Local activists visit Ethiopia, share views

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – Three local civil rights leaders visited this East African nation last month, at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy. Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, and Kisha Petticolas and Dion Banks of Eastern Shore Network for Change spent 10 days in Ethiopia, attending cultural and educational events, and speaking on the civil rights experience in Dorchester County.

At one event, Ms. Petticolas and Mayor Jackson-Stanley facilitated a roundtable discussion with the Ethiopian Women Journalists’ Association. The topic was “Women in Public Life.”

The trio also were heard on the radio, where they were interviewed on “Women in Politics, Civil Rights and Community.”

They shared stories of the civil rights struggle in Cambridge and one of its most famous leaders.

“We wrapped up Day 6 by sharing the courageous story of Gloria Richardson Dandridge at the American Center at the U.S. Embassy,” Ms. Petticolas and Mr. Banks said in a social media post. “We were honored to share videos and pictures of our civil rights history and share our story with others on the other side of the world.”

The visitors from Dorchester also spoke to students and educators. A statement from the embassy said, “Great conversation at Addis Ababa University with our visiting speakers. Our speakers shared the challenges facing their community in recovering from violence, even 50 years later. Students also heard about general principles for bringing lasting and constructive change – such as having a strategy, building consensus, seeking partners, and exercising both persistence and patience. Great comments and questions from the audience.”

“On the last day of our programming, we had the pleasure of meeting two men that could lead the path to a brighter future for Ethiopia,” Ms. Petticolas and Mr. Banks said in a social media post. “Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced plans to release political prisoners in a surprise move the government says aims to foster national reconciliation.”

With the release of thousands of prisoners, the U.S. Embassy was able to facilitate a meeting with Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage. Journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage walked free on Feb. 14.

“Meeting these two amazing men was a life-changing experience. Their strength, resilience, and determination to make Ethiopia a better country is second to none,” a statement from the group said. “They are advocates for change, a voice for the country, and have the potential to unite Ethiopia in ways unseen. We were so honored and blessed to have spent time with them while in the country.”

In a response online, Lee Weldon said, “Proof that good things come when we stop building walls and start building bridges.”

“We learned a lot since we’ve been here,” Ms. Petticolas said. “We’re so very thankful for this opportunity.”

“Beautiful! You guys are awesome,” Tigist Workineh said. “Hope everything you experienced here would encourage you more to push against injustice and inequality. I feel honored to have met you and the beautiful mayor.”

Mr. Banks said, “Thankful for the opportunity, just grateful to be sharing our local story of our great community.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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