Culturas Corner highlights individuals who make their community a better place through their work, business, volunteering or activism. Over the next few weeks, Culturas will feature newly-elected leadership in Los Angeles and across the nation.Today we have Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who was recently elected to represent the city’s Second District.
You grew up in Los Angeles. How did that impact your decision to have a career in government?
My parents met while they were both working for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, so I grew up learning about and seeing the direct impact public service and government had on my community. As a South Los Angeles native, who was born and raised in Leimert Park, running for office was about having a direct impact on who gets what and when. I was the CEO of the non-profit Crystal Stairs when I first decided to run for office. I was sitting at a hearing on the state budget at the capitol and watching cuts being made that impacted the families my organization served. I also noticed that none of the elected officials making these decisions were from my community. I decided then that I would run for office to bring the real lived experience of my community into the political arena so that we could create better public policy.
It was a big moment in the election when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was certified to be all women. How did it feel being part of that historic moment?
It is not lost on me the significance of five women serving on the Board of Supervisors for the largest county in the nation. I am honored to be part of this historic moment. I also know that this is bigger than the seats we hold. It’s also about showing that women in leadership— in any line of work— is something we can and should embrace wholeheartedly.
You’ve said you consider yourself an activist policymaker. In office, how do you walk that line in order to be both an effective activist and efficient government official?
It’s important to never lose the activist inside of you. I balance this by asking myself, “what is it that only I can do as an elected official?” I was sent here by the community to not just be in solidarity with them, but to use this platform of the board of supervisors to help transform calls-to-action into substantive public policy that helps move us forward. I balance this by working with community organizations, activists, residents and all diverse stakeholders to help inform what I can and need to do for my constituents.
Proud to co-author this motion with Board Chair @HildaSolis. Our frontline workers – grocery clerks and drug retail employees show up for us everyday, putting their own lives at risk. We have to acknowledge the sacrifices these workers are making and compensate them accordingly. https://t.co/4gQ456YKHL
— Holly J. Mitchell (@HollyJMitchell) January 5, 2021
You’ve mentioned homelessness and criminal justice reform are on your to-do list. What plans of action do you have to tackle such issues?
Ensuring that our communities in the Second Supervisorial District (which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19) receive an equitable share of COVID testing, vaccines and investments so we can go beyond recovery is a top priority. Homelessness and the shortfalls of our justice system have been exasperated by this pandemic. Some of my immediate plans regarding these issues are to stop the rising increase in new residents becoming homeless due to income instability and a lack of affordable housing and to ensure we are prepared to use the funds from Measure J to go back into the communities most impacted by our criminal justice system.
What is your favorite cultural memory?
My favorite cultural memory is from my childhood, the Watts Summer Festival. I remember the music, fashion (it was the late 60’s so hot pants were everywhere!) art and, overall, cultural pride.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Know someone who should be featured on Culturas Corner? Nominate them here.