Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED), hosted its 30th Anniversary Gala Ceremony, on May 28, 2023, at the College Park Marriott Hotel in Hyattsville MD.  The event was at capacity and tickets sold-out days before the scheduled event. The first large in-person gathering hosted by SEED since 2019.

Over the years SEED has honored individuals, and organizations, awarded scholarships to students, and financially supported humanitarian causes.  This year’s ceremony celebrated and honored the work of Pioneers in their respective field presenting a prestigious plaque to each – Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate Ph.D. [received by Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie], Ustaz Jemal Bashir Ahmed, Deacon Yoseph Tafari, Ms. Ethiopia Habtemariam, Mr. Elias Wondimu, Dr. Lshan Kassa, Mrs. Rebecca G. Haile, J.D., Mr. Elias Wondimu, Brook Lakew Ph.D., and Henok Tesfaye, Dr. h.c. The organization honorees were Habesha Kids and The American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee AEPAC. The Student Honorees included: Nadia Amdemariam, Maya Makonnen, Daniel Getachew, Michael Hailu, Mia Johnson, Efrata Eshetu, Ilya Johnson, Michael Abrera, and Yamelak Andargie. 

SEED Foundation, is a national organization that is committed to empowering as they put it the “Mighty Diaspora.” SEED’s mission is to empower the Ethiopian American Diaspora in the areas of academic excellence, and professional development, and promote community service. The founders who officially established the nonprofit back in 1994, a group of 12 founding members has been instrumental in executing their vision to uplift the immigrant and refugees of Ethiopian descent migrating to America. Facilitating a connection between the youth and those pioneers in their field to serve as role models in their communities. One of the standing and devoted founders, Lij Tesfaye Haile known for his support for decades in assisting newly arrived refugees in his hometown of Rochester, New York passed away during the COVID pause on August 7, 2021, and was acknowledged for his contribution to SEED.

The President of SEED, Aklilu Demessie, extended his vision in a press release stating the importance of young people participating in leadership in public service and private sector roles encouraging them to run for local, state, or federal offices, judgeship, and corporate leadership, and emphasizing the importance of contributing to the narrative in news and media.

The SEED Foundation GALA announced a surprise performance by the talented Woyneab Wondwossen, widely known as Wanya, a Grammy-nominated singer, actress, and songwriter from the DMV who sang songs demonstrating a vocal range reminiscent of the late Minnie Riperton when she performed, “Lovin You” from her Sophomore album. Her performance included “Higher Ground,” which was Grammy nominated, and from a forthcoming project, she sang “I Won’t Answer,” in her very personal song about rejecting society’s labels. Other performances included a dance troupe: Bethel Million, Mikias Tariku, Michael, Simon, Mickey Dawit, Heran Solomon, and Solyana Kumlachew from local high schools that performed traditional Ethiopian dances.

As part of the charity fundraising, they raffled off tickets for guests for a chance to win roundtrip tickets to Ethiopia, South African bottles of wine, and auctioned off an original painting by artist Alemayehu Gebremedhin who had a collection of his paintings on display outside the banquet hall. 

The topic of substance abuse, particularly the use of clandestinely produced synthetic opioid use among youth took center stage. Dr. Lishan Kassa, a medical professional who was being honored at the event for many of her pro-bono services in the community that includes mental health care, medical services, and drug rehabilitation services used the platform to share her concerns as a frontline care provider about how the opioid crisis is impacting the youth in the DMV (Washington D.C. metro area MD/VA). She invited Ms. Luladey Kinfe-Michael, a Behavioral health nurse and Youth Advocate to the podium where she shared a heartfelt and sincere message. For the full details, click here

The President offered special thanks in his closing remarks to the many individuals and organizations that were instrumental in putting the program together including the McMillan Steward Foundation, and Colonial Parking for their continued support of the Ethiopian and Latino communities.

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