Celebrations in Oakland and New York

By Yilma Bekele

It was a beautiful weekend in Oakland. It was sunny, warm and clear blue skies. We celebrated Meskel like never before. Every year you see more young ones scurrying around between your legs and all over the place. It is a population explosion with the new arrivals and the newly born. As usual it was both serene and lavish. The folks of Medhanealem cathedral know how to give a feast fit for Ethiopians.

We are both proud and happy to have a caring church that knows its responsibility to people and country. To watch so many Ethiopians having fun and rejoicing in celebrating their heritage is heart warming. You can take the Ethiopian out of Ethiopia but you cannot take being Ethiopian out of him/her. The fact we were treated to such a holiday spirit is not an accident. Here in Oakland we have a little advantage. We are blessed to have a caring and humble father that has managed to keep has flock together and avoid the bad and terrible things that are happening all around us. Our church is under constant attack and church leaders like Abatachen have shown us how to be to be resilient. We might bend but we will never snap and break.

I am sure it took a lot of planning to organize such an event. Since there is the issue of setting fire (Demera) both the City and the fire department have to be notified. There were tents to be pitched, table and chairs to be set. There was food and water to be brought and special playing pen for the young ones to be set. Traffic control is always an issue and setting up the sound system takes knowledge. It all went well due to excellent planning by the Church Board and their helpers. A lot of Ethiopians went home happy.

It is such a joy to see Ethiopians coming together. United and working for the same purpose and goal. Priceless!

Another important event took place on the other side of this continent. The location was Uptown Manhattan and the name of the place is Columbia University. Here on Wednesday September 22nd. another set of Ethiopians defended our honor and hoisted our flag sky high for all to see with the lettering ‘Do not thread on me!’ embossed on good old green yellow and red. Our people chartered buses, drove in their private cars, took the train and flew to be present at this important event. They came as far away as Carolina, as close as Boston as next door as New Jersey or a tad far as Connecticut. They came to speak for the voiceless. They were a few hundred in real numbers but they were hundreds of thousands in spirit. They were not alone. All Ethiopia was with them. They showed the tyrant ferenji respect is not a substitute to our love and respect.

Columbia University got more than what it bargained for. The hired TPLF lobbyists and the Professors for ‘sale’ were exposed for what they are, tyrant coddlers! Columbia heard the cry of the Ethiopian people loud and clear. They were seen going around like a chicken with is head cut off. First they removed the crappy flattering autobiography, then their Professors rebelled and called foul, and were forced to move the venue to a lower setting and crowned their debacle by canceling President Bollinger’s appearance.

Ethiopians in the Diaspora worked together and waged a successful campaign to turn this unjust invitation into a teachable moment. Students and faculty of Columbia University were made aware of the plight of our people. We emailed, faxed, called and made a lot of noise. Our independent websites were relentless and our airwaves were filled with somber discussions. We were at our best. We did it not out of hate but out of love for our homeland.

I wrote an article regarding the individual’s visit. I gave the examples of Fascist Italy’s aggression of 1935 and Jimmy Carters blunder in the aftermath of the 2005 elections to lament on Ferenjis disrespect for our sensibilities. I mis-spoke. I apologize. Both examples are off target. When Italy invaded our motherland our people did not fold their hands and sit around waiting for the bombs to fall. No they marched north to confront the enemy. The fact that Italy possessed airplanes loaded with poison gas and heavy guns capable of doing great damage was not a deterrent to the sons and daughters of Tewodros, Menelik, Tona, Abajifar and Yohanes.

When our honorable guest lost the election in 2005 and decided to win by any means necessary our people did not throw their hands in the air and went back home. They rose up to confront a highly trained and lethal Agazi force of the Prime Minster and engaged the enemy in Merkato and around the nation. Merkato is our sacred ground. Our ‘ground zero.’ Let us just say we lacked the resolve to take the game to its natural conclusion. (Our Kenyan neighbors took note and called Mr. Kibabki’s bluff. Today, Kenya with a democratically drawn constitution will surpass our country in a short time and take the leadership position in African Affairs.) We lost over two hundred sons and daughters of Ethiopia. I did not mean to dishonor the memory of our brave people that stood up against all odds.

My rant against Columbia University is a misplaced anger and a feeble attempt to shift responsibility to others. The confrontation should have been against myself. Don’t you think it is about time we as a nation do some deep agonizing introspection? Self-examination is long over due. Columbia University, for whatever reason have decided to bestow such honor on an abuser of human right and that is their prerogative. It makes us sad and loose respect to an institution that is supposed to be a center of advanced learning and higher moral expectations. After everything has been said and done the problem is ours to solve or live with.

So the question that is keeping me awake at night is how come the people that go out of their way to keep our heritage intact even in exile are the same people that enable Woyane’s atrocity on our people. How come these sons and daughters of Ethiopia are helping a single ethnic based Junta that exiled them out of their homeland by investing their hard earned money in his ponzi scheme? How could you claim to love Ethiopia and give money to those that are destroying Ethiopia?

My question to my brethren and myself is how did we get here? At what point did our character get devalued like our useless currency the Bir? Despite the on going attempt to rewrite our history Ethiopia has existed for centuries as a Nation State. Believe me there aren’t that many countries that can claim that. Today in 2010 how come we have become the poster country for an example of a failed state? Is there a historian, a sociologist or political scientist that can pin point the date of our collective rush to disintegrate?

It has been forty years now since we started this down ward spiral. We have managed to pick a few nasty habits in this difficult journey we embarked upon. The sons and daughter of those proud and brave souls that defined Ethiopia have been bullied to submission at home or reduced to a bunch of destitute nomads roaming the planet in search of a peaceful corner to lie down and die in peace.

There are two psychological terms that come to mind when we think of the predicament we find our selves in. I am speaking about the concepts of ‘intervention’ and a term known as ‘the Stockholm syndrome.’ In part two this search for explanation I will put my two cents worth to elaborate our dysfunctional behavior that is feeding the monster we have created. In the mean time we thank both groups in Oakland and New York for keeping hope alive. Melkam Meskel sons and daughters of brave Abeshas.


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