Monday, October 1, 2007

Ethiopian Millennium Celebration in Washington DC

07 September,2007
Ethiopian Millennium Celebration Kicked off with Information Technology Symposium
The much awaited Ethiopian Millennium Celebration in Washington DC kicked off in earnest with information technology symposium. On early Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, the “who and who” of information technology within the Ethiopian Community around the USA flocked into the World Bank Headquarters in Washington DC. With 50 or so in attendance in Washington, D.C.; approximately 30 joined in the symposium in Addis Ababa via video simulcast.
The purpose of the information technology symposium was to assess the current state of technology transfer in Ethiopia and to explore how to expedite the transfer of technology as a means of reducing poverty and increasing prosperity for Ethiopians in the next millennium. The symposium was also organized to connect Ethiopian information technologists within the United States as well as in Ethiopia.
Comments from attendees were favorable and constructive. Fikrete of Alexandria, VA felt that the symposium was an excellent venue for connecting with fellow information technology professionals. Her only misgiving about the symposium was the speaker-centric feature of the symposium. Fikrete would have appreciated more dialogue between the presenters and the attendees. Alem of London, England was inspired to see highly talented Ethiopian technology professionals inside and outside Ethiopia. One of the remarks that resonated with Alem was the realization that advances in information technology are more than building the physical infrastructure of technology in Ethiopia. Alem expressed that the Ethiopian Government’s restrictions on Ethiopian web sites is one of the barriers of advances in information technology in Ethiopia.
The half day symposium featured topics such as the role of technology in advancing the quality of life of Ethiopians, outsourcing, project management discipline, information security and the role of the Diaspora in the advancement of technology in Ethiopia. One of the keynote speakers at the symposium was Noah Samara, Chairman and CEO of Worldspace and a pioneer of digital satellite radio. Worldspace provides digital satellite audio, data and multimedia services primarily to the emerging markets of Africa and Asia.

September 8 & 9th 2007

Ethiopian Millennium Served Up Knowledge Buffet
They came from Frankfurt. They came from Seattle. They came from Vancouver, Canada. They came from Baltimore. They came from Atlanta. They came from San Francisco. Ethiopians came from all corners of the world to be served up knowledge buffet ushered in by some of the best and the brightest Ethiopian scholars and practitioners. While the Howard University medical students were busy learning and treating their patients; about 500 Ethiopians packed into the western wing of the Howard University Medical School Auditorium to hear scholarly presentations addressing issues facing current Ethiopians and actions needed in the next millennium.
The symposium, held on September 8-9, 2007, was a dream come true for Neamin Zeleke, Chair of the Symposium Committee of the Washington DC Millennium Celebration Organizing Council. Neamin, who tends to smile first and then speaks, led a team that worked tirelessly to assemble presenters from diverse disciplines. The night before the symposium kick-off, Neamin was burning the mid-night oil making final stops at the Kinko’s, the Office Depots and the Staples around the metro DC area printing symposium packages. Neamin appears to be an excellent judge of talents. He meticulously hand picked talented and dedicated presenters at the symposium line up. How did Neamin manage to receive a commitment for complimentary presentations from high paid speakers? Neamin’s secrets to obtaining commitments from potential speakers include: (1) expressed sincere appreciation for scholarly work (2) flexibility to accommodate unique requests from each speaker (3) expressed gratitude for the offer (4) demonstrated personal interest in the well-being of each volunteer speaker (5) ability to articulate the importance of each topic to the greater purpose of strengthening the intellectual capital of Ethiopia. The real secret to Neamin’s success as a coordinator of the symposium was by generously expressing the value of each contributor.
The symposium covered the A to Z of issues of interest to building a democratic Ethiopia. Topics included: building democratic institution, ethno politics, human rights, foreign affairs, history, language, civic society, youth development, women’s issues, conflict resolutions, literature, economic development, finance, mass media, sustainable development, global warming, community development, congressional advocacy, good governance, health, education, business, and decertification.
The presenters included: university professors, authors, researchers, government officials, business owners, media personalities, social service providers, congressional staffers, scientists, engineers, health professionals, human rights advocates, lawyers and educators.
Among the featured presenters included: Professor Al Mariam, California State University, Dr. Brook Lakew, NASA, Selam Mulugetta, Special Assistant to U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, Ambassador Ayalew Mandefro, Former Ambassador and Minister of Defense, Dr. Negede Gobeze, Author & Political Activist, Belgium, Nebiat Solomon, Director of African Affairs of the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Ephraim Madebo, System Engineer, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Fikre Tolossa, Writer, Poet & Author, California.Dr. Aberra Molla, Ethiopic Computer & Software, Inc. Colorado.

September 8 2007

Ethiopian Millennium Concert goers learn Work Ethic
What do “concert” and “work” have in common? A lot. The legendry Ethiopian musician Mohammoud Ahmed put on a demonstration of an exemplary work ethic at the Sept 8th Millennium Celebration concert that was held at the DC Armory near the Redskins Stadium. Talking of the Redskins, if their quarterbacks can put in the kind of work ethic that Mohammoud displayed, the skins would have been back to back superbowl champs. The non-stop performance by Mohammoud picked our curiosity and we started asking around concert goers for their estimate of how long Mohammoud was on the stage. Most answered 2 hours. Some gave a 3 hour estimate and others gave a 4 hour estimate. Mohammoud served up plenty of songs that span generations of Ethiopians that induced nostalgia among the nearly 5, 000 attendees that packed the arena.
Also on display was the rising star Abebe Belew, an eskista artist turned a radio journalist. Abebe showcased an eye popping eskista, an Ethiopian highland dance routine, along with his former peers and did a duty as a stage facilitator and as a comedian. Actually, his jokes were pretty funny. It is beyond the talents of this writer to effectively repeat any of Abebe’s comic routines.
In this Saturday night concert that started at 9PM and ended Sunday morning around 4AM, the crowd was cheerful doing eskista routines wherever they happen to hangout. The millennium organizers did a superb job of effectively feeding every human sensory organ throughout the event. There was literally no idle moment. When live performances were not staged, there were some crowd pleasing recorded music while the video commercials were scrolling on large flat screens. This should keep the event sponsors pretty happy. The crowd seemed to have used every excuse to be entertained and remain festive.
We asked John, a CSC Security Associate, what he thought of the crowd. He did not quite catch the intent of our question first. We clarified our question by asking “compared to other concert attendees of similar events, how does the Ethiopian crowd fare in terms of discipline.” John gave us two answers: The crowd is pretty disciplined and the women are pretty. We were more interested in the first response and John was more interested in his second unsolicited response.
The entertainment extravaganza also featured Ethiopian cultural music, which included performances depicting various Ethiopian cultural groups. Couple of surprises that kept the crowd guessing included the Neway Debebe no-show and the surprise appearance by Ethiopia’s favorite Alemayehu Esthete. Indicative of the type of music that the next generation will consume, the versatile Tebebu Workiye performed an eclectic combo of hip hop, reggae, Ethiopian Bati, rap, with Amharic lyrics. The pace of Tibebu’s music was traveling way beyond the speed limit of the contemporary Ethiopian music. For the ipod generation, the pace should be within the range of normal.

September 10 2007
Artistic Expressions on Display at the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration
The Howard University Blackburn Art Gallery was a perfect venue for artistic expressions at the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration in Washington, DC. While mother nature was pouring down some much needed rain, millennium celebrants were rubbing shoulders with Ethiopian artistsEthiopians in the metropolitan DC area were fighting through the Monday night rush hour to get to the Art Exhibit that started at 6pm on Monday, Sept 10th. The Ethiopians, who camped out from out-of-state, had something else to worry about: “Where is Howard University?” “Where is Blackburn Art Gallery” “Where do I park?” “I love visiting DC but no way I want to live in this town where parking is more expensive than Berbere in Addis”. Once these revelers where in the exhibition room, no one can tell who is from where.
The 300 or so attendees were ushered to about 50 eclectic wall displays of artwork ranging from photography to oil on canvas to digital art on paper to mixed media on canvas. There was something for people with various tastes. Talents on display included live singers and dancers representing traditional Ethiopian as well as African-American cultures. A moving remark by Professor Atcha Debela of Durham, North Carolina challenged Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans to learn more and pay attention to the work of art that Ethiopian artists produce.
The evening that was dedicated to a collection of artistic work was not only about works of art. The setting was also perfect for mixing and mingling. Friends and acquaintances that lost touch had a chance to reconnect. Networking of all kinds was made possible at the gallery. Generally, Ethiopians tend to stay close to people they know and tend to be reluctant to strike a conversation with a complete stranger. However, this venue and the art work that was on display facilitated conversations with artists to learn more about what inspired them to create their work.

September 12, 2007
Democracy in Action at the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration
Is the official beginning of the Ethiopian Millennium a new beginning or business as usual?
September 12, 2007 in Washington, DC was a special day. It was a beautiful day. Sunny with no rain in sight! Breezy! Blue sky! Elected leaders of Ethiopia are in town. At the capital city of the free world, there is no fear of being arrested for the events ahead. Such an event is unthinkable in Addis Ababa today. What more can a freedom loving Ethiopian ask?
The west lawn of the US Capitol was the staging ground for March for Democracy. Capitol police officers were on hand to enforce the code of use of the premises as well as to protect the public. As march participants trickled in around noon, the millennium coordinating committee was pretty busy setting up all the gadgets needed for the march.
While the estimated 1000 marchers were pretty excited to be at the capitol to express their dreams for democracy for their homeland, Teddy Kassa’s mind was on much finer details of the event. Teddy is the architect of the march for democracy on behalf of the Washington DC Millennium Coordinating Council. Teddy put his entire energy and all his waking hours of the last several months to see to it that this march is executed flawlessly. The high charging but always smiling Teddy commands respect from his peers because he is a hands-on leader. It is hard to stand and watch a leader who works first and asks for help. Teddy and his team cued up the march ready to go for a 2PM kick-off.
The freedom loving marchers were in really good mood. They were chanting pro-democracy slogans. The marchers were warmly cheering the march speakers. Even the young Ethiopian boys and girls, who may have little idea as to what the march is all about, were joining in to create a true family outing atmosphere. The crowd was not quite tame when the Kinjit delegation arrived to participate in the march. There was a sudden eruption of joy, screaming and chanting to welcome the truly elected leaders of Ethiopia, who were in jail for 21 months in Ethiopia on trumped up charges. The crowed rushed to the elected leaders to show them love and adulation. One marcher fell on the feet of the delegates to express the ultimate form of respect and love for the beloved leaders.
US Representative Mike Honda, Chair of the Ethiopian Caucus in the US Congress greeted the crowd in Amharic and wished them a happy new year and a happy millennium. Congressman Honda expressed his unwavering commitment for the passage of the Ethiopia Human Rights and Democracy bill dubbed HR 2003, which is under consideration in Congress. The sub-title of the Congressman’s remarks was dedicated to the need for tolerance among Ethiopians of all political views.
Professor Al Mariam was among one of the speakers. The professor made a case for supporting HR 2003. He challenged the marchers to reach out to their US Congressional Representatives to support the passage of the bill. Al Mariam’s body language clearly demonstrates that he is not going settle for anything less than a win for the Ethiopian people. The two Kinjit delegates who were in attendance of the march were Dr. Hailu Araya and Ato Gizachew Shiferaw. These cherished leaders thanked the Ethiopian Diaspora for their relentless support during their imprisonment, and expressed their dedication to democratic institution-building in Ethiopia. These gallant leaders communicated with the crowd not only with their words but also with their body language. They showed sincerity, determination, dedication and love for all Ethiopians. They generously made themselves available to meet and greet their admirers. They even took time out to visit with the youngest of the marchers, American style.
After the democracy march, attendees were encouraged to join the celebration finale at the Washington Monument. The event organizers urged the crowd to call and text message their friends to join in the evening celebration, which featured a free concert of traditional Ethiopian music, contemporary Ethiopia music, African American music as well as reggae.
By 9PM the monument park was packed with more than 10, 000 Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to enjoy the free concert. The crowd was truly into all kinds of music. Gone are the days when Ethiopians only listened to and enjoyed only Ethiopian music. They sang along and danced to African American as well as to reggae. The evening was capped with performances of Ethiopian cultural music and dance. The entire park turned into an instant eskista dance floor. A few brave souls, mostly young boys and girls, joined the performers on the stage to showcase their talents.
As the celebration approached a culmination point, members of the DC Millennium Coordinating Council appeared a whole lot like a super bawl team that is leading its opponent by 54 to 3 with 2 minutes before game time. The council members were high fiving one another. The leaders of the Council, who were the MVPs of the event were Alem Tsehay Wodajo, Neamin Zelleke, Zecharias Getachew, and Teddy Kassa. Alem Tsehay Wodajo, who is a performing artist by background and a real estate agent by profession, presided over the Millennium Council. She put in countless hours to lead a team of volunteers to put on this historic event. Alem put to use all her talents and some to pull off this extremely successful event. She used diplomacy, lots of smiles, flexibility, gratitude, speaking her mind, tears, sincerity and effective listening skills to lead a male dominated volunteers. Alem can probably write a best seller book entitled “How I pulled off an event that can only be repeated in a thousand years”.
Gabe Hamda, ICAT Consulting, Inc.

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