Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Inside a new community center in Compton, California, music can be heard. It’s the very first song played at a new after-school program designed to keep children safe and sound in the city that’s come to be associated with gangs and violence.
But Compton is undergoing a change.
Juan Ruiz, an instructor, said he developed the program with the help of the city’s mayor, Aja Brown.
Now, the 32-year-old Brown, a Democrat, has injected more than just music into the city since she was elected in 2013.
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Brown’s own grandmother was murdered in a home invasion in the city before Brown was born.
“I was able to see the impact it had on my entire family and especially my mother,” she said.
After she graduated from the University of Southern California with honors, Brown worked behind the scenes in urban planning for 10 years before being elected as mayor in 2012. She beat her opponents -- the incumbent and a former mayor -- handily, and hit the ground running.
In city development meetings, Brown said, she’s usually the only woman.
Her greatest lesson comes from her own mother, who taught her to “be committed and to make sacrifices and ... put something in front of you, do something bigger than yourself,” she said.
Brown ended cronyism by making city fiscal business contract decisions and choices and invoices fully transparent and public. And that's not all.
“Our crime rate is down 25 percent," she said. "Our unemployment rate [is] down 5 percent, and we have nearly 1,000 new jobs coming into the community.”
Today, the sound of urban renewal -- jackhammers and construction -- can be heard throughout the city.
“We’re actually bringing major, major retail to the city of Compton, as we speak,” Brown said.
Ruiz credited Brown with the progress in the city.
“We are proud of our mayor,” he said, adding that Brown is loved and is changing lives.
“You can feel it,” he said.
Brown shares his enthusiasm.
“I’m proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish here, and I’m excited because I know that the best is yet to come,” she said.