Author: Emily

Karen Bass: A Woman of Black Heritage in Los Angeles

Karen Bass: A Woman of Black Heritage in Los Angeles

Column: Representation matters. But a Mayor Karen Bass means more for Black women in L.A.

A woman can be powerful and respected without having her gender be the thing that defines who she is. That’s just what Karen Bass’s election to Mayor of Los Angeles illustrates. Bass was a public servant for nearly two decades who built a formidable record as a community organizer and political powerhouse. And she did so with no apologies for being a woman.

And in the era of identity politics, such a person as Bass should never be written off. Yet, that doesn’t seem to have happened here. For over a decade, Bass has been written off — as a flake.

L.A. Weekly: You’ve had some flak. Who are you now? What’s on your enemies list?

Karen Bass: When I began my career, I was a woman of African American heritage. I grew up in a community where there were no role models. No one to tell me what should and shouldn’t be a part of my future. I had to do it myself.

I moved to Los Angeles in the late 80s and had no idea what I would find. I moved to a city with a rapidly growing Black population, and I did the best I could. I had to figure things out. It was a learning curve that I had to learn on my own.

Being a Black woman in L.A. means that you have to be more outspoken, a louder voice, a more visible voice — because you are. And sometimes, it’s easy to be seen as the loudmouth who is doing so many things in politics that aren’t right. The truth is, though, that being a strong Black woman in L.A. does not make you any less of a Black woman. It makes you a stronger one. You are just less likely to be defined by what people look like or what you look like, rather than what you say.

L.A. Weekly: The issue comes up a lot in the Black community. There are two or three women you have to address. How do you address them?


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