A professors class at Fairfield University devoted a week to educating the larger university community about Bekele Gerba, a professor of foreign languages at AAU and a peace activist

By Linda Conner Lambeck (Connecticut Post) |

FAIRFILED, Conn.―Molly McNamee―Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes baked by in her Fairfield  University town house probably won’t lead to the release of Bekele Gerba, a professor locked away in an Ethiopian prison.

But it will educate more students about the cause.

“Cupcakes are an attention grabber,” said Adrienne Sgarlato, a Fairfield senior from West Caldwell, N.J., said. “College students are always looking for an incentive.”

Attached to each cupcake the students grabbed Friday on their way in and out of the DiMenna Nyselius Library was a fact about Bekele Gerba:

“This is Gerba’s second time being imprisoned.”

“It is speculated that Professor Gerba’s arrest was a reaction to the protests taking place across the Oromia region.”

“An Ethiopian court brought terrorism-related charges against Professor Gerba and 21 others in connection with the protests.”

Professor Janie Leatherman, who leads a service learning class called International Human Rights, called the cupcake idea clever.

“When you do work in peace and conflict resolution, you have to think about what kinds of tools you can use that will end up in the hands of those you want to influence,” Leatherman said. “In terms of outreach and advocacy, cupcakes — with a message —is something very indigenous to this community.”

Leatherman’s class devoted a week to educating the larger university community about Bekele Gerba, a professor of foreign languages at Addis Ababa University (AAU) and a peace activist who has translated the works of Martin Luther King into Ethiopian. Bekele Gerba was also First Secretary General of the Oromo Federalist Congress, a political party, and his latest arrest came in December 2015. Terrorism charges were later leveled against him.

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