Interview: Helen Amelga, Founder of Ethiopian Democratic Club of LA

Helen Amelga, Field Representative at California State Senate and Founder of Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: July 11th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Helen Amelga is a Field Representative at California State Senate working for Senator Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, whose district includes the city’s famous Little-Ethiopia neighborhood. Helen, who is also the founder of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles is part of a new generation of Ethiopian Americans actively pushing for more civic engagement in our community.

Helen says civic engagement is “critically important” noting that in the U.S. “power does lie with the people and the strength of our numbers.”

In Los Angeles — where Helen was born and raised by her Ethiopian immigrant parents — there is a sizable Ethiopian population, and the community is beginning to translate that into political power, which includes the launch of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles.

“I hope that energy is transferred and carried on into the presidential and local elections in November,” Helen told Tadias in a recent interview. “If we want to see changes in terms of policy, in terms of leadership and administration it’s essential that we register, we register our friends and families and that we show up and actually vote on election day.”

Helen attended high school in Prince George County in Maryland after briefly living in Addis, and later attended college at Bowie State University in Maryland to study political science.

“Something that was interesting to me was how people lived in different places and how that was dictated by policy and the law of that land,” she says. “So that kind of sparked my interest in government.”

The Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles (EDCLA) board and Helen Amelga’s boss, State Senator Holly Mitchell (middle). Courtesy photo.

Regarding the formation of the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Los Angeles, Helen says that their platform is to educate, empower and engage. “We want to make sure that folks are [informed] about the voting process, how the power structure is distributed, and for us to be actively engaged in shaping policies, decisions and elections that directly affect our lives here.” She adds: “Ideally, we will serve as a blue print. I would like to see the Ethiopian Democratic Club of Oakland, San Diego and Washington, D.C. because it’s the local folks that know what their needs are. It’s important for us to be active where we are. Even if it’s not the Ethiopian Democratic Club there is definitely a need for some type of a national Ethiopian civic engagement platform. A number of us have talked to people in different cities on what that would look like but definitely civic engagement is needed across the country.”

Below is the audio of our interview with Helen Amelga:


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