For the African American Michael W.L. Courtney, a.k.a. Ras Mikey, life is a movement. Starting from the follicle, a heartbeat, up to movements such as the civil rights and Rastafarian causes; all help to form him.
A multi-disciplined artist who defies category – a choreographer, director, educator, singer, songwriter, producer and lecturer. Having a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Arts in Philadelphia, he has collaborated with artists and prestigious companies such as the Pilobolous Dance Theater. He has also worked with household names Philip Hamilton, Ben Harper, Wyclef Jean, Aster Aweke, Sonja Sanchez and the Marley family. Founding his company Fore I’m a Versatile Entertainer (F.I.V.E.) Productions, he brings an alternative artistic form to dance. Transcending all the differences of the performing arts, his motto is that he tries to bring oneness through the movements of different cultures.
Living in Ethiopia helped him to create a strong bond with his spiritual home and his roots in Africa. With the reconnection he blended the dances he knows with Ethiopian cultural traditional dances, like eskista. Before moving back to the US, he taught at Eallaz International Dance School, worked on many different projects and was part of the communal life in Ethiopia. Touring and working in different projects, he sat with Tibebeselassie Tigabu of the Reporter to talk about his journey. Excerpts:
It's been a year since Carlos Lopes was appointed UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
As the head of ECA, he is in charge of promoting the economic and social development of Africa and fostering regional integration. In an interview with Africa Renewal's Kingsley Ighobor, Mr. Lopes shared his thoughts on Africa's current economic situation and his hopes for the future. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Africa Renewal: The 2013 Economic Report on Africa appears to mirror the 2012 report. What has changed over the past year?
Carlos Lopes: Not necessarily on the economy, but in terms of the mentality and the priorities, there is a sea change taking place. We are working with the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission on something called Vision 2063--50 years from now. We got African ministers of finance to approve the idea of transforming African economies and shift from agriculture into industrial and service sectors.
The landlocked central European country, Hungary, used to be known as a satellite state for the Soviet Union during the communist era. It shared a lot of history with the then socialist Ethiopia.
More importantly, hundreds of students were sent to Hungary, as it was one of the best European countries in terms of ideology and quality education. It was categorized as a high-income economy by the World Bank in 2007, and was put among the thirty most popular tourist destinations. After more than two decades diplomatic silence, and a shutdown of the consular offices between the two countries, a renewal procedure has taken place through scholarship and investment. Marcell Biro (Ph.D), state secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, has just visited Ethiopia to restore stronger diplomatic ties with Africa. He met with several government officials, including the deputy prime minister and minister of education, Demeke Mekonen, and discussed the future prospects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Henok Reta of The Reporter caught up with him to learn about the new approaches the two countries have set towards a new era after the fall of communism. Excerpts:
The Reporter: You are heading a high-ranking Hungarian delegation here after some twenty years. What brought you here? How hard was it to pursue strong relations with a new approach?
Bogaletch Gebre knows exactly what women in her Ethiopian community are going through. Along with her sisters, the women's rights activist was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was a child in a part of Ethiopia where the practise was carried out on every girl.
In 1997, Gebre and her sister, Fikrete, founded Kembatti Mentti-Gezzima-Tope (KMG), which means "women working and standing together". For her work with KMG, Gebre won this year's King Baudoin African Development Prize.
Gebre believes that a trifecta of issues - economic, societal and ecological - combine to oppress women, so KMG works on a range of issues, from improving infrastructure to encouraging communities to confront customary practises like bridal abduction and FGM, which it has helped to dramatically decrease.
IPS correspondent Lucy Westcott spoke to Gebre in New York about the practise of and attitudes about female genital mutilation, as well as the power of women's economic independence.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: Your encouraging communities to discuss FGM and other taboo subjects has been called a rebellion. Do you agree with that label?
Question: What is the U.S. position on Ethiopia’s recent move to divert the course of the Blue Nile and the outrage expressed by Egypt and Sudan?
Answer: We commend the current efforts of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to jointly examine the downstream impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). We urge the countries to continue working together to minimize negative downstream impacts and work together to jointly develop the Blue Nile basin for the benefit of all the people of the region.
On a rainy afternoon this spring when President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he called valedictorian Betsegaw Tadele the “skinny guy with a funny name” – a nickname Obama has often called himself.
So, who is that other “skinny guy?”
Tadele’s journey to sharing a stage with the president began in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the youngest of Tadele Alemu and Almaz Ayalew’s two children. Tadele’s first name, Betsegaw, means "by God's grace" in Amharic, his native language.
In the summer of 2009, Tadele came to the United States in pursuit of a higher education.
Morehouse College, a historically black college, was not Tadele’s first choice; he was initially interested in more technical schools. Morehouse only awarded him enough scholarship funds to pay for tuition, not room and board. But Tadele’s brother happened to be living and working in Atlanta. Tadele saw this as an opportunity to spend time with his brother while taking advantage of what the university had to offer. Morehouse became his new destination.
After four years at Morehouse, Tadele had a 3.99 GPA. He graduated with a degree in computer science and a minor in mathematics. He won departmental awards in math and the school’s computer science leadership and scholarship award, led Morehouse’s Computer Science Club and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
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