The Oromo Studies Association’s annual conference was held at the University of Minnesota. The theme of OSA’s 25th anniversary conference was leadership. Scholars from as far as Oromia and Western Europe took art in the three-day conference. However, attendance was disappointingly low and void of a youth and local audience.
OSA made early attempts to rally local youth in planning and organizing, but for one reason or another, there was little to no interest. Throughout the course of the conference, various speakers echoed the need to involve younger generations in OSA; it seemed to be of concern to everyone.
A sizable number of youth turned up on the second day, albeit for a brief period. They too could be heard openly talking about their disdain of OSA. The missing link? The youth are waiting for OSA to reach out, but don’t respond when OSA does. Clearly, OSA is at a loss as to how to break the communication barrier.
The Oromo Youth Leadership Conference (OYLC) was also held during the Oromo week. While we are yet to hear a word on some of the panels closed to media and the public, the public forum was practical; issue oriented and well thought out.
The public forum was a summary of what the participants learned and discussed at OYLC. The key purpose of the public forum was to engage the general public that could not otherwise participate. Organizers chose four main topics to present and split participants into groups to create posters and presentations. At the start of the public forum, the attendants were invited to browse through the posters to look at the work and ask questions one-on-one with the youth. The second part of the forum consisted of presentations, with the youth as presenters and the attendants as the audience.
The first presentation was about the youth’s plan for action and possible projects for the coming year. Next was a presentation about nonviolent movements, which the presenters learned about during the conference. Third, we presented about the Oromo refugees, focusing specifically on Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia. The final presentation focused on summarizing the landmark dialogue between youth and leaders that took place the day before as a part of OYLC. In all, the youth provided a great opportunity for the public to engage in extended discussion about some of the more pressing issues of our time.