Diaspora

Notes On the Road: Chicago Mission and the Jazz for Peace Concert

By Hashim Adam*

On my first visit with the Oromo Youth around the States, I traveled to the Great City of Chicago in Illinois. Located about 411 miles from Little Oromia (Minnesota), Chicago is home to the first African-American President of the United States. Upon arrival, our group received a warm Oromo welcome and a truly hospitable treatment from the Oromo Youth in Chicago. Indeed a bitter sweet reminder of Oromo people’s highly respectful guest welcoming, intimate sharing and caring tradition that sent me into an overly nostalgic state of mind.

 

As the President of International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA), the trip provided a great opportunity to reconnect with members of Oromo Youth who over the years played greater roles in IOYA’s activities especially the success of Oromo Youth Leadership Conference (OYLC). In 2006, the Oromo Youth in Chicago organized a very successful fundraising concert in support of OYLC with pioneer Oromo artists Kilole Iticha, Kamal Ibrahim and Elemo Ali. The 2006 OYLC Conference resulted in the creation of IOYA, the organization that I now have the privilege of leading. In 2007, the Oromo Youth in Chicago also raised thousands of dollars for the success of the conference. OYLC is an annual Youth Conference that brings together young Oromos from around the world for a conference geared around critical issues of our time and leadership trainings.

 

The Oromo Youth in Chicago were also very appreciative of our visit which I hope would strengthen the relationship between the two organizations (Oromo Youth in Chicago and IOYA). I take great pride in that; the participants of 2006/2007 OYLC are now among the leaders of the Oromo Community of Association of Chicago (OCAC). The Assistant Executive Director OCAC, Ms Seenaa Jimjimo, can be mentioned here as an example.

 

The Diaspora based Oromo communities are sometimes seen as closed to others (non-Oromos) or exclusive only to Oromos. But clearly, the OCAC event shows closed no more as the group worked closely with non-Oromo friends – a trend that also seems to be shifting even within the close-knit Oromo community in Little Oromia.

 

The Oromo youth activists have been instrumental in raising awareness about the trials of Oromo people in the states and around the world. I am always inspired and uplifted by the work of our youth, from Australia to Europe, to Canada, to the United States and anywhere in between. The youth are the future heirs of our communities and must be recognized for the great work they do.

 

The Get Out Oromo Vote event held on October 16th, 2010 in Minnesota was one of a kind. Undeniably a historic event that ended up facilitating for members of our youth to stand right behind the President of the United States. On October 23rd, 2010, President Obama was at University of Minnesota stumping for DFL gubernatorial candidate, Mark Dayton. 

Arfasse Oromia DID IT AGAIN! Arfasse is one of the most compassionate human beings I know who never failed to impress her community by seizing every opportunity to make a point – often an ingenious point about the trials and tribulations of the Oromo people. Given the opportunity of a VIP accommodation, Arfuu (we call her that up here) led the way by making the Oromo flag a background for Obama’s speech, much to the delight of millions of her people who are yearning for freedom in Oromia, the country of Oromo people.

 

On October 24th, 2010, the OCAC welcomed a renowned artiste Rick DellaRatta and members of his Jazz for Peace band for a benefit concert. The band travelled all the way from New York to Chicago to help the Oromo Community raise funds for various activities and services the organization provides to its thriving community. Rick DellaRatta is an acclaimed performer, one of the finestPianists, Vocalists and Composers” of his time. DellaRatta is also one of the only handful Jazz Artists who can put on successful and tuneful concerts at larger venues without abandoning the true art form of jazz, reads his website.

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OCAC’s Jazz for Peace concert attracted diverse groups from East, West, North and South Africa in addition to many American friends of the Oromo people. Elected officials and various candidates of the Chicago Democratic Party have also shown their support for the cause. A number of elected officials came to the event while others wrote letters of support that was read at the event.

 

The Chairman of OCAC, Dr. Mohamed Bedasso, opened the event expressing his delight at the large turnout and the presence of so many dignitaries including the Senator Heather Steans, a respected Democrat and State Senator representing the 7th district. The President also called on those in attendance to continue “building the bonds of friendship and goodness through cooperation and mutual respect.” Let us pursue our community’s goals, with even great commitment, dedication and above all unending enthusiasm and support, Dr Bedasso said. Kadiro Elemo, an active member of the Oromo community and host of the Voice of Oromia radio show highlighted the history of the Oromo people, Oromia and the OCAC.

 

A letter from Alexi Giannoulias, a Democratic nominee for US Senate from Illinois, was read at the event. In the letter Giannoulias stated,

 

“It is my pleasure to pass along my greetings and support of the Jazz for Peace concert to benefit the OCAC. OCAC does important work in the Chicago area, providing services that address the needs and promotes the interest of East African Oromo immigrants and refugees”.

Giannoulisa also acknowledged that he “understands many of the challenges facing immigrant families” and promised “to be a tireless advocate for the community if elected to the US Senate.”

 

Another elected official, Jan Schakowsky, a sixth term Congresswoman representing the 9th District in Illinois, also passed on her warm greetings to the attendants. Underling the significance of the event, Schakowsky wrote,

 

“This event is important because of its purpose which is to raise funds, create publicity and awareness for the OCAC. I applaud the work of your community organization that aims to assist the fast growing East African Oromo immigrants and refugee community in greater Chicago area. I am proud that my district is one of the most diverse and my office is always open to help the residents of the 9th Congressional District with any problem that you may be having with the federal government programs such as immigration.”

 

The Jazz for Peace band was accompanied by adorable Oromo children aged between six and thirteen who filled and made the stage very colorful throughout the performance. The children also did Oromo cultural cloth fashion show and performed high-spirited Oromo traditional dances. Their passion and mastery of various Oromo cultural dances was inspiring, impressive and I applaud the family of those children for raising them as Proud Oromo Americans. I saw the future of our communities through their youthful eyes and adorable smiles.

 

*Hashim Adam is the President of IOYA, former President of Oromia Student Union, and alumni of the University of Minnesota. Additional editing was done by Oromsis Adula, the Editor of OPride.com, and pictures courtesy of Ms Seenaa Jimjimo of OCAC and Ayantu Teklu of Macalester College.


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