This year marks the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in America.
To celebrate, we want to recognize LA native, Karen Bass, and the current U.S. Representative for California's 37th congressional district. Bass has transcended countless partitions within society to assume her position as the first Black female speaker of the California Assembly. And in no uncertain terms, Karen is awesome. Her leadership bridges the gap we see between the magnitude of our challenges and the narrow reach of our politics. More than ever, it is clear the clock is ticking. However, what is made more clear is the ease with which we chronically drag our feet on tough decisions– distracted by petty squabble and trivial headlines. Chaos becomes the new normal. And ultimately, we end up in political gridlock, one in which either side is squeezing so hard that effective policy solutions never even get to see the light of day. Nevertheless, Karen overcomes and tackles big problems, anyway.
She knows where she stands. She supports a $15/hr living wage; she introduced legislation that bars the use of federal funds for environmental fracking, and she is an advocate for tuition-free colleges. Whether it is her ability to bring a strong progressive voice to the table or her ability to champion solutions, Karen is, frankly, a woman after my own heart. But prior to becoming the star of the democratic party, Karen’s prior resume includes experience as a physician’s assistant and an activist–both skill sets that are absolutely necessary to understand and navigate the turbulences and challenges of the current moment.
In her community–a neighborhood for so long under the stranglehold of the crack epidemic and generations of empty promises– Karen was a source of hope. Founded by Karen in the late 80’s, the Community Coalition assumes her mantle today. Everyday, it organizes and mobilizes a collective community effort to transform the social and economic conditions of South LA. It seeks to move policy decision-makers by bringing the issues that matter most to the forefront: addiction, violence, crime, poverty. And even as she leaves her community behind to serve in Washington D.C., it is clear that her legacy lives on. You see it in the waning number of liquor stores and the proliferation of small businesses, after-school programs, and affordable housing.
Today, she has (successfully) co-sponsored efforts to end “qualified immunity” for officers, ban chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, establish uniform policies for the use of force, and classifies lynching as a hate crime. So, in the wake of the George Floyd’s murder, the countless stories of racial injustice and the evident absence of any police accountability whatsoever have all shaken my sense of security and belonging. They are a constant prayer for the history of America’s dark underbelly of racism. However, it is the work of civil servants like Karen that gives some semblance of an answer to those prayers.