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The Southern Truth
By Gloria Zuurveen, Editor-in-Chief
Last Thursday, February 1st, marked the beginning of Black History Month, and in Los Angeles, an important event took place: a meeting convened by Mayor Karen Bass with the African American Mayors Association (AAMA). Mayors from various cities, including Brandon Johnson of Chicago and Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi, were in attendance. As soon as I received notice of this meeting, I knew it was a news story that had to be witnessed firsthand. I canceled all other appointments and headed downtown to be a part of this momentous occasion.
The meeting was held in downtown Los Angeles near the headquarters of the Homeboy Industries founded by a renowned pastor and social entrepreneur Father Gregory Boyle. Mayor Bass took the visiting mayors on a tour to discuss critical issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, green energy solutions, and overall city safety and affordability. The AAMA delegation, along with Mayor Bass and Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, had the opportunity to visit the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in Chinatown. This interim housing model provided inspiration for the AAMA mayors to consider implementing in their respective cities. Mayor Bass expressed her enthusiasm about welcoming the AAMA members to Los Angeles, stating, “I want to thank AAMA President and Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and all of the other mayors for coming to Los Angeles to discuss our rich and diverse culture, social and economic accomplishments and challenges, and how policy makers and cultural leaders can come together to solve the challenges that cities face.” Mayor Patterson-Howard echoed Mayor Bass’s sentiment, emphasizing the importance of pooling their strength, sharing strategies, and taking bold steps to achieve real solutions and progress.
The mayors invited to the meeting represented a wide range of cities across the United States. The list included Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard (Mt. Vernon, NY); Mayor Karen Bass (Los Angeles, CA);Mayor Jaylen Smith (Earle, AR); Mayor Van Johnson (Savannah, GA); Mayor Vi Lyles (Charlotte, NC); Mayor Errick Simmons (Greenville, MS);Mayor Andre Dickens (Atlanta, GA); Mayor Victoria Woodards (Tacoma, WA) ; Mayor Bruce Harrell (Seattle, WA); Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin (Village of Matteson, IL); Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (Jackson, MS); Mayor Brandon Johnson (Chicago, IL); Mayor Rex Richardson (Long Beach, CA); Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin (Culver City, CA);Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes (Carson, CA); Mayor Emma Sharif (Compton, CA); Mayor Tasha Cerda (Gardena, CA); Mayor James Butts, Jr. (Inglewood, CA); Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles (Lawndale, CA)
During the tour, I had the opportunity to speak with Supervisor Solis, who gave insights into the bungalow-style housing at Hilda L. Solis Care First Village. She explained that while residents have the freedom to come and go as they please, the premises are secure to ensure safety and privacy. I also had the chance to speak with some of the former homeless residents. Their smiles and words of appreciation for Mayor Bass were heartwarming. One resident even mentioned that Mayor Bass had done more for the homeless population than any previous mayor, including the esteemed Tom Bradley. It was clear that these individuals felt safe and secure, benefiting from the services offered at the village.
The housing model at Hilda L. Solis Care First Village resembled college dormitories, with over 200 units fully occupied. Supervisor Solis expressed her support for the housing bill that would expand housing opportunities similar to Solis Care First. She stated, “I am for it because it will help us to do more. We want to do more.” Witnessing Mayor Brandon Johnson’s calm demeanor throughout the tour was impressive, considering the housing crisis he is facing in Chicago and the contentious migrant vs. residents issues in his city, which have been widely discussed on the internet. Mayor Johnson engaged in a composed conversation with Mayor Bass, further highlighting the collaborative spirit of this gathering.
Another notable figure present was Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi, whose late father played a significant role in Mississippi’s history. His father, a former mayor of Jackson as well as a prominent lawyer who fought for civil rights and worked on high-profile cases such as that of Cynthia Boston, also known as Fulani Sunni Ali, the late rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur, the Geronimo Pratt murder case and he also worked to help free Gladys and Jamie Scott, two sisters from a Mississippi prison in 2011 after they had served 16 years for an armed robbery they did not commit. Mayor Lumumba has continued his family’s legacy of advocating for justice. Witnessing these leaders come together and tour Los Angeles’s homeless community on the first day of February, the start of Black History Month, was truly inspiring.
One particularly impressive attendee was 20-year-old Mayor Jaylen Smith from Earle, AR. Elected at the age of 18, Mayor Smith carried himself with dignity, pride, and self-esteem. Although he mentioned that homelessness was not a significant problem in Earle, being part of the discussion at the meeting provided him with fresh ideas and perspectives that he could take back to help his town, which is grappling with poverty in the Mississippi Delta region.
The collaboration between Mayor Bass and Supervisor Solis deserves applause. By working together, city and county officials can make a substantial impact on solving the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles for the betterment of the entire community. So my decision to cancel all of my appointments on Thursday, February 1, was a great way to began Black History Month in a meaningful and fulfilling way.
The Southern Truth