LYNN LA • APRIL 17, 2023
As CalMatters’ new newsletter writer, I’m embarking on a periodic series of interviews with fellow newcomers — first-term California legislators. With resignations and redistricting, there are a record 37 new lawmakers who are also making this the most diverse Legislature ever.
First up: Assemblymember Corey Jackson, who embodies this change. He’s a Moreno Valley Democrat, chairperson of the Assembly Human Services committee and the first Black openly LGBTQ+ person in the Legislature. After founding a nonprofit organization focused on child development, Jackson pursued a doctorate in social work and was elected last November.
I sat down with him last week to discuss his series of bills to create “a more equitable California,” his role in the LGBTQ caucus and more. Here are some highlights of our half-hour conversation, condensed for clarity and length.
What was your childhood like?
There was a group of us who all basically were raised by single mothers. We roamed the streets together. My mother was a single mother, so when we got home from school, she wasn’t there because she was taking care of business. But of course, she also went back to school to finish her nursing at a community college. And seeing how she brought us out of poverty is something that I continue to mimic in my own life.
What made you pursue studying social work?
I was looking for an advanced degree that would help me greater understand how to make communities healthier, safer. I began with my master’s of social work, and I had no clue how strong of a social justice mission that social work is also. It was a dream come true for me. I finished my master’s and I was always being encouraged by my professors about the doctoral program. From a kid growing up in Rialto, you don’t think those things are possible. I even had to overcome the fear of: “Am I smart enough to actually do this?”
You’ve introduced a series of bills that you say create a more equitable California. Can you talk about this?
Even through the darkest times of African Americans, we’ve always had people who found a way to shine. I think it’s now our generation’s time to continue to move our society forward and to address the hard parts now of how to make California more equitable.
My bills are really about showing people that there’s now the new frontier of anti-racism. Racism began as a systemic strategy for economic advantage. So, we have to now create systemic solutions. A lot of the time we focus on, “Well, speak up! Talk to your friends, talk to your families. Tell your story!” But we miss the systemic part. And my bills are designed for us to make sure that California is not always playing defense, but we’re actually going on the offense when it comes to anti-racism, anti-hate and anti-xenophobia.
You’re part of the LGBTQ caucus. What kind of work do you see yourself doing there and with your fellow colleagues?
There’s been a big disconnect when it comes to the African-American community and the LGBTQ community. Both communities marginalize each other. I see my role in making sure that no matter which space I’m in, that the other story is told. If I’m in African American spaces, how is it okay for another group to be marginalized when we ourselves have been marginalized? And vice versa.
What’s one small thing that has surprised you about being in office?
The most surprising thing is how much we convinced ourselves that it’s okay not to solve a problem that we know is hurting people, and how easy we’re okay with that. And it’s usually based upon someone’s own sense of self-preservation. I’m sure it applies to every legislative body, but of course it applies here to our colleagues.
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JUST what California needs. Another victim pimp.