Grammy-winning R&B artist Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, has made a large contribution to the University of Toronto to help create an Ethiopian Studies program.
Last year, this initiative began with a campaign started by Professor Michael Gervers, who teaches in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies. Gervers pledged to donate $50,000 of his own money, if community donations could match that amount.
The Bikila Award organization is rooted in developing “academic, professional and business excellence and promote volunteerism among Ethiopian-Canadians.” Tesfaye accepted Bikila Award’s invitation to contribute to the program — in 2014, Tesfaye received Bikila Award’s Professional Excellence award.
Tesfaye tweeted the confirmation of his donation to the program: “sharing our brilliant and ancient history of Ethiopia. proud to support the studies in our homie town through @UofT and @bikilaaward.”
The donations were presented on August 6 at Varsity Stadium, during the Bikila Barefoot Challenge event, jointly run by U of T and Bikila Award. In total, the money that was raised came close to U of T’s goal of $200,000 for the program.
Ethiopian Studies will be offered in 2017 by the Department of Near Middle Eastern Studies; one class will focus on the liturgical language Ge’ez. The Department of Near Middle Eastern Studies is currently building a curriculum for the program.
Professor Tim Harrison, head at the Department of Near Middle Eastern Studies, told U of T News, “Ethiopian studies is a great way to enrich our curriculum in African studies because it is one of the great civilizational cultures of Africa and the world.”
Four days after his donation to U of T, Tesfaye also donated $250,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement.