I grew up on the Westside of Chicago across the street from a crack house. My mother was a crackhead and I didn’t know my father until I was 12 years old. My mother abused me as a child, yes, physically, but much more painful was the mental abuse. She would say things like “You ain’t never going to do shit, be shit or have shit.” Or “I only had you for a welfare check.” After one particularly harrowing night, I was taken away from my mother and given to my grandmother.
My grandmother loved me more than words could ever express. Even though she wanted the best for me, sometimes folks from lower socioeconomic levels stifle aspiration. This isn’t usually done in malice but as a method of protection from failure. There’s one visit to the doctor’s office with my grandmother that sticks out in my mind. It was just a routine, check-up and booster shots before I headed back to junior high. Dr. Alexandria was an immigrant from Jamaica with her own practice. She asked me the completely normal question that practically every child gets asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up.” I enthusiastically said, “I want to be a doctor and a lawyer.” My grandmother interjected, “Boy hush, you ain’t going to be no doctor and a lawyer.” Dr. Alexandria turned to my grandmother and calmly told her “No, you hush. Don’t tell that boy what he can and cannot do. If he wants to be a doctor and a lawyer, he can be a doctor and a lawyer. I have friends that are both Doctors and Lawyers.”
That small moment of affirmation in the doctor’s office meant so much and pushed me to succeed. I got good grades in high school and graduated from Northwestern University. Although I’m not a doctor or a lawyer, I’m in Los Angeles helping to make a difference in the lives of others.
Unfortunately, in California, there are millions of children who don’t have a grandmother to save them or a Jamaican doctor to inspire them. In fact, too many kids don’t see a doctor in their early life. Nearly 75% of young children don’t get vital developmental health screenings in their first years. For many kids, their school is the place that saves them from home. But, right now in California, our schools are falling behind. Roughly half of the children in the state live in families that are in or near poverty. One in four kids doesn’t regularly have enough food to eat. We have to do better.
I’m working to change the unacceptable reality for our kids in California. As Deputy Director of Mobilization for Common Sense, I partner with parents, policymakers, business leaders, educators, and other advocates across California to build a movement dedicated to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to flourish in our state. We started the California Kids Campaign to build a movement of parents who will be a powerful voice for children across the state. We have a great team of folks many of whom worked multiple campaigns including the groundbreaking efforts of the Obama campaign.
California will stand up to fight the institutionalized cruelty legislated by Trump and the Republican Congress.