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Library and Tsedaye Makonnen Awarded Library of Congress Connecting Communities Digital Initiative Grant

The District of Columbia Public Library was recently awarded a Library of Congress Connecting Communities Digital Initiative Grant to document and preserve the stories of Washington's Ethiopian community.

The grant will fund the "Documenting the Ethiopian Communities of DC" project. Led by the Library's People's Archive in collaboration with Ethiopian-American artist Tsedaye Makonnen, the project aims to build relationships within D.C.'s thriving Ethiopian community by collecting new oral histories, creating a culminating art installation and hosting cultural events that highlight the impact of Ethiopian diaspora culture on the nation's capital over the past century.  

The Library will incorporate historical photos and interviews from the 1980s with Washington's Ethiopian community collected by Elena Bradunas. Bradunas was part of the Library of Congress's Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project collection. As a project coordinator and fieldworker, she visited ethnic schools over three months to photograph and interview individuals involved in the programs.

The DC area is home to the largest Ethiopian diaspora outside of Ethiopia. By updating Bradunas' documentation of D.C.'s Ethiopian diaspora with new oral histories, the project aims to spotlight the community's enduring legacy and cultural impact on Washington.

Makonnen is an acclaimed multidisciplinary artist who has exhibited widely, recently becoming the first Ethiopian artist to show at the Venice Biennale. She previously served as DC Public Library's Maker-in-Residence, using the Library's production tools to highlight African diaspora stories.

The first of several public events will begin in March, convening old and new generations of the Ethiopian diaspora. By collecting and sharing community voices, the Library will spotlight the lasting impact this community has had in shaping Washington, D.C.'s rich culture.