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Mayor Karen Bass wants LA to believe it again. black women do

No mayor comes into office without expectations. Especially the mayor of a city where residents are as desperate and as hopeful for change as so many others in Los Angeles are right now.

But there are special and additional expectations that also come with being a first, as Mayor Karen Bass is the first black woman to lead Los Angeles. Some of these expectations are good. Some are unreasonable. All are understandable, especially for people who have long felt disenfranchised.

And so on Sunday, Bass, who has often shunned the earth-shattering possibilities of her candidacy on the campaign trail, seemed to come to terms with the reality of all she expected to accomplish as she strode across the stage of a Microsoft Theater. crowded – impossible to miss in her royal blue suit.

She absorbed the recurring chants of “Karen!” Karine ! Karine!” which blasted through the indescribable, but deliberately “Black Panther” Afrobeats that rumbled through loudspeakers throughout its inaugural program.

She smiled through the many elected officials who put her on an incredibly high pedestal, insisting she was the right person, in the right office, in the right city at the right time.

“A courageous, strong and constant force” with a “finely honed moral compass”.

“She does not oppose the community to justice. It creates communities of justice.

“There is no leader more capable of bringing us together.”

Then there was the oath of office administered by Vice President Kamala Harris – herself a black woman and a first on several occasions.

The poem delivered so beautifully by former National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman – another black woman who opened by saying, “This is the way to go, with a woman who has encountered many roadblocks instead of the road.”

Steve Wonder’s performance, singing lyrics he wrote for former South African President Nelson Mandela. The Hamilton High School Chamber Choir sings “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.

Bass even dwelt on it briefly in her inaugural speech: “Making history with each of you today is a monumental moment in my life and for Los Angeles.

But the new mayor of Los Angeles seems to understand very well that while the particular expectations of the former are both flattering and intimidating – especially when placed under the gaze of television cameras and spotlights – they will not be the donors, campaign workers, politicians or even the most dedicated volunteers who will determine whether she meets them.

They will be average Angelenos, like the few dozen who came to hear the then-elect mayor’s speech at Leimert Park on Saturday. These are people — mostly black and many women — who for the most part couldn’t swing a ticket to the Microsoft Theater on Sunday.

They stood alongside a who’s who of black elected officials, cheering, clapping and gazing admiringly at Bass, perched in a chair on stage.

People cheer for LA Mayor-elect Karen Bass at a “homecoming” event Saturday at Leimert Park.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Bass was straightforward, not mince words or use political euphemisms to explain exactly what she, as mayor, plans to do specifically for Black Angelenos.

“I obviously understand that we have very specific needs. Very specific things are different for us,” she said, causing nods all around. “So, for example, when people say ‘diversity’. “I have diversity.” Well, what does that mean? … Do you have people of color? Tell me what color because that’s often the time when we’re left out.

But in navigating this first realm, Bass also set other expectations. About building coalitions and sharing power between races and ethnicities.

“Just do the math,” she said. “Put us all together and what have you got? You have [in a] the power of words. You have the majority. You have a supermajority.

Even before being sworn in, Bass was arguably the most popular mayor ever elected in Los Angeles. She got more votes than anyone else running for office, beating her opponent, billionaire developer Rick Caruso, by nearly 10 points despite spending tens of millions on her campaign.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, left, with Karen Bass

Suspended Los Angeles council member Mark Ridley-Thomas congratulates Mayor Karen Bass at an event Saturday at Leimert Park.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

And so the excitement displayed in Leimert Park and the Microsoft Theater – the kind of applause and cheers that, in Los Angeles, is normally reserved for sports teams, not politicians – presents a clear opportunity to inspire greater civic participation in shaping public policy and running the city.

An opportunity to do more than historian DJ Waldie told The Times that every other Los Angeles mayor has done, including Eric Garcetti. All were “not particularly vibrant and unable to capture much of the public imagination and provide residents and voters with the assurance that the government is paying attention to the things that matter most to them,” he said. he declares.

There are a lot of things that work against Bass, of course. Chief among them are apathy and disillusionment. Then there’s the boring toxic masculinity that has taken root within the Los Angeles City Council.

Sunday’s summit aside, this year has been full of many lows in city politics, including the notorious leak of a racist recording of three council members and a prominent union leader discussing how to dilute black political power in favor of Latinos.

The only thing that could be worse is last week’s brawl between one of those council members, Kevin De León, and an activist who followed him into a Lincoln Park auditorium full of children, loudly calling him a racist. and telling him to quit.

De León choked up and tackled the activist, a black man named Jason Reedy. Reedy hit De Leon. The council member’s Santa hat flew off. The children burst into tears.

The two men claim to have been attacked first. The video, circulating online, has become something of a Rorschach test. The Los Angeles Police Department will have to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, De León seems to have become only more resistant to the resignation, clearly convinced that he is now in high spirits.

“My commitment is strong to my community, to my constituents,” he told The Times. “I will not allow a group of extremely hostile individuals from outside the district to intimidate me or my staff or my constituents.”

Do you hear this hidden narcissism disguised as altruism? Cue the public outrage and retreat to cynicism.

Is Bass, inspiring in her first role as mayor, enough to overcome this feeling? Will she be able to persuade Angelenos to do it, she said in her inaugural speech “to not just dream of the LA we want, but to be part of making the dream come true.”

Saturday, at Leimert Park, she tried hard.

“I think what’s happening with the city council is a disgrace,” Bass said. “But it shows a weakness in our city charter, because there’s really no way to force him out – except for voters.”

There was scattered applause, a hint of hope and a fair amount of skepticism.

“Voters are going to have to see something tangible to believe again,” she said.

That’s what the first ones do.

California Daily Newspapers

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