Thursday, July 8, 2010

Struggle, Hope, and Action: A Response to Apathy

On June 23 of this year, Pascal Robert published an inquisitive article in the Huffington Post entitled, "What Happened to the Black Literary Canon?"(You can read it here). After articulating the profound impact mid-century authors such as James Baldwin, E. Franklin Frazier, and Cater G. Woodson had on his own intellectual up-bringing, Robert laments the possibility that our society endures, satiated by the fa├žade of "racial-blindness," or perhaps even considers itself the more absurd designation as a "post-racial America." The statistics, as he points out, prove otherwise with cold, terse facticity.

What was most inspiring about these words was not the celebration of literature, but my internalization and comprehension of the sheer magnitude of our generation's capacity to think critically and dissent against apathy. These characteristics––the individual thinker, the assertive voice advocating for the good––are not merely fundamentally "American" ideals; they embody and permeate the Ethiopian Global Initiative's mission.

While Robert focused on the indifference within the young Black community, I believe his concerns regarding apathy prove valid for the whole of American youth today. As a generation, we grew up "on-line." As individuals, we have access to unprecedented levels of information and communication––all which can be accessed near-instantenously. If the pace of time is quickening, then history––even our mothers' and fathers'––recedes deeper into ambiguity. Perhaps those pages characterizing struggle, preaching hope, and demanding action appear too ancient for our modern tastes. Though, in my opinion, these authors' remarks contain a clear and essentially modern integrity, our nation of youth may need inspiration via new means. As national test scores dwindle, religious and political extremism gain prominence, and the racial divide worsens across academic, nutritional, and labor lines, we are faced with the struggle.

In referring to the tough economic climate the United States––and particularly our youth––currently faces, Attorney General Eric Holder commented at Boston University's Class of 2010 commencement: "only when the sky is darkest are we able to see the stars." Well, my hope rests in the star-glinted eyes of the youth, for they carry the torch of insight, the burden of responsibility, and a capacity not yet bounded. My hope resides in the intrepidity of those that demand action––in organizations such as the Ethiopian Global Initiative, which embodies the universal ideals of community and compassion.

After working with EGI's President, Samuel Gebru, and our team of volunteers, it is my sincerest belief that the Ethiopian Global Initiative not only aspires to inspire: it actualizes its own insistence on initiative. With a call aimed particularly at Ethiopian American and Ethiopian youth, steps are being taken today by members of EGI to face such debilitating social problems as cultural ignorance, ethnic and racial isolation, poor health conditions, and hunger.

My insistence is that those that want to see change can and will when we rally together. In the minds of those at EGI, a movement has begun. Join it.

Jonathan Remple
Research Associate
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Sunday, July 4, 2010

U.S. College Students for Ethiopia

What if we grouped a bunch of college students in the United States and sent them to Ethiopia to volunteer and intern? It would be “U.S. College Students for Ethiopia” and it begins with you!

A few months ago some others and I were discussing about how great it would be to involve students from the United States in the development of Ethiopia. Ethiopia lost about 75% of its skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991, according to the U.N. Development Program. It’s rumored that there are more Ethiopian Medical Doctors in the City of Chicago than there are in the entire Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. I believe that.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to allow students in American colleges the opportunity to go to Ethiopia for their summer, their semester or their entire academic year to intern or volunteer in their field of interest? I want Health Science students to go to the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa to get some hands-on experience dealing with patients and many diseases. I want Occupational Therapy students to go to Northern Ethiopia to work at the Tigray Disabled Veterans Association’s clinical facilities. I want Business students to work with the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Societies Union and help them further organize and improve their efficiency so they may advocate for all coffee farmers.

Having win-win solutions for Ethiopia’s problems was discussed at the 2010 Ethiopian American Youth Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C. “U.S. College Students for Ethiopia” could be the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s win-win solution for the loss of Ethiopia’s skilled workforce between 1980 and 1991. College students would get hands on experience that would strengthen their credentials, academically and professionally. Ethiopia would benefit from the skill that the college students would contribute to the country. The Ethiopian Global Initiative would benefit because we would fulfill our objectives of serving as a catalyst for projects that promote civic engagement and economic prosperity.

This wouldn’t just be a two-month service trip. In fact, its imperative that once the college students return to the U.S. they should get involved in continuing their contributions to Ethiopia’s growth by joining EGI. So, again: what if we grouped a bunch of college students in the United States and sent them to Ethiopia to volunteer and intern?

Samuel M. Gebru
President and Chairman
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Partners/New Projects - The EGI Conference Hangover

With one week removed since the EGI Conference in Washington D.C., I am feeling more rejuvenated than ever since I started working with EGI this summer. The new people that the organization has come in contact with, the new ideas that we have come up with, the new energy that has been injected into the organization - it is amazing what a conference like this can do to inject new life into the ambition and scope of an organization.

Sam returned from D.C. this weekend with a long list of people who are eager to get involved with EGI - the conference helped to bring them out of the woodwork. As we discussed these possible new members who will help shape the future of this organization, I couldn't help but be amazed by the different walks of life all these people had come from. Men, women, young people, adults, moviemakers, businessmen, writers, philanthropists, engineers, professors - the EGI conference had successfully inspired people from all different backgrounds to come join us as we move the organization forward. I was impressed to know that the conference, at the very least, could touch such a wide swathe of people. This diverse group of people will be able to provide unique perspectives on a wide range of topics and issues.

Coincidentally, this influx of committed people comes as our organization continues to come up with exciting new projects and ideas for the future. One potential project that excites me the most, which also happens to be the one I am leading ;), is called Sira (the Amharic word for work), which involves our organization partnering with a local Ethiopian microfinance institution to help them attract new external financing and funding. It is thrilling to think that a successful businessman and a person with experience in fundraising, examples of people we met at the conference, could offer their expertise to this project sometime soon. We have also started planning the 2010 Cambridge Ethiopia Day to commemorate the Ethiopian New Year on September 11, something that should of interest to any Cambridge, Massachusetts resident, where Ethiopians represent the second largest immigrant community. We have even started planning for EGI's second conference next year and would eventually like to hold a EGI summit in Ethiopia sometime over the next few years! New projects and ideas keep rolling in, and thankfully, we have some new and committed people to help move them along.

Any non-profit organization, like ours, depends on the energy and enthusiasm of its members. The conference reaffirmed this idea for me and reminded me why I wanted to work for EGI in the first place. Please get involved and stay connected in the multitude of projects that we will be rolling out over the next few months.

Maxwell MacCarthy
Research Associate
Ethiopian Global Initiative

Thursday, July 1, 2010

[Part 1] June 2010 Washington, D.C. Trip Report

Capturing the Conference Energy

Today was a very productive day at the Ethiopian Global Initiative's Headquarters. Today, I was meeting with my Research Associates over what transpired at the 2010 EAYI Conference at Howard University in Washington, D.C. As we were doing post-conference work, I couldn't help but really acknowledge the amount of energy and potential EGI has. Our Initiative has created the framework for all students and young professionals to get involved in Ethiopia's transformation. We recognize, too, that its not just Ethiopians that care about Ethiopia. 

When I closed the 2010 EAYI Conference, I stressed that we're not closing by saying "see you next year" but by saying "talk to you tomorrow" because the discussions must continue. Most Ethiopian conferences and gatherings do not end with a plan of action, or a mode to continue the discussions. Our conference was quite insightful in that it provided an intimate opportunity for speakers and attendees to discuss. For some of our audience, it was their first time meeting such like-minded youth and inspirational speakers all in one room. My goal was to ensure the happiness of each attendee throughout the conference, and I am sure that no one left dissatisfied.

In the coming weeks, EGI will be contacting those who spoke at and attended our conference to capture the energy they exhibited. In the short-term, we are asking attendees to submit a list of various issues in Ethiopia and how we can address them. In the long-term, it is important to translate our ideas into tangible projects with realistic expectations and outcomes. The Ethiopian Global Initiative plans to launch its projects in September 2010 after careful review of the efficiency and sustainability of each proposed project. I invite you to join the post-conference work by calling our office at +1-617-528-9434.


Samuel M. Gebru
President and Chairman
Ethiopian Global Initiative

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© 2010 Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc. Material may be republished with credit to this blog and/or the original author. The views and comments expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc.