“I’ve always cared about diversity and inclusion. I grew up with Ethiopian and Eritrean parents, so it started as a kid, and I wanted to keep fostering that as an adult.” Semehar Ghebrekidan recalls her passion for community-wide collaboration, inclusion, and diversity. She is Sioux City’s very first Community Inclusion Liaison. “I’m seeing the connections being made. I was always told there’s a time when you gotta get up and move, but when you do, make sure you encourage other people to take your place. When you empower other people around you, they step up to the plate.”
Semehar serves as the point of contact providing support for underrepresented individuals with concerns or questions about equity and inclusion in local government. “I was the first in my entire family to go to college. As I went into grad school, I kept sitting in student advocacy. I advocated in ESL programs at South Dakota State. Advocacy has always been important to me. The vice president there said I occasionally prodded the bureaucracy system because they sometimes did things without being mindful of the minority or marginalized students there, so I was always the person asking questions and advocating. I feel like that led me to this path today.”
Before working as the Community Inclusion Liaison, the Sioux Falls native worked as an HIV case manager at the Siouxland Community Health Center. Semehar said it was an eye-opening role. “I’d never worked in the medical field before, and I had a really gracious team who showed me my biases as well. I feel that I know about diversity and inclusion in the sense of race, culture, and sexuality. Still, I didn’t understand that things like drug use and HIV affect different communities differently, so learning that and noting my biases, and confronting them head-on. I learned a lot in that role. Some days it was really easy in case managing, but some days, it was really difficult searching these systems and advocating for people fiercely because they didn’t have anyone to advocate for them.” Semehar said this was the role that changed her as a person. “I learned to also advocate for myself just as much as I advocated for my patients.”
Nowadays, you can find Semehar all over our community from city meetings to local events and forums. “There’s a lot of work to be done in this role and I’m excited for what’s to come on different platforms too. Be on the lookout as I’ll be teaming up with Siouxland Public Media to create podcasts to help folks get connected with our city and our city officials get connected with our community members.”
Three interesting facts about Semehar:
1. Semehar listens to three songs before she goes to work.
Amazing, by Kanye West
Industry Baby, by Lil Nas X
Brighter Day, by Kirk Franklin
2. Semehar and her fiance, Logan, live in Sioux City.
3. Semehar’s parents own an Ethiopian restaurant in Sioux Falls, SD.
By Jetske Wauran-Castro