Aja Brown is a voice to be reckoned with. On the night she won BlogHer’s Leadership Award the Mayor of Compton, who is just 36, spoke to HL about politics, Kamala Harris and facing off ‘Clueless’ star Stacey Dash in 2018.
Ever since she became the youngest person elected Mayor of Compton in 2013, California-native Aja Brown has been making a name for herself – and it’s not just because of her age (she was 31 at the time and is 36 now). It’s her belief in civic duty and her commitment to her hometown, which includes spearheading drives like her 90-Day Community Fitness Challenge. In 2018 Mayor Brown made headlines for another reason. She threw her hat into the midterms ring and decided to run for Congress. In this EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife she said it was partly because of Clueless actress Stacey Dash.
The conservative former Fox News commentator (and ardent Trump supporter) had decided to run as a representative for California’s 44th district, which includes Compton, Watts and North Long Beach. Soon the pressure was on for Mayor Brown to challenge Dash. “My decision to run was really a response to other people who felt bad with a certain person entering the race, a Republican candidate,” Mayor Brown told us, initially refusing to mention the actress by name. “[There] could be too much uncertainty, and we wouldn’t necessarily guarantee the outcome to be a Democratic leader. So I was going to serve at the time, where it was necessary. I think that was the motivation for people to reach out, recognizing that we can’t leave it up to chance.” Mayor Brown added, “So with 2018 being such an important year for the House, it was really important to retain a Democratic seat in this area. My motivation was really a protection response, to protect my community. I recognize it’s really important to work with your Congress person, to have people in Washington working on our behalf for everyday people.” (In the end neither woman ran, but more on that later.)
Stepping up to protect her community is just something that Mayor Brown does. HollywoodLife spoke to her on Jan. 24, the night that she received a Leadership Award at the BlogHer Health event in Los Angeles. Who else would you give the honor to than a woman who was so committed to her hometown that she decided to run for mayor to focus on regenerating a community that unfortunately – rightly or wrongly – is as synonymous with gangs, drug dealing and poverty, as it is for success stories like Venus and Serena Williams and Kendrick Lamar? “I was discontent with the condition of my community,” she said about her decision to run for the office. She reached out to other people “and encouraged them to run” and they turned the tables on her and asked the same question. “So I looked at myself, and I said, ‘Well if it’s not me, then who?’” she told us.
That’s the message that Mayor Brown has for other young people and women in particular. She’s thrilled by the wave of females who ran for and won seats in the House in the midterms. She’s especially pleased that several women have decided to seek the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential race. While Mayor Brown won’t endorse any candidate just yet – be that Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard or the many others – we asked her about Kamala Harris’s decision to run. The California senator announced her 2020 bid on Jan. 19.
“I’m excited, actually,” Mayor Brown said. “I’ve met Kamala Harris, I think she’s done a tremendous job [in the Senate], and I think that she’s been a great leader, a ferocious advocate for common people, and I think that we’ll continue to see that at the national level in this presidential race. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what her ideas are to make our union more perfect, and better for everyone.”
As for the mayor, what about a future Congressional run? In the end both Dash and Brown pulled out of the 2018 race. The mayor had a very good reason. In April she found out that she was pregnant. On Sept. 23 she and her husband Van Brown welcomed their first child, daughter J’ael, into the world. Does she see Washington D.C. in her future? “I still think that there’s a lot of work that I can do in my community,” she told us, adding later, “I’m focusing on developing leaders right now so that in the future, when I decide to run into another role, whatever that may be, my community’s at least taken care of.” It looks like, for now, D.C. will have to wait.