Aja Brown

When people think of Compton, California, images of violent crime and gang fights come to mind. That ideology isn’t far off and actually hits close to home for the city’s newly elected mayor Aja Brown, whose grandmother was murdered in a “violent home invasion rape and robbery” in the 1970s. However, the city’s dangerous roots wouldn’t keep Brown away. In a recent Vogue profile, Brown’s academic prowess and desire to serve led her back to Compton:

“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.”

Brown refuses to allow a tragic past to keep her from turning the Los Angeles neighborhood around. In fact, she envisions the city as “The New Brooklyn” and began making positive steps to catalyze change in the neighborhood before being elected to office.

“Four years ago, Brown and her husband, now a successful petrochemical safety manager, moved to Compton, where they had already joined a local church, and started the nonprofit foundation Urban Vision Community Development Corporation, a worthy cause with an emphasis on education programs, scholarships, and small-business loans. In a way, it’s picture perfect, pitch-perfect, and it’s hard not to think she had a plan (or a slight eye on the office she currently occupies) when she moved to Compton.”

In a recent interview, the 31-year-old urban planner said,”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.”

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