The Ethiopian Heritage Festival in DC: What did we learn? |
By Kassa | August 1, 2012
The Ethiopian Heritage has stipulated the objectives for the 2nd festival conducted in DC on July 27 & 28 are “to educate Ethiopian youngsters about Ethiopian history, culture, and traditions, as well as the contributions Ethiopians have made to the United States. Specifically the aim is to inform the young Ethiopians about their rich culture & history which their ancestors have established and preserved for them throughout the centuries, and secondly to remind them their responsibilities learn them and preserve them for the next generations. It also aims to promote the significance of the contributions the Ethiopian Diaspora Community is making in the United States in the Social, Economic and Political spheres.
I think, the effort does worth the purpose. The Ethiopian heritage is an important area that deserves a lot of initiatives and effort not only for Ethiopians but also for foreigners too. The history need to be told. The endemic treasuries and the richness of the history need to be uncovered. The golden times and the good face of Ethiopia need to be preached and spread across the globe. The World will have a lot to learn from them. With a huge Ethiopian population living in the United States, there is a real need to keep the new generation informed about their history and motivate them to learn more and contribute for its growth. One way to introduce and educate these kids can be done by sending them hone to spend summer vacations so that they could get the chance to learn firsthand from their own people about their culture. They can gradually learn and assimilate to their culture. Doing so, however, will be expensive for most parents who struggle to live by the minimum wages. In most states, there are no noticeable organized efforts on educating the young generation on their heritage other than some fragmented activities in the churches and maybe in mosques. So in this angle, the festival and the organization’s agenda can be said a pioneer. Although there are many young people who were really attracted by the stated theme, the motive for some others could vary ranging from parents enjoying the opportunity to entertain their kids, to making fun for themselves with the lovely music. Whatever the force which drove each one to the assembly, I think, there were encouraging achievements for the organizers. First of all, it is a success to mobilize a large crowd to the event as it is usually difficult to do so in a “fractured society”. The event created opportunity for many people to reconnect. For the kids and the teens, the event was special- it was a reflection of the old way of raising kids back home where the kids easily mix and play together full of affection and true friendship. That is rare here- most of the time relationship is with some form of restriction.
The event was largely filled with Ethiopian Music. In fact, the Jamaicans contributed a lot to warmth the event. The Jamaicans affiliation to Ethiopia is not uncommon to most Ethiopians. What was instigating to many people was to see a young African American, who is a member of the music band, performed very well even beyond the Ethiopian fellows. His short speech enthused the crowd- he was saying “Ethiopia has changed his life for good claiming he has the same blood with the crowd”. The crowd responded affirmatively by standing up from their seat and applauding warmly. Music being one of the endowments of culture and history, it has served the intended purpose of the event. Other sports such as running and gymnastics were also exhibited. This is also a good start which needs to be encouraged.
I think many people could see how difficult to organize an event like this one in a resource intensive country. It is understandable that there could be resource constraint: time, man power and money. The organization is so young and maybe still in a forming stage. With that context the organizers should be proud for their effort. They should be credited for all the positive achievements.
For the coming events, I hope, the organization could broadly display the richness of our culture and history. Churches and Mosques could play significant roles in portraying the Ethiopian treasures through their hymns, songs, poems etc and in contributing manuscripts, artifacts and other materials. If there were possible shortage of materials to display, I don’t think there was a shortage of experienced and knowledgeable people from the community to share their knowledge in the area.
In terms of participation, we have still long way to go. There were very few representations from the other community, whites, African Americans, Latinos etc. One reason could be, we all paid little attention to invite people we know in the work place or in other networking. The organizers could have not done enough effort to invite those people. To whom we could communicate then the contributions of the Ethiopian Society as laid out in the objectives of this activity.
Most people could agree in sticking to the stated objectives when organizing events. Mixing politics with heritage makes little sense even if politics impacts the growth of heritage positively or negatively. The objective of the event was just about heritage. It doesn’t seem that the guest of honors was targeted from the heritage angle. At least their speeches and the introductory notes don’t convey that message. The message was somehow clear. They are both drawn among the current patrons who are fighting the repression in some way or the other. Apart from the confusion this act will pose, the action will also trigger opposition as well as support. Above all, sticking to the purpose could help meet the target.
The long term objective of the organization has also been mentioned. How much it takes and how long to achieve this objective was not mentioned. But it can be assumed that establishing Museum is costly. The question is why Museum? I think there are a lot of other efforts worth doing before reaching at that stage of establishing a museum.
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