liya Kebede for her work in promoting maternal health in developing nations, while ABC news co-anchor Cynthia McFadden presented another Honorary Orphan Ranger Award to Silda Wall Spitzer, First Lady of New York and founding chair of the non-profit Children for Children.

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Liya Kebede after being presented the Honorary Orphan Ranger
award by Mary-Louise Parker.

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Silda Wall Spitzer also received the Honorary Orphan Ranger
Award

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Cynthia McFadden presented the Honorary Orphan Ranger Award
to Silda Wall Spitzer

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Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, introduced Jane
Aronson
, founder of Worldwide Orphans Foundation.

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Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News

Aronson said she was proud to announce the opening of the WWO Academy in Addis Ababa, the same day as the gala in New York. The kindergarten offers schooling for children with HIV.

The gala program was interspersed with vignettes showcasing previous orphan rangers, who are medical students, health professionals and therapists who gave their time to working with orphanages in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

The event included entertainment by Tony-award winning Broadway stars Christine Ebersole and Donna Murphy, and the cast of Grease on Broadway.

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The cast of Grease on Broadway.

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Tony-award winning Broadway stars Christine Ebersole and Donna Murphy.

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Liya Kebede with Dr. Aronson’s son Desalegn. She received the Honorary Orphan Ranger Award

A fun and educational time was had by all.

More at: wwo.org

About the Author:
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Tseday Alehegn is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine. She is a graduate of Stanford University (B.A. & M.A.). Tseday is currently a Doctoral student at Teachers College (Columbia University).

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Hot shots from USDFA’s New York gala

Photography by Johnny Nunez

By Tadias Staff

New York – U.S. Doctors for Africa (USDFA), founded by Ethiopian-American social entrepreneur Ted Alemayuhu, presented its 1st Annual New York Gala Benefit last night, October 17th, at Cipriani Wall Street (55 Wall Street), honoring extraordinary philanthropists, including Russell Simmons (Chairman/CEO, Rush Communications).

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Dr. Judy, Ted Alemayhu, Russell Simmons and USDFA’s Anthony Severini and Lee Sorensen. Photo by Johnny Nunez

The evening included a performance by Alex Band of The Callingand teen band Creation, messages from screenwriter John August and USDFA founder Ted Alemayhu; as well as a video presentation by fromcomedian/actor/producer Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher). The evening also featured a live auction and four-course gourmet dinner.

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Founder of USDFA Ted Alemayhu with the cast of “Guiding Light.” Photo by Johnny Nunez

Proceeds from the gala will benefit USDFA’s proposed $70 million Mobile Clinic Initiative.

“This event is one of many”, says Ted Ted Alemayhu, Founder & CEO of USDFA. “Including a recent benefit in Los Angeles honoring actor Chris Tucker—helping us bring 200 mobile clinics to African citizens in rural areas where medical services are currently unavailable.”

The Vice President of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, has joined forces with USDFA and is overseeing the project by helping arrange all logistical needs and necessary governmental partnerships.

The first mobile clinic being deployed to Ghana was onsite last night for guests to tour.

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Volunteer medical staff Carmen Walker gave tours of the mobile clinic; General Counsel of Ghana Joseph Ngminebayihi; Ted Alemayhu and USDFA’s Lee Sorensen. Photo by Johnny Nunez

Celebrities and VIPs that attended included honorees Russell Simmons, Warren Rosen (Founder/Chairman, Rosen Companies and Harmony Insurance Brokerage), Eric Pulier (Executive Chairman/CEO, SOA Software) and Paul Hunter (Founder/CEO, Hunter Manufacturing LTD), as well as screenwriter John August (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”), USDFA founder/CEO Ted Alemayhu and performer Alex Band (of The Calling).

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Russell Simmons, guest and Ted Alemayhu outside mobile clinic. Photo by Johnny Nunez

Other guests included Leighton Meister (co-star of “Gossip Girl” & USDFA Host Committee
member), director Bret Ratner, Yankees alum Jim Leyritz, Miss Info (on-air radio personality Hot 97 FM, “MTV News”), Shon Gables (Host, “Black Enterprise Business Report”), cast members of “Guiding Light”: Ricky Paull Goldin, Nicole Forrester, Michelle Ray Smith, Jessica Leccia, Caitlin Zandt, Marcy Rylan, Rachel Smith (Miss USA 2007), and Liben Eabisa (Founder & Publisher of Tadias).

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Ted Alemayhu and Dr. Judy inside the mobile clinic being deployed to Ghana. Photo by Johnny Nunez

Tickets for the event ranged from $500.00 – 1,000.00 per seat.

Source: USDFA

Related: African First Ladies Partner with USDFA (Tadias)
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