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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  • LOVE it! I love her determination and intuitive instinct about serving her community and wanting to rebuild instead of moving away and forgetting about it. She and her husband are great examples of the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  • I am so inspired by this story because I am 31 and bought a house in the city of Compton 3 years ago..so I can deeply identify. I work in the city of Torrance and when I invite co-workers over for cocktails they are all game… until I tell them I live in Compton. All of a sudden, they “forgot the have to work” or “something came up”. I cant even put my real address on my resume because of the association…smh. I am sick and tired of 80’s Compton being dragged into today. I am SO ready for a change! I LOVED this article..thank you ;)

    • First it was Culver City, then Downtown and now it’s South L.A. Things will change so fast in Compton, it will make your head spin.

    • Me,

      I grew up in Compton (in NorCal now) and it’s true the 80’s did a great number on the city, because of this she has her work cut out for her for real. It seems she’s ready for the long haul though. My hats off the her.

  • Wonder if this new mayor had anything to do with the new (ish) shopping center and homes that have been built in the past couple of years. So glad they got someone who understands the city as Mayor. When I saw that Rodney Allen Rippy was on the mayoral ballot and had no working experience in politics or community relations, I thought this had to be a joke.

    I went to Regina Caeli High in the 80s and while visiting different friends’ homes, I realized that Compton is no different than Inglewood (where I lived), the Crenshaw District, or South Central.

    There was even an area (not sure it still exists) in Watts that had really gorgeous homes and was quiet. Rumor was that the woman who played Aunt Esther and a few others from that era lived there until their demise.