Ms. Dorothy Russell Hanson

Noble Cause

   As a nurse who spent many years caring and nurturing for others, Dorothy Russel Hanson’s passion to help those who need help is an innate behavior. These traits emanated from her upbringings by her selfless parents who, in their own right, had sacrificed their entire lives caring for those less privileged. Her father was a missionary in Ethiopia and Dorothy had spent her most impressionable years in Ethiopia (between six and twelve), watching her remarkable father tirelessly helping and mending the lives of many people. He was a deeply religious man serving God by caring for the poor. He had seen the devastating effect of poverty and hunger during the Depression back in the United States, and when he chose to go to Ethiopia, he didn’t expect the magnitude of the ruin in the Third World countries such as the one that had met him in Ethiopia.

After returning to the United States and finishing her nursing courses, Dorothy was married to a wonderful man and had three magnificent children. Her husband passed away in 2003 and Dorothy was back to Africa living among the most destitute people. Her children were all grown up, and she had enough time to explore.

Her expletory mission was lofty, however. The nurse in her was asking her to nurture the whole world. Though that maybe an ambitious dream it didn’t deter her from moving back to Ethiopia with a simple dream that was sketched in her brain: I can change the world.

Back then, during her stays as a young girl in Ethiopia (1943-1949), the country was struggling to extricate itself from the nuances of colonial rule and was trying to embark on a new direction. Haile Selassie appreciated Christian missionaries and her father was joyously welcomed. In 2003, when she returned to Ethiopia, alone, ambivalent and nervous, she didn’t know what to expect. And yet, the ever delightful and genial Ethiopians welcomed her with open arms and she was back home!

They said: She is one of us!

She truly had arrived home.

Ever since that moment, Dorothy has bee living in Ethiopia assisting the elderly who come from all walks of life. In a country devastated by economic malaise for years, there are abundant senior citizens who have no support whatsoever even for basic sustenance. Forgotten by their own families and overlooked by a government that itself is in a pitch battle to recover from past famines and destructions, Ethiopian elderly look unto Dorothy as an angel.

She now considers Ethiopia her home. She spends most of her time in rural areas, reaching out to those forgotten. And for me, her compassion and love deserves this dedication.

In 1964, when I started writing this book about a remarkable white man, I had no idea that there were just as good people whose love is unfathomable. People like Dorothy are all over Africa and India. They do remarkable jobs. Major John Randolph Porzecki was responsible to save millions of lives in Ethiopia; and so are the aid workers today. Individuals like Dorothy who do miracles without any publicity populate the continent.

(Her Foundation The Noble Cause Foundation is doing a remarkable job. Please join Dorothy in making the life of the Ethiopian seniors and children brighter and happier.)

Melinda Gates

Americans are a unique breed of species who came to conquer the denizens of this planet some five or six hundred years ago.  Conquerors are mostly abhorred, but the American invasion was so wild that we didn’t know what hit us.  We didn’t know whether to hate them or love them. They came with their hamburgers and we loved it. They came with their Mustangs and we loved it. They came with their movies and we all wanted to marry Marilyn Monroe. Then they gave us Elvis Presley; are you kidding me, every young man in Africa emulated the Elvis gyration.

The parts I love about them are their unmitigated courage and compassion, traits that are abundantly exercised everywhere by all Americans. You may think I am merely reminiscing acts of valor and generosity that had happened in the 50s or 60s.

No, no, no!

Forget that.

Just yesterday ( I mean months ago), Melinda Gates, the richest woman on earth, was down in Malawi carrying a jug full of water, along with the destitute Malawi women who do this everyday for a living. It’s not that Melinda hadn’t supported these people or that this was a media stunt and a clamor for attention. No sir; Melinda was sending a message to the world, asking for all humanity to bond together to ameliorate the abject poverty from our planet.

To eliminate hunger, to do away with wars, all these require a collective effort.

That’s America for you, America with the heart of gold!

And Melinda Gates is an American!

Many people think America is all about the sky scrapper buildings, the big cars and the big malls. How about that young woman, Ella Watson-Stryker, who is working in an Ebola stricken Liberia, and the doctor, Kent Brantly, both risking their lives to save others?

They are Americans.

Thank you Melinda!

You are truly an American!

The Saddleback Church

I can mention million more reasons why I should pay my gratitude to many Americans; only I picked the few salient examples that have deeply impacted me. There are more; trust me.

I have documented all of them for my Griot stories.

By the way, such effusive praise isn’t rendered blindly (I have seen my share of racial animosity, especially in the 70s and smell its stink from a distance even today), nor deny the

fact that there are great countries in the world who deserve praise. America is still a work in progress. We haven’t seen yet her days in the sun. We haven’t seen her reaching the pinnacle yet!

And in closing, I want to thank the late Herb Cane of the San Francisco Chronicle from whom I had picked up some of my writing styles (not as good as his, however), and Professor Clark Smith, who, when I was going for my undergraduate study in Organizational Behavior at USF (a program that I had no idea what it was all about, but liked the essay writing part) he encouraged me to continue writing, because he thought my stories as a Griot on America were insightful and amazing.

And then there is the Reverend Rick Warren (of the Saddleback Church, almost sixteen years younger than me but sixteen million years wiser), for his unflagging support and encouragement every time I met him at the gated community where he lived. After that incident with the Cat in the Freeway, I had gone back working as a security guard and was able to complete two books and gave him a copy of my Ethiopian book (Fikre-Kidus) and a copy of The Prince of Africa. These two books were merely intended as limited edition to gauge their approvals among a few colleagues, but not intended for public consumption.

Reverend Warren took the books with delight. Not that he didn’t have enough souvenir collection from around the world cramping his shelves. Especially after his blockbuster book The Purpose Driven Life came out, he was traveling the world and preaching tirelessly in Asia, Africa, you name it. I thought, however, my little accomplishment would mean something, because I was really trying to say thank you to him as an African for his remarkable job in Rwanda. He, along his wife Kay Warren, were seriously involved in the Rwanda case, trying to ameliorate the condition in that country, in the same sense that the late Senator Kennedy was doing in Ethiopia in the 80s.

The difference: one was a politician and the other is a religious man.

“I know you don’t read the Ethiopian language, but I want you to have these books because you mean so much to me. Just keep it as a souvenir,” I said, giving him the books.

He said: “I will consider it a greatest gift. It means a lot to me,” was all he said.

I haven’t seen Reverend Warren since, but I follow his work intently. His gain is my gain and his loss is my loss. I had met his late son Michael at the guard gate several times and I was shattered when I heard the news of his passing. He was my friend.

And I say to you Dr. Warren and Mrs. Kay Warren: Africa loves you.

And we are eternally indebted for your unmitigated love, for your unflagging spirit,

and for your unrequited benevolence. Yes, the Griot in me will mention your love everywhere I go. God Bless.

Professor Richard Pankhurst

Few foreigners, if any, can proudly talk about their impact on Ethiopia, her freedom and her international presence, as the Pankhurst family did. Madam Sylvia Pankhurst, Professor Richard Pankhurst’s mother, Sylvia Pankhurst, born in 1882 in Manchester to Dr. Richard Pankhurst and Emmeline Pankhurst, founded a newspaper (New Times and Ethiopia News) in England in 1936, which became the only mouthpiece for the war-torn Ethiopia against the bitter battle with the Italian fascists in 1935. At the time, when it was actually uncustomary to oppose the juggernaut fascists, the young Sylvia, conscious of the suffering of millions of Ethiopians, refused to back down even when seasoned politicians (who felt alliance with Mussolini was worth than any association with Emperor Haile Selassie) in England pleaded with her to discontinue her protest.

As the film Suffragette demonstrates the  struggles of women, Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the most persistent warriors who advocated women’s struggle in Europe long before it became the most important agenda for women’s right.

She was the trailblazer fighting vigorously  against the status quo that deprived women their God given right to vote. Her demonstrations along with her equally bold and courageous allies were loud and clear. As a keen observer and a shrewd spectator of the political directions and motives of the time, she knew, long before anyone else did the coming of maniacal dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. Having lived in Italy during the rise of the Duce, she had made her conclusion that Mussolini was a thug and a bully whose main goal was to conquer and colonize Ethiopia. In the process, she had been threatened, terrorized, intimidated and blackmailed by fascist supporters all over Europe.

At the time, the British politicians, including Chamberlain had discouraged her open affront toward Mussolini, but Chamberlain had underestimated her resolve. She wasn’t the type to be lured easily nor to be appeased. Equipped with adequate energy and filled with passion, she scoffed at her detractors and ignored those who sneered at her mission. This pioneer activist for women’s liberation and equal rights made the anti-fascist struggle in England a new movement. In fact, in the 1930s, she supported the Republican cause in Spain and she also assisted Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany to England. She vilified the pro-Mussolini backers, including the press like The Daily Mall, The Morning Post, and the Observer. As historians bear witness to Sylvia’s testimony,  “in those irresistible eyes burns the quenchless fire of the hero who never fails his cause,” that she said about Emperor Haile Selassie when she first saw him at the Waterloo Station in London.

The doggedness of Sylvia Pankhurst is the direct influence of her father who was himself the selfless supporter of the labor movement from the start. On behalf of the poor, he advocated in his discourse in public squares and lamented the British politicians for their lackadaisical approach to progressive causes. Sylvia, thus, recalls “the misery of the poor, as I heard my father plead for it, and saw it revealed in the pinched faces of his audiences, awoke in me a maddening sense of impotence; and there were moments when I had an impulse to dash my head against the dreary walls of those squalid streets.” It is with this background and psychological makeup that Sylvia committed herself to the women’s cause in England and even wrote a book entitled The History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in 1911. She became active in The Women’s Dreadnought, a weekly paper for working-class women, supporting the Russian Revolution of 1917, even going to Russia and meeting Lenin.

When Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, her grassroots campaign, organized by a few loyal friends, along with George Steer, Sir Sydney Barton, Phillip Noel Baker, Colonel Dan Sanford, and Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, acted vigorously to bring the story of the Ethiopians into the limelight. The New Times and Ethiopia News, she founded, had an Indian reporter named Wazir Bey, reporting from Djibouti and keeping her up-to-date with the latest Ethiopian news.

Historians attest to this day that Emperor Haile Selassie’s quest to free his country from Italian occupation between 1936 and 1941 could not have materialized without the aid of this amazing woman, Madam Sylvia Pankhurst. The indomitable Madam Pankhurst was notorious for her tenacity. Hounding tirelessly the occupants of 10 Downing Street at the time, she emphatically stressed to the civilized world the anguish of the Ethiopian people, their plight and their loss of freedom. The Prime Minister’s office was brutally reminded then, in fact on a daily basis, of the responsibilities of the civilized world against fascism more than it cared to admit. She was deeply moved by Wal Wal incident of 1934. This was the beginning of her love affair with Ethiopia. For 20 years she published New Times & Ethiopian Times to keep the world interested in the Ethiopian cause. In the event of German occupation of Britain, Mussolini asked for the arrest of Sylvia, who he considered was a traitor of her race.

But, Sylvia wouldn’t relent.  Her passion and love for this ancient biblical land was so deep that after Ethiopia gained her freedom, she came and lived in Ethiopia between 1956 to 1960. She died in Addis Ababa of natural causes at the age of 78, and buried in great honor and pomp among the Ethiopian royalties. Haile Selassie was devastated and wept openly, a rare display of grief for a monarch known for his austere countenance. Most Ethiopians of that generation felt a national loss when she passed away as the emperor’s lugubrious face fully told the nation’s huge loss of the true and loyal friend.

Her son, Professor Richard Pankhurst grew up loving and appreciating the Ethiopians. When she started living in Ethiopia, she wrote a book entitled, The Cultural History of Ethiopia. Following in the footsteps of his great mother, Professor Pankhurst wrote himself several books and made Ethiopia the object of his love and study. His many remarkable books and articles reflect his unmitigated passion for Ethiopia, uninterrupted for over ninety years. His son, Professor Alula, who bears the name of a mighty Ethiopian general, followed in the footsteps of his father and his grandmother, and is now a remarkable Ethiopianist by his own right.

Professor Pankhurst earned his Ph.D. in economic history in 1956 and he began teaching the same year at the University College of Addis Ababa (later Haile Selassie University and now Addis Ababa University) that was founded and chartered six years earlier. In 1962, Professor Pankhurst founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and served as its director from 1962 to 1972. Following the eruption of the Ethiopian revolution in 1974, he went back to England, the country of his ancestors, but after a decade of hiatus, in 1986, he returned to Ethiopia, his adopted home country. In the ensuing years,  he authored 22 books, edited additional 17 books, and wrote 400 scholarly articles that have appeared in numerous academic journals, magazines and newspapers throughout the world. Equally brave and tireless like his mother, he has worked hard to bring back the looted obelisk to Ethiopia, and other confiscated treasures now in the hands of the Italians. As an educator and historian, he has also traveled and lectured all over the world, creating a formidable bridge between Ethiopia and the rest of the world. Professor Pankhurst’s vision of guild, not often advertised, shows his unselfish expression of his love for his adopted country and its people.

One of Professor Richard’s enduring legacy, as mentioned, is the formation of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (INS). Ethiopia which prides on its 3000 years of history did not have a national archive until he started single handedly the formation of the INS. The archive provides manuscript sources, published documents, contemporary accounts, sometimes impossible-to-get-materials in Ethiopia. People no longer go to the library at the British legation or to the French Mission Extraordinaire for permission to use the library for rare books on Ethiopia. The Institute has been the intellectual home of scholars all over the world. In the later years after his arrival in 1956, he also established the Anglo-Ethiopian Community in Addis Ababa.

It is impossible to give adequate summary of Pankhurst’s work, nor should one really try

Professor Pankhurst’s magnum opus, An Introduction to Economic History of Ethiopia from Early times to 1800, published in 1961, is a voluminous historical compilation of 454 pages. The book succinctly and cogently discusses the ‘geography and frontiers of the realm’, ‘government administration and justice’, ‘the seclusion of the royal family’, ‘Aksum, Lalibela, and Gondar’ etc.

Of the many important observations Pankhurst makes in this book with respect to land entitlement in the socio-cultural Ethiopian context, the following gives us a gist of how land played as the mainstay of the feudal economy:

“The most unifying factor in land tenure was the granting of land by the sovereign on the basis of service. Such grants had their roots in economic and social conditions and were essential to the whole system of government. The existence of a large and highly developed hierarchy necessitated an extensive system of tribute, taxation, and rent, which in view of the primary subsistence character of the economy and the absence of agriculture slavery, could be met only by payments in kind and certain types of services. The granting of land was similarly almost the only way in which rulers could remunerate or reward their followers, servants and favorites or provide for monasteries, churches, and persons in need.”1

One other small book, but nonetheless very important, edited and compiled by Richard Pankhurst, is The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles. The book begins with Emperors Ezana (4th century) and Lalibela (13th century) and documents of the following Ethiopian emperors: Amda Tseyon (1314-1344), Zara Yacob (1434-1468), Baeda Mariam (1468-1478), Lebne Dengel (1508-1540), Galawdewos (1540-1559), Sartsa Dengel (1563-1632), Susneyos (1607-1632), Yohannes I (1667-1682), Iyasu I (1682-1706), Bakaffa (1721-1730), Iyasu II (1730-1755), Iyoas I (1755-1769); the Era of the Mesafint or Princes (1750? – 1855); Tewodros II (1855-1868), Yohannes IV (1871-1889), and Menelik II (1889-1913). Despite the significance of the above chronology, however, the book unwittingly omits a very important emperor by the name Fasil or Fasiledas, the son of Susenyos, who reigned after 1632 and who is renowned for the construction of the castles still standing in Gonder.

On top of the chronicles of the successive emperors mentioned above, the book also has a ‘note on the Ethiopian calendar’ and a bibliography of other published chronicles. According to Professor Pankhurst,  “the period after the restoration of the Solomonic dynasty is significant…in that it witnessed the production, as far as is known, of the first royal chronicles. These historical writings, which from the basis of the present book, were written at the command of most of the rulers since the thirteenth century, and were the work of learned men or scribes specially appointed for this task and whose identity is often recorded in the text. The chronicles were thus the work of court historians and as such are mainly concerned with court life. Their attention is centered on the sovereign’s official life: his education, preparation for his high office, marriage and coronation, his wars and expeditions, appointments and dismissals of provincial governors and other officials, the issue of proclamations and decrees, the founding of towns and the building and endowment of churches, and the settlement of religious and other disputes and controversies, as well as various problems connected with the succession. Despite such emphasis on activities at court, the chronicles contain many passages of wider economic and social interest, affording us, for example, interesting descriptions of families and epidemics, systems of taxation and the utilization of foreign craftsmen.”2

In 1999, Pankhurst presented a very important paper entitled “Italian Fascist War Crimes in Ethiopia: A History of Their Discussion, from the League of Nations to the United Nations (1936-1949)”. This comprehensive paper was presented to the Northeast African Studies of Michigan State University and thoroughly examined themes such as ‘the League of Nations: Initial Reports’, ‘The European War: Growing Interest in War Crimes’, ‘Changing Allied Positions: Mussolini and Badoglio’, ‘Mussolini’s Fall and Badoglio’s Appointment’, ‘Italy’s Surrender and Proposed Allied Demand for War’, ‘Criminals’, ‘House of Commons Questions on Bodoglio and Mussolini’, ‘The UN War Crimes Commission’, ‘The Fall of Bodoglio’, ‘The Ethiopian War Crimes Commission’, ‘The 1947 Italian Peace Treaty’ etc.

In the introduction to this paper, Pankhurst states, “in 1935-36 Italian fascist invasion and subsequent occupation of Ethiopia were accompanied by numerous atrocities: the use of mustard gas, the bombing of Red Cross hospitals and ambulances, the execution of captured prisoners without trial, the Graziani massacre, the killings of the Dabra Libanos monastery, and the shooting of “witch-doctors” accused of prophesying the end of fascist rule. These acts are historically interesting, not only in themselves, but also in that they were brought to the international community’s attention on two separate occasions: to the League of Nations, when they were committed, and later, to the United Nations.”3  

With respect to initial reports to the League of Nations, Pankhurst states, “the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs supplied the League of Nations with irrefutable information on Fascist war crimes, including the use of poison gas and the bombing of the Red Cross hospitals and ambulances, from a few hours of the Italian invasion on 3 October 1935 to 10 April of the following year. Further charges were made by Emperor Haile Sellasie, to the League’s General Assembly on 30 June. Later, on 17 March 1937, he requested the League’s Secretary-General to appoint an Inquiry Commission to investigate crimes committed in Ethiopia. Such appeals made a deep public impression, but the League took no official action on the matter.”4

Even when the whole world knew about the war crimes and atrocities the Italian fascists committed on Ethiopians, the Allied Forces were reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the crimes and bring charges against the fascists accordingly: “Allied thinking on war crimes underwent an important shift, in the summer of 1943. After the Anglo-American landings in Sicily on 10 July, it became apparent that Italy might soon fall. This led the Allies to reconsider their attitude on Mussolini, and the leaders who might succeed him. The American and British leaders took the view that the veteran Italian commander, Martial Pietro Bodoglio, was a man with whom they should collaborate. Though he had used poison gas in Ethiopia, they did not consider him a war criminal, but as a force for European stability. One of those supporting him was Carlton-Hayes, the American ambassador in Spain, who told his British counterpart, Sir Samuel Hoare on 20 July, that he favoured a regency in Italy, with Bodoglio as ‘the strong man’”

The indefatigable Pankhurst continues to write to this day, and on March 2007 he writes “A Chapter in the History of the Italian Fascist Occupation of Ethiopia,” in which he discusses “racism in the service of fascism, empire-building and war” as reflected in the Italian Fascist magazine “La Difesa della Razza.” In this piece, Pankhurst systematically reveals the silent ghosts of Italian racism and policy of segregation, including the implementation of this policy in Asmara in 1916. Furthermore, Pankhurst discusses, the ‘Declaration of the Fascist Grand Council, of 6 October 1938’: “The Fascist lurch to racism, for which La Difesa della Razza had been established, found expression in a much-publicized meeting, at the beginning of October 1938, of the fascist grand council: the Gran Conciglio del Fascismo. Its member, after some deliberation master-minded by Mussolini, issued a virulently racist “declaration”, on 6 October, which was dutifully reproduced on the opening page of the magazine’s issue of 20 October. It stated that: ‘Fascism for sixteen years has developed and formulated a positive attitude, directed to the quantitative and qualitative amelioration of the Italian race, an amelioration which could be gravely compromised, with incalculable political consequences, by inter-breeding and mongolism.’ The “declaration” further proclaimed: ‘the prohibition of marriage of Italian men and women with “elements” belonging to the Hamitic, Semitic and other non-Aryan races.’”6

Professor Pankhurst is a champion of human rights. He understands deeply the entangled webs of the Third World inexplicable problems. Many agree that his erudite wisdom earned from lifetime experience could be that much-needed conduit between the West and Africa. Having lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, other renowned universities around the globe, not to mention the life-time career at Addis Ababa University, the man, even at 82, is still vibrant, still on the go, still vigorously sought for instruction and scholarly mentoring around the world.

In my eyes, Professor Pankurst deserves the Nobel Prize for an outstanding lifetime contribution to a nation and to her people by an outsider who gave it his all. I am very proud to pay homage and tribute to this distinguished educator whose inexorable writings of the past five decades have presented Ethiopian history, culture, and tradition to a wide spectrum of readers all over the world. I invite others to supplement my efforts in giving a well deserved tribute to this incredible, irreplaceable and invaluable man.

And may he live a thousand years!


(In 2009, after finishing the first draft of The Story of the White Man, I asked a few colleagues to collaborate with me in writing a tribute to Professor Pankhurst. The contributors are: Dr.  Ghelawdewos Araia, Ato  Paulos Asefa, Dr. Afework Kassu, and Dr. Fikre Tolossa.




Here are a few sample responses I received after the publication of the article, some among renowned Ethiopian scholars honoring Dr. Pankhurst:


Dear Mr Daniel Gizaw,


You and your highly esteemed team did a great job in writing a wonderful tribute to the well-known scholar, Prof Richard Pankhurst. I hope many others will also do the same so that the man finally gets a well-deserved THANK YOU.

My name is Mikeyas. I work with Mr. Girma Zegeye (publisher and editor of NAFKOT magazine) as public relation worker. Our magazine covers various issues from history to politics, daily life to news, beauty to business. When I read the tribute to Prof Richard, I thought we may publish it in our magazine – if that is ok with you. I also work as reporter for voice of Ethiopia radio program.


I learned from Dr Afework Kassu that you are amongst the few senior Ethiopians in USA. He told me about your books – FIKRE KIDUS and THE PRINCE OF AFRICA. If you would kindly give us time, I would be glad to interview you and publish the story on our NAFKOT magazine. Ethiopians should learn from senior people like you.


Please send me your telephone number so that we can make arrangements for the interview.


Best regards,







Mark as junk
Sent: Thu 2/26/09 7:17 AM

Prof. Richard Panchurst and his family as a whole are real friends of the Ethiopian people. He is a man who gave us the entire document of our history and culture. I truly feel that Prof. Panchurst is the most dedicated friend Ethiopia has ever had. I hope he gets not only the Noble Prize but all other prizes in the world. I wish him the absolute immortality!  Thank you Prof. Richard Punchurst and to your family as well!!!
With deep respect!!
Banchiamlak Demisie( Dr.)






From: Berhanu Melak (
|Mark as junk
Sent: Thu 2/26/09 6:00 AM

I am very privileged to express my gratitude and admiration to   Professor R. Pankhurst for his lifetime contribution to Ethiopian History and his industrious work in different research papers. He and his family have been fully devoted for Ethiopia and Ethiopians in particular and to our planet in general. We are very blessed to have him and consider him as our own.


May God bless him and his family.


Long Live!






Thank you‏

From: temesgen jemaneh (
Mark as safe
Sent: Wed 2/25/09 1:31 PM



Thanks a lot for your unforgettable work in Ethiopia.


Temesgen Abebe    

Meyrick road              

M6 5HE                  
Greater Manchester

United Kingdom    











Thank you‏




Sent: Wed 2/25/09 11:10 AM
Dear Sirs:

I have read the articles about an Ethiopian legend, Professor Richard Pankhurst and his family who contributed the valuable cultural, historical and religious knowledge found in Ethiopia to the rest of the world.


Surely, history will award the prize to Professor Richard Pankhurst and his family for their marvelous work.


Thanks for dear Sylvia’s family and God bless them.









(No Subject)‏

From: beneyam berehanu (



Thank You very much for your dedication!!‏


From: serkalem tadesse (
Mark as junk
Sent: Tue 2/24/09 5:14 PM
Dear Prof Pankhurst,
You might not know many of us but we know you and your mother for your incredible work. Your mother has enabled many of successive generations of women to know what it means to be a professional women. She took the first brunt of struggle for equality of all human kind by taking side for those people who are pushed aside by those with huge power and weapons at the time. It takes lots of courage and guts to step out of cocoon that women were limited to but she did it.
You, Prof Pankhurst, took Ethiopian History to whole different level. You structured it in a way that it can be documented, can be given to schools, colleges and universities. We can even tell it to our children so that they will be able to embrace their identity. I am working in a totally different field but I remember listening to your lecture given at the former Armauer Hansen Research Instititue about the history of Medicine in Ethiopia and how you were mentioning some of the names my grandparents and parents used to mention when I was a child. Most of us are now serving abroad at various levels of the academia but the one thing I am always confident to mention is you and your work to everyone around me asking me about the history of my country. I wasnot born during the Emperor time but when other people mention something of Ethiopian history, I always refer them to your work.
I would like to to say once again thank you for your extreme dedication to all humanity and to the academia and for the cause that you and your mother stood for all these years. You have been the bench mark and the living “brana” of Ethiopia’s history.

Serkalem Tadesse (DVM, Ph.D.)



From: Tecola W. Hagos (
You may not know this sender.Mark as safe|Mark as junk
Sent: Tue 2/24/09 12:27 PM

By Tecola W. Hagos (Ph.D)

As a student at Haile Selassie I University and Law School from 1965 to 1971, I had the great privilege of knowing Professor Richard Pankhurst and Mrs. Rita Pankhurst quite well.  Other than having numerous conversations at their respective offices on issues dealing with education, art, culture, Ethiopian history, et cetera, I had also the unique privilege of having been invited over for lunch to their spacious home several times during my student days. During such visits, I also met their children Alula and Helen.  As I remember the children, from such a long time, that Alula was a typical vigorous little boy and Helen was a rather shy beautiful rose cheeked little girl.

I do not exactly remember what was on the menu during those lunches, for I was usually overwhelmed just being a guest at the home of two of Addis Ababa’s distinguished citizens not to mention great personalities at the University. What I remember the most was the welcome I received from the entire family including their huge dog. I also remember the stack of paper on the desk of Professor Pankhurst in his study and the pragmatism of their furnishings, worn out leather comfortable sofas, huge dinning table, et cetera. However, the most memorable and to a great extent disconcerting to me was the fact of their villa-home having no fences at all. I used to mention that fact every time I was a guest for lunch; I simply could not comprehend such open vulnerability in a city where people of their stature live in homes with a military like fortification with stone walls, barbed wire and jugged broken glass on tope of such high walls surrounding their homes. In time I learned from the Pankhursts that they were keeping their home fenceless in respect to the way Mrs. Sylvia Pankhurst, the mother of Professor Pankhurst, had maintained the place until here death in 1960.


I think such openness and vulnerability is the physical manifestation of the very humane qualities of the entire Pankhurst family including their parents.  It will be very shallow for me even to attempt to list the great contribution this family of Pankhursts to Ethiopia and Ethiopians. As a scholar, Professor Pankhurst is at the pinnacle of great scholars of Ethiopian history and culture.  As a fellow Ethiopian, I simply cannot think of this family otherwise, he has endured much and has done to help his beloved Ethiopia more than anyone I can think of. And the generosity and dedication of the Pankhursts to Ethiopia and to the well being of Ethiopians has no equal.


Personally, both Professor Pankhurst and Mrs. Rita Pankhurst have been very kind to me. They encouraged me to paint as well as study my profession at the law school. Professor Pankhurst even wrote a vigorous recommendation letter in 1972 on my behalf to Oxford University, where I was accepted to do graduate studies. (I regret that I did not pursue that venue.) They were truly great people in every way that truly matters. The Nobel Prize will only be too small for a man of such monumental legacy. I fully support awarding the Nobel to Professor Richard Pankhurst of Ethiopia.

Tecola W. Hagos

February 24, 2009 -WashingtonDC












Meeting President Nixon – 1979

I have something else about America, this land of communists!

The United States, the newest and brightest nation, after breaking the rigid class bonds inherited from Europe, had set out on a fiercely ambitious democratic agenda, coupled with robust economic growth. The benchmark set by America pushed also the rest of the world into a new trajectory of competition. I met, by complete serendipity, the president of the United States who was one of the architects of the American foreign policy.

This incident happened in 1979.

Two years after the San Jose Police incident, I had straightened out my act and was doing great. I was now looking for a new adventure and a new town to explore. And in 1979, after having flown from San Francisco for an eleven o’clock job interview in San Clemente (Southern California), I was hungry like hell and stopped for a meal at the nearest McDonalds before the interview. I still had an hour to spare. There was a line at the restaurant, with two people ahead of me, three behind. I despised the two who were ahead of me, since my stomach was growling like a trumpet.

It was loud enough that the guy behind me could hear it. I turned around with a foolish smirk trying to tell him that my stomach was a stupid stomach. The guy smiled back at me knowing that he understood my dilemma. Then, it struck me like a thunder. The guy wasn’t an ordinary guy. The guy was the former president of the United States, Richard Nixon! The two guys behind him were the Secret Service Agents who were assigned to the former president’s protection.

I knew him instantly from all the pictures I had seen of him. I panicked. This was a typical response when an African meets authority figures. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly I had this urge to pee. I started calling God in my native language.

“Tossento, Tossento, Tossento!” I said silently.

Then I mustered the courage to speak. “Mr. President, please go ahead of me,” I said trembling. He knew instantly I wasn’t American; I can tell. He smiled that famous Nixon smile, seemingly directed to all humanity.

He wasn’t condescending at all. In fact, he was respectful.

“It’s okay young man; I have time,” he said curtly.

“No, Mr. President. It’s not right for me to be ahead of you,” I argued.

From the back, the Secret Service Agent didn’t like the fact I was being persistent. His contorted face spoke to me to back off. The President wants to remain incognito and I was making a spectacle. I got the message.

Oh, how I wish to tell them that I was from Africa, though!

I mean my story.

Here was the former President of the United States, going about his business just as an ordinary man, unencumbered, casual, and nonplused.

Only in America! What a great communist country!

Where else can you find in this planet where a leader, former or current, deemed himself equal with the common man? That day, after having my breakfast, completely mesmerized by the event that took place, I cancelled going for my interview. Forget the job! For a Griot this was just a big job, too much to fathom and too much to digest.

I am going to tell my people someday about the communist president of the United States.

“America typifies capitalism. How could their leader be a communist?” they will ask.

Would they believe my story? He looked content for a man who had gone through the grueling process of the Watergate scandal. He was, without doubt, the president of the United States.

And yet, he was the epitome of any regular man on an American street, nothing more, nothing less. Actually, the behavior of retired American presidents reveals their immortality even more.

Theodore Roosevelt, who won the Nobel Prize for negotiating the end of Russo-Japanese War went on an expletory mission to South America to see the beginning and the end of the River of Doubt, later renamed Rio Roosevelt River.

Accompanied by a famous Brazilian explorer Candido Rondon, Roosevelt, entranced by the idea of adventure and challenge went into this interminable expedition along with his son, Kermit. From the beginning the expedition was fraught with myriad problems. They faced diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting in the Amazon. To add insults to injuries, attacks from the natives made their journey impossible. As if all that weren’t enough, internal bickering among the crew members, resulting in one crew member killed by another made the president’s dream a nightmare. Before the expedition was over two more followers would die.  And still, the president was holding onto a doomed dream.

His son Kermit begged his father to abort the plan and go back home. Almost everyone knew that they would be dead before finding any thing tangible. The stubborn president would not relent. He was as adamant and persistent as the day when this idea was conceived. His son questioned his father’s state of mind, but he didn’t see capitulation.

By the time the expedition had reached only a quarter of the journey, Roosevelt himself was near death stricken from a leg wound infection that was spreading. The son begged again. The entire crew pleaded with the president to change course. The president was unflinching.

Even amid this tragedy and the infinite difficulties facing his crew, death hovering all over, anger mounting, Roosevelt insisted on completing his mission.

“It’s not in an American spirit to quit. I am never going to quit!” he announced.

At last, when they accomplished their mission, Roosevelt was almost gaunt, having lost over forty-five pounds and looking terribly emaciated.  A hero’s welcome accosted him in New York harbor when he returned home. Americans were grateful. They saw him as simply another person, but appreciated his determination.

At McDonald’s in San Clemente that day, when by serendipity I met former President Nixon, I had panicked. I thought if under the same circumstance I were standing in front of Idi Amin (Uganda), Mengistu Hailemariam (Ethiopia), Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), Sekou Toure (Guinea), Siad Barre (Somalia), what would be my fate?

I would be shot, that’s what!

I brought this story, because we actually learn something from retired ex-presidents of the United States. Take for example the indefatigable Jimmy Carter, and the indomitable Clinton. And the guy behind me, this former President of the United States, went on to write six

books after that incident: Leaders – 1982, Real Peace – 1984, No More Vietnam – 1985,  1999 – 1990, Seize the Moment – 1992, and Beyond Peace – 1994.

This is what Americans do.

They write books.

They explore.

They never die.

Thank you President Nixon for that brief moment of your presence in my life – you made me see the incredible spirit of Americans. I went back home that day, having acquired a lifetime story for my Griot assignment.

The Fireman

It was 2014, and something had happened here in Southern California, again, something that had grabbed extensive media attention. This time it was a fireman.

A fireman from the City of Arcadia, camping along with his friend in the Los Padres National Forest had disappeared. He was reported lost and couldn’t be traced for days. His name was Michael Phillip Hardman. He was thirty-seven-years old.

You do the math; the Michael that saved the cat was no more than twenty years in 1997.

Could he be that Michael, my hero, who inculcated in me the love of animals, I asked myself. This Michael, the fireman, had been searching for his dog (the dog had disappeared from his side and wasn’t seen for hours), moving frantically everywhere in the thick forest.

I felt a deja vou in this story.

I thought about the Cat in the Freeway incident in 1997. And that clean cut Michael I saw could be the same clean cut Michael today who was lost in the thick forest. I didn’t know his last name, nor did I know where he lived when I briefly talked to him that day.

I am normally very parsimonious in asking God for help, but in this case I bugged him. Lunch, dinner, and breakfast, I asked God to protect the fireman from danger, regardless of who he was. I didn’t care whether God was busy or not, but I called. Almost a week later, my hope was dwindling and I was getting desperate.  I don’t know why, but I believed this lost Michael was truly my freeway hero of the 1997 Michael.

“God, should I go to the mountains and look for him?” I beseeched God.

No answer.

God sends signs if you can read them, but no voice answer. Still, I persisted. He probably had concluded I nagged too much.

Two weeks later, however, the body of Michael was found in the Ventura Wilderness and I was really heartbroken. I felt I knew Michael although this dead Michael could be a completely different person than the person I was imagining.

On July 9, 2014, a day when the memorial service for Michael was held at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center, I was again in the back pew (having driven for almost two hours), tears in my eyes cascading again. This time, I was seventy years old, a little older, and the tears came niggardly, but enough to draw curiosity.

There were nearly 600 people in attendance and I counted about twelve black people. I was also, without doubt, the oldest person in the crowd and everyone looked at me as if I had come from a different planet. But they all seemed to appreciate my presence.

White people like older black people; I don’t know why.

Now looking at Michael’s seven year old daughter became excruciating painful to me. After the service, I went ahead and hugged Michael’s wife and whispered in her ears that I am an African storyteller, grieving for her husband. She probably had thought that I was a crazy old black man from the hood.

On my way back, Michael’s amazing courage to save that cat in 1997 from her demise reverberated in my mind once again. He was a hero. I don’t need to go to the battlefront seeking for heroes. America creates them in abundance in her backyard.

Just look.


And that’s America for you.

And the Americans!

the heart of the americans


The Son Jose Cop

I am going backward and forward with time, so bear with me.

This was in San Jose, a drab town south of San Francisco which was completely unknown at the time. No baseball team. No ice hockey team. No soccer team. Nothing.

How can a black man live without them?

The San Jose Mercury was the only glaring thing at the time with great promises for the Pulitzer Prize. The internet technology that galvanized the city later and took over the region by storm (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Santa Clara and more) was alien then. I had never heard of Steve Jobs at the time.  Who was he?

The city was an absolute  drab and lacked a flair that big cities like San Francisco and Chicago possessed. I had just moved to the area from Toronto (having seen all the great cities in Europe), married to an American and lost her (divorce) after moving to this godforsaken land called San Jose.

I don’t think the city had its welcoming mat pulled out for me.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with that devastating divorce.

It happened only a year after we moved to San Jose  and had a crushing effect on me that shattered my serenity. There was a cute baby involved. I had grown attached to my little girl.  She was a beautiful girl you had ever seen in your life. She was adorable. She was even more prettier than Hale Barry. She looked exactly the Queen of Sheba! I could envision Solomon at her feet, clamoring to serve her for the rest of his life (and even divorce all his other wives all for her). That was my daughter!

My daughter was my angel.

But then, the divorce, this savage split that was totally unexpected, took us by surprise. I don’t think my ex had planned it. And certainly, I was busy getting drunk and never saw this coming. Drunks have a poor eye sight; I believe that now.

I got drunk mostly to get away from the confusing culture, but the drinking was causing a lot of agony and friction in my personal life. I was overwhelmed by the immense weight of the American culture. The alcohol, however, was revealing the normally concealed behavior I thought I had under control.  When drunk, I seemed a bit belligerent, showing readiness to fight at minor things. And then I was told I got blasphemous. I had picked up these American words, Goddamn and the F word, and used them literally on every Tom and Dick I encountered. It made me a cool American, in my eyes.

Then, as if all that weren’t enough, even my friends said, when drunk I flirted with women in front of my wife. I think the alcohol may have disguised her from top to bottom when I was flirting with every woman who wore skirts.

Would you blame her for leaving me?

Now I was truly lost!

The binge drinking ensued. San Jose wasn’t enough for me, so I drove to Mountain View, Cupertino and Oakland, cities nearby, discovering new bars where blacks were welcomed without a scathing frown from the bartender. All along I was in pain. I had loved my wife  very dearly. She was my everything: My dreams, my hope and my joy. Barry White’s song “You are My First, My Last, My Everything” that came at about that time resonated in my ears constantly. I tried to sing like him, but ended up scaring myself.

The alcohol was good.

Oh, my little girl!

I wouldn’t even start telling you what my daughter meant to me. We would be spending the rest of our lives here and even then the story will never end. So here I was in America, badly confused and lost, badly out of shape, and empty. Here, alcohol provided the gates to asylum.

And then came that night when I met the despised police!

It was a normal summer night, and as usual, I was in a bar, at least fifteen miles away from my home, drinking. This was my post separation period and I was in high distress.

At the same time, I kept busy drinking. The bartender was unusually generous that night and was pouring a large portion in my glass, knowing too well that it soothed my burning soul. I had told him a story that in Africa I could drink like a fish and was good at maintaining my balance.

“Oh, what do you guys drink in Africa?” he had asked me.

“Whiskey, beer, wine and everything you drink here,” I answered with a suppressed resentful tone. I was a bit defensive. Obviously, when he said “Oh, what do you guys drink in Africa?” I interpreted it as if he had insulted me. I thought there was a slight whiff of racism in his language. And guess what? He, too, had detected my suppressed resentful response and was now generously rewarding me with enough alcohol. He didn’t mean to insult me at all. It was all in my head. I had the tendency to take things the wrong way.

Then at 2.00 am when the bar was closed I staggered to the door, almost falling twice.

“Watch out Mr. Africa!” the bartender yelled from behind, sarcastically.

“I am Okay,” I said with my African pride intact.

“I can call a cab for you if you want,” he said.

“No, no, no! I am perfectly fine. I can drive.”

Then, after fifteen minutes laborious search in the parking lot I found my car that was all along parked in front of me. Even the damn car was playing a trick on me that night! I now waved my hands up in the air twice and staggered into the car.

I found the keys.

I found the ignition hole.

The wheels were there.

The engine was fine, too.

I had forgotten turning on the headlights when driving the car, however!

And just after about two miles driving left and right, zigzagging to Africa and Berlin, I saw the police light flashing and heard the siren screaming. It was meant for me to stop. I may have driven through the stop signs without even pausing. I didn’t see that my headlights weren’t turned on, either. Now, I wasn’t even mindful to the stoplights coming and I may have passed about six of them without stopping, and the police was still at my tails. I remembered passing through two red lights! There were more that I didn’t remember.

At last, after passing non-stop through twelve stop signs, no headlight and drunk like a skunk, I stopped! The cop was white. I had stopped (now this could tell you the degree of my drunkenness) in a dimly lit area, no pedestrians at all, not even passing motorists.

It was me and the white cop alone!

“What if he were a racist cop?” I asked myself.

Prior to that incidence, there was news of police shooting a black man in the Bay Area (I think Oakland) and that news now intensely reverberated in my head. Suddenly I was paralyzed with fear. Wanting to drive the car to a well lit area, I restarted the engine. I thought it was better to die under the bright light, even when there was no one watching.

The cop was right there and said, “What are you doing?”

I honestly thought the cop was going to shoot me then for my inexcusable infraction, deeming that I didn’t belong on the road. Hell, I didn’t belong in America! My irresponsibility was indefensible even to me. “Fucking African!” I yelled at myself.

At last, like it or not, I was there at the mercy of a would be racist cop, in whose hands lay my fate. I would be killed in a minute. In a flash Good Old Africa appeared before my eyes. I was empty stomach and hunger was gnawing at me at the wrong time. I had no idea why I was devastatingly hungry now, because in a minute or two, I would be dead!

I hated being a black.

The cop was young, big, and muscular. He was about my age, maybe a couple of years younger. He asked for my driver license in a very calm manner.

I waited in trepidation when he examined it.

“Sir, lower your window,” he ordered.

“Okay, Mr. Cop.”

“Do you know that your headlights are not turned on?”

“Sorry sir, sorry, Mr. Cop.” I probably had said sorry Mr. Cop hundred times.

“And you have at least passed twelve stop signs without stopping. Do you know that?”

“Sorry, sir; sorry Mr. Cop.”

“Can you step out of the car for a minute?”

I did, but I couldn’t carry my own weight and fell to the ground. He pulled me up by the arm and sort of tipped my back to lean on my car so I won’t fall again.  My legs were wobbly, especially the right one. At this point he had concluded that there was no need for a sobriety test, because I was completely out of shape. I should have never, ever been behind the wheels that night, period!

Then, I thought I saw his hand moving toward his gun.

“You aren’t from here?” he asked.

“No, Mr. Cop. I am from Africa.”

“Why are you drinking this much?” he asked earnestly.

Then I broke down. I told him what I was going through. I had lost my wife, my daughter, my purpose. I was in the darkest place in my life. I was a stranger lost in a strange country.

I continued to cry like a baby at the old age of thirty-two! It was a pretty pathetic scene with me falling on the ground, totally defeated. There was a killer cop standing above me with his gun secured to his waist, his hand fiddling with it. Then something miraculous happened.

The cop lifted me up and hugged me. He was genuinely sympathetic. His embrace was

brotherly. “Come on Brother, get up” he ordered.

He even called me “Brother!”

I got up.

“You are going through hell at this point and I want to pray for you. Is that Okay?” he asked.

Perplexed, I asked, “why?”

“We are going to pray together. We are going to kneel on the ground right here, and ask God to help you. You need God to intervene in your life,” he said.

And then the both of us knelt on the ground, in the middle of that immense darkness, in absolute tranquility, in this place called San Jose and asked God to help a lost African!

I turned around and saw the cop crying.

I am not kidding; he was crying! You know the tears you and I shed; just like those tears, fluid all over his face was cascading down from his eyes!

Stunned, I didn’t say anything. I was expecting him to kill me, but here was a white man crying for me. Go figure!

“You will park your car here and pick it up tomorrow. I will give you a ride to your home now. I will not give you a ticket, because you already have three drunk driving arrests and more ticket will ruin your chances of getting a job. I am hoping this will be your last,” he said.

I promised him that I will never ever drink again and with that the night ended.

I have never met that cop again in my life, but I had kept my promise. I am sober for over thirty years! I don’t smoke! I don’t gamble! That cop, who I thought was going to kill me was actually my guardian angel. And to sweeten this story (if that cop, the cop whose name I don’t know would read this saga, his story included), not only have I stopped alcohol, but I have written five books!

You hear me Mr. Cop?

Five books!

And that night, I saw the heart of America through the compassion and love of a cop in a most unlikely place and a most unexpected instance. The San Jose cop incident had a much deeper impact on me beyond being the greatest factor for my final separation with alcohol and cigarette. I truly began to appreciate American law enforcement agents even when their presence intimidated me quite often. Yes, there are bad cops, but I think to put all of them in the same box is a mistake. When police vilification gets out of control, we must remember that not all cops are racists, not all are bad.

I can attest to that!

I recorded these manifestation nearly forty years ago. The Story of the Cop in San Jose is paramount to me because it saved my life. It is also a great metaphor to the existence of virtue in American society and in the American law enforcement agencies.

Readers: that cop was an American and this is America for you!

Doesn’t Americans deserve a big thank you?

The Heart of the Americans

In the early 1990s, a young woman named Denise Anette Huber (from Newport Beach, California) was missing and the focus of the media was fervent. Weeks after weeks, the search went on and on, continuously and vigorously. In the process I got into it (as a Griot) and felt deeply about the missing young woman, although I had never met her in my life. I wondered what her parents had to go through when search results turned empty-handed. Dennis body was found two years later in Arizona, the body stashed in a refrigerator, unclad.

I asked myself what kind of monster would do something like this.

I also asked myself what kind of person Dennis might have been. I wanted to know these

stories because when I returned to Africa someday, the Griot in me would be impeccably competent and prepared in narrating her story to people in a faraway land.

With regards to Denise, people who knew her said she was a deeply humanitarian person who cared sincerely for the wellbeing of others. In an effort to know more, I began my own Colombo style investigation. I didn’t want to go overboard for obvious reasons ( I will probably end up being the prime suspect if I dug too deep), but I got a few tidbits that meant something to the Griot in me. Dennis Huber was interested in a law enforcement career. And that knowledge triggered the San Jose cop incident and gave me a clue as to what kind of people choose to work as cops. The love and compassion rendered to me by that San Jose cop was still fresh in my memory then. In 1994, when her memorial service was held at the Mariner’s Church in Newport Beach, I was in the back seat, under a dim light, tears cascading on my face like a rainfall.  I felt she was an incarnation of the San Jose cop. Even though, deep down I knew Denise might have not even considered being a cop, I still thought she was that cop from San Jose.

I was devastated. When leaving I hugged the parents at the entrance and told them I was an African Griot. There were six black people, men and women, and I hugged all six of them, because their presence there meant a lot more to the parents than anything else.

I was fifty then and my thought process was a lot deeper. Black presence in a pre-dominantly white people’s functions seemed to me an indication of something favorable to come. This fantasy of mine may be a thousand years away, but the mini version of that final nirvana was prevalent in the Mariner’s Church that day. The races were all one!

Now going to Denise Huber memorial, it actually became a beginning for me for more memorial attendance to many others. I attended the memorial service of Amy Bihel, the young woman killed in South Africa by young African thugs who went out on a killing rampage of white people during the Apartheid period. Amy had nothing to do with the Apartheid system; if any she would have stopped it herself if she could.

Ladies and gentlemen: These are the Americans – the Amy Bihuels and the Dennis Hubers who made me see the world differently.

And they deserve my gratitude.