Compton's Mayor Is Turning Tragedy Into Triumph

In July of this year, Aja Brown was sworn in as the new mayor of Compton, California. Now she's been profiled by Vogue.

Brown's family is from Compton, but when her grandmother was murdered during what is described as a "violent home invasion rape and robbery" in the city in the 70s, Brown's mother decided to move away. But as Brown grew older, she found her way back:

She went on to earn multiple degrees in urban planning and economic development, a bachelor’s and a master’s on a full undergraduate scholarship at the University of Southern California. Then, after a ten-year stint in urban planning and economic development in some of L.A.’s surrounding communities—including a prestigious post on the Pasadena Planning Commission—she decided to focus on Compton, a city badly in need of urban planning and economic development.

Though the city has a reputation for crime and shout-outs in gangster rap songs, Brown is intent on turning things around. In June, she told a Los Angeles news anchor: "I really see Compton as a place with a lot of opportunity. It has a rich history, a strong community that has a strong sense of pride. And I believe that over the years, the perpetuation of gangster rap has really put a negative image on the city of Compton… So I look forward to addressing that image, changing it and making it more accurate." These words would be inspiring coming from anyone — but considering she's talking about the town in which her grandmother was brutally murdered? Wow. (The case remains unsolved, but Brown hopes for answers someday: "I know it would make my mother happy.")

Just a few months into her term, she's declared Compton to be the new Brooklyn, saying, "My neighborhood is very mixed and hip—we’re ready to have a renaissance." This kind of positive and determined outlook is typical, apparently. As Amy Ephron writes for Vogue:

Her mother says she’s always been that way and predicted she would grow up to be a CEO or something. “I’ve always been calm,” Brown explains, “and I’m very good in a crisis.”

There's much more from the Vogue interview here, including an adorable anecdote about how she met her (very handsome) husband, and more about Brown's vision for her city here.

[Vogue, Los Angeles Magazine]