The search for a name for the “Little Ethiopia” cultural district is moving forward with the Clark County Commission

Little Ethiopia

Steve Marcus

Exterior view of Melkam Market and Restaurant, 4230 S. Decatur Blvd., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019.

The Ethiopian community of southern Nevada is one step closer to creating an official cultural neighborhood after the Clark County Commission unanimously voted to direct staff to develop an ordinance establishing an area dubbed Little Ethiopia.

If the ordinance is finally approved, the areas between West Twain Avenue, University Avenue and parts of South Decatur Boulevard will officially be known as Little Ethiopia.

“I wish I had the means to take each of you to Ethiopia. Without this resource, we are bringing Ethiopia to Clark County,” Girma Zaid, chairman of the Little Ethiopia Project subcommittee, told the committee. “From the culture, the arts, the cuisine and the people who, in our presence here, are truly the definition of who Ethiopia is.”

Efforts to create Little Ethiopia began in August 2019, when members of the Ethiopian community of Southern Nevada first requested an official neighborhood designation.

As this was the first effort of its kind, the commission first had to develop the Clark County Cultural District Designation Policy, which provides guidelines for creating cultural districts to enhance areas that represent a unique cultural heritage.

This year, the Ethiopian community submitted an updated application for district designation, which was then presented to the Spring Valley and Paradise Town Advisory Boards. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no movement towards the designation.

“One of the benefits of things moving very slowly is that we now have experience with each other and we know how much value you bring to our community, we know your identity is particularly important,” said Commissioner Jim Gibson in committee meeting on Tuesday.

Members of the community – many dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothing – filled the county houses with Ethiopian flags in their hands to rally in favor of drafting the ordinance.

Zaid said the blocks proposed to designate this cultural district were “the epicenter of all (their) activities”.

“All the Ethiopians who gather after Sunday services flock to this small neighborhood. In addition to Ethiopians, we have thousands of tourists from home and abroad who come to this district and enjoy the great cuisine,” Zaid said at the meeting.

Before moving to Las Vegas, Zaid lived in Los Angeles 37 years ago when the city was in the process of creating its own Little Ethiopia neighborhood.

He said “it was a struggle” to get county officials to understand who Ethiopians are and what they want to do with the district designation. But tourists have been flocking to the Los Angeles neighborhood since the creation of the cultural district to partake in Ethiopian cuisine and religious celebrations.

An estimated 40,000 Ethiopians and more than 50 small businesses linked to their community live in southern Nevada, Zaid said.

Zaid said they have opened markets, restaurants and expanded their reach in the county.

“We have become entrepreneurs, we have become taxpayers, naturalized citizens of Ethiopia America, enjoying democracy in this wonderful country that we embrace every day,” he said.

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