Mayor Aja Brown is making history as the youngest person to ever hold the position of Mayor in Compton, California.
At 31 years old, Brown’s passion to serve and lead developed when her mom and grandmother instilled in her and her siblings the importance of giving back.
“My mom and grandmother were leaders and raised me to be a leader,” she said in an exclusive interview with theGrio. “They showed me what is what like to have values and to sacrifice. The draw to serve was a natural progression.”
Mayor Brown says her grandmother was a well-loved nurse but when her grandmother was raped and killed in her Compton home, the family decided it was time to relocate to Pasadena, miles away from Compton.
“I personally saw the impact of losing a family member to violence.”
Gang violence, contentions police relations, drugs, poverty and crime are images that the public has become accustomed to due to music videos in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Music videos by N.W.A., Ice T and others portrayed Compton as a hopeless home of gangster rap and extreme violence — nothing more, nothing less.
It was their reality, and Mayor Brown experienced it first hand. Upon living a life away from Compton for many years, Mayor Brown relocated with her husband back to the city just over five years ago. Despite her personal experience with violence she felt that the best way to truly make a difference was to relocate to the heart of the matter.
“While in Pasadena we realized that we wanted to do more community service, youth development with the church and focus on human trafficking,” Brown said. “We wanted to make an impact.”
The University of Southern California graduate has two degrees in urban planning. Her professional experience and education experience helped her win the election last June against both the incumbent mayor Eric J. Perrodin and former mayor Omar Bradley in a landslide election.
Just over 63 percent of the Compton’s population voted for Brown.
Advocating for the underserved does not come without its challenges.
Mayor Brown shares that not everyone was on board with fresh ideas and fresh thinking.
“People were resistant to change and some people questioned what I was doing and why I was doing it,” she admits. “Resistance is a byproduct of change.”
Mayor Brown is aware that her term will one day come to an end; therefore she is committed to cultivating young men and women to be leaders in the community. She is collaborating with the Big Brothers Program and holding an upcoming women’s empowering conference to inspire the youth to have a presence in civic engagement.
“You have to cultivate leaders at the local level and get young people involved. That’s how you create an effective leader in order to successful and carry the baton to success.”
Her administration is also focusing on issues within families and working with gang prevention programs, and she is determined to “get outcomes and move in the right direction.”
Yes, there are images of Compton that reflect a city in a dark light and yes, the city has it challenges, however, Mayor Brown recognizes the past as she actively takes steps to broaden the images for the future.
“It’s never to early to begin to make an impact,” Brown said. “Change can happen and we can make it now.”
Follow Erica Ayisi on Twitter @Akosuka0906