The Weeknd has donated $50,000 towards an Ethiopic Studies program at the University of Toronto. The Grammy and Juno-Award winning singer, born Abel Tesfaye, from the Scarborough area of Toronto, donated the money after he was approached by the Toronto-based Bikila Award organization. Tesfaye confirmed his donation on his Twitter account, writing "sharing our brilliant and ancient history of Ethiopia. proud to support the studies in our homie town through @UofT and @bikilaaward."
The Weeknd had received a Bikila Award, named after Ethiopian Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila, in 2014. The organization aims to recognize academic, professional and business excellence and promote volunteerism among persons of Ethiopian origin, focusing primarily on youth. Tesfaye is an Ethiopian-Canadian, and his parents emigrated from the African country. According to the Bikila Award organization, there are over 70,000 Canadians of Ethiopian origin living in Canada and 70 per cent of them live in Ontario.
The Ethiopic Studies program at the Univeristy of Toronto aims to teach Ge’ez, the classical language of Ethiopia, which has been spoken since 2000 BCE and is still used today by Ethiopian Christians. The program is aiming to launch in the near future. University of Toronto history professor Michael Gervers pledged to donate $50,000 of his own money to the program if the same amount could be generated from fundraising efforts by the university and the public. The Bikila Award organization reached out to Tesfaye and he responded with his donation.
“It’s unbelievable, he grew up in Toronto as an Ethiopian-Canadian, and now he’s giving back to the community,” Bikila Award board member Tam Gebeyehu told the Toronto Star.
The Weeknd has notably incorporated his East African roots into his music, for example, adding a woman's declaration of love in Amharic, the primary language of Ethiopia, to the end of his Billboard number one hit "The Hills."
In addition to confirming his donation, Tesfaye tweeted out the link for the public to donate to the program.
According to the Toronto Star, over $170,000 has already been raised for the program.
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