The Los Angeles City Hall has a dirty little secret that goes well beyond the leaked audio files of the now fallen former and current City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo. It is as easy as looking at the staff of elected leaders, which paints a clear picture of the lack of diversity, particularly in regard to Black people, that runs rampant throughout the most diverse City in the nation.
This moment calls for the serious commitment of our City Council to hire Black people at the highest level by each office. Having diverse leadership prioritizes equity and allows for authentic perspectives and shared goals. By encouraging the expansion of diversity in decision making processes, there is a higher potential in effectively creating policies that will help to level an uneven playing field.
Black people must have a significant presence at the table. Not only does our Mayor Elect Karen Bass have to be conscientious when it comes to appointing her team, but our City Council, City Attorney and City Controller, also have that responsibility. To date, the announced staff of new Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martínez and City Controller Kenneth Mejia, shows a dearth of Black staffers. This is one sure fire way of continuing the anti-Blackness sentiment that continues to plague our City, politics and beyond. Our politicians must do better and it is up to us to put their feet to the fire.
It is a new era for racial and gender equity in positions of influence, and our local government must lead by example. If you look at the current makeup of the City Council staff for all 15 Districts, you’d be surprised at the lack of Black people on each staff. From chiefs of staff, to policy directors, economic development and communications directors – a sea of white faces are firmly seated in positions of power to the detriment of communities of color.
At a time of rising erasure of Black history where African-American contributions are purposely being excluded from all facets of society, from the classroom, in the art world and the political world, we cannot continue down this road of exclusion. After all, the City of LA continuously touts progressiveness and being a haven of inclusion and diversity.
How can Black people have a fighting chance when the people making decisions from housing to homelessness, economic growth and upward mobility, lack the connections, knowledge and understanding needed to properly serve marginalized communities? Anyone who follows City government knows that leadership has a history and precedent of not hiring Black people. Or if they do, it’s in lower level support positions, or at a District Office and not necessarily at City Hall.
Look at our current City Council President Paul Krekorian as an example, not one Black face is present on his staff roster. How can one of the most powerful positions in Los Angeles effectively champion for diversity without having strong Black voices on his senior staff? By stark contrast, the Black members of Council, Curren Price, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Heather Hutt have by far the most diverse staff represented, along with Nithya Raman, who also has a Black woman serving as her chief of staff. This effort helps to redefine the norms of leadership, while respecting and embracing the broad spectrum of different perspectives and needs brought by people of color.
This will be especially important as we build upon the next chapter of recruitment of staff to ensure the Black perspective is included. We must continue to forge ahead with pathways to prosperity for all with the right people making the right decisions that will genuinely benefit everyone.