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Ethiopia: Answering an Appeal to the Heart

Times Staff Writer

Arike Logan, sitting poised on her powder-blue sofa, glanced at the gleaming ebony piano, the vases and tapestry rugs decorating her comfortable Ladera Heights home, smelled the frying bacon wafting from the kitchen and felt haunted.

Looking at the photographs scattered across her coffee table, her eyes moistened. The pictures were of children gaunt with hunger, men and women too weak to stand, families waiting hours in line for handfuls of nourishment, freshly dug graves clustered closely together on barren land.

They were pictures of Ethiopia, where Logan and a group of other black Americans traveled recently to catch their first glimpse of a people to whom they have long felt a distant kinship.

“As black Americans, we have a special responsibility to do something,” she said intensely, staring at the snapshots she had taken. “To use the many resources we have available, to share some of our wealth with them.”

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One of the resources needed most is medical care, Logan said, and as a physician, she is attempting to organize a medical wing of the Black American Response to the African Crisis. BARAC was formed last year by a group of black California clergymen to raise relief funds for the 26 African nations facing severe crisis.

Move by Councilman

Other efforts in the area include a move by Inglewood City Councilman Daniel Tabor to establish an Inglewood-South Bay chapter of BARAC, and a two-week rally at Morningside High School to raise funds for Ethiopia.

Logan, an Inglewood general practitioner and regional coordinator for BARAC, said the medical wing will be a joint project of BARAC and the Inglewood Physicians’ Assn.

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“We don’t know how blessed we are here. Yes, we have hunger and poverty, but it doesn’t often come down to death here. You can dig food out of the trash if you have to, but you don’t have to die. There are no social services there. No welfare checks, no food stamps, no Ralphs supermarkets throwing out day-old vegetables.”

Through the medical wing, Logan said, the association hopes to send to Ethiopia young doctors who have just finished their medical training. They would be stationed there for about six months, she said.

As a doctor, Logan said, she saw more clearly than most the devastation that years of drought have wreaked on the Ethiopian people.

“They have one doctor for every 58,000 people,” she said. “Can you imagine if I had 58,000 patients? What could I accomplish?

“Ordinary diseases are killing these people--rubella, pneumonia, things you could cure with $2.50 of penicillin. We saw advanced stages of disease you only read about in textbooks here.”

Logan recalled walking through a relief camp in one province, overcome by a sense of helplessness at the suffering around her.

A Woman’s Plea for Help “A woman fell on her knees in front of me, begging me to do something to save her eyes, because she was going blind,” Logan said. “I gave her some eye drops that probably helped, but unless she gets vitamin A regularly, she will go blind, and if you’re blind in a country like Ethiopia, you’re dead.

“Each day we tried to take in 50 of the sickest people for medical treatment, but there were 20,000 people at the camp, and most of them needed some kind of medical attention. A thousand people died every day that I was there.

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“We had to pass over babies that you knew were too sick to make it even one more day. It was tough to look at the faces of the mothers whose babies you had skipped. While I was there, one mother killed her three children because she couldn’t stand to see them starve to death.”

Logan said she recalled one morning in particular, when she joined a BARAC film crew to capture scenes of refugees streaming into the camp.

“We tried to sleep out there, but we were awakened by this loud moaning and groaning--thousands of people crying and praying and rocking their children in the pitch blackness. I dreamed about that for a long time when I came back,” she said softly.

Logan said that in addition to organizing the medical wing, she also will be involved with Councilman Tabor in organizing the local BARAC chapter.

Tabor said that while planning for the chapter is in its infancy, he hopes to have a meeting of key people in February to set up activities.

“This crisis in Ethiopia is very close to my heart,” he said, “because I subscribe to the philosophy that Africa is the homeland of my forefathers and I have a responsibility to see that it is not destroyed, but that it flourishes.

Educational Tool

“We see the BARAC chapter in Inglewood not just as a fund-raising organ, but as an educational tool to sensitize people to the plight of East Africans facing famine.”

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To that end, Tabor said the chapter will work with churches, local businesses and such service clubs as Kiwanis Club of Imperial-Crenshaw, which is already planning to sponsor a fund-raising raffle within the next couple of months.

Jim Blackman, president of Imperial-Crenshaw, said the club has formed an Ethiopian Relief Fund committee, and will attempt to raise several thousand dollars by raffling a video-cassette recorder.

“We have not worked out the exact details of what agency will deliver the money,” Blackman said. “We want to be very careful about that. But we do feel an obligation to help those people out there.

“It’s not that we’re ignoring the problems in our backyard. We do a great deal here too. But the suffering over there is so great, several of our members felt we just had to do something.”

Young people in the South Bay also are joining in with fund-raising efforts of their own.

Over $1,000 Raised

Students at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach last month raised more than $1,000 in four days by collecting money in the school’s English classes. That money, according to Principal Jerry Goddard, was donated to Operation California, a Los Angeles-based international relief agency that recently conducted a medical supply airlift to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, students at Morningside High School in Inglewood kicked off a two-week fund-raising effort on Jan. 14 at the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Students there, wearing “Care . . . If You Dare” buttons will be canvassing their neighborhoods daily until the end of the month, as well as collecting funds during school hours.

“I didn’t take it seriously at first,” said Dwayne Johnson, 17, after watching a documentary on Ethiopia at the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. “But that film really got me thinking. Almost makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. I know I waste a lot of food.”

Johnson said that while he hadn’t considered getting involved before, “I’m going to do that door-to-door stuff. You always complain about little things, you know? ‘Mom, I can’t have this, or I want that.’ I guess I didn’t realize how good I have it. I feel like the least I can do is take the money I spend on candy and stupid things and give it to them.”


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