Redistricting will bring changes to South Los Angeles, an area where many African Americans reside, and the adjustment could affect the collective power of the Black community.
The L.A. City Charter mandates that every 10 years following the decennial U.S. Census, City Council district boundaries be redrawn to make each district largely equal in population. The charter also establishes a 21-member commission charged with recommending a redistricting plan to the City Council that outlines the borders of each Council District.
Charisse Bremond-Weaver, the Rev. Eddie Anderson and Valerie Lynne Shaw were appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson, respectively, as Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commissioners who are the only African Americans on the board.
Although they will vote along with fellow commissioners on the entire redistricting plan, the three are especially focused on persuading Black Angelenos to share ideas, desires, histories and experiences that impact and define their neighborhoods. The goal, they said, is to ensure inclusive representation, secure needed assets, and maintain a strong community.
“Why is redistricting important, particularly for African Americans? It’s really about power and how we’re going to exercise our power and access resources,” said Shaw, a member of the Board of Governors for the California Community College System and former L.A. Board of Public Works president, vice president and commissioner.
“During the [Mayor Tom] Bradley days, about 40 years ago, we were 20% of the population and now we’re about 7%. We’ve also seen a decline in our communities, changing demographics, the decline of our civic and professional groups and the disappearance of some of our nonprofits,” she noted.
“These are all called mediating structures – structures that illustrate the life of the Black community. Now, we’re looking at changing and rearranging our council districts – our neighborhoods – and it’s important to look at this process in order to further empower Black people.”
Anderson, who serves as senior pastor of McCarthy Memorial Christian Church and describes himself as a “millennial who works with Black Lives Matter and other organizations that care about the Black future,” encouraged African Americans to consider the concept of redistricting as investing in communities.
“When we talk about investment, we are talking about how do you get more parks, more public space, how do we [get] our roads fixed in our neighborhoods. All of that will be the by-product of redistricting – even who is our representative and do they ultimately have your needs at heart,” he insisted.
“So, for the Black community, especially in South L.A. and all across L.A. County, it’s important for us to really bring it in and make sure our voices are heard and to draw, with our moral imagination, for the next 10 years,” Anderson said.
Further emphasizing the importance of input from African Americans, Bremond-Weaver, president/CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, urged Blacks to attend and speak up during the Commission’s public hearings. In addition to the census data, the commissioners’ redistricting recommendations will be greatly influenced by input from local residents and people with a stake in the direction of their neighborhood, she said.
“If you care about your community, if you want your community to change, if you want resources in your community, then you have to be a part of the process. We all have to be accountable to the communities we care about and love. For me, that’s Council Districts 8, 9 and 10, where we have three Black amazing elected officials who represent our community. If we don’t get the input from our own community, those lines might be different,” she stressed.
“Black voices must be heard in this process and we have to be unapologetic about what we want for our community. If we’re not pushing that narrative, if we’re not showing up to tell our stories about why our community should look like this, then shame on us,” said Bremond-Weaver.
In addition to giving testimony at public hearings, residents will be able to communicate their vision for their community by using a map tool on the City Council Redistricting’s website. According to Robert Battles, associate director of community outreach and engagement for the Commission, the tool will allow site visitors to create a visual presentation reflecting their image of their community and what they would like it to look like in the future. The tool, which will be launched in the near future, will include a tutorial.
The public can also share comments during meetings that the Commission is currently hosting for each Council District via Zoom. Individuals or representatives of neighborhood-based organizations can participate either virtually or by telephone.
Hoping to inspire African American involvement in the redistricting process, Anderson declared, “Your voice is very important. Please tell us your story and let’s show up. This is equity. This is our civil rights for 2021!”
Bremond-Weaver said, “Your voice matters, resources matter in our community and who represents us at the local level. If you care about keeping our community whole and all of the things that make our community as beautiful as it is, your voice needs to be heard.”
Shaw frankly stated, “If you can intend to live in L.A. as we move forward, it will be crucial that you understand how city government operates, that you understand the power structure of your district and your neighborhood.
“This process will enable the average citizen to understand those two things because as we lose population, if we don’t raise our voices, we lose power.”
To learn more about the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, visit https://laccrc2021.org/
Managing Editor Brandon I. Brooks contributed to this report.