Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A tale of two chefs: Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali – In America - Blogs

A tale of two chefs: Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali
In recent years a growing number black chefs like Roblé Ali and Marcus Samuelsson have entered the culinary industry.
February 28th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

A tale of two chefs: Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali

By Alex Kellogg and Alyse Shorland, CNN

(CNN) - Marcus Samuelsson and Roblé Ali are two different chefs.

Samuelsson, 41, is an established name amongst foodies and the proprietor of Red Rooster, a renown Harlem restaurant.

Ali, 27, is an up and coming chef and animated reality-show star who works full time as an established caterer.

Samuelsson has made a name for himself embracing his identity as both a black chef and a Swedish immigrant to the United States, but younger chefs like Ali find themselves pushing back against being known simply as a “black chef.” Ali, who’s still building his brand, was frustrated when a blog author unexpectedly labeled him a “hip-hop chef.”

“Who takes you serious when you’re the hip hop chef?” said Ali. “And why am I the hip hop chef, because I’m black? I’m not break dancing.”

For decades, many African Americans were reluctant to enter a profession they associated with servitude and slavery. Cooking was reminiscent of second-class citizenship, and antiquated images of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben dominated the nation’s associations of blacks and kitchens.

“George Washington had a slave chef, as did Thomas Jefferson. It ain’t nothing new,” said Jessica Harris, a culinary scholar and the author of books on the foods of the African Diaspora. “I think that has lifted in many families, but I don’t think that it has lifted in all African-American families.”

In recent years, African Americans have begun to trickle into the field in growing numbers.

Marcus Samuelsson: How I got here

Samuelsson is now one of the most recognizable chefs in the world, with several PBS and Food Network specials. He has opened six restaurants, written a slew of bestselling cookbooks and won several cooking awards, including the coveted James Beard Award, the Oscars of the food industry.

This June, he will publish a memoir, “Yes, Chef”.

“I’ve never discussed race in Harlem,” he joked. “Of course I can identify as a black man. Absolutely.”

Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by his adoptive parents. He later came to the United States, settling in Harlem seven years ago. In 2010 he opened the Red Rooster, a hip, soul food-inspired restaurant that blends his European background with African-American traditional cuisines.

“It’s inspirational to young black chefs, to just anybody that’s a person of color in cooking, to see another person of color doing it like that,” said Ali, the star of Bravo’s “Chef Roblé & Co.”

Today, Ali is still working to define his brand. He hopes to establish a path by embracing his heritage as Samuelsson did – Ali is half African American and half Somali – and pushing beyond the traditional boundaries of race.

He sees his forthcoming Brooklyn restaurant not as a straightforward soul-food eatery, but as something much more. “It’s not going to be what you expect,” he said.

Yet while young chefs like Ali may look up to Samuelsson, some established African-American chefs question whether his success is too singular, and the representation of black chefs too narrow.

“There are plenty of African Americans who cook and cook well in this country, they just don’t necessarily get the notoriety that some people get,” said Joe Randall, a highly respected black chef who owns a Savannah, Georgia-based cooking school.

He said Samuelsson has an advantage given his European pedigree, and does not risk being pigeonholed into just cooking black food as many black Americans are.

“He came through Sweden to New York, and that’s acceptable in the mover and shakers’ eyes,” said Randall.

Some say they welcome Samuelsson’s unprecedented success, but add that it is not enough.

Nicole Taylor, who hosts a popular “food from the black perspective” podcast and radio show, agrees. She says there are far too many black chefs who people do not have a clue about.

“Everybody is happy for Marcus, but it’s like ‘hello media, he is not the only person!’” She and others said many in African American culinary circles crave for other stories to be told.

Samuelsson and Ali are pushing their careers forward with the help of social media and reality television. But before Twitter and “Top Chef,” in the 19th and 20th century trailblazing black chefs were few and far between and they rarely received the recognition they deserved.

Exceptions included Leah Chase, a New Orleans chef, TV personality and author; the late Edna Lewis, a chef and author best known for her books on traditional Southern cuisine; Sylvia Woods, whose Sylvia’s Restaurant is a Harlem landmark that draws millions in revenue; and the late Patrick Clark, one of the first celebrity chefs who led a generation of Americans to embrace a new style of French and later American cooking, set the stage for chefs like Ali and Samuelsson

Ali’s own grandfather worked as a chef and a caterer, which inspired him to pursue a culinary career.

In his catering work Ali prepares all kinds of food, and can move easily between cuisines. He’s not limited to soul food – he’s just as comfortable cooking Indian, Jewish or Southern cuisine. And as he expands his businesses, he’s keenly aware of being branded a black chef.

“As far as being a chef I have transcended race, but as far as being a celebrity chef, we’ll see,” said Ali. “I believe it’s possible but I believe I have to watch the decisions I make in order to do so.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ethiopia: Commodity Exchange Authority Suspends First Member for Asset Deficit

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange Authority (ECEA) suspended the membership of Chay Trading and Services Plc, a coffee trading member of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), for six months, due to failure to sustain the minimum net assets required of an Exchange member.

A member is required to have net assets totalling one million Br, according to a directive issued by the Authority as well as the code of the Exchange. This is to ensure that they have the financial capability to handle transactions as an intermediary for their non-member clients and can deliver their products to the market as promised, according to officials from the Authority.

This is the first time that the administrative board of the Authority has suspended a member, due to their failure to maintain the minimum amount of net assets.

To make certain that requirements are being followed, each member is supposed to submit a financial statement prepared by an independent auditor licensed through the Authority, on a yearly basis. Additionally, members are supposed to present a report on their financial transactions every month.

The audit reports of Chay Trading, which was one of the first 100 member to trade on the Exchange floor, showed that it only has net assets of 595,933.31 Br, according to the ruling of the board.

Chay was established in 1999 by nine shareholders, mostly family members. Its founder Dereje Woldemadhin (PhD) is a commodity expert at the African Union Trade & Industry Department.

The company used its membership on the floor as an intermediary for non-member clients but was preparing to export coffee, prior to the suspension, according to Martha Sahele, deputy administrator of the company.

The company submitted an application along with its audit report on November 29, 2011, notifying the Authority of its financial statements. Based on the report, the officer of market actors at the Authority presented their file to the Law Enforcement Division of the Authority, which proceeded to file charges at the administrative board.

"The absence of founder Dereje for over a year because of the need to attend to his health and debt in Adama (Nazareth)from business activity unrelated to the exchange led to the decrease in net assets, Martha explained at the hearing of the case.

Three board judges, Ibrahim Omer, Asnake Genetu, and Engedawork Tadesse, reviewed the case.

The request was to either revoke or suspend their membership. But, Chay presented its case and explained why their net assets had decreased, so the board decided to give them time to come up with the required money to be able to operate in the market," Ibrahim said.

The company is trying to raise the additional money from its members, according to Martha.

"There is another shareholder who will come from France within the next week, and we will see how we are going to proceed," she said. "We are hoping to raise funds quickly enough, in order to be able to go ahead with our plans of exporting coffee and also start trading in sesame."

Meanwhile, the company has told its clients to approach other members to do their transactions for them until its license is reinstated, according to Martha.

Failure to come up with the money within six months, however, may lead to their membership being revoked, according to Ibrahim.

This is the eighth ruling that the board has given since the establishment of the Authority.

The judges ruled in favour of a member accused of noncompliance with rules in the first case that they heard. They also revoked the license of another member accused of rule violation. Informants and members and the Law Enforcement Division of the Authority can present their cases to the board.

It is not just the Authority that members have to answer to on compliance to the rules. The Exchange itself has compliance officers that can punish and revoke the licenses of clients.

More recently, the Ministry of Trade (MoT)has also been taking a role in deciding who can and cannot trade on the floor.

Despite the fact that it is the Exchange that has the right to directly sell membership seats and the Authority that can approve of membership, the MoT claims a mandate to suspend members through a 2011 coffee directive that prohibits coffee exporters from storing more than 500tn of coffee for more than two months.

The Ministry had banned 57 coffee exporters in October and November 2011, for failure to let it audit their stocks. Some banned members still continued to trade on the floor, despite a letter issued by the Ministry to the Authority and the Exchange, ordering that they cease to do so. There are currently 342 members at the Exchange out of which 245 are full members.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Ethiopia risks western aid suspension over jailed Swedes - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

February 17, 2012(ADDIS ABABA) — A European Union delegation is negotiating with Ethiopian authorities over the release of two Swedish journalists who currently are facing prison terms under a 2009 anti-terrorism law in the horn of Africa’s nation.
The negotiations came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, last week told parliament that his country might consider granting pardon to the Swedes if they admit to wrong doings.
According to Sudan Tribune sources, the EU delegation during the past few days has been meeting Ethiopian officials including Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, in an effort to release the two journalists.
However, the European Union delegation has gave hints that Ethiopia could lose the aid it receives from European nations if the horn of Africa nation failed to release jailed Swedes.
"In the last couple of days, we have been discussing with Ethiopian officials and we hope to secure the release of the two reporters," Kenyan newspaper, the nation, quoted a high-ranking EU official as saying.
"Aid suspension is the last option." The EU official who decline to be named further said.
Ethiopia security forces arrested photo journalist, Johan Persson, and reporter, Martin Schibbye, last July after the Swedes crossed in to Ethiopia from Somalia along armed members of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist movement blacklisted by Addis Ababa as a terrorist organization.
Last December an Ethiopia court sentenced the two Swedes to 11 years of rigorous imprisonment each for aiding, promoting banned rebel group and also for illegally entering the horn of Africa’s state. The Swedes have admitted to entering country without permit but denied to supporting terrorism.
The conviction against the Swedes has raised broad criticisms from the Swedish government. A number of international human right organizations have also condemned it as “politically motivated”.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Abolition of Slavery in Ethiopia « In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

In my January 31, 2012 post, Ethiopian Emperors and Slavery, I briefly discussed slavery in Ethiopia and the unsuccessful attempts made by various Emperors to rid the country of the institution through the reign of Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913). In this post I have highlighted effective measures that were put in place, mainly during Emperor Haile Selassie‘s reign, that have led to the eventual abolition of slavery in 1942.
Emperor Haile Selassie had a twofold diagnosis as to why his predecessors’ efforts to curb or end slavery had failed: a combination of failure to put in place enforcement mechanisms to accompany numerous laws issued over the years, and the enormity of the problem due to the fact that slavery was “deeply rooted in tradition” (Haille Sellassie, Vol. I, p. 80; Vol. II, P. 175). He was convinced that “it was impossible to uproot such an ancient institution simply by writing laws.” He also feared that a sudden end to slavery would create an influx of a large underclass with no means to support itself; that would have created two million destitute people overnight (Pankhurst, 1968, p. 118; Comyn-Platt p. 164). Thus, his was going to be a deliberate process including substantive laws and tough enforcement mechanisms that would gradually put the institution of slavery out of commission.
The most serious laws marking the beginning of the end for the institution of slavery in Ethiopia came in the 1920′s. It is true that by that time, Ethiopia had little choice but to effectively tackle the slavery problem, which had remained endemic. By 1922, Ethiopia had come under unrelenting pressure to end slavery from western news-media particularly the British press as well as anti-slavery groups such as the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society.
That wasn’t all. Ethiopia also needed to show results in its fight to end slavery so as to deny European powers an excuse they could use to take it over, particularly Britain, France and Italy, whose colonies at the time surrounded it. After all, that was the motive (p. 603) behind the 1906 tripartite treaty signed among these countries (Comyn-Platt p. 177). This was particularly true for Britain, whose opposition to slavery in Ethiopia was “based primarily on imperialist and strategic designs,” and Italy, which in addition to its territorial desires, was also itching for a payback for the thorough defeat it suffered in the hands of the Ethiopians in 1896 in the battle of Adwa. More importantly though, Ethiopia had to start taking concrete measures to end slavery because it was one of the conditions for its admission to the League of Nations, a club of “civilized nations,” in September 1923 (Encyclpaedia Aethiopica p. 681; Comyn-Platt p. 164). As part of this arrangement, Ethiopia was required to phase out slavery over ten years period at the end of which it had to abolish it completely (Comyn-Platt p. 164).
Fortunately, these continued pressures from outside coincided with suitable local conditions in which slavery had become less economically tenable and unfashionable due to the “changing life style of the ruling class,” making the task feasible if not easy (Zewde P. 94).
Although Emperor Haile Selassie had already taken various measures to enforce existing anti-slavery laws, the first in a series of legislation issued during his reign came on September 23, 1923. The Emperor, then Ras Teferi, issued a proclamation outlawing slave raiding and imposing a duty on administrators to enforce the proclamation under the penalty of the law (Pankhurst, 1968, p. 113-114). This Proclamation made slave raiding a capital offense. It also imposed strict liability on local authorities in which governors, chiefs and headmen would be liable to a steep fine for every slave stolen from their area. In addition, this Proclamation stated that every slave taken from his country would be eligible for a warrant of freedom and would maintain the right to return home.
This was followed by another law in March 1924, which was amended in July 1931, in which the Emperor sought to gradually emancipate slaves in the country and abolish slavery (the Emancipation Law). Many of the provisions in this law were not new. For instance, provisions on emancipation of slaves who had become clerics, who had fought in wars or who had saved their masters’ lives were already part of existing laws (The Fatha Nagast, 177). However, the lack of effective control of the central government in many parts of the country, and the fact that people in places of authority including judges and village chiefs were also slave owners, had made the enforcement of existing laws impossible. The Emancipation Law sought to remedy that by putting in place strict enforcement mechanisms. To that end it introduced a mandate for the registration of all slaves and the establishment of special slavery courts that would be subject to supervision of central government inspectors. Fifty-six special judges were appointed in different parts of the country and a department whose main function was to supervise the proper implementation of laws was established in the capital, a sign of the Emperor’s determination to ensure the effective enforcement of his laws (Goadby, p. 180, 202).
The Emancipation Law also included provisions that made it easy for slaves to seek emancipation immediately. It did this in part by stacking procedural hurdles against slave owners. For instance, it provided that if a slave escaped, he/she could only be legally captured by their master or by authorized customs officials at the border. If a master failed to claim a runaway slave captured by authorized officials within eight days, the slave would be emancipated. If a master captured a runaway slave, he/she could not take the slave back directly; rather he/she had to go through a court process where an inquiry would be made as to the reasons that led the slave to attempt escape. In addition, it gave slaves legal standing to sue their masters for maltreatment. If it was found that a master had indeed mistreated his/her slave, the master would get one warning; a finding of a second offense would result in the emancipation of the slave (Pankhurst, 1968, p. 114).
More notable were, however, the three provisions in the Emancipation Law that sought to gradually abolish slavery within one generation. One of these provisions banned the transfer of slaves from one person to another including among relatives. Another mandated that slaves be emancipated within a year after the death of their master. Although the initial language of the Law allowed for slaves to be inherited for a maximum of seven years after the death of their master, this was eliminated by the 1931 amendment leaving only one year as a transition period before a slave whose master had died could be freed. Finally, the law mandated that all children born to slaves, who in the past automatically became slaves, were free.
The law also included provisions on welfare of emancipated slaves. It extended to emancipated slaves a seven year tax holiday, an attempt designed to give freed slaves the opportunity to get on their feet. It also gave emancipated slaves the right to education and the right to work including the rights to join the military and the civil service.
All these reforms were apparently not enough to prevent Italy from using the issue as one of its justifications for its second Ethiopian invasion in 1935. The issue proved a reliable propaganda tool to convince the world that Ethiopia was indeed not a “civilized nation” and therefore did not deserve to be treated like one. It did not help its case that Ethiopia had not abolished slavery twelve years into its membership in the League, two years past the agreed term. Italy invaded Ethiopia in October 1935 and issued two laws in October 1935 and in April 1936 emancipating slaves in the country (Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, p. 681). According to Italy’s accounts, during its brief occupation of Ethiopia, it freed 420,000 slaves.
After Italy’s defeat in World War II and his return from exile in Britain, Emperor Haile Selassie changed gears and abandoned his plan to phase out slavery over an extended period of time in favor of one that resembled Italy’s, immediate and complete abrogation. It seems that the lack of any significant backlash from the passage of laws against slavery by Italy during its brief occupation of Ethiopia had convinced Haile Selassie that his fear of possible negative impact that may result from an immediate abolition was unfounded. The Emperor, therefore, issued the Slavery (Abolition) Proclamation No. 22 of 1942 in August of that year.
The 1942 Proclamation declared that “the legal status of slavery is abolished” and imposed harsh penalty on persons who: participated in transporting of a persons out of Ethiopia so that they could be sold as slaves; participated in slave dealing; prevented slaves from asserting their freedom; or participated in the pawning of people.
The 1942 Proclamation was later replaced by the Penal Code No. 158 of 1957, which was then repealed by the law currently in force, The Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia No. 414 of 2004, both of which include a provision banning slavery and imposing harsh penalties for its violation.
The following materials from the Library of Congress’s collection were used in preparing this post:

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.