Nunu Wako Show: Interview With Ras Nebiyu
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Nunu Waqo to Samuel Getachew, what was the core reason for Ethiopians not to support your bid for a councilman in Toronto?
The other day I was watching EBS’s the Nunu Waqo show which featured Samuel Getachew as a guest via Skype from Toronto, Canada. As I understood from the program, Samuel is an Ethiopian-Canadian and a journalist by profession. As an Ethiopian he is concerned with the progress of the community as part of the general social system. He has been actively advancing the issues of the community.
In the process it seems his activism is not well received by Ethiopian community especially by the Ethiopian community organization, as it was manifested on his bid for Toronto city councilman ship. Given his activism and his motivation to be the first Ethiopian Canadian councilman in Toronto out of an estimated 60,000 people (Ethiopians) he did not even had .001 percent support.
So the question is- as asked by Nunu, what is the reason for Ethiopians not to support their own when one takes the lead to bring a change in the community?
Complacence is not the word that describes the social negativism we Ethiopians possess: conspiracy (አድማ፣ ሴራ፤ ጥርጣሬ፣ ምቀኝነት፣ ቅናት፣ ውሽት፣ ሸፍጥ፤ ወዘተ), being indifference, belittling, jealousy, and envy are some of the characters of our social interaction.
Yes complacence is a major trait of our socialization. Complacence is to be satisfied with one’s self. And that is exactly how Ethiopians see communal life. As long as I have the things I need to sustain my living condition; whatever the community has or needs, or its concern, the issues it addresses, I know about it, and I feel them; but I am not taking part in solving the problem, or I am not taking chance if it does affect my current safety net.
But the core reason why Ethiopians do not support people who want to bring change in their community is more than complacence:
1. We are negative responders with jealousy and envy,
2. We are suspicious,
3. We are conspirators,
4. We are pretenders and shallow,
5. Our unity is manifested by creating enemy but not by social involvement, discussion of vital issues, solving problems, and bringing change as a community,
6. We challenge the person instead of his/her idea and its importance in terms of community development,
7. We are confrontational and contentious,
8. We are not participatory cooperators,
9. We do not take responsibility in community effort,
10. We spent too much time speculating and gossiping.
Samuel did not respond explicitly to the question Nunu posed: what is the core reason? He was somewhat polite to the blackmail that was afforded to him by the Ethiopian community organization. He said the leadership of the organization told him if your perused councilman ship does not benefit the aims of the organization you do not get our support, or to that effect.
There is the core issue, if the organization does not benefit, you do not get our support.
The first question here is how big or what percent of the Ethiopian population does the organization represent? Is it 60,000 strong?
Next is the leadership’s connection with the city’s governing body- is it communal?
How the leadership does manages the community’s issues: social, economic, and legal
What is Samuel’s relationship with leadership?
What are the differences between his ideals for the community in terms of social, economic, and legal issues and the organization’s?
Are these differences threatens the leadership’s community standing, prestige, and recognition; in other words does he threatens their comfort zone?
Well these issues are not only in Toronto. They are manifested everywhere Ethiopians live outside of Ethiopia. In the conversation Samuel touched about American scenarios. The problem, yes exists here too, from San Jose, to DC, Chicago, Texas, Atlanta and everywhere.
In 1985 in San Jose CA. Ethiopian refuges were served by the county under the Vietnamese community organization. Some of us saw that as a disservice to our existence within the larger community and wanted to organize under our name. The idea was circulated in the community. One person took the initiative and formed the organization. At the time the Ethiopian population in the Santa Clara County was less than one thousand. Within a very short time two other individuals started their own. This act of individuals in the name of Ethiopian community startled the members of the city council that oversee community developments especially now US congress woman Zoë Lofgren. There was a vigor fighting amongst these groups. Each was claiming to be legit over the other. The county was unable to allocate the limited fund they allow for such community organization to run. It was an embarrassment for the community to see the fight within the three group. It was also a confusion for the city council to deal with such disunited groups.
The idea to organize as a community was to take advantage of the social system – the benefit that comes as a culturally organized community and the recognition and acceptance that it forces in the larger culture, the American culture. It was not for the purpose of making a persona of individuals wanting to be presidents. As the fighting continued the council reached out to the larger Ethiopian community and created a mediation committee to resolve the inflight and create one organization to represent the community. In the process it was necessary for the committee to recommend for the council to stop the funding process and not recognize any of the group until they form one.
Fast forward to Atlanta, in 1996/97 the Ethiopian community organization was corrupt and ill managed. The community was not served by the presence of the organization. As a business owner I was trying to start a business association with the support of the Auburn avenue business association, hoping to advance the business needs and access for the community. So I called for a meeting. First I was challenged by one of the attendees of the meeting on my presentation of the subject outlines. It was merely a starting point. For the individual it was not a professionally prepared organizational hand book. What was supposed to be an invitation to form an association ended up being an intellectual confrontation. After few trials I scraped the idea. The idea was to have some kind of an Ethiopian town on the stretch of Buford High Way, which now is occupied by Vietnamese and Spanish businesses.
Between 2003 and 2007 Taxi drivers were daily harassed by DeKalb county GA police department. We have been stopped left and right by DeKalb county taxi bureau for no reason but because we were taxi drivers and ticketed for unwarranted faults. Our yearly inspection fees were doubled, permit fees were hiked, random inspection were becoming a daily nuisance. Out of frustrations drivers wanted to form a taxi association and hire a lawyer to challenge the taxi bureau. I and Yohanes- another member of drivers were assigned the task of organizing the association. We collected the necessary documents, set a date for the first meeting, and rented a conference room at the local library.
Not to be surprised, none of the local drivers especially those who were more the victims showed up. After a couple of hours I and Yohanes adjourned the empty meeting. We asked the drivers why no one showed at the meeting, everyone had their excuses from being sick to forgetting, but want another meeting to be set up.
Again Yohanes and I wanted to give it a try and set a date. This time the place was at one of the parking lot of MARTA train station where everyone waits for a fare. We made it convenient so no one has to make an excuse. But again no surprise, no one wanted to stop driving for at least an hour to assemble at the place we were working. The greed for money- money which none of the drivers waiting in line would have made in that one hour of meeting.
Sometime between 2002 and 2003 a group of Ex-Ethiopian national football players decided to assemble an Ethiopian youth football team. The youth team became a success and became an avenue for parents to meet and know one another and spend good time at least ones a week. Any one that came to Atlanta for the last ESFNA tournaments should have recognized the organization of the Atlanta youth team; it had four divisions and was planning to participate in a national league. But mysterious things happened. Instantly, there was no communication between the coaches, parents, and players. Nobody answers for any calls regarding game schedules, or what is going on. አውቆ የተኛን ቢቀሰቅሱት አይሰማም ሆነና those who were responsible running the program became adamant and never care to give explanation as to why the youth team was shut down. Almost a year passed, but few parents managed at least to restart the games because we had something good going as a community.
Now here is where the sad story about the demise of the youth team. On trying to find out the reason that shut down the team, one of the parents revealed what was circulating as a hash gossip between two groups within the football family. So here it is; the reason was a feud between two women fighting over one of the coaches for love which led into a division of families taking side of each women. What was supposed to be a socialization event through football ended up being a family feud that led to the disintegration of the youth’s spirit.
Take a look at the four examples above: the case in San Jose represents our selfishness, the second case represents our destructiveness and the third represents our non-commitment even to our own benefits. And the last one is no surprise to our Ethiopian cultural pitfalls, we duel on emotional appeals rather that constructive reasoning.
Our idea of social participation is marred with emotion and personal gain. እኔ ከሞትሁ ሰርዶ አይብቀል። let us not fool ourselves. We are not good to us but I. Everything we do as us or we is a pretense to benefit me. The result speaks for itself. Compare the Ethiopian community to others in our social engagement.