Minneapolis, MN – About 100 students, mostly from the University of Minnesota, were gathered at Coffman Memorial Union to mark the second annual Oromo Awareness event. The event is hosted annually by Oromia Student Union (OSU). The ballroom was decorated by Oromo artifacts, history, and pictures depicting, at times horrific, human rights violations perpetuated by the Ethiopian government.
OSU was formed, among other things, “to promote education within the [Oromo] community and create a transitional bridge for Oromo students from high school to college.” OSU hosts numerous events throughout the year to “educate the campus [University of Minnesota] community about Oromo history and culture.”
According to the organizers, the Oromo Awareness Day event was intended to shed light on the human rights abuses and political calamities in Ethiopia. It is a way for OSU to represent the voice of its members and community– by introducing Oromo culture and history – to non-Oromos on campus. The posters plastered around the room show everything from Oromo religion, food, history to upcoming OSU events.
A moving poem by Milko Abdurahman titled “My Oromia” was followed by a keynote address by Jawar Siraj Mohammed, an independent researcher and a non-violent struggle consultant. His talk, “How Transnational Identities Are Formed,” focused on how migration transforms identities. Jawar identified socio-cultural and economic differences and reception at destination as key factors that affect such transformation.
Jawar then discussed the formation of ethnic enclaves where individuals of particular ethnic groups lead a self-imposed marginalization. Assimilation into predominant culture is less likely because people tend to congregate and do business within the enclaves. As a negative consequence of such marginalization, immigrant cultures sometimes “start imitating the culture of host societies without even understanding the culture”, he noted. At the absence of ethnic enclaves, a true formation of transnational identity takes precedent as individuals will be forced to buy from mainstream businesses and engage in activities with others who are not necessarily like them.
He remarked that ethnic enclaves also nurture undesirable cultural practices such as marrying at an early age. Jawar encouraged the participants to go outside of their comfort zone and socialize with non-Oromos to fully benefit from the opportunities in host countries.
The rest of the program consisted of trivia questions focused mostly on non-Oromos – asking key facts about Oromo people, poems, fashion show, and music. The trivia game was an engaging exercise to help non-Oromos remember what they have heard or read from the poster displays. A free food was also provided.
Video Credits: Camera and Editing by Edao Dawano via YouTube.com/SurraaOromiyaa.