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        Thursday, February 28, 2008
        Ethiopia in US' Black History

        On Monday night, a bus full of New York Abyssinian Baptist Church members drove to Washington, D.C. to join the Ethiopian community to honor the church and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III. The event, which was hosted at the Ethiopian embassy, was also intended to celebrate Black History Month and to strengthen the historical and spiritual connections between the Ethiopian and African-American communities.

        "During slavery, African Americans always looked at Ethiopia as a place that represented freedom, black culture, history and religion," said Princeton University professor Ephraim Isaac, who spoke at the event. "It inspired the fight against discrimination and religion. When slaves were told they were inferior, they were animals or subhuman, they would think of Ethiopia." Isaacs, who is also the founder of the African-American studies department at Harvard, quoted Langston Hughes' poem, "The Call of Ethiopia." The poem addressed the freedom of not only Ethiopia, but also the entire African continent. Sociology professor Alem Habtu of CUNY Queens College described how, as an international student from Ethiopia, he learned from African Americans during the civil rights movement. Habtu, along with some peers, took over the Ethiopian embassy in protest of issues concerning their country after hearing Stokely Carmichael and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) speak.

        The guests included members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the ambassador of Ethiopia, Samuel Assefa. Robert Wallace, CEO of Birthgroup Technologies, said he plans to build orphanages for children whose parents died of AIDS/HIV. Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, addressed the need to get back to the root of black culture. "I am, because we are; and because we are, I am," Flowers said. "There is no individual advancement without group advancement."

        The Embassy said the program is the first of many that will recognize the connection between the two cultures. The evening ended with the honoring of Butts, as he was presented with a piece of artwork by a famous Ethiopian painter. His long-term goal is to use the church's developmental corporation to build housing and educational facilities in Ethiopia. "We can not be chauvinistic about our connection to Ethiopia and cannot deny what needs to happen," said Butts.

        Source: HilltopOnline, Howard University, Washington
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