North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

From Harlem to Ethiopia - a Positive Racial Story

A 26 yr old assistant minister in Harlem, New York is living out a decision of his Abyssinian Baptist Church made over 200 years ago, when it was founded in 1808 by free blacks and Ethiopian merchant seamen who refused to worship where blacks and whites were segregated. The Reverend Nicholas Richards is the president of the recently formed Abyssinian Fund, an international aid and development arm of the church. It will soon be joining forces with a co-op of 700 coffee farmers in the ancient Ethiopian city of Harrar, with a mission to improve the quality of the farmers’ lives by helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans.

Just a year and a half ago, the Abyssinian Fund was a dream that had sprouted from a simple seed planted after the senior pastor, the Reverend Calvin O. Butts III, led a group of congregants to Ethiopia in 2007 to celebrate the church’s 200th anniversary. The fund was inspired by the group’s reaction to the struggle and resilience of the impoverished Ethiopians they had encountered. “Ethiopia touches your heart,” said Dori Brunson, a donor and congregant who made the journey. “The villages were so simple, so lacking in the amenities that we are so used to, and at one point I just had to walk away, and I stood there and cried. “Even though we were born here in America, we are part of that African soil. And because of what Africa has given the world and what they stand for, we must give back.”
Ethiopian woman sorting coffee beans

So far, this congregation in Harlem has raised about $130,000 in funds for their vision. Instead of providing financial aid or food to the farmers, the Abyssinian Fund will hire coffee experts who are specialists in the processing and quality standards of companies like Starbucks that are the chief buyers of Ethiopia’s beans. Substandard processing has vexed the farmers’ efforts to command higher prices. The trainers will also teach planting and harvesting techniques that help farmers grow and select only the choicest coffee beans, and the fund will provide equipment like scissors, shears and mechanized pickers to ensure that the beans are properly harvested. Many of these farmers still harvest their crops with their bare hands, Mr. Richards said.

Aid to Ethiopia is nothing new, nor has much of it been successful. Reta Alemu Nega, a minister counselor with the Ethiopian Consulate in Manhattan, said nongovernmental organizations operating in Ethiopia “are not always what they present themselves to be,” he said. And likewise, corruption among Ethiopian officials has been too often a crucial reason for mixed results. But Mr. Nega said the Ethiopian government supported the work of the Abyssinian Fund. “We know the Abyssinian Church,” he said. “We know who they are.”

“There’s very little concern for us about corruption because we have a direct relationship to the farming community that we are working with,” Mr. Richards said. “We know the farmers. I’ve visited the farmers. I’ve talked to them, and I’ve talked to their leaders. We don’t provide any cash. And that’s a huge way that we mitigate our exposure to corruption, because there is no cash that is being provided.”

So far, most of the money raised has come from Harlem, with donations ranging from $25 a week to one for $10,000. Other money has come from an art sale and gala featuring work by Ethiopian artists. Harlem neighborhood and its citizen's sense of pride

“Most of the people doing development work in Africa are not of African descent,” Mr. Richards said. “To have a group of African-Americans concerned about a particular nation in Africa, and doing something about it, is tremendous. This is black folk helping black folk, and it is tremendous to me.”

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