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How to reinforce and rebuild a viable community

By Bereket Kiros, Oct. 09, 2012

As a longtime resident of Seattle, I decided to write this article in acknowledging the new leadership of the Tigrean Community who invited Tigreans who reside in Seattle and its surrounding to open a dialog; why many residents of the city are passive and are not actively participating to advance the social cause of the Tigrean community. It was a bold incentive by the leadership to invite fellow brothers/sisters and discuss the shortcomings that caused the decline of the community. At first I was skeptic about the invitation but decide to attend to express my disdain and engage to discuss some of the problems in order to create the absent harmony first for the common good.

In my view how effective or ineffective has been the community, I will provide a snapshot of opinions. The issue of tolerance is particularly important to look at, because it is an issue that directly affects a large portion of the Tigrean community. It is understandable that most Tigreans would view politics as a highly salient concern. The stark reality was that we all were apart by petty difference by groups who organized on the basis of political leverage that lacks tolerant and demonstrated maturity. This created a stifling environment in which organized local groups like (UTNA) and community members at large, cannot establish robust relationships. Many members were as a spectacle in which two antagonistic locked horns in mortal combat that resulted in weakening the community.     

Those well organized group were not match to the disenfranchised community members. Such unfair disadvantage has been played within the organization for over ten years. It may be always necessary for us, as a society, to pay careful attention to the impact of our treacherous political activities that may cause unnecessary harm to individuals or groups for many personal reasons.  Diversity of ideas should have been a vehicle in facilitating unity, but it became a source of mistrust and fragmentation. The problem is also compounded by other issues. One problem is poor management and in some cases the non-existent of community planning in projects and programs.

There are few definitions in academic circle which emphasis on characteristics of community capacity building i.e. planning, and action based on skills and resources Community development generally means a planned evolution of all aspects of community wellbeing and improvements in the quality of life of the community. It is a process whereby community members comes together to take collective action and generate solutions to community common problems (Frank and Smith, 1999). The primary benefit of community collective actions is improved quality of life. Improving community capacity improve community skills and strength their belief on working together, hence a source to mobilize community vision into action.

In the past fifteen to twenty years, handful individuals/groups have been acting as movers and shakers of the Community by alienated the very people who tried to serve. Any leadership would be measure not by the many years they serve but the productivity of his/her work. Since the opening of the center there is no quantitative works that have a significant merit. I admit the cooperation that was exhibited during death/marriage and other social events was an extraordinary and I have no intention to discount the role that was played by those individuals. At any rate, like most people, they tend to resist believing that they might be part of the problem.

 Community capacity is the capacity of the people in communities to participate in actions based on community interests, both as individuals and through groups, organizations and networks. It is defined as the activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills and abilities of people and community groups to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities’ (Quoted by Verily, 2007).

My objective is that we all are entitled to have any political opinions out of our community and should be a private matter not to influence and interfere with any community activities. Community development generally means a planned progress of all aspects of community wellbeing and improvements in the quality of life of the community. It is a process whereby a community member comes together to take collective action and generate solutions to community common problems.  

The primary benefit of community collective actions is improved quality of life. Improving community capacity improves community skills and strengthens their belief on working together, hence a source to mobilize community vision into action. Since its inception, the Tigrean Community was not able to execute to full capacity its vision into meaningful action.

 I am encouraged by the open, honest discussion and enthusiasm from fellow participants to put behind the unfortunate circumstances that has crippled the community and look forward vigorously to work in unionism. The main focus will be convincing fellow Tigreans to be resourceful and benefiters from their own community. Our source of wealth is our unity and work with unionism with other fellow Ethiopian civic organization.  The strength of the community is not measured by its unity to work for the common good, but also opening its doors in collaboration with other Ethiopian communities and other minorities with the same mission.                

I strongly support a strong community Association that must function openly, and looks for the welfare and wellbeing of every Ethiopian-American and that respects and maintains our rich cultural and traditional heritage. As immigrants, our needs are larger than our political differences. The Tigrean Community in the diaspora cannot be only an observer, but must engage to create harmony among different Ethiopian community centers for the common good. Many studies have shown that members are frequently excluded and disempowered in a process that is meant to be empowering, therefore the remedy is to give community members a more powerful voice in management and decision making. 

We cannot and will not agree to continue to live under the shadow of individual’s political beliefs that undermine our collective interest as immigrants. If we have to articulate clearly let’s focus on the challenges that chained us from moving forward, unemployment, discrimination etc. The problem is not limited to the Tigrean community at Seattle only, but is widespread among other minority groups in communities everywhere.

It is time for a call to action and the only course our community needs to follow in order to restore our image and credibility. It is time to hand over the fate of our community to its members. Our commitment to success in realizing the objective of unity to solve and empower our members will depend on effectively and efficiently relying on our members and perhaps drawing examples from successful communities in our area and the country as a whole. Let’s look and think outside the box for this to happen. Change is threatening, especially to those who are vested in traditional ways. In many ways lessons learned are not always remembered, let’s try hard to engage and challenge our ingenuity. That is a goal worth fighting for.

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