A community celebration was held for California’s first and only Black millennial legislator. Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas celebrated his 30th birthday with an intergenerational, cross disciplined and multiethnic group of several. The product of a household dedicated to public service, Ridley-Thomas reflected on this milestone birthday by fundraising for political empowerment. The nearly four hundred organizational leaders, business people, labor activists, artists, medical professionals, lawyers, and community servants focused on the collective actions that will advance Los Angeles’ future.
“The challenge of our time in the Golden State has been a struggle to manage the issues of modernity, scarcity, innovation and demographics,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This has resulted in the substantial growth of inequality and it is manifested in many forms.”
The millennial-minded legislator focused his remarks to those assembled on three areas:
First, community empowerment, which he defines as “finding the commonalities within a group to advance community priorities.”
Second, jobs, which Ridley-Thomas defines as “family-sustaining, long term, good paying, retirement and secure employment.”
And finally, growth, which the Assemblymember defines as “smart, balanced, adaptive, principled, and accommodating of facilities construction, housing production, traffic alleviation, importing and exporting goods.”
Californians for Full Employment and Balanced Growth, a ballot measure political action committee founded in 2014, was the recipient of the resources raised from the Assemblymember’s event. The Committee is uniquely focused on digital engagement of millennial voters through polling, research, focus groups, and town hall style policy fora. Ballot measure committees are formed to support or oppose local and state measures that come before the voters via propositions.
Californians for Full Employment and Balanced Growth invests heavily on securing the passage of homeless housing, transportation construction, park space creation, and voting rights protection measures in the 2016 election. The name is borrowed from the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978, authored by United States Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Representative Augustus “Gus” Hawkins of South Los Angeles. The focus of the federal law and the committee is ensuring maximum workforce participation (defined as below 5% unemployment), balance of international trade, fiscal resiliency, and moderate inflation.
The 2018 election cycle will be a major focus for Californians of Full Employment and Balanced Growth. Those who joined the Assemblymember committed themselves to a long-term engagement on expanding opportunity and hard-fought economic gains of the American Civil Rights Movement.
As it stands, African Americans people living in Los Angeles county have been more likely than the rest of the population to remain unemployed or to drop out of the workforce altogether in the wake of the Great Recession of 2007-09, according to a 2017 report conducted by UCLA. The report goes on to note that while Black workers have lost blue-collar jobs at about the same rate as whites in the county, they are less likely to find replacement work. The Los Angeles Black Worker Center, a co-author of the UCLA study, found that 17 percent of Black workers were unemployed on average from 2011-2014, compared with nine percent of white workers.
“The numbers are catastrophic and we must take the aggressive measures to ensure economic inequity ends,” said Ridley-Thomas. “No longer will we tolerate being the last hired, the first fired, left out or left behind.”
Other issues that continue to be of pressing concern include housing and displacement, as Black Americans struggle with the reality of 40 years of lost wealth during the Great Recession. Neighborhood shifts, rising rents, and inflated housing costs are making South Los Angeles unaffordable for its native daughters and sons. Balanced growth has the potential to alleviate the combined detrimental effects of not building sufficient housing, providing for affordable housing, and offering robust first time homebuyer supports.
Striking an optimistic note at the conclusion of the program, the Assemblymember led a call-to-action to the young Angelenos in the room to become more civically engaged. Drastic change is upon the Greater Los Angeles Area and Ridley-Thomas exhorted the audience to accept responsibility for what the future of Los Angeles can be.
“We are the change we wish to see,” said the Assemblymember. “We are the hope of the ancestors. We are the prayers of those yet born. We are the present and we are the future. Let us seize the moment, let us meet the challenges of the day. Let us enjoy our time together this evening and rise early tomorrow to fight for a stronger South Los Angeles. Let us not dwell on the past while failing to address challenges in the present that impact the future.”