A Jamaican resident of Ethiopia, Africa was not about to yield to COVID-19 restrictions which upended formal, traditional, graduation ceremonies for two of her children — son Gebre at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and daughter Shema from Georgia State University.
Disappointed that travel restrictions prevented her from travelling to America to witness the culmination and public reward rite ceremonies for one of her last sons – (one of a twin) and last daughter of the 10 children she birthed Dr. Desta Meghoo along with US-based daughters Aiyana in Ocala, Florida and Ajahweh in Atlanta, Georgia quickly mobilized to coordinate a virtual Village Zoom ceremony.
Together they optimized a capacity to execute the “it takes a village” African mantra by inviting friends and family to an international gathering.
First responders included Academy award winner Louis Gossett, Jr., and family friend, Dr. Erieka Bennett, ambassador to the African Union, friends in Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, England, California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Georgia.
The invitation requested a noon presence on May 24 and suggested that guests wear African attire.
At the precise time, crossing many time zones, virtual hugs from Africa extended past continents to resonate with a virtual Desta nation that embraced the graduates.
Following prayers and a keynote address by the “Officer and a Gentleman” Oscar winner, a real-life Princess Mariam Senna Asfa Wossen, the granddaughter of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie I zoomed in to congratulate the graduates.
She extended kudos and greetings from the continent with an invitation to visit her glorified birthplace.
For Gebre the sentiments she extolled resonated with particular significance because although he was aware that distinguished guest to his college included President Barack Obama and former South African leader Nelson Mandela when he learned that in 1971 the princess’ grandfather — perhaps the most travelled Ethiopian monarch — had visited his Georgia campus, it seemed his cap and gown became more than a symbol but a virtual reality.
His own grandmother, Pauline Neill seemed proudest beaming from a Zoom square that identified Village participants.
Gebre Meghoo-Peddie, the 2020 graduate from Morehouse College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and maintained a 2.8 grade point average. Throughout his college career he and his twin brother Zakia were active members of the Maroon Tigers tennis team.
For four year Gebre also served as a member on a governing board that focused on supporting student athletes at the college. In his role, he also engaged with youths in the community. During his biological studies program he took an interest in public health and environmental sciences focusing on topics such as health equity, environmental racism, and the health and environmental effects of pollution.
He is credited with publishing three informative articles which concentrated on newly found bacteriophages and their sequencing.
Gebre said in the spring of 2021 he intends to pursue studies in law. He said his focus next year will be devoted to policy work.
His big sister Shema, who is the youngest of five daughters seemed to absorb the enormity of what might be her most memorable moment and no less lauded on the eve of Memorial Day in America.
The 2020 Georgia State University graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in social entrepreneurship. Her primary concentration was in global studies. Shema boasted an impressive 3.22 grade point average.
Her work included on campus student administration where she was tasked with coordinating with students and faculty to develop logistics for training, streamlined office integration and overall support.
Simultaneously she worked full time off campus in various jobs, including a stint with the Army.
Her studies consisted of business entrepreneurship, public management and policy courses with a focus on international and multicultural learning.
She plans to contribute to the advancement of global water sustainability. Shema’s ultimate goal is to enhance the mission of achieving clean water throughout the world.
She particularly aims to improve water purification processes in Africa.
After the Villagers spoke, gifts to each graduate included visits to African villages in Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia.
In pre-pandemic years annually Dr. Meghoo visited her 10 children, 13 grandchildren, her mother Pauline, brother Harry and countless friends.
Last year she travelled to Jamaica, ambled along the Brooklyn promenade with her husband Merid, enjoyed a concert at Central Park’s Summerstage with Gebre and journeyed to Chicago, Florida, and Georgia before returning home to Addis Ababa.
This past Sunday, Nicholas Johnson, Princeton’s first Black valedictorian, and son of another Jamaican mother Anita Brown-Johnson joined the virtual Zoom pandemic portal to positively encourage future success and at best bear witness to the historic milestone commencement proceedings that distinguishes 2020 graduates of the 274-year-old institution.
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