By Oromsis Adula*
OYA Hawisoo Performs at Mankato State University
On March 27, 2010, I was invited to shadow the Oromia Youth dance group to a performance at Minnesota State University (MSU) in Mankato located about 88 miles out of the twin cities. I was hastily prepared for the expedition when a van full of youth members descended on my house. I was expecting to see a white Oromo Community van that the OCM has recently purchased but I was happy to shadow the group regardless.
An excited and energetic group danced to traditional tunes for the entire period of our trip. The revolutionary songs have somewhat rejuvenated my spirit. Despite the setbacks in recent years, young people remain passionately connected to Oromia – a place many of them identify as their country. They danced and clapped to songs about Bilisumma Oromo, Tokkumma and other moving resistance songs.
Passing through farmlands and rugged forest, it reminded me off a trip I took in my early youth to sof-umar cave with a group of students while I was in Oromia. Sof-Umer, one of the largest underground cave in Africa, is found in southeastern Oromia region of Bale. The trip made me feel a bit nostalgic.
I am always amazed by how far and wide Oromo immigrants have spread around the world. But I didn’t expect such a large Oromo presence in Mankato. I was even more perplexed to know that Mankato is home to a very popular Oromo restaurant. That earns the city a distinction that is not even found in the Twin Cities where an estimated 20,000 Oromos live.
Upon arrival, we received a celebrity like warm welcome from members of this thriving community and Oromo students at MSU. We were invited for a lunch reception at one of the students apartment before we headed to campus for the show. The food was so delicious and the service was outstanding. As we drove around town, the city has a rural feel and an unspoken calm to it.
Back at MSU, one of the event ushers gave us a tour of the stage and the ballroom where the show was to be held. The organizers seemed excited to see the Oromo group because of an impression the group left on the university community some two years ago when they last performed there. At about 7:45PM the Centennial Student Union ballroom was filled to capacity. We squeezed ourselves through the crowd to be seated. I can testify that there were all faces of Africa represented in attendance. That I thought was indeed the Africa I didn’t expect to see in Mankato. One by one, we sunk into the night with performances from all regions of Africa and inspirational poems from African students at MSU.
Oromo Ball : The Premium Networking Event of the Year
On April 24, 2010,OYA hosted one of the most anticipated events of the year dubbed Oromo Ball. The Oromo Ball was started in 2007 to celebrate OYA’s decade of service and reconnect the old and young OYA members. The event soon become very popular attracting young people from neighboring States such as Chicago and South Dakota. Three years later, with the number of participants increasing every year, Oromo ball remains one of the most popular activities of OYA. This year over one hundred people attended the event.
This year’s Oromo Ball took a place at Millennium Hotel located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Around 6:30pm, beautifully dressed guests started to arrive as classical music played in the background. Projected against the wall, a pictorial PowerPoint presentation showed OYA’s past and current activities in our community and around the state. In line with this year’s theme for the event, Celebrating the Work of OYA Hawisoo, most of the events of the day were geared around highlighting the work of the dance troupe.
The program started with MC Qajela Haji introducing the current President of OYA, Mr. Negassa Ayana, who welcomed the guests in his opening remarks. Negassa then thanked the Ball organizing committee and event sponsors [the Oromo Community of Minnesota, Katar Restaurant and Bakery, Ahmeds Auto, Oliqa Foundation and Realtor Kamal Ibrahim] “for putting together a successful event”. He concluded his remarks by stating all the profits and proceeds from the event will go to rejuvenating OYA’s Cultural Committee especially updating cultural clothes and accessories.
As the guests ate dinner, OYA moved on to recognize its important asset, “The Hawisoo Group”. MC Qajela prepared a beautiful and moving poem dedicated to the group who kept OYA running for almost a decade and half. Specifically, Qajela called current members of the group by name in appreciation of their hard work in the past few years the group has been together. In yet another remark, President Negassa stated,
“..since the organization began its work in 1998, the Hawisoo Group is what kept it going – gaining so much popularity and credibility along the way not only in our immediate community but also at many college campuses around the state. However, the very essential work of the group has not been properly acknowledged. Today, let us take this opportunity to say Thank You to this wonderful group for all their hard work and dedication to serving OYA. I also would like to take this moment to encourage our members, well-wishers and every Oromo to support and stand with this group without which OYA’s mission will be unsuccessful”.
That heart warming recognition was then followed by a key note address by Oromo tycoon, Mr. Tasho Tufa. Mr. Tasho talked about the value of culture and the boundless opportunities available to Young people in the United States. He encouraged youth to seize those opportunities and never forget where they came from. Noting the importance of developing and keeping one’s language and identity, Mr. Tufa challenged the youth to speak and write in their native language of Oromo. He promised to support the group on similar projects and promised to visit with them in the future to further the discussion.
At about 10:20pm, guests were given a chance to take pictures with their dates, friends, and others against the backdrop of decorated decoupage made of OYA’s logo. Then the curtain was lifted from the dance floor with a nigh full of classical Oromo music from Ali Bira, Qamar Yusuf, Hamalmal Abate, Dawite Mokonnen and many others. It indeed was pleasing to see so many young Oromos come together and have great time. The eventful night culminated with OYA thanking its contributors and participants for making the event successful.
OYA Hawisoo Holds It Down at U of M, MCTC, Anoka Ramsey College and Festival of Nations
These days, it has become almost impossible to keep track of the many performances of OYA Hawisoo in Minnesota. I hear about this and that performance sometimes three days or a week after it took place. Apparently, April has been the busiest month for Hawisoo members during the current board’s term. The many performances by the group seems to be aimed at boosting the work of current board which otherwise went unnoticed.
Last month, OYA criss-crossed the metro area putting up moving performances at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Annual African Night Event, MCTC Oromo Students Association Cultural Night, a performance at Anoka Ramsey Community College cultural event and a grand performance at Xcel Energy before thousands of spectacular audience at the Annaul Festival of Nations organized by the International Institute of Minnesota.
OYA is also scheduled to perform at Central High School in Saint Paul on May 7th, 2010 and at Target Center later this month. The current OYA board will also be hosting annual Cultural Night later this year. During this event which is usually the last one for the retiring board, we call on members of the Oromo Community in Minnesota to come out and support the Oromia Youth Association.
Congratulations to OYA Hawisoo on a very successful and eventful year. You guys Rock!
OYA Hawisoo @ the University of Minnesota African Nite 2010
Oromia Youth Association @ MSU
*Oromsis Adula is the Editor -In-Chief of Opride.com, a multimedia weblog that aggregates Oromo, Ethiopian and Horn of African news. Dureeti Foge, Negassa Ayana and Amane Madina contributed to this report.