In my search of places to visit for this project, I stumbled upon an advertisement for an Ethiopian Culture Festival hosted by the St. George Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Oklahoma City. In said advertisement I saw food and music and was sold immediately. Upon arriving to the festival it was very apparent that those that were visiting, i.e. non-community members, were long gone, which surprised me since the sun hadn’t set yet. Luckily, I was rescued from my awkwardness by a young man who took interest in the research that I was conducting and offered to show me what the festival had to offer. After very informative poster presentations, and a musical performance I had an opportunity to sit down with a few of the community members over dinner. My first question to my companions was about the purpose of this event. Though I recieved many answers, the primary one was to share Ethiopian food and culture to the general OKC community, but with that the community wished to gather funds to build a new youth center.
Though I was there later in the day, I was told that there was a considerable amount of young adults and children in the community, most of them first-generation americans. It was a concern of those that had migrated from Ethiopia to provide the new generation with a place to remain close to the culture and language of Ethiopia in a society that requires assimilation to the mainstream culture. They wanted to provide their youngest members a place to play and a place to learn.
It moved me, when talking about the festival how even a young person feel very strongly about keeping language and culture alive with the new generation. Being first generation myself I was able to realize how privileged I was having family from a spanish speaking country. Although it is true that the language that I use at home is very different from the one that I spoke at school, I was able to speak it at home, at church, and hear it on the radio and on TV. I am privileged with representation, but I cannot recall anytime that I have heard anyone speaking Amharic or even remembered that it is the language that is primarily spoken in Ethiopia. I truly realize just how much culture and religion are tied together whether it be the difference between a Catholic mass in English vs. Spanish or just the theological differences in a tradition as old as the former that has spread all over the world.
By Nayely Vargas Ramos