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Oromo people to celebrate New Year on Saturday in Minnesota

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- Natives of Oromia now living in southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and eastern South Dakota will gather in Worthington Saturday evening for an Oromo Community New Year celebration.

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Natives of Oromo pose during the International Festival in July in Worthington. Submitted Photo

WORTHINGTON, Minn. - Natives of Oromia now living in southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and eastern South Dakota will gather in Worthington Saturday evening for an Oromo Community New Year celebration. 

The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Long Branch Saloon in downtown Worthington, and will continue to approximately 2 a.m. The public is welcome to attend.

In its fifth year, the gathering typically includes people dressed in traditional Oromo wear. This year, however, organizer Ayayew Bejica is encouraging people to wear black T-shirts to stand with the Oromo people in mourning the deaths of college students killed while protesting the Ethiopian government.

“We’re going to do a kind of memorial,” Bejica said, adding that this is not the time to sing or dance because of what’s happened in Ethiopia and the Oromia region.

“We appreciate this country because of human rights and everything goes by democracy,” he said.

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“There, it’s not like that. The University of Oromo students are asking questions about what is going on with the way the government is run. There’s still killing happening. For that reason, the Oromo population is moving here.”

The Oromo population in Minnesota continues to grow, with approximately 200 calling the Worthington area home. The growth is incredible, said Bejica, who was one of just four Oromos here when he moved to Worthington 19 years ago.

“We started to invite people,” he said, adding that the growth in the Oromo population locally makes him feel like he’s accomplished something. “For myself, I love it. I make a great living here. I got three boys born here. One of them wants to join the police (department).”

An older, adopted son is in his fifth year in the U.S. Air Force, he added.

Saturday night’s gathering will include a candle ceremony as a memorial for the students still being killed in Oromia, speeches, food and music performed by Jambo Jote, a native Ethiopian now living in Washington, D.C., who is a “very, very good Oromo singer back home,” Bejica said.

Special guests from the Liberian, Lao, Karen and Hispanic communities have been invited, as well as leaders from JBS, Local Union 1161 and the Worthington Police Department. Bejica said there will be some cultural dancing and food.

Bejica said the Oromo Community New Year celebration is timed not with the actual holiday in Oromo, but with the approaching New Year holiday celebrated in America.

“We live American way,” Bejica said with a laugh. “As long as we’re treated fairly, this is our country.

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“I’m a U.S. citizen, but I come from Oromo and I wish the best for them. I make a living here. I wish that country have (equality) for everybody. We are very peaceful people.”

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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