The New Face of Compton

by Jeremy Loudenback

In case you haven’t already read about her in Vogue, Aja Brown is raising some eyebrows.

But unlike in years past, when headlines out of Compton focused on chaotic local politics, corruption scandals, and gun violence, there’s a wellspring of optimism surrounding the new Mayor of Compton.

Since winning a landslide victory over incumbent Eric J. Perrodin and former mayor and longtime political force Omar Bradley, Brown has been on a mission to rebrand Compton. While the city has earned world-wide recognition thanks to homegrown talents like Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Venus and Serena Williams, the Hub City hasn’t always been a model of good governance, with oversight and corruption issues marring law enforcement, education, and government. On Thursday, October 17, USC alumna Aja Brown (bachelor’s degree in public policy, urban planning and development, 2004; master’s degree in urban planning, 2005) will share her plan on how she hopes to transform Compton during the Bedrosian Center’s Lunch with a Leader event.

Brown has family roots in Compton that go back three generations, and she worked in community and economic development for several cities in the Los Angeles area for a decade before moving to Compton four years ago. After starting the nonprofit Urban Vision Community Development Corporation, Brown soon found that her goals of improving the city led to the mayor’s office. At 31 years of age, Brown is not just the youngest mayor in the history of the city, but she’s also only the second woman to hold the post, which hasn’t happened in almost 40 years. And the wave of change in Compton doesn’t just include her; during the June city elections, voters in the majority-Latino city elected Compton’s first Latino councilmember, 26-year-old Isaac Galvan.

With a background as an urban planner and experience using social media to connect with residents, Compton’s new mayor has been described as “hip,” and “stylish.” Brown recently kicked off her administration by inaugurating the city’s first farmer’s market, part of her plan to implement new strategies to promote health, wellness, and a vibrant community atmosphere. With the newly completed Martin Luther King Transit Center and a new master plan in the works, there are lots of changes ahead for the bedroom community that’s located only 12 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Could Compton be the new Brooklyn for South Los Angeles? Aja Brown thinks so, and she’s ready to build a new reputation for Compton.