What L.A. Mayor Karen Bass means for Black ladies, California


Watching Karen Bass be given her flowers for changing into the primary lady and solely the second Black particular person to be elected mayor of Los Angeles, I can’t assist however consider how a lot has modified in California over the previous two years.

For it was in December 2020 that I had a protracted dialog with then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber in regards to the “bleak” state of political energy for Black ladies on this proudly liberal and numerous state.

On the time, she was irritated. Joe Biden, then the president-elect, had chosen Kamala Harris to be his vp, leaving her seat within the U.S. Senate vacant. Gov. Gavin Newsom was leaning towards selecting then- Secretary of State Alex Padilla to exchange her (and finally did).

However Weber and a protracted record of different Black leaders had been demanding that Newsom decide one other Black lady — Bass or Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland — as an alternative. The San Diego Democrat instructed me about how arduous it’s for Black ladies to get elected to positions of actual energy in California, particularly statewide.

And “in case you don’t have a seat on the desk,” she lamented, “then you definitely’re on the menu.”

Again then, Black ladies in California had been very a lot on the menu. However not.

Bass will quickly be sworn in as mayor of the state’s largest metropolis after beating billionaire businessman Rick Caruso. Initially, it had gave the impression to be a detailed race. Then the vote-by-mail ballots began rolling in.

“That is my house, and with my entire coronary heart, I’m able to serve, and my pledge to you is that we are going to hit the bottom operating on Day One,” Bass mentioned in an announcement after she was declared the victor on Wednesday night time. “I’m honored and humbled that the folks have chosen me to be the following mayor of Los Angeles.”

Her successful is an enormous deal. Not simply due to the ceilings that the 69-year-old congresswoman is shattering, however as a result of Bass was victorious regardless of Caruso spending greater than $100 million to saturate L.A. in promoting and ship canvassers door to door for votes.

Bass mentioned that she “acquired a gracious name” from Caruso and hopes — as I do — that he “continues his civic participation within the metropolis that we each love.”

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Vice President Kamala Harris cheer on Karen Bass, then a L.A. mayoral candidate, at UCLA.

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and Vice President Kamala Harris, heart, cheer on Karen Bass, then a L.A. mayoral candidate, at UCLA’s Meyer and Renee Luskin Convention Heart on Nov. 7 in Westwood.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Occasions)

On Tuesday, Malia Cohen was formally elected state controller, successful a surprisingly aggressive race with Republican Lahnee Chen. She would be the first Black particular person to serve within the place.

“As your controller, I’ll be certain our tax {dollars} tackle the homelessness disaster, shield the environment, and supply entry to healthcare and reproductive freedom,” Cohen mentioned in an announcement. “Let’s construct a California the place everybody thrives.”

And Weber is now California’s secretary of state — appointed by Newsom. That’s two Black ladies who maintain statewide elected positions, up from one when Harris was legal professional basic after which a U.S. senator.

There’s additionally Sydney Kamlager, the state senator who was elected this month to exchange Bass in Congress. She joins Lee and longtime Rep. Maxine Waters.

In San Francisco, Brooke Jenkins held onto her job as San Francisco district legal professional, beating former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki. She was first appointed by Mayor London Breed, one other Black lady.

In Los Angeles County, Holly Mitchell is a member of the highly effective Board of Supervisors and will, sooner or later, be chair.

And, in fact, Harris is the primary lady of Black and South Asian descent to function the nation’s vp.

Many of those Black ladies joined Bass on the marketing campaign path, pushing to get extra Black ladies into elected workplace simply as Weber was so decided to do in 2020. This contains Harris.

“Karen Bass has a protracted historical past of at all times being on the aspect of the folks and combating for the folks whose voices aren’t within the room however should be current,” Harris mentioned final week at UCLA. “That’s who Karen Bass has at all times been. It’s what she’s going to at all times be and that’s why she would be the subsequent mayor.”

However that’s the irony of what’s occurred since I spoke with Weber in December 2020. Black ladies have gotten extra highly effective politically, however Black ladies general — like far too many individuals in California — are feeling extra powerless. That is very true in Los Angeles.

As Black ladies, we’re disproportionately poor, disproportionately unhoused, disproportionately underemployed, disproportionately the victims of crimes, disproportionately overpoliced, disproportionately missing entry to healthcare.

Illustration issues. Having a seat on the desk issues. However not practically as a lot as utilizing it to result in change within the lives of individuals — all folks — as so many Black ladies in elected workplace have promised to do.

Bass made that promise once more on Wednesday night time:

“Los Angeles is the best metropolis on earth,” she mentioned in an announcement. “I do know, if we come collectively, maintain one another accountable, and concentrate on the most effective of who we’re and what we are able to obtain, we are able to create higher neighborhoods right now and a greater future for our youngsters.”

If she will pull that off, that will be true Black woman magic.



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