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Little Ethiopia story in Los Angeles

Shaka Mali Tafari has been on a journey exploring African communities in Los Angeles, USA, and has met various voices that have shared their stories with him.

Shaka Tafari is an audio producer from Los Angeles, CA. As a first-generation Jamaican American, his stories celebrate culture and advocate for diversity.

The KCRW storyteller shared some of his favorite exchanges and one we are going to focus on is about Rosalind, Los Angeles’s first Ethiopian restaurant.

It opened on Fairfax in 1988 on a stretch that would later officially be recognized as Little Ethiopia. Mr. Fekere owns Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia and to him, it means his vision and hard work paid off in Los Angeles. 

Mr. Fekere owns Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia. Photo by Seth Van Matre.

So how important is Little Ethiopia to Los Angeles? Let’s read in the minds of the amazing diaspora Tafari has met in his exploration of African communities in Los Angeles.

Hannah Giorgis
Staff Writer at The Atlantic

Hannah Giorgis is a Staff Writer at The Atlantic. Photo courtesy of Hannah Giorgis.

“When I think about what makes LA special, what makes LA feel alive and vibrant, and pulsing and constantly changing, I’m thinking of Little Ethiopia. I’m thinking of places where people have, either come to the states or come to California or have been there for generations and come up through any number of hardships and difficulties and made something beautiful.

It was about their community and they invited other people in, and it’s not lost on me what a big deal that is. And what a big deal for folks in that diaspora. I am always heartened by places where there are multiple little pockets like that – of different and overlapping groups, and just excited to be in one another’s presence.”

Dr. Abraham K. Adhanom
Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship at Azusa Pacific University, Amharic and Tigrinya Language Instructor at UCLA

Dr. Abraham K. Adhanom is a professor at Azusa Pacific University. Photo courtesy of Dr. Abraham K. Adhanom.

I think we need to do more to promote the value of culture, the value of history, and the value of globalization that little Ethiopia brings. Every Angeleno should come and experience the food, experience the coffee, experience the culture, the music, and everything. And with my students at UCLA, we try to come here once a semester, once a quarter. It’s a cultural experience that you can only enjoy by being here.”

The future of the neighborhood

Mr. Fekere

“I fear that unless some young people come and take over the businesses – we might lose it. So [we] always discuss it. We have the Little Ethiopia Business Association.”

Melkit Gebre-Mariam

Meklit Gebre-Mariam stands with her father, Mr. ​Fekere Gebre-Mariam, in front of their family-run restaurant Rosalind’s in Little Ethiopia.

“I do worry about the legacy. I know my dad has that concern, and I’ve been thinking about that seriously. What will this place look like? It’s so scary because of how quickly neighborhoods like this disappear all the time without a trace. The community is doing a lot right now to preserve it. These are just like the facts of life – gentrification happens, and rent goes up. A lot of these businesses don’t own the land they’re on, so it is a scary thing to think about.

I’m still struggling to figure out what the future will look like because I don’t want an LA where Little Ethiopia doesn’t exist. LA and Little Ethiopia are synonymous, so it’s a concern I have. I don’t know what the solution is, but I think we have a couple of years to figure that out.

 

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