As a Malcomite and a strong believer in Pan-Africanism, I immediately accepted an invitation from two friends, historical interpreter Marquett Milton and anthropologist Johnny Coleman II, to join them in attending an event at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Its title, “Connecting Communities Together: African Heritage, Pan African Leaders and H.I.M Haile Selassie Birthday Celebration,” definitely grabbed my attention.
Tefera Alemayehu, a dynamic, young Ethiopian with commanding skills in communications and community service, played a key role in bringing it about. His organization, the Network of Family Service Professionals (NFSP), joined CALDAN Communications in launching an annual event three years ago that “connects African communities, including people of African descent from around the world.”
Their celebration on July 23, 2019, the 127th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Selassie, did just that by allowing over 200 attendees, including several of the Emperor’s direct descendants, to share cultural values through music, dance, fashion, food and verbal presentations. The latter included a warm welcome from H.E. Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States and brief remarks by Dr. Frank Smith, founder of the African American Civil War Museum (The Importance of Museums in Preserving History and Culture), Dr. Silvester Okere (Anthropology of Africa), Hawi Awash (African Future and the Rule of Youth), Tiffany Lancaster (African Origins and Their Socio-Economic and Political Participation of Diaspora Women) and Dr. Yohannes Zeleke (Africa and Tourism).
Other highlights included an African Cultural and Fashion Show by ET Entertainment, a presentation on Caribbean History and Culture by Ras Wayne Rose, Ph.D. and a slideshow featuring legendary Pan-African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Winnie Mandela, Steven Biko, Brother Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Emperor Selassie.
My special highlight was the passionate, powerful, inspiring, knowledge-expanding keynote address by H.E. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the African Union’s Ambassador to the United States. Her address, which included the memorable observation that “colonialism is alive and well in Africa,” demonstrated a strong belief that Africa’s need for unity is not an option. It’s the only way that the continent can establish its rightful place in the international arena. When she finished, someone should have said “Let us all say Amen.”