Friday, March 4, 2011

EGI President Speaks at Black History Month Dinner in Washington, D.C.

EGI President Samuel Gebru delivers
speech on "The Promise of Ethiopia:
Unity Beyond Borders." Photo Credit.

Washington, D.C., March 3, 2011 – On Monday, February 28, 2011 Ethiopian Global Initiative President Samuel M. Gebru delivered a speech entitled “The Promise of Ethiopia: Unity Beyond Borders” at the annual African Heritage and Unity Celebration.

The event, organized by Tamrat Medhin of the Ethiopian American Constituency Foundation, was held at Etete Restaurant, a prominent Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s historic Shaw Neighborhood.

In his speech, Samuel explained why Ethiopia is important to African Americans. “Ethiopia to African Americans was and still is an institution; it’s an identity, much beyond just a state with clearly defined borders. During the Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was the torch barrier of African unity and self-determination. Ethiopia was a home for all oppressed people of African descent, a place where they would find unity in diversity.”

He continued, articulating how the first Ethiopian delegation to the United States in 1919 spoke out against racial segregation and left a standing invitation to all African Americans to repatriate to Ethiopia. Samuel emphasized the notion of “Ethiopia Without Borders” and its meaning.

“‘Ethiopia Without Borders’ is a concept that African Americans have cherished…One of the Black regiments in the U.S. Revolutionary War was known as Allen’s Ethiopians…Homer in The Odyssey referenced to all the lands south of Egypt as being Ethiopia. This is from a document written around the 8th Century B.C.”

Youth involvement as the primary vehicle to continue the historic 200 years of relations between African Americans and Ethiopians was underscored. Samuel explained that, “Celebrating the heritage of all African people, both within the homeland and abroad, must be a matter of a realization of our own individual and collective potential as a people who have been historically, political and economically marginalized. This is what Black History Month should be about today, not just for 28 days but also for 365 days.”

Three other speakers shared insight on Ethiopia’s importance to the Black world. H.I.H. Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, spoke the contributions Ethiopia made to African self-determination. Retired Washington, D.C. City Councillor Frank Smith spoke about the economy behind enslavement and the interconnectedness of the American Civil War and the African struggle for independence. Lastly, retired Captain Getachew Wolde Mariam, spoke on his experience in the Imperial Bodyguard of Ethiopia and the contributions Ethiopia has made to global peacekeeping, including in the Congo and South Korea.

The African Heritage and Unity Celebration in Washington, D.C. was an important way for the Ethiopian Global Initiative to continue its outreach work. Some Ethiopian-Israeli youth attending the event, representing Israel at Heart, expressed their desire to begin EGI activities in Israel.

The Chairman of the Washington, D.C. City Council, the Honorable Kwame Brown, attended the event and commended Samuel Gebru’s speech. He expressed his interest in learning more about EGI and exploring ways that the District of Columbia could support and partner with it.

Representatives of many other organizations and businesses also attended the event. Organizer Tamrat Medhin hailed the speakers as having eloquently pointed out the importance of the past and how to chart a new future.

A copy of “The Promise of Ethiopia: Unity Beyond Borders” is available on the EGI website.

About the Ethiopian Global Initiative
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.

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1 comment:

  1. Once again, we see the standard misinterpretation. Ethiopian in Homeric and Attic Greek literally refers to anyone with dark skin. Arabs, Indians and anyone who simply didn't look quite as light as the Greeks could fall under the name "Ethiopian". Allen's Ethiopians was undoubtedly a reference to the fact that they were seen as black, that is with charred faces. Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops) "charred complexion" < αἴθω (aithō) "I burn" + ὤψ (ōps) "eye, face, complexion".

    When Homer said all lands south of Egypt are Ethiopia, he meant they were all black. However, there was no notion of a unified empire and quite frankly anyone who wandered far enough into Sudan would simply assumed he had stubled into Ethiopia.

    Remember, in that time, the closest there was to an "Ethiopia" was Dmt, and that could hardly be considered an equivalent. The country as we generally understand it was Abyssina from the Ethiosemitic "Habasat".

    Look, I want great things out of the country too, but you can't do it by appealing to lies and half-truths. If we build a strong nation it will be on the foundation of truth, integrity and, unlike most national legends, we should also build it on rigorous academic accuracy. We have much to be proud of without making up fanciful national myths.


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