Living in the diaspora, it is even more challenging to keep our African culture alive. It is often a conscious effort to ensure we are balancing out our westernized beliefs with our cultural values. Women like Melate has made a conscious effort to keep the Habesha culture alive every day. In our interview with her, she shed light on what success looks like for the African diaspora and how to continue to stay plugged into the motherland.
Melate Bekele is a philanthropist, community organizer and founder of Habesha Networks organization. Melate is an experienced nonprofit and development professional. She has over 14 years in private and public sector experience consisting of strategic planning, fundraising, project/program management, and stakeholder engagement.
In the age of Wakanda, many black people, especially Africans in diaspora, have taken a new sense of pride in where they come from. Why is bridging the gap in the African Diaspora important to you?
For so long many of us felt disconnected from each other which was hard for me to watch. I had a hard time identifying with Ethiopians in Ethiopia and Americans in America. I felt not enough of either side because I was a mix of both. So feeling a sense of belonging and connection mattered a lot to me. I know many individuals experienced identity issues because of their duel cultures. Bridging the gap in African Diaspora is important to make space for all types of Africans.
You previously mentioned that you run a community platform called Habesha Networks. What are some initiatives or projects you have planned to continue to drive towards the effort of bridging the gap?
Habesha Networks Initiatives and projects are about curating inclusive space for Ethiopians & Eritreans to engage, collaborate, support and inspire each other. Habesha Networks is the conduit to developing and implementing methods of connectivity.
HN will continue to create innovative experiences and events that engage the Habesha global community in ways they haven’t been before. Through our intentional programming HN has learned in our assessments our efforts will be focused on community development, philanthropy, thought leadership, social and professional networking, Other important initiatives has been around immigration, community alliance/partnerships, mental health, and culture preservation.
Lastly, Habesha Networks will simultaneously creating capacity building for organizations, individuals and businesses which will drive the impact and bridge the gaps.
In your perspective, describe what success looks like if the African Diaspora and those in the motherland were fully integrated.
There is an importance in redefining relationships with other African countries and its diaspora. As members of the Diaspora, we have a unique opportunity to come together in the spirit and strength of unity. We are the generation that can make the changes we all know Africa needs.
Africans internationally and in Africa would be mobilized. There would be so much capacity and resources for all Africans making the content thrive in the global market.
For years, there has been a lot of heated discussions about the divide between the Africans and African Americans. In your opinion, what role do each of us have to play to break the divide?
It is our responsibility to change the narrative and make a commitment to not only provide support here to each other in the states but also ensure our efforts reach back home. There needs to be understanding, education, knowledge sharing and intercultural communication practice between all groups.
Living far away from the motherland, it’s easy to get disconnected from Africa. What are some things you do to keep yourself abreast of current situations in your home land of Ethiopia?
I try to reading online and pay attention to news on Ethiopia and Africa. stay in the contact with locals friends, family and coworkers. I make an effort to visit as often as possible. Any job I have ever had I make an effort to see if the work is in Ethiopia or can be brought to Ethiopia. I integrate whatever I am doing in my life to how I can translate it back home.