Grammy-winning artist The Weeknd has donated $50,000 to the University of Toronto to help start an Ethiopian Studies program.
The artist, who was born under the name Abel Tesfaye, is a Scarborough native whose parents emigrated from Ethiopia. The Bikila Awards organization, which works to "foster academic, professional and business excellence and promote volunteerism among persons of Ethiopian origin," reached out to Tesfaye for funding and he immediately responded. Previously, in 2014, the Bikila Awards organization had awarded Tesfaye with its Professional Excellence Award.
The money will go toward a larger fundraising campaign which started last year when University of Toronto history and cultural studies professor Michael Gervers pledged a donation of $50,000 of his own money if the amount was matched by the school and the Ethiopian community. The campaign has raised $170,000 thus far.
Proceeds will go towards a course, to be offered later this year, in the ancient Ethiopic language Ge'ez. The school and Bikila hope to follow this with a full program in the future.