On April 1st, 1953 Yeshi and Bekele Kidane gave birth to Tadesse Bekele, who would show and prove to be the biggest April’s fool that I know on the institutionalized structures of hegemonic masculinity. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tadesse began fooling the systemic forms of oppression, which most Black males fall victim to, at a very young age. In a time where war is no longer occurring on battlefields, but rather in our own households, in our hierarchies of Western Eurocentric structures of power, and within our own consciousness Tadesse Bekele shines as a beacon of light or “jegna” meaning hero in the Ethiopian community for combating the hegemonic forces that have misguided our Black men on what masculinity truly is. Through leading by example, Tadesse Bekele not only has begun to reconstruct the foundation of masculinity for his own son and daughters, but also those in the community that look up to him as a father figure.
The first form of oppression, which most Black males encounter in their life, begin in the household with parenting or the lack there of. In the case of Tadesse, he and his mother witnessed and suffered from physical abuse of his father and at the age of nine months Tadesse’s mother was kicked out of the household. Therefore, Tadesse’s grandmother stepped in to raise him until she died when he was eight years old and from here on he still lived with his father, but he supported and fed himself.
This young boy was left with no mother or real father figure exemplifying what it means to be a real man as many African Americans and even African households often experience. Like most young African American boys and young men of African descent, Tadesse was exposed to the same institutionalized powers of hegemonic masculinity, which were put in place to still control the Black man and thus the Black community. Tadesse’s father exemplified many of these qualities through his dominance, violence, abuse of his partner –showing a lack of respect and control he felt towards women, and incapability to father his own children and express love towards them despite his presence in the household. The ultimate culmination of Tadesse’s father inability to be a father and truly fight these systemic forms of oppression was after years of also physically abusing Tadesse his father kicked him out of the house. Tadesse was only a teenage in the tenth grade. From here on Tadesse had to have his school fees waived since he was not an adult yet and rented a flat with multiple people so that he can have shelter. Meanwhile, he began to teach underclassman for money to support him self and continued to succeed despite his circumstances.
Typically when young men are faced with having to fend for themselves when they do not know how to, often fall victim to institutionalized powers due to modeling the wrong examples provided for them in the environment. In these toxic situations, things like gangs and living an “ underworld” lifestyle usually present themselves to lost young men like Tadesse. However, when God says that he does not put too much on you than you can bear, he means it because he had a great blessing and plan in stored for Tadesse’s life.
Despite having a hard upbringing, Tadesse was still able to complete high school and finish the first part of God’s journey for him and he finished it strongly. Not only did Tadesse graduate from high school he also received a gold ring from the King, King Haile Selassie I, also known as Rastafari, for his academic excellence. Moreover, he received a grant scholarship to attend college in India and then go on to graduate school at the University of Ohio. This was only the beginning of how God would use Tadesse to not only be blessed, but also be a blessing to others. While in college Tadesse received a bachelor degree in science and went on to also receive a master’s in it as well. Tadesse demonstrated hard work and resilience that would help other lost Black males, especially in a society where Black man are now being able to look up to a better role model than the ones provided,; those who actually go to college and graduate school and major in fields like engineering, which was something Black man let alone the Black community was deemed not able to accomplish for many years.
Tadesse realized this and recognized that in spite of his negative past he had a brilliant future and God was using him to help those like him, whom institutionalized structures wanted fail. More importantly Tadesse said that he forgave his mother and father for not being there and I believe it is because of this that propelled Tadesse into his career and the multiple community organizations that he would later implement. For many years Tadesse would become employed for the Ethiopian Engineers Association and become a representative for an East African pharmaceutical company, however, his work did not end there. Tadesse would go on to be an East African representative for Alcatel, start up is own construction company and also become a leader in the community.
Within the community, one of the many organizations that Tadesse became involved with was a community organization called Edir, which he headed and objective is to invest money into the community for families that need financial support while keeping the community unified and encouraging togetherness. The next contribution Tadesse would make was establishing a banking system within his own community. This system is called Equb and how it worked was through each household donating a fixed amount of money each month and each month there would be a draw, in which one family would win a raffle each month that consisted of all of the money that had been saved up. Every month this raffle would be done until each household won once throughout the given year. In addition, in the case of an emergency a household could request their money if they were in a financial jam and thus be removed from the draw. However, the list does not stop here, Tadesse would go on to accomplish more. Later on, Tadesse would become the chairman of an organization called U.N.I.C.O.N, which was a consultant firm that helped people or companies construct the foundations and give expert advice on what materials should be acquired or needed for the construction of buildings within the community.
Tadesse worked hard to give back to his community, however, those organizations would not be his most important contribution to the community; instead, Tadesse’s most imperative contribution to the community would be his role as a father figure. Tadesse has three children, two girls and one boy, named Fiker, Hiwote, and Edel and his characteristics as a father truly shows the progression that needs to start taking place in the Black community. In spite, of his parents and the abuse that he endured as a child, Tadesse would go on in life to love his children, protect them, teach them right from wrong, teach his daughters to fully understand their worth and teach his son how to be a respectable man who does not fall victim to the qualities of hegemonic masculinity. Tadesse believes that it is because of his upbringing that allows him to provide a better life for his family and to be a great husband to his wife, in which he treats her with the utmost respect.
Tadesse not only performed this role or duty for his children, but those of the community, as well. Tadesse took this very seriously and even would end friendships with people who he deemed did not properly raise their own children. Tadesse is constantly providing an example for troubled youth and advocating ideals and actions that are opposite of what hegemonic structures would expect and thus he act as a catalyst and more so as a hero or jegna throughout this battle and struggle to define what is truly a Black person, Black Husband, Black father and most imperatively a Black male within our community.