Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 Washington, D.C. Trip Report

By: Samuel M. Gebru
June 24-30, 2010

On Thursday, June 24 I departed Boston, Massachusetts for Washington, D.C. to attend the first annual 2010 Ethiopian American Youth Initiative Conference. EAYI’s Conference was designed to “do what other Ethiopians have not done, which is to act” as I fondly have said in the past. The 2010 EAYI Conference was hosted at the Howard University Blackburn University Center, thanks to the unflagging support of Vice President Barbara Griffin, Chief of Staff Keith Miles, Blackburn Director Roberta Mcleod-Reeves, Professors Mbye Cham and Alem Hailu.

I arrived to the District of Columbia on Thursday in the late afternoon. Howard University Professor Alem Hailu hosted a networking dinner for some of his students and me at U Street’s Almaz Restaurant. The students were a Nigerian, an Ethiopian and an Eritrean. Joining us was Ethiopian American organizer Andrew Laurence. The abundance of intellectualism we discussed could never, sadly, be put in concrete words in this article. It would take me hundreds of pages in a book to capture the deep Pan-Africanism exhibited at our six-person dinner.

The necessity to involve youth as change agents beyond the Ethiopian scope was discussed. Ethiopia is not an island, however its people have developed a mental state of being that will not help progress the Horn of Africa or the African continent. I emphasized the necessity of having youth leadership forums for Africans in Africa and in the African diaspora. Likewise, Professor Alem’s Doctoral students emphasized the need for the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative to include other African organizations—civic, cultural and youth—in our conferences.

By the end of a few hours at Almaz Restaurant, our enriching discussions provided me with an encouraged vision for the youth of the African diaspora, which encompasses the Caribbean, African Americans, African Europeans and whomever else. Although Ethiopia lit and sustained the torch of African unity, it has backtracked in recent years from its continental and global leadership. Our six-person dinner did not offer the clear-cut solution to address our people’s sliding leadership, but it paved the road for us—the youth—to answer it through dialogue.

On Friday, June 25 I spent the entire day preparing for the weekend’s activities. In the afternoon I spent a few hours at Howard University finalizing arrangements with the Blackburn University Center’s Director, Roberta Mcleod-Reeves, who has the pleasure of being known as an “Honorary Ethiopian” as she fondly lectured me of her involvement with our community. I assured her that it is my wish to continue a relationship with Howard University as it further enhances the Ethiopian-African American experience. It is, after all, incumbent on my generation to further the relationship we have with African Americans—and on their side, it is incumbent on our peers to do so too.

Later in the evening Nahom M. Beyene, a dear brother of mine, arrived into the city. We spent the night together dining at the 2010 EAYI Conference’s preferred eatery, the Queen of Sheba at 9th & P Streets. Its owner, Ethiopian singer Embza Sebhatleab, was the only Ethiopian American restaurant owner that was receptive to our wish of using a restaurant for our social networking dinner on Saturday. Nahom is an esteemed former President of the Ethiopian Students Association International and currently is a Doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

In our dinner, Nahom and I further discussed the necessity of working together to achieve the shared interests and visions that Ethiopian youth, students and young professionals have in transforming our homeland. We have much in common and share many interests when it comes to empowering our peers for community leadership. Over the past year, young Ethiopians have been contacting me from all over the world advocating for unity in our disenfranchised communities. I recognize that extremely hateful partisan groups that are self-proclaimed “nonprofit corporations” have poisoned the Ethiopian diaspora. Recognizing this and hearing the demands of my peers, it would only behoove us to work together to collectively address whatever problems are of priority in our communities and countries.

On Saturday, June 26, dressed in Ethiopian traditional clothing, I made an early morning arrival at Howard University. Soon enough, very important young visionaries began to arrive at the Blackburn University Center hoping to learn and be inspired. Sadly, United States Congressman Michael Honda (D-CA), Chairman of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans, was unable to join us. The Congressman had to fly to his state to attend to important legislative activities. As I was introducing his Legislative Correspondent and Executive Director of the Caucus, Ahmed Bhadelia, I jokingly said it was good to know that a Congressman is actually hard at work for his constituents.

Congressman Honda’s message to us was that of encouragement. As a former teacher, a Japanese American and now as an elected official, he knows the importance of youth involvement and civic engagement. He praised the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative as a venue for public discourse and social responsibility to happen. In addition to the Congressman, world-renowned Ethiopian academician and elder, Professor Ephraim Isaac delivered the Keynote Address. On Monday, June 28, the Initiative published a Press Release entitled “Young Ethiopians Unite for Action” and I believe that it captures well what Professor Ephraim taught us on Saturday morning:

Professor Ephraim Isaac of the Institute of Semitic Studies delivered the Keynote Address on Saturday, June 26. In his address Professor Ephraim stressed the importance of knowledge and understanding. He stated that Ethiopia has tremendous potential to develop. Professor Ephraim reminded the audience that, “Ethiopia became a literate country 1,000 years before Europe did; but the question is whether we are behind now.”

Historic philosophy was emphasized in the address. Professor Ephraim drew teachings from Hateta Zera Yacob (Expressions of Zera Yacob), work of the Ethiopian Medieval Philosopher-Emperor Zera Yacob. He noted that Emperor Zera Yacob, in the 400-year-old Ge’ez text, advocated for gender equality and interfaith relations, topics that are now considered to be “progressive” in the U.S. The address also drew on the teachings of the Ethiopian female philosopher Kristos Semra, whom Professor Ephraim fondly called the “mother of peace” in her observation that God and Satan should solve their quarrels through peaceful means, serving as examples for humans to do so with each other.

Moving forward, Professor Ephraim advised for Ethiopians to “stop attacking each other with bad words” because it had become “Ethiopians against Ethiopians.” He also advised to not meditate for internal happiness because it “does no good” and that the importance should be to meditate for the strength to serve others. In closing, Professor Ephraim Isaac asked the delegates to act, “Preach to them what Zera Yacob preached to me and us.”

In my speech, I stressed the power of committing to action. I referred, as I often do, to what inspired—and embarrassed—me to get involved in community organizing five years ago when I was a 13-year-old 8th grade student. The lifetime commitment to action that Doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin displayed inspired me to articulate the need for efficient and sustainable projects that will put my peers and me in decision-making capacities. Furthermore, I stressed that no endeavor, Ethiopian or not, will ever be sustainable without involving youth.

In the evening we held our Social Networking Dinner at the Queen of Sheba. This dinner was quite reminiscent of Thursday night’s dinner at Almaz Restaurant. What was supposed to be a “social” night became an interdisciplinary strategy session! Again, the energy was for moving forward and not for finger pointing. We discussed various events and projects that our Initiative could work on. In the immediate, we decided that efforts should be given to organizing a United States-wide “Day of Service” for Emperor Haile Selassie’s 120th birthday. In organizing this, we all agreed to involve as many church, youth, student and community organizations as possible.

Joining us at the Social Networking Dinner was a multi-dynamic man who has failed to be unimpressive. Tebabu Assefa heads Media 4 Green, “a film and multimedia production, screening/broadcast portal and promotional venture, established in partnership by Mark Leisher Productions, a Maryland based film Production Company and Tebabu and Associates, a multimedia publishing, marketing and promotional network.” Tebabu, who has lived in eight countries throughout his life, currently lives in Maryland and is someone I categorize as a progressive Ethiopian adult because of his undying commitment to promote social responsibility in Ethiopia and elsewhere by using what he does best: communications, film and broadcasting. Tebabu has hosted screenings before at Capitol Hill. He fondly mentions, “I have been from the halls of Capitol Hill to the hills of Ethiopia’s coffee growing regions.”

On Sunday, June 27 I was at the Blackburn University Center again for the second day of conference programming. Professor of Sociology from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Solomon Gashaw, really wowed us all. His examination of Ethiopian history from the decline of Axum, rise of Islam to the Zemene Mesafint and modern era tied into what we were all looking for: answers to move us forward. During the discussion time, I mentioned that knowing Ethiopian history alone does not mean anything, but it is how we can use the history we have to write tomorrow’s history. Professor Solomon’s presentation stirred a discussion that lasted almost one hour.

For our session on the Ethiopian diaspora, I was excited to hear what insight Ethiopian American community organizer Teddy Fikre had to say. A lot of the discussion was also inspired from a blog article written by “Young Ethiopian,” which mentioned the urgency to discuss about issues we Ethiopians face in the diaspora, and in our case, the United States. 

“What made you come here?” This was a question that was boldly asked to attendees. Bold questions require bold answers. The unanimous understanding was that we are tired of the constant rambling in our community and the power of change is invested in us, as a collective community of individuals. Instead of inspiring us, the “Professors” and “Engineers” and “Major Generals” of the Ethiopian diaspora discourage us from wanting to get involved in a highly polarized and dysfunctional community. To use the words of a Professor who attended our conference and who is in his late 40s, “It is important that we disconnect ourselves from such a dysfunctional group of individuals.” The wonderful man I was staying with, put it quite simply, “My father’s generation suffered so many traumatic events that it is unthinkable for them to ever unite on anything.”

At the Closing Plenary Session, I unveiled the new name of the organization from the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative to the Ethiopian Global Initiative. I believe it is important that we utilize the social and intellectual capital of each other for the benefit of our communities and Ethiopia. Knowledge, if used for good, will significantly transform Ethiopia. I left the attendees with one major assignment, which is to identify and research different problems in Ethiopia and our local communities so that the Ethiopian Global Initiative may begin launching realistic projects with realistic goals in September.

On Monday, June 28 I visited Capitol Hill to meet with Ahmed Bhadelia, Executive Director of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans and Legislative Corresponded to U.S. Congressman Michael Honda. My meeting on the Hill was very productive. Ahmed and I were able to update each other more on the future and current programming of both the Caucus and the Initiative. I paid close attention to how Ethiopian Americans were not using the Caucus as their tool on Capitol Hill, although it was indeed created to give us a microphone at the world’s most powerful legislature. I assured the Caucus that EGI would identify ways we could work with them in a very proactive and constructive manner.

On Tuesday, June 29 I had a morning meeting with former United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, David H. Shinn, who, although retired from the U.S. Government, serves as an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University. Ambassador Shinn invited me to his residence for a two-hour meeting that touched a lot of topics. We discussed Ethiopian political developments, with emphasis on the recent elections; peace and security in the Horn of Africa, youth leadership as well as the state of the Ethiopian American community. Regrettably he was out of town for the conference. However, he was interested to see how our discussions over the weekend transpired. Ambassador Shinn has constantly been a friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians and I thank him for that.

Later in the afternoon, I was invited to the United States Department of State to visit the East Africa Bureau and speak with the Ethiopia Desk Officer, Joel Wiegert. My meeting with Joel was centered on how Ethiopian and American youth could take advantage of the healthy relations between Ethiopia and the United States. I mentioned that EGI is planning to develop a program that would send United States college students to Ethiopia for volunteer and internship opportunities in their fields of study. I stressed the importance of involving the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for this process, particularly because it is important for them to help facilitate cultural and educational exchange opportunities between the two nations. Ethiopia and the United States have a diplomatic relationship that dates to 1903 and Ethiopians have been living in the United States since 1808.

In my discussions with the Ethiopia Desk at the U.S. Department of State and the Congressional Caucus on Ethiopia and Ethiopian Americans I have learned that Ethiopian Americans are not utilizing these very important U.S. Government resources that are at our disposal. Instead of coming with clear and proactive solutions, most of our community members approach these institutions with a laundry list of demands that are either impractical or not in their place to address. One of my goals is to position the Ethiopian Global Initiative as a valuable resource and contact for the United States Government and its Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Later in the evening I met with Mimi Alemayehou, who was nominated in March 2010 to serve as Executive Vice President of the United States Overseas Investment Protection Corporation and in June 2010 to serve as a Board Member of the United States African Development Foundation. I was meeting Mimi just a few hours after her hearing at the U.S. Senate whether to appoint her to Executive Vice President of OPIC. Mimi shared her extensive experience working in the United States Government and provided me with some important advice in moving forward, particularly with leadership. Mimi and I originally made contact when she was nominated to serve as the United States Executive Director for the African Development Bank. She is a wonderful role model that young Ethiopian Americans, particularly women interested in leadership, should look up to.

Today, June 30 I departed Washington, D.C. after jokingly being told that I took over the city in a matter of a few days. Although I have left the nation’s capital, there is much work that is ahead of the Ethiopian American community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, home to the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Global Initiative remains committed to building a strong network throughout the United States, particularly in the nation’s capital where so many of us are.

As I write this trip report and reflect on my journey, I must acknowledge the small group of individuals that made my working trip possible and successful: Vera Outeiro, Caleb and Shanna Beyah, Nahom Beyene, Nolawi Petros, Markos Tadesse and Winta Teferi. I thank them for the confidence they have in me as a person and as a community servant. I would also like to commend the superb service of Sankofa Café and Bookstore, Queen of Sheba Restaurant, Almaz Restaurant, Yetenbi Café and Axum Restaurant.

Samuel M. Gebru is the President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative. You may read more of Samuel's articles on his personal blog.

About EGI
The Ethiopian Global Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that combines and captures the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals for the transformation of Ethiopia through a new generation of socially responsible leaders. Working throughout the world, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for community-based projects to promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

For more information on the 2010 EAYI Conference visit and for more information on the Ethiopian Global Initiative visit

EGI Mission Statement

The mission of the Ethiopian Global Initiative is to combine and capture the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals to further engineer the transformation of Ethiopia by engaging a new generation of socially responsible leaders. In partnership with leading public and private sector organizations, the Ethiopian Global Initiative aims to undertake and support sustainable developmental endeavors in Ethiopia. The Initiative also aims to promote the interests of Ethiopians globally by serving as a catalyst for community-based projects that promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

EGI is the Awakening Call for Ethiopian Youth

By: Tesfaye G. Deboch
Friday, June 25, 2010

It wasn’t long ago that I read two articles on Ethiopian youth on Addis Fortune’s website. I was doing my daily routine of staying well-informed about issues affecting my country, surveying different topics on several websites. Both of the articles described the apathy of our generation regarding Ethiopian current affairs and politics. The first article entitled “Lack of Political Interest in EPRDF Generation Troubling” addresses the shortcomings of the EPRDF and opposition parties in their public debates that fail to engage and excite the Ethiopian youth. The second article entitled “The EPRDF Generation” gives a bird’s eye view of the philosophical and cultural topography of our generation. As I was reading these two articles I was filled with sadness and disappointment, but I also thought how wide and ready the fields are for those who have the passion and the calling to awaken the Ethiopian youth for an Ethiopian renaissance. And that call, my friends, is more real today than ever.

Cultural and economic renaissance of any society should start at the grassroots level. It takes place when men and women of good faith act to change the existing undesirable conditions through their own will–without being coerced by some kind of external force. We Ethiopians have the resources needed that can potentially make us a better nation – a nation free of poverty and internal strife. But, I dare say, that we lack the will to execute. We lack the initiation to step up and take a role as community leaders. Unless we stand and break this chain our greatest dreams will remain dreams only, and we will certainly remain on the wrong side of history.

We have misfortune–inherited from the past and acquired in the present-that needs to be removed and roads that need to be paved for the next generation. The solutions to our problems lie within us. Depending on our willingness to compromise and work hand-in-hand, we shall see our riddles solved and our misery will only have to be a part of our past.

So here comes a call, a call for community leadership and engagement. The call is not coming from a political party or religious organization. It does not have any agenda but our own – young Ethiopians. It is not influenced by propaganda but by our own craving to see a better and brighter tomorrow for our homeland.

If you are discomforted by what is going on, then join hundreds of young Ethiopians who have committed their time and energy for change. If you are disinterested in any Ethiopian matters, then our goal is to get you connected to passionate people whose visions may excite you and help you see the glory and satisfaction in serving the needy. And finally, if you are happy with the current state of affairs, think of your involvement as something to make it even better.

As I said above, all effective social change should start at the grassroots level. Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) is a grassroots level initiative that has the vision to unite Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopians alike. It is a stage for all who have been dreaming to see beyond the “coffee shop gossip” involvement in the current Ethiopian affairs. Your commitment and active participation makes a difference.

Tesfaye Girma Deboch earned his Bachelors of Science in Economics at the University of Wyoming and is currently a Doctor of Economics candidate at Washington State University. He is a member of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative and permanently resides in Addis Ababa.

Dinner Talk

By: Samuel M. Gebru
Friday, June 25, 2010

I arrived in Washington, D.C. yesterday, June 24, 2010 in the late afternoon from Boston. After getting settled I was invited to attend a dinner at U Street’s Almaz Restaurant. What I thought was simply going to be a short dinner turned into a three-four hour intellectual exchange of ideas—and most importantly, solutions.

Joining me was a professor, a community organizer and three doctoral candidates. We discussed Africa—youth, leadership, economic growth, African Americans, politics, the United States of Africa and the 2010 EAYI Conference. The brilliant exchange of ideas further solidified my belief that we Africans need to work closely on matters of common interest, such as regional and continental economic growth and social responsibility.

The message out of the dinner was simple—we Ethiopians do not live on an island and therefore it is senseless to consider ourselves, at any rate, superior to our African and African American counterparts. The social and intellectual wealth of the “African World” needs to be combined to realize a sustainable future for the continent and its descendants. This can only be done through grassroots involvement and leadership. The best movement is the one that is born out of the people and that continues to survive off the blessings of the people.

The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative will have to continue the Pan-African movement because in reality we are all interdependent. This is a movement that further solidified the relations between Ethiopians and African Americans. This is also the same movement that moved the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative to select Howard University as the Presenting University of its first annual conference. It is critical that youth take the initiative to promote understanding, dialogue and knowledge. The learning of our collective and individual history will be paramount in realizing the African Dream.

Samuel M. Gebru is the President of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative

Bezemed: Have Your Own Circle

By: Gedion Yitbarek
Friday, June 25, 2010

It’s undeniable truth that connection is the main ingredient of success. What struck me the most is realizing that we Ethiopians are weaker when it comes to having a business connection that can potentially build our future. We claim to have a tight social community better than the westerners; nevertheless, we are the poorest. Interestingly, I observed my environment to understand why we Ethiopians are poor financially while the rest of the world is living extravagantly. I realized that our community is not built on progressive interconnectedness but rather on a deterrent social network.

As a youth I remember spending hours with friends at one of the cafés in Addis talking about girls, brand new pair of shoes one of us was wearing and the rich people at school. Surprisingly, not a word about future business opportunities we could achieve together was mentioned. I did not even know their future ambitions; everyone was just living the moment. This is a deep rooted problem we all pass through as a youth in Ethiopia. Even worse, it follows us wherever we go unless some deviate from their nature to achieve different dreams or ambitions.

It’s true when they say the youth copies from their environment. If parents sit around coffee talking about nonsense stories, it will be foolish of us to expect the child sitting next to them to think about scientific inventions and developing career oriented connections in the future. Indeed Ethiopians help out each other when one is in trouble but we are still far behind when it comes to working together and prospering. There is no trick to alleviating this problem other than believing in each other and studying each other’s abilities; then follows interdependence for a common success. It’s unbelievable to see what friends can do if they are understood well to manifest their abilities.

There is a saying in Ethiopia when a person gets a highly competitive job through a connection: “bezemed new yegebaw.” People sometimes think that this happens only in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, that’s how the world operates. Even in the most prosperous country United States of America, President Obama filled up the staff at White House through his connections: “bezemed”. The president of my school was appointed by the former president: “bezemed.” This is how the world operates and we should all accept it and learn to build a career oriented connections. It will be imperative for us to stop copying our faulty predecessors who speak nonsense over coffee and learn to ask one another how we can be additions to our success.

Finding a job shortly after my arrival to the states was a miracle. Lack of experience in collaboration with difference in culture made it almost impossible for me to find a job for the first few months. Finally I took my brother’s advice and landed on a job through the people I know. Filling up an application and waiting for a response couldn’t take me anywhere. Rather asking people for a reference was the only way to find my first entry level job. This is the power of making a connection we all should not neglect.

All in all, besides the charitable work Ethiopian American Youth Initiative strives to accomplish, it also can be a medium for the future leaders of Ethiopia to get connected. The fact that we all commit ourselves in the process of prospering together signals our determination to attaching ourselves with the progressive interconnectedness of our society. We can grow through this organization and build our career while helping the unfortunate children and women suffering in Ethiopia. Let us spread the words to peers that we members of the EAYI support humanity while helping our ill social network heal.

Gedion Yitbarek is a Chemical Engineering major at the University of Oklahoma and is a member of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.

[VLOG] Max and Jonathan

EAYI: Engaging Myself Outside the Classroom

By: Maxwell MacCarthy
Monday, June 21, 2010

My name is Maxwell MacCarthy, and I recently joined EAYI as a Research Associate to help in the expansion and evolution of the organization this summer. With this being my first blog article, I would like to keep things simple and write about something I have thought a lot about recently: what EAYI means to me.

My freshman year at college was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. After transitioning from rural Vermont to the urban life at Boston University, I was overwhelmed by all the new resources and opportunities available right at my fingertips as part of my new life as a college student. For me, this meant reading any piece of writing I could get my hands on and being utterly engrossed by every class lecture I went to. The whole exotic notion of academia, scholarliness, and learning gripped me, and I felt like I had truly started living my life.

My spring 2009 semester, however, spent studying and working abroad in Niger as part of an international development studies program changed my perspective on what it meant to be a student. Going into the semester, I wanted to study abroad mostly as an excuse to travel, and the classes I would have to take there seemed mostly a formality – a break from academics and intellectual engagement if you will. And yet looking back, the entire 3 months was a learning experience, more so than any semester spent in Boston in fact. Working with a local microfinance organization and teaching basketball to young girls in Niger allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and not only learn so much about the country and the people but learn a lot about myself. Being in one of the poorest countries in the world also really makes you question a lot of your life views and values, and thus discussions with my fellow participants in the program allowed me to reevaluate a lot of things that I had taken for granted. It was an experience that cannot even compare to a semester spent at college.

Now after 4 years at Boston University and a few life experiences behind me, I have grown past this extreme notion of only connecting learning and academia. This summer, a time spent reflecting on the college experience as well as coinciding with my start at EAYI, I have finally begun to understand how much learning really occurs outside the classroom. Textbooks and articles are fine but limiting oneself to pages and computer screens misses the biggest picture. As crazy as it sounds, you do not need to lock yourself in a stale, air-conditioned library and pour over thousands of textbook pages to learn about some subject. Life is incredibly dynamic and diverse; all you need to do is engage it in a new way, like I did, to learn and foster personal growth.

For me then, this summer with EAYI is a lesson in applying myself outside the classroom. The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative allows me to not only engage the Boston-area community but also the wider Ethiopian community and EAYI members around the world as we work together toward common goals. EAYI means interacting with new people to expand my horizons; my first conversation with EAYI’s founder, Samuel Gebru, showed me the power of youth engagement and gave me a welcome reminder of how short life is. It is these life experiences that I hope to take away from my time at EAYI. As I transition out of college and into the real world, I hope to use EAYI as a way to move smoothly into the next chapter of my life and continue to expand beyond the walls of Boston University.

Maxwell MacCarthy is a graduate of Boston University and serves as a Research Associate of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.

Engaging Ethiopian Youth as Leaders and Change Agents

By: Mikias Wondyfraw
Sunday, June 20, 2010

“It takes more courage to examine darker corners of your own soul than it does for a solider to fight on the battlefield.” -William B. Yeats

We need youth leaders who are willing to examine darker corners of Ethiopia and themselves to keep our democratic experiment alive. Just like an intellectual, a leader needs to learn and know about the past. A courageous thinker and leader never forget their shared history and destiny.

Ethiopia’s population consists of young people, 41,000,000 to be exact. Many Ethiopians live in absolute poverty and suffer from chronic diseases. Economic inequality is also growing in fast pace in Ethiopia and this is creating a significant social chasm. Young people will be the change agents of Ethiopia. However, a leader needs to bring all Ethiopians together as one brotherhood and sisterhood. To be an Ethiopian leader, one has to be a wound-healer not a wound-hurter because our history has gone through rough times and a good leader should uphold the rule of law and not of revenge.

Leadership is action, not position. We have a lot of people who are willing to be “leaders,” but are not ready to act upon their values. We need youth leaders who are willing to question the foundation of ideas and assumptions that many Ethiopians live with, and are courageous enough to empower those who don't have hope in themselves or in the country’s future. A leader must empower and enlighten its followers and give them the resources and support to make a change in their life.

Ethiopia is home for the rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Oromo, Tigray, Garage, Amhara, young, and old. It is multicultural nation. In Ethiopia, many people are losing hope and faith in their nation. Although many Ethiopians are going abroad for a “better life,” people should have faith in their nation and the commitment to better their nation. I believe there is a growing nihilism among young people in Ethiopia, people think that there is no meaning living in Ethiopia or helping others. I heard this statement many times, “Ethiopia is not doing anything for me,” or, “Ethiopia is nothing.” First of all, Ethiopia is not our biological parent, is a space that accommodates 81,000,000 people. Ethiopia can become a powerful empire or the poorest country on earth. If young people in Ethiopia start sleepwalking, then our nation will start sleepwalking too. Sleepwalking is a symptom of nihilism. So will we be 81,000,000 dead corpuses with a soul or 81,000,000 visionary Ethiopians? It is up-to the young people to make a change in their nation.

The Ethiopian communities in the U.S. are growing in very fast pace. The question I want mention is, “who are we and why are we here?” and “what’s our role in America and in Ethiopia?” Ethiopian parents always talk about our identity in the new world and how can we bring two cultures together. It is a tough question to wrestle with because it is every immigrant’s problem when they come to the U.S. Ethiopians in the U.S. or in other parts of the world are a backbone of Ethiopia’s economy. Without their economical support, many Ethiopians would live in edge of starvation. We need to distinguish between our vocation and profession. Our vocation needs to be our life's work or calling. Our profession is our day's work. There is a lot of imitation in Ethiopian communities. People just want to fit in the U.S. way of life or copy others. The U.S. is not a perfect land and it needs to work on its democratic experiment too, however, we Ethiopians need muster the courage to think and speak against injustice anywhere. Our young people want to do whatever they can, so they can be accepted into the U.S. mainstream. Ralph W. Emerson used to say, “Imitation is suicidal.” Just like the Black National Anthem, we need to lift every voice up, including our own. We need to lift up young voices that are aligned with change and vision.

Finally, I want to mention one courageous young Ethiopian in our organization. Samuel Gebru, a brilliant Ethiopian visionary, founded the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative. In the organization’s current mission statement, we see the aim of, “[Creating] a broad-based network of Ethiopians in the United States, initiate and support youth-related efforts in Ethiopia, promote Ethiopia in a positive image…as well as to promote unity and tolerance amongst Ethiopians…” I want to say something about tolerance in the context of Ethiopians. In the 1920’s, Martin Buber, an Austrian born Jewish Philosopher, wrote a book called, I and Thou. He talks about eternal connection with another man. He raises an important point, which is that the “I-and-It” relationship is separateness and ignoring the existence of other people different from themselves. Ultimately, we are not clones of one another, but let’s find a common ground that will bring all Ethiopians into brotherhood and sisterhood.

Mikias Wondyfraw is a Communications Officer of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.

Ambassador Shinn hails 2010 EAYI Conference

I strongly urge young Ethiopians and other interested persons to participate in the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative conference in Washington, D.C., from June 25-27, 2010.

This is an event that will promote positive links between Ethiopia and young Ethiopians throughout the diaspora. The conference will provide an opportunity to learn about recent developments in Ethiopia and to strengthen cultural ties with Ethiopia...more here

A Mission Statement that Acts

By: Aster Mengesha Gubay
Friday, June 18, 2010

A unique history, an exuberant culture, and an undeniably beautiful population - Ethiopia is truly a country blessed with endless potential. But to fully harness these possibilities groups such as the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative are desperately needed. Initially started as a support group for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, EAYI has evolved into a social network that is dedicated in spreading the Ethiopian culture and its’ distinctive history, establishing developmental projects to create a more productive Ethiopia, and bringing about solutions to the direr situations of this East African country. All of these goals, which, should be noted as realistic ones, contribute to a brighter future for the Ethiopian population are clearly illustrated within the well thought out mission statement of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.

As we move forward, our organization aims to change its name and reassess its Mission Statement. The name we will be considering during the 2010 EAYI Conference in Washington, D.C. is the “Ethiopian Global Initiative.” With the new name comes a new Mission Statement, which is,

“…to combine and capture the social and intellectual capital of students and professionals to further engineer the transformation of Ethiopia by engaging a new generation of socially responsible Ethiopians. In partnership with leading public and private sector organizations, the Ethiopian Global Initiative aims to undertake and support sustainable developmental endeavors in Ethiopia. The Initiative also aims to promote the interests of Ethiopians globally by serving as a catalyst for community-based projects that promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.”

This proposed Mission Statement highlights all the essentials to taking steps in the right direction. The intent is to gather young minds, scholars, professionals, entrepreneurs, etc., and do “collectively what can not be done individually” and essentially “go forth and prosper.” A big emphasis is also placed upon the concept of a collective collaboration by incorporating “public and private sector organizations” in hopes of bringing together a diverse set of ideas and launching them into projects that will all in-turn transform Ethiopia. And who wouldn’t want that?

The Mission Statement also touches base with enhancing Ethiopian interests on the global fronts, interests that I interpret may include seeing more athletes in global arena, creating a more profitable Ethiopian coffee market for the coffee farmers, introducing a vibrant democratic system in Ethiopia, and getting the younger generation of Ethiopian students more opportunities in the workforce and to compete world-wide. Much praise should be contributed to the fact that this organization accepts that effective change cannot—and subsequently, will not—happen instantly over night. (Patience is included in this journey.) By saying this group is a “catalyst for community-based projects that promote civic engagement,” we lucidly communicate that we hope to get other things started with a push from the Initiative.

It is safe to say that this organization has definite potential in achieving its’ goals and excelling on the national and global level. Linking and networking with Ethiopians, Ethiopian descendants, and with people who highly favor the Ethiopian culture around the world, will in the long run create a much stronger alliance among the global Ethiopian community. I personally believe anything can be achieved once unity is obtained and it is clear that the Initiative’s sole purpose is to bring people together who have the shared interest in seeing Ethiopia and Ethiopians succeed. With such a mission statement, the Initiative will have many years of successful business, a flourishing membership, and will be able to obtain its' goal of transforming Ethiopia through collective action.

Aster Mengesha Gubay is the Director of Government and Community Relations for the 2010 Ethiopian American Youth Initiative Conference.

Ethiopia: Youth, the Hamlins and Commitment to Action

By: Samuel M. Gebru
Friday, June 11, 2010

One of the things I like about community and youth organizing is that I get the opportunity to really connect with people individually and hear what concerns and suggestions they have to improve our communities. Being born in Sudan, raised in the United States and of Ethiopian origin, I belong to many different communities.

When I established the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative, I envisioned bringing dynamic, open-minded and highly motivated youth, students and professionals together. The Ethiopian Diaspora community is highly intoxicated by very superficial things that, at the end of the day, don’t really matter. Whether at home or abroad, we Ethiopians have shown ourselves to be a community that is easily divided, and sometimes it appears—whether real or not—that we are more divided than united.

In December 2004, after watching the Oprah Winfrey Show’s program on obstetric fistula in Ethiopia, I became inspired by the strong commitment to community service displayed by Drs. Reginald and Catherine Hamlin, co-founders of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Reginald passed away in 1993 but Catherine, now in her 80s, still lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the same commitment that drove her to Ethiopia with her late husband in 1959. The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has now evolved into a network of 6 hospitals in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Mekelle, Bahar Dar, Harrar, Metu and Yirgalem. They are collectively known as the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia. In 2009, the hospitals celebrated Catherine Hamlin’s 50th year in Ethiopia.

To think that a foreigner commit over 50 years of dedicated service and hard work to Ethiopia is nothing less than amazing. Learning about the tragedy of obstetric fistula and the energy of the Hamlins not only inspired me but it embarrassed me. As a 13-year-old in December 2004, I began to question why Ethiopians in the Diaspora were not showing the same level of commitment non-Ethiopians demonstrated to Ethiopia. I also began to question why our community is more concerned about ethnic pride, who occupies the Menelik Palace and infesting every aspect of our lives with politics than whether 81 million Ethiopians have access to clean water and if the 6 million Ethiopian orphans will find new kind and loving people to call parents. Out of this embarrassment came inspiration and my commitment to act.

I founded the Ethiopian Team after convening a meeting of 13 Ethiopian youth in the Boston area on April 2, 2005. Once I shared the tragedies of obstetric fistula and the story of the Hamlins, the others were equally inspired to join the efforts. We became the first Ethiopian youth effort in Boston. An entire community was educated and inspired due to our work. The Ethiopian Team, in less than a year, raised enough funds to sponsor 11 women for fistula-repair surgery at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Our youngest member was in 6th grade, our oldest was in 12th grade and I was in 8th grade.

The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative is the Ethiopian Team’s successor. EAYI was formed in 2006 and aimed to bring open-minded youth and student leaders together to really get things done. The Initiative is hosting its first annual conference in 14 days in Washington, D.C. The 2010 EAYI Conference will be about brainstorming proactive and realistic solutions to the everyday problems in Ethiopia. It will also be about finding solutions to the problems in our local communities within the Diaspora. This gathering will be of student and youth leaders that further our collective and individual commitment to act.

I call upon Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians to embrace the spirit of community service of the Hamlins in the same manner it inspired me to respond to the call for action 81 million Ethiopians have silently put.

Now, I am 18-years-old and am still embarrassed, inspired and committed to act.

Samuel M. Gebru is the President of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative.

You may read more of Samuel's articles on his personal blog.

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