The Weeknd Makes Donation to University of Toronto for New Ethiopian Studies Program

The Weeknd, Grammys 2016
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

The Weekend backstage at the 58th Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Feb. 15, 2016 in Los Angeles.

The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, has donated 50,000 Canadian dollars (approximately $38,000) to the University of Toronto to establish an Ethiopian Studies program after a call went out to the Ethiopian community.

The 26-year-old’s singer’s parents emigrated from Ethiopia to Toronto, Canada, in the 80s.  On his Twitter page, he posted links to the program and donation page.

“Currently, the lack of resources and knowledge for adequately preserving cultural materials in Ethiopia means our cultural and historical heritage is disappearing at an alarming rate,” it states on the program page. “The Ethiopian studies program at the University of Toronto will play a vital role in teaching Ethiopia’s heritage to consecutive generations of students, in supporting digitization efforts, and to the dissemination of source material to the research community within and outside the University.”

The page addresses the Ethiopian Community, explaining that U of T professor of history Michael Gervers donated $50,000, which was matched by the university.

An article in the Toronto Star states that Tesfaye responded “immediately” to the monetary request from Bikila Awards organization. “It’s unbelievable,” Tam Gebeyehu, board member of the Bikila Award told the Toronto Star. “He grew up in Toronto as an Ethiopian-Canadian, and now he’s giving back to the community.”

Tesfaye is a past recipient of a Bikila Award, created in honor of Ethiopian long distance runner Abebe Bikila, to “empower young people reach their highest potential and to celebrate their achievements.” Its mission is “to foster academic, professional and business excellence and promote volunteerism among persons of Ethiopian origin, primarily through award and recognition.”

In 2014, Tesfaye received its Professional Excellence Award. “Back then he was doing a lot of stuff, but was still a boy from Scarborough just rising to fame,” Gebeyehu told the Star. “His donation helps us preserve our culture and share it with everyone else.”

“This initiative is a rare opportunity and of historical significance in the discovery of Ethiopia’s ancient civilizations, for the preservation of our rich culture, history and traditions,” Bikila Award president Tessema Mulugeta told the newspaper.