Yesterday, the US and Ethiopian capitals entered into a 5 year agreement of sister cityhood. Mayors Vincent Gray (DC) and Diriba Kuma (Addis Ababa) gave brief remarks, cut a celebratory cake, exchanged gifts (the Ethiopians were more generous), and observed ‘Ethiopian dance and vocal entertainment.’ I was particularly impressed by Mayor Gray’s relaxed manner and his pointed remarks about DC’s second class status in the USA.
I was shunted off in the overflow room (hence the picture of the tv), but still had a good time along with the approximately 430 attendees that Mayor Gray’s office estimated. Mayor Gray began his remarks by noting that he was inspired to pursue the agreement as a result of the ‘vibrant, vital, active, [and] engaged’ Ethiopian diaspora population in DC that is ‘a huge part of the culture of the District of Columbia.’ He noted that roughly 30% of all Africans in DC hail from Ethiopia.
Mayor Gray noted his love for Ethiopian food and coffee and praised the country for its rapid economic development (he cited the oft-mentioned statistic about 6 of the fastest growing global economies being in Africa) and noted that Ethiopia is at the top of that list.
He also used the event as an opportunity to get in a dig at the federal government, comparing his counterpart’s powers with his. Mayor Gray noted that ‘in Addis they [the city government] have an opportunity to pass their own laws….we would like to be able to do that one day also.’
Gray exuberantly high-fived a high school senior who immigrated to DC from Addis Ababa two years ago as he came on stage to give brief remarks about the good things that would emerge from the agreement.
Mayor Diriba Kuma of Addis Ababa echoed many of the sentiments of Mayor Gray. He noted that many Ethiopians live in the US and that both cities are capitals, with Addis Ababa hosting the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Mayor Gray attempted to give Mayor Kuma another high five after signing the agreement. Alas, the Ethiopian seemed at a loss for the appropriate action and merely grasped what he molded into a fist to be held in triumph.
After the sparkling water was drunk and cake sliced, they mayors came up to greet us in the overflow room and everyone then made their way to the ground floor for injera and Ethiopian stews and more Ethiopian dance and vocal entertainment.