Karen Bass becomes Los Angeles’ first Black female mayor, focused on youth involvement in campaign

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Sade Elhawary, used with permission

Los Angeles mayor-elect Karen Bass talks with a group of young activists in an event organized by her campaign’s youth group called “Youth 4 Bass” at WACO Theatre Center in Los Angeles Oct. 8. “We had a dialogue between her with young people who agreed and disagreed with her. It was awesome to see such seamless organizing [take] place by young people,” Youth 4 Bass organizer Bailey Swain said. 

By Lizette Gonzalez, Archer School for Girls

Los Angeles voters broke a record for most ballots casted for a mayoral race in the city this past November election. Former United States Representative Karen Bass faced businessman Rick Caruso, and she won by a 10% point margin. Bass made history by becoming Los Angeles’ first woman elected mayor in the city’s 241 year history. She is also Los Angeles’ second Black mayor.

The 2022 midterm elections had the second highest youth voter turnout in the past 30 years with 27% of voters ages 18-29. According to recent UCLA graduate Bailey Swain, youth involvement was a priority for Bass’ campaign. The Youth 4 Bass student group spearheaded many events that connected Bass with young people throughout Los Angeles.

Swain originally began working with Bass’ team as a campaign intern, and she then became a Youth 4 Bass organizer. She said a main reason why she decided to work with Bass this election cycle was because Bass has seen the importance of youth involvement since the start of her political career. Bass founded nonprofit Community Coalition and is on the board of the National Foster Youth Institute — two organizations that focus on helping youth from marginalized groups.

“A lot of times, political analysts don’t count on young people voting, so now Generation Z has changed that narrative. It feels like we have a deciding vote,” Swain said. “The youth came out in waves, but that’s not something Karen Bass did just to get votes, but it’s something that’s been a common characteristic in all her organizing. The youth has always been her forefront of her campaign.”

We need young people who are passionate, educated and active to step up and want to get involved. I love how she can open paths for being a civic agent for good.”

— Artemis Center of Public Service and Social Good adviser Beth Gold

Archer’s Artemis Center of Public Service and Social Good adviser Beth Gold said she hopes Bass is able to address the challenges Los Angeles has been facing. As coordinator of many students’ political activism, she said she has seen the impact issues such as homelessness, climate change, hate speech and threats to reproductive rights have had on Archer’s community.

“I’m emboldened by the fact that more people voted in this election than any other mayoral race. It cannot be one person in this position who is going to solve all the problems,” Gold said. “Our students have been pushed to the point of thinking that they have to stand up and use their voice more. The youth are learning about all of these problems, and to me, it is such a sign of optimism and hope that people are turning out. They aren’t accepting these conditions — the vote reflected that.”

For sophomore Sydney Curry, Bass’ win affirmed that someone who looks like her can reach such a high position of political power, especially in a city as large as Los Angeles.

“I remember seeing something about how the largest four cities all have Black mayors now, and for me, as someone who aspires to be in politics, it’s cool to see that it’s happening now, and feel like I can continue this in the future,” Curry said. “Seeing that representation and seeing that she’s done this in a city like this is like telling me I can do it in any city. I also think seeing how hard she’s worked during her campaign — it feels like a culmination of all that work.”

Swain said she hopes young girls not only celebrate the importance of Bass’ win in terms of representation, but also acknowledge and honor Bass’ leadership skills and political career, which has been active since the 1990s.

“I think so many times, our wins are downplayed as representation or affirmative action, but truly, she is the most qualified and most fit to do the job — she just also happens to be a Black woman,” Swain said. “I think that is something that I would love for young girls to see. Not only is she representing them, but she is a fierce organizer and the greatest choice we had.”

Curry said the fact Archer is an all-girl school has united many students in celebrating Bass’ mayoral win. In addition, Archer’s location in Los Angeles has allowed students to see the journey of many elected officials in their backyard.

“Seeing how many people within Archer celebrated her win is super refreshing because it’s one of those things that unite us all. We are all women, regardless of anything else — we all have that shared trait with her,” Curry Said. “Being a school in L.A. is important because seeing [Bass] talk about…changes that make this a city people aspire to live in — not just because it’s considered an influencer lifestyle but because it’s a city that makes these changes first and does things the rest of the nation follows — is cool to see play out.”

In her 15 years of teaching at Archer, Gold said she has seen an increased interest from students in politics and a larger embracement of sharing their stories and voices. She said she is looking forward to seeing how Bass entering the mayor’s office can continue to inspire students and open doors of opportunities.

“The fact that she is the first Black woman to lead Los Angeles is inspiring for so many residents to bust open stereotypes about who is in power and leads us. I see over and over again how that representation matters,” Gold said. “Politics is so ugly right now, [and] we need young people who are passionate, educated and active to step up and want to get involved. I love how she can open paths for being a civic agent for good.”

This story was originally published on The Oracle on December 5, 2022.