Daytonian of the Week: Amaha Sellassie

Amaha Sellassie sees a better Dayton ahead.

“There (are) a lot of untapped resources,” the Dayton native said. “I think there is more here than we are tapping into.”

Now chairman of the City of Dayton Human Relations Council, Sellassie moved to California with his parents after graduating Centerville High School.

The city eventually called the family back, but Sellassie wasn’t settled.

"There was a point where I wanted to leave, but the more I was out traveling, the more I realized Dayton has good things. I decided to stick my roots here," the Dayton View neighborhood resident said. "And it's the home of funk." 

The community researcher chaired this year's Martin Luther King Day march in Dayton honoring the slain civil rights leader.

Recently, he helped organize the Human Relations Council's MLK Youth World House Party at the downtown YMCA. The event included spoken word, dance performance and world music.

The experience was profoundly rewarding.

“We did a fishbowl with the youth on the inside of the circle sharing their thoughts and experiences,” he told me.  “All the adults on the outside were quiet and listening. It was very powerful and profound; some elders even cried (because) it was so moving.”

We caught up with Sellassie, this week's Daytonian of the Week.

What do you do?

I am a scholar practitioner and social healer that strives to create spaces for meaningful connection and dialog. I seek to build trust and deep relationships throughout the region by connecting various groups and people together in meaningful ways in order to heal the historical wounds within Dayton. This process of bringing our communities' hurts to the surface where they can be healed by the air and light of forgiveness will reduce the intergenerational transmission of wounds, thereby positioning the generations after us with the ability to walk closer into living out Dr. King's World House vision.

What’s one word you think people would use to describe you?

I hope a friend.  I truly seek to be a friend of humanity through acknowledging the dignity and worth of every human being. I truly am a work in progress, but I do hope to support and nourish the unique gifts everyone has to offer.

Credit: Submitted by Amaha Sellassie

Credit: Submitted by Amaha Sellassie

Where do you live?

Dayton View

What do you love about life in Dayton? 

I love the people in Dayton.  I love the spirit of innovation that permeates here. What strikes me is that we are small enough of a city to really develop deep relationships yet big enough to leverage our collective resources toward effective change.  I feel so loved and supported here; I am honored and thankful to call Dayton my home.

Where do you go for a great time?

I love 3rd Perk Coffee House and Wine Bar. I love the atmosphere, service and the great selection.  It's a great place to meet people and reunite with others in the community as well as catch up on what's happening in the city.  It's a great watering hole and home away from home.

What would you change about Dayton?

There are so many people doing real authentic meaningful work throughout the city and region.  The challenge is how to develop the communication infrastructure to increase our capacity to collaborate and harness the amazing gifts our community has to offer each other. We also have a tremendous untapped resource in our community, and that is our youth.  We need to support those already doing the work with the youth along with create spaces for the youth across the city to gather and develop their authentic voice.  There also needs to be some type of formal mechanism for them to be heard and participate in shaping the future of our city.

What does the community need now to make it a better place for future generations?

Really start having the honest conversation about race and its role in the current structuring of access and opportunity in our city.  There are a lot of unspoken, deep wounds in our city. We need the requisite courage and fixity of purpose to bring these wounds to the light so that they can start to be healed and we can create a shared future from a divided past.

What inspires you about Dayton?

Daytonians’ resilience!! We lost a lot of industry and in the process we lost part of our identity, but this did not stop us from having the courage and fixity of purpose to begin the process of reinventing ourselves and becoming a welcoming community.

How can people help change Dayton for the better?

I think a commitment to strive within our daily interaction to honor the dignity and worth of every human being. We have committed ourselves to being a welcoming community where everyone has a sense of belonging, but there are still some, including longtime residents, who don’t experience the level of support and access to opportunity that would demonstrate to them that they truly belong. So from our personal interactions and all the way to our structures, policies and procedures, I hope we can institutionalize the values of equity and honoring the dignity of every human being. And in this, we will be making tangible steps toward realizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of Beloved Community and the World House.

If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?  

To address the problem of food deserts and lack of access to high quality food within Dayton. I would love for Dayton to have high quality food co-ops that are owned and operated by the local residents.

About the Author