Minneapolis, MN – The Oromo Community of Minnesota’s meeting hall was packed to capacity. Children play outside. Balloons hang from the door. Inside, the 2011 graduates were seated in the front row with their families immediately to the left.
OCM organizes an annual graduation ceremony that brings families, community leaders and the graduates together. The event is a sort of initiation for the graduates into the service of the community. Some are young adults whom the community leaders look to as heir takers. Others are members of Oromia Youth Association (OYA), an integral part of the community.
Approximately 20 college graduates, including a handful with advanced degrees, along with 60 high school graduates, were invited to partake in the ceremony. The newly elected President of OCM, Mrs. Ertra Namara, handed silver medals to the graduates. In her welcome address, Mrs Namara congratulated the students as well as their parents on the milestone achievement. She noted that education is key not only for upward mobility but also the future of the community.
The keynote address was given by Midhasso Foge, PharmD. Dr. Foge echoed Aadde Ertra’s call on the graduates to continue to strive to reach higher. Dr. Foge is the product of this community himself and in the past has taken various leadership roles with the local Oromo youth and student organizations. Using examples from the Macca Tulama literacy campaign and the Arsi Basic school system, he reminded the graduates “this day came from the legacy and dreams of our forefathers who did not have any educational opportunities.”
His call on the graduates to “leave Minnesota” drew a cheer from the crowd. Many took his remark as a lighthearted joke. But Dr. Foge, who had just completed his doctorate of pharmacy degree in California, used his experience to encourage his peers to venture outside of their comfort zones. “Be willing to pursue opportunity where ever it exists”, Foge said. That way, he argued, “ you will meet new people, opening doors to newer possibilities.” According to him by stepping outside of Minnesota’s close-knit community, the students can challenge themselves, gain access to and be inspired by others who are not necessarily like them, but are doing great things in their own right. “Never cease to learn and apply a 50/50 rule – If you spend fifty percent of your time with Oromos, spend the other fifty percent in the company of others who are smarter and better achieved”, he added.
His well-received remarks were followed by an award ceremony, lead by the president and secretary. Dressed in brightly colored caps and gowns, the graduates took to the stage to be recognized once more–this time by their community. The award ceremony was followed by a message from the Oromia Youth Association, graduate speakers, and a dinner.
One Night in Oromia
Miles down the road, OYA leaders were busy prepping for yet another annual event: OYA Cultural Night. This year’s cultural night, themed “One Night in Oromia,” was unlike any other the reporter has seen. The theme was carefully carried out to give the audience a cultural synopsis of Oromia. From humorous jokes by the emcees Jamal aka J.J and Gutama to excellent performances of cultural dances by OYA’s professional dance troupe, it was an epic event. The skit was funny and on point. The poems clearly sent the audience into nostalgic mood.
Despite a widespread campaign to advertise the stint, for the show the youth have put up, turnout was disappointing. The event was RSVPed by over 300 people on Facebook. The social networking site was literally plastered with information about the event and members changing their profile pictures to the flyer of the event.
Despite the low turn-out, the event went as planned. Every step of the way, the dances were heart-stopping. The audience was loudly cheerful. OYA leaders and members deserve immense credit for taking pride in their identities and upholding their cultural traditions.
July 15th, 2011 will be the 5th Annual Oromo Ball. It will be held at the spacious Radisson Hotel in Roseville. Tickets are on sale now. Take a listen to this PSA from Hegere Media.