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Message from the Executive Director

semharDAWN's last two months have been incredible and we're excited to share our latest news with you.  During the months of May and June, we've had amazing opportunities to participate in African related events.  From issues affecting the diaspora to the challenges of supporting women's participation on the continent, DAWN's members are continuing to shine in a variety of events.  

Below you'll see a bit of what we've been up to this past month. The summer is already shaping up to be an exciting one! We look forward to sharing a bit more with you in our next newsletter.  Thank you for your continued encouragement and support! 

Semhar Araia

Executive Director and Founder of DAWN  
DAWN at the Secretary's Global Diaspora Forum 

IdEAThis May, DAWN participated as a panelist in the first-ever Global Diaspora Forum, an 3-day event hosted by the State Department and in partnership with USAID and the Migration Policy Institute.  The event focused on examining the role of diasporas in foreign policy and development and participants heard remarks from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, Millenium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes, OPIC's Vice President Mimi Alemayehou, as well as a number of diaspora representatives from across the country. 

DAWN Executive Director Semhar Araia presented at the first plenary session of the Forum, titled "Building Bridges: Diasporas, Their Homelands and the US".  Speaking to an audience of over 300 people, Semhar introduced DAWN and emphasized the importance of effective diaspora organizing, networking and sustained engagement within diaspora and non-diaspora circles in a framework aptly coined ROPE (Representation, Ownership, Participation and Engagement). The Forum concluded with the official launch of the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), a new platform to create public-private partnerships to engage with diaspora actors and communities. 

To learn more about DAWN's presentation and the forum, you can go to or read summaries from Project Diaspora, MicroLinks,and the Jamaican Observer.

SAVE THE DATE: DAWN's 4th Annual Dinner -July 30, 2011!

In honor of Pan-African Women's Day and DAWN's 4th Birthday, we invite all DAWN members, DAWN MOMs and friends of DAWN to join us for DAWN's 4th Annual Reception & Dinner on Saturday July 30th 2011. 


This year's dinner will be a chance to celebrate DAWN's growth and accomplishments over the past year as well look ahead to our upcoming priorities and goals as an organization.  o see photos from our previous DAWN Annual Dinners, 

Early Bird tickets will go on sale June 15th! You can purchase your tickets at and make it a night to remember.


DAWNer of the Month

     Elvira Cooper  



Elvira has her roots in beautiful Cape Palmas, Liberia. She has extensive experience in the publicity, promotion, marketing, and distribution of literature, as well as in editing literary manuscripts and book proposals. Her interest in literature and publishing was heightened when she worked with a literary agent on Chimamanda Adichie's wildly successful novel, Purple Hibiscus. She is a professional eMedia marketer, and Online Experiences advocate.


Elvira sits on the Editorial Board of Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings, a peer-review literary arts ejournal that aims to provide a forum for and stimulate an appreciation for contemporary Liberian arts and letters; the Liberian personality and indigenous languages; social justice; gender equality; African and African Diasporan identities; ethnic, class and cultural diversity.  


Her volunteer work exemplifies an extraordinary dedication and passion for books, literature, reading and the arts. She has volunteered with and attended workshops at independent bookstores, the Bethesda Writers Center, and George Washington University's publishing program. She's also volunteered her time to do research, editing, marketing and much needed hand-holding support for friends who are writers, poets, and visual artists. Her passion is further exemplified in her work with the Association for the Advancement of Liberian Girls, advancing equity for girls through advocacy, education, self-development, and positive societal change.   


Elvira loves to read, has a deep appreciation for the wealth of talent coming from Africa, loves all African art forms, and considers herself to be a strong champion, supporter and all around cheerleader for the literati. She lives in Washington, DC.


Congratulations Elvira! We are so proud you are a DAWNer!
DAWNista of the Month

     Melody Jannel Rodgers   



Melody is a professional model, actress, and beauty queen currently residing in New York City. Originally, from North Carolina, Melody has been performing since age 5. She has been the face of brands such as: Dove, Schick, Verizon,  Remy Cointreau, Sutter Home, Tylenol and Sony.


Beyond performance talent, Melody was identified as an academically gifted child at age 10. As a straight A student, she graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in the top 1% of her class and later gained a B.A. in Public Policy and International Affairs from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon graduation, Melody served in Teach For America in Baltimore, Maryland and as a motivational speaker for high-schools in Washington, DC.   


As a teenager, Melody sang, played the piano and song wrote for her church and played the saxophone for her high-school Jazz band. She further developed her performing chops as an entertainer in Walt Disney's World's Animal Kingdom. She has won best talent in several competitions for her musical abilities. As an all around entertainer, Melody also loves Hip Hop, Jazz, Latin, and African dance and was a member of Flair Dance Company.


She has starred in several lead roles in musicals such as "Once on this Island", and "Jesus Christ Superstars." She is currently focusing her talent in film, and recently landed a supporting role in the movie, Unguarded, set for release in July . While pursuing a Master's degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs; Melody was discovered by a A&R scout at Columbia records. She is now working on her Debut Album "Miss International" which will be available in August.


Congratulations Melody! We are so proud you are a DAWNista!

African News

Mobilizing diaspora investment in agriculture

The Diaspora Investment in Agriculture (DIA) will tap migrant entrepreneurs and  diaspora organizations to stimulate the agricultural sector in developing countries, particularly post-conflict nations and fragile states. According to IFAD, investments in agriculture and efforts to better link farmers with emerging markets can have an enormous positive impact on economic growth and food security.   Read More 


Western Sahara refugees hold film festival in the desert 

Western Sahara's eighth Sahara International Film Festival (known as FiSahara), the world's most remote film festival, took place in early May this year deep in the Algerian desert.  Read More 


Upcoming Events


JUNE 14   

What: The Future of South Sudan: A conversation with H.E. Vice President Riek Machar  
Time: 2:00PM EST

Where: U.S. Institute of Peace

What: On July 9th, 2011 The Republic of South Sudan is scheduled to become the world's newest country. Yet as southern independence fast approaches, the fragile peace between north and south hangs in the balance. The U.S. Institute of Peace has been involved in Sudan for nearly twenty years working on the ground, advising and collaborating with local organizations to find peaceful solutions to flashpoint issues. RSVP here  


DAWN's Monthly Inspiration 

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. "

 -Nelson Mandela
In This Issue
SAVE THE DATE: DAWN 2011 Annual Dinner
DAWNer of the Month: Elvira Cooper
DAWNista of the Month: Melody Rodgers
African News
DAWN May Birthdays 

17- Sara Yonas 

26 -Semhar Araia

28-Megalyn Echikunwoke 

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Our Mission

The Diaspora African Women's Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and support talented women and girls of the African diaspora focused on African affairs.

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