Beekan G Erena-THE HARVARD Crimson-A Safe Haven for Scholars at Risk

Beekan G Erena-THE HARVARD Crimson-A Safe Haven for Scholars at Risk

Hosted by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Erena’s research focused on ”The Oromo Student Protest Movement: Demands for Justice and Democracy in the Face of Ethiopian Government.” In addition to teaching an Oromo language class at Harvard, he also wrote 152 poems in English to try to improve his command of the language. He said he was excited to come to Harvard given its wealth of academic resources.

beekan-6Scholars at Risk Beekan Erena in the library of The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, which hosted him as a Scholars at Risk Fellow last year. 

“When I came here, I saw 17 of my books in the library. I don’t know how they came to Harvard, but I appreciate Harvard because it is globally collecting every nation’s book. I was amazed,” Erena said. He was happy to find himself in “an ocean of knowledge.”

With government-controlled media, there are many untold stories in Ethiopia. Erena hopes to raise awareness of these stories through his academic work, creative writing, and thousands of social media followers.

But for some fellows, rest and recovery are needed after escaping traumatic circumstances. From receiving legal aid and psychological treatment to forming academic networks, Greenblatt hopes scholars have “a kind of world that is giving them some support and that they’re not just in a dark hole.”

While some SAR fellows openly interact with the Harvard affiliates, others cannot be identified in the same way out of safety concerns. Unrue said that being called a scholar at risk can be “a problematic label—maybe like dissident.”

As she does with many fellows seeking academic or research positions following their fellowship, Unrue is now helping Erena apply to doctoral programs in the United States. Erena currently teaches literature courses on revolution and survival at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, with the broader goal of eventually returning to Ethiopia and creating social change through education and his writing.

“My dream is to be voice for the African people wherever I am. If my country is appropriate for intellectuals, my wish is to go back and teach the generation, especially to work on their minds,” Erena said.


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