This Is ‘How LA Wins’

Photos by Summy Lam, Club Director of Marketing; and courtesy LA Civil Rights

One of the City’s newest departments is hard at work building equity, advocacy and accessibility.

LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity Dept.: One of the City’s newest departments, LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity, was created last year by Mayor Eric Garcetti to handle complaints of racial discrimination for citizens and tourists alike.

But LA Civil Rights, the accepted abbreviated name, is more than just handling complaints. It’s looking at the big picture – policies and practices that might be discriminatory, and finding ways to reset them. In essence, the department is tasked with protecting Angelenos — and anyone who works in or visits the City of Los Angeles — from discrimination that denies equal treatment in private employment, housing, education, or commerce by initiating and investigating complaints of discrimination, as well as enforcing the L.A. Civil and Human Rights Ordinance, which was created in 2019.

The announcement of the new department and the nomination of its General Manager, Capri Maddox, occurred in February 2020 in response to many incidents of racial inequity in the United States. That was three months prior to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, which itself triggered a much more explosive national reckoning through protests, civil unrest and cultural upheaval. LA was well on its way to establishing the department to address issues of equity in the City before the Floyd death greatly heightened the agitation.

Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights, speaks at the grand opening of the department’s headquarters on the LA Mall Sept. 13.

“We can never turn away from the fight to end discrimination wherever it lives — and I’m grateful to Mayor Garcetti for this opportunity to put my professional experience, my relationships, and my heart to work for the people of our city,” Capri Maddox said upon her nomination. “We’ll put everything we’ve got into strengthening our response to inequality and building new partnerships to protect Angelenos from injustice.”

LA Civil Rights’ discrimination enforcement program, which responds to discrimination in private commerce, education, employment and housing, is being built out and will begin taking cases in 2022.

As she talks about in this month’s Alive! Interview, Capri Maddox, City veteran and Club Member, mentions her challenges, long hours and already-observed signs of success. She sees the department as using the national conversation of race and equity as a catalyst to build deep, permanent roots in LA, and to make a difference. n

 

About Capri Maddox

Capri Maddox is the Executive Director of the LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity Dept. (LA Civil Rights). Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed her to the position in February 2020 to address systemic racism and bias in the areas of commerce, education, employment and housing.

Under her leadership, LA Civil Rights will combat hate crimes and level the playing field through partnerships with the Commission on Civil Rights, Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Relations Commission, including the Transgender Advisory Council.

Capri Maddox

Previously, she served as Senior Adviser to City Attorney Michael N. Feuer. In that role, she was responsible for leading Special Projects on behalf of the elected City Attorney, such as: spearheading the City Attorney Business Support Program; creating the Foster Care Diversion Program; organizing the City Attorney Faith-Based Council; overseeing recruitment and outreach efforts; addressing key Neighborhood Council and City Council requests; participating in criminal and civil cases; and coordinating school safety projects with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

During the 2018-19 school year, Capri served as Executive Director of Partnerships for LAUSD on a loan from the Office of the City Attorney to Southern California Grantmakers. During this one-year assignment, she assisted LAUSD in acquiring more than $43 million in resources for students in need and led several equity-based initiatives.

She also served as the President of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, as a Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointee. In this role, she managed 5,000 employees and an annual budget of $1.8 billion to deliver basic infrastructure services to City residents. Before joining the Board of Public Works, Capri served as a Deputy City Attorney in the following assignments: General Counsel Group – Neighborhood Empowerment; Complex Litigation; Neighborhood Prosecutor Program – LAPD’s Wilshire Station; and Central Trials – Criminal Branch. Prior to her legal career, she worked as a Community Development and Housing Analyst with the City of Glendale, and Earthquake Recovery Project Manager with Housing.

Capri has a Bachelor of science degree in criminal justice and a Master of science degree in public administration from Cal State LA. She received her Juris Doctor (law) degree from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu. She also completed the USC Lusk Center’s Minorities in Real Estate Development Program. She continues her involvement with many higher educational institutions, including mentoring students at numerous universities and serving as a Cal State LA President’s Council Member. Capri is also a proud member of the Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) Board of Trustees (KPCC).

Capri is a member of First AME Church – Los Angeles, where she serves in both political and social ministries. In her spare time, she serves as a youth mentor with numerous community organizations and enjoys working on public interest projects. An LA native, she lives in Los Angeles County with her husband, Kerman, and son.

LA Civil Rights Dept.:
General Programs …So Far

LA Civil Rights offers many different programs. Here they are in general; the dept. is just getting started.

Equity & Empowerment (E2) focuses on upward mobility programming, industry diversity metrics and equity policies. Other proposed E2 programming includes fostering partnerships with community-based organizations, tackling COVID-19 equity relief, youth engagement, and a collaboration with the Office of Immigrant Affairs.

  • Policy Equity Lens: LA Civil Rights is applying a policy equity lens to assess health disparities, inequities in City planning, and community policing through collaborations with non-governmental and City entities, including with the Office of Immigrant Affairs.
  • Upward Mobility Programming: LA Civil Rights engages young Angelenos and community-based organizations for community events and career pipelines for people from underserved communities. LA Civil Rights works to develop college readiness and career readiness, financial literacy workshops, homeowner seminars, and entrepreneurial training sessions.
  • Industry Diversity Metrics: LA Civil Rights assesses, tracks and monitors the hiring, promotion and retention of people from underserved communities in various high-earning potential industries to promote diversity and inclusion, including through the RENEW Task Force.

LA for All is a creative-led campaign to stand against hate and encourage the City to speak up and speak out against hate crimes and hate incidents. The campaign meets at the intersection of art, advocacy and community – and stands up for an inclusive LA. This campaign is visible throughout LA City parks, libraries, street banners, bus shelters, LA Metro bus and rail, airports – and much more.

LA for All includes two projects:

  • The Art of Belonging
    An example of art created to promote LA Civil Rights’
    Art of Belonging Program.

    combines artwork by LA-based AAPI artists with hate crime and hate incident reporting information. By bringing local artwork into the City’s physical and digital spaces, LA Civil Rights not only empowers local artists but creates a tangible sense of community and visibility for marginalized communities.

  • LA is for Everyone
    is a multidimensional campaign that reflects the diverse mosaic of Los Angeles through bold design and clear calls to action in 16 non-English languages: Spanish, Korean, Armenian, Tagalog, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Hindi, Khmer, Russian, Farsi, Hebrew, Amharic and Tigrinya.

LA for All was created by five different Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) artists to empower stories from LA through artwork, and to encourage the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents. Even though this is a campaign to stop hate, it intentionally does not center hate as the subject of the campaign. Instead, LA Civil Rights uses this space to empower LA’s diverse communities and talk about what the City stands for – belonging, inclusion and solidarity.

LA for All was developed by the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Dept. in partnership with Public Works and Cultural Affairs. This campaign was made possible by Mayor Eric Garcetti; Councilmembers John Lee, Nithya Raman and Mark Ridley-Thomas; Public Works bureaus Engineering, Street Lighting, and Sanitation and Environment; Transportation; Library; LADWP; Airports; ITA; Neighborhood Empowerment; Economic and Workforce Development; and many more.

If you have seen or experienced a hate crime or hate incident in Los Angeles, report it. You can report to LAPD, or to an LA County Crisis Care Coordinator by calling 3-1-1 or 2-1-1 or submitting an anonymous online form. Crisis Care Coordinators are multi-lingual trained professionals who can connect you to resources and community-based organizations that can help.

‘How LA Wins’

On Aug. 27, Robert Larios, Club COO, and Alive! editor John Burnes interviewed Capri Maddox, General Manager of the new LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity Dept., abbreviated by the department as LA Civil Rights. She was interviewed in her home via Zoom because the department’s headquarters in the LA Mall was not yet open, and also due to COVID protocols. A Club Member, Capri has 22 years of City service. Her bio is listed before this interview.

Alive!: Thanks for talking to us today, Capri.

Capri Maddox: Thank you.

First, are you from LA?

Capri: I sure am. I’m a graduate of Fairfax High. I lived in different states, but I was born downtown, and I work downtown, so I haven’t made it far in my life.

LA Civil Rights’ new home office will be downtown, right?

General Manager Capri Maddox with LA Civil Rights staff, interns and volunteers while the offices were still under construction.

Capri: Down in the L.A. Mall, yes. Our primary office space is where the old Hallmark store was. In addition to having the old Hallmark store, we converted the B. Dalton bookstore into the John Lewis Conference Center, where we’ll have our commission meetings. We are so grateful we were able to use City of Los Angeles funds to renovate those office spaces and create a state-of-the-art environment for the civil rights employees and those needing services from our operation.

It’s John Lewis the congressman, the late civil rights icon.

Capri: Yes, yes, yes.

Got it. I presume it’s intentional that you’re having frontage right to the public. You’re not in an office tower; you want that frontage with the people.

Capri: We did. We wanted to be accessible and welcoming. We wanted to be centralized and connected to City Hall; however, we wanted to let residents know that we were an accessible, open and welcoming environment. People will be coming to see us on one of their worst days, perhaps after they’re a victim of discrimination or a hate incident, or they just really need City services in some way. I wanted us to have a welcoming, inclusive environment for our residents.

Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights, and Club COO Robert Larios outside the new LA Civil Rights office on the LA Mall.

A New Department

Let’s talk about the department. It’s brand new. Talk about how it came into being, starting with the Commission or even before that.

Capri: We were initially going to serve as a commission only; the commission actually was created with community input. We had the Black Worker Center, as well as the UCLA Labor Center, pushing to make sure that we had remedies when discrimination happened in employment, and that was the impetus of the need here. People felt like there was discrimination in employment and housing in particular that were going unchecked. The Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing has an extremely heavy caseload, and it pretty much takes two to three years for most people to find justice in these spaces. Lola Smallwood Cuevas, who was then with the Black Worker Center, and Victor Narro, who is with UCLA Labor Center, wanted the City to stand up for justice and equity in this space. They mentioned it to me when I was at the City Attorney’s office, and I told them, “You’ve got to go to City Council to make that happen. We can’t just create another unit here in the City Attorney’s Office and possibly step on any jurisdiction issues with the state.” I thought that was the end of it, and of course they came back a couple of years later and said, “It’s done, and we want you to help lead this effort.” It was during some tough times. I got the call in December 2019, and we started operating as a department in July 2020.

During those times, there were a lot of things happening, particularly in the White House, that were concerning. I just said to the Mayor during the interview, “If we’re serious about this, we need to make sure that we bring other elements to the work of this commission.” We were looking at other areas – Housing was where the Human Relations Commission and the Commission of the Status of Women were operating. I told him, “That’s ridiculous. If we’re going to have the Civil Rights Commission, it would make more sense for them to be with us, and I’d be willing to take that on.” There was also the Office of Racial Equity that was recently created earlier in 2019. “Should I coordinate with them, or should it be a part of what we do?” and the answer was yes, yes, yes; we took on that department, The Human Relations Commission that we acquired from the Housing Dept. also has the Transgender Advisory Council as a part of its operations. In the creation of a new department, I thought of it as a “Brady Bunch” department – bringing together entities that had a common goal and make sure they was housed somewhere. As I started writing documents about the Civil Rights Commission, I realized I was saying the commission would be in charge of these other commissions, and then I said, “I think we accidentally created a department here.” And that’s how it happened.

We went to City Council to sign off on it, and can’t thank the City Council enough for creating this department, and for the support from Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kevin de León.

Was there a particular specific impetus to create a commission and then bring it to a department, or was it a general number of things tumbled into one?

Capri: The Mayor was really intentional. Quite frankly, I was apprehensive of taking this on. I’ve been at City Hall a long time. I see priorities come and go, and I see people do U-turns on their careers for a priority, only to see a few months later people moving on to something else. I was really apprehensive of taking this, but the mayor’s team has been on point, on time and nothing but supportive of this effort for the last year and a half. Every need we’ve had has been met, and with an abundance of support.

I think that the mayor saw the climate of our country between 2016 and 2019, and there were a number of things that were going wrong. Hate crimes were going up. We had more people suffering discrimination and hate in Los Angeles, and I think he really felt that there were some in government who were at best complicit with the rise of hate and discrimination in America, especially from the White House. He really wanted to combat it. When I interviewed with him, I fully expected him to say he’d get to it in a few years. But he was all in, and I think the urgency of the times really made an impact on his decision to allow us to do it. Of course a month after he announced that we were going to do this work, we were hit with the COVID crisis, and then in May 2020, we all know what happened when we saw George Floyd die right before our eyes. He was murdered right before our eyes, right? It was really important that this was the moment. This was the time, and the mayor reminded us we could either make this moment, or we can miss it, and the mayor and myself really wanted to be on the right side of history.

Speaking of history, civil unrest in LA goes back a long way, including the Chinese Massacre in 1871 to the Zoot Suit Riots, the Watts Riots, redlining, Rodney King and so forth. Was the department built upon those incidents, too? Does it go back that far?

Capri: Absolutely. The Human Relations Commission started after the Watts Riots. The Civil Rights Commission was created in 2019. Our department was built from the Civil Rights Commission, which now includes the Human Relations Commission, too. Our new department continues that original legacy. At the time of the original commission, there was a two-year backlog in the caseloads of civil rights incidents. That was not acceptable. Justice delayed is justice denied. That led to the Human Relations Commission, which led to us.

I started with the City right after the civil unrest in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. I’m well aware of our history. Which reminds me, I really want to mention three incredible people who were my mentors. Without them, I wouldn’t be here helping establish LA Civil Rights. They are Kory Smith, Jamesetta Adams and Romerol Malveaux. They were and are inspirations to me.

Obviously it’s very important to you.

Capri: As a child in the ’80s, I thought the civil rights movement passed me by. I’d see the movies and be inspired and wonder. I would often read the books and say to myself, “If I were there, I’d be all in,” but I never thought I would have the chance to prove it. This opportunity came, and I wanted to be all in. I feel that the same thing happened with the mayor. One of the mayor’s college roommates, Ben Jealous, was the head of the NAACP, and so providing justice and equity has been something that’s been at the mayor’s core for most of his career.

Meeting the Public

I presume the new department is working at the very structural level of change and aligning all your tools. Do you also work at the face-to-face level, the personal level, whether with City employees or L.A. citizens?

Capri: We certainly go out and meet with people, too. We have met with hundreds of partners and service organizations in the last year, and our speaking engagements range from meeting with our local universities, our philanthropic partners, our Neighborhood Councils, the business community and just a number of community-based organizations. In reaching folks, we’ve done a lot. We’ve led 20 or so Zoom events. Since the department started, I have personally participated in more than 300 meetings with community groups. The human touch is critically important. I got a call from someone who told me, “I went to that event about eight weeks ago with you [on home ownership]. You had that event on a Saturday and on Monday I was preapproved, and now I’m in the middle of escrow to buy a home.” This was a City employee by the way, but other people have had similar experiences. This person was looking to buy property outside of the state because she thought as a single woman that acquiring a home in Southern California was beyond her reach. The human aspects of what we do really provide the motivation for us to do more and to do better even on those days when you may feel a little fatigued. It’s stories like that that keep us going, or people reaching out to say that our hate crime prevention campaign made them feel like they weren’t all alone in the middle of an epidemic of hate against the API community or another community. That’s priceless to me.

COVID must affect the department’s public face.

Capri: It does. We are pretty much operating remotely. We have a very robust social media presence, but we know that people sometimes are on the other side of our digital divide, so we are doing some events in person and working with a number of news media. Even this week, we did an interview with Alive! and with the Beverly Press. Next week I’ll be on KBLA 1580, so we reach out to the community. We have a phone line where people leave messages about their needs, and we have intake specialists who call people back to figure out exactly what they need. Sometimes it’s not related to discrimination enforcement; they might just need someone to guide them to another City service to help them, and we have skilled staff who manage those phone lines.

Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights, getting her second shot at a vaccine drive for the African American community sponsored by LA Civil Rights at First AME Church from Dr. Jerry Abraham of Kedren Health.

Of course we’re accessible by our Website at civilandhumanrights.lacity.org. We also get emails from folks. We really try to interact with the community, and we want to be sure that we do events. We’ve been focusing on Zoom or press-related events, even on Channel 35. I’m a big fan of Channel 35. That’s where I get a lot of my information; City employees can always learn something about the City by watching Channel 35. But we make sure that we are as accessible as we can be during these times. And of course, once we are past the COVID crisis, we will be in a position to welcome folks into our two main spaces in the LA Mall, and have teams that will be out in our communities and working with our community-based partners, including our faith-based institutions as well as our nonprofits.

Serving the City … And City Employees

How does the department impact City employees as well as City Retirees?

Capri: We handle discrimination enforcement cases for the private sector, not government employees. Our bread and butter is enforcement as it relates to things that happened in the private sector tied to commerce, education, employment and housing. Sometimes City employees think they can’t get help from us. Maybe not for employment purposes, but because of our role and our footprint in the City, we have other ways to help our City employees even in employment. Say for example, if you’re a City employee and you go to a store and you were denied service based on your race or gender, we can bring a case against that violation. Say you’re an employee looking for housing and were discriminated against because of your ethnicity or your perceived immigration status. We can bring a case and support you even though you’re a City employee.

The other thing we do is on the equity side of our department – we look at City policies through the equity lens, and that covers doing research and weighing in with the City Council and advising Members on equity issues from the mayor’s budget, the COVID-19 crisis, the digital divide, food deserts and the goods and services that people from diverse backgrounds in the City are able to participate in. We do touch the City a great deal. You may have heard recently that we were just assigned to do a racial equity audit, and this was an effort led by Mark Ridley-Thomas and co-introduced by Councilmembers Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson to look at racial equity as it relates to services that are provided by the City. Since we take a tax base in from a diverse City, we make sure that the services and efforts are focused and targeted to the diverse needs of our City with a special emphasis on our African American and Latino residents. That’s something that we are really proud of.

The City’s Human Relations Commission leadership with Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights, in the new John Lewis Conference Center. From left: Commissioner Stacy Twilley, Vice President; Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights; Commissioner Anthony Mack, President; and Commissioner Angelica Solis-Montero, Second Vice President.

An Overview of Services

Delineate for us an overall picture of your programs.

Capri: Right. In terms of structure, we broke down the department into four pillars. We have discrimination enforcement, which I’ve explained deals with discriminatory behavior in four areas – commerce, education, employment and housing in the private sector.

We have commission support, where we provide staff support for pretty much five advisory bodies – the Civil Rights Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Relations Commission, which includes the Transgender Advisory Council, and finally the Reparations Commission, which was recently placed in our department with efforts led by Councilmembers Mark Ridley-Thomas, Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, along with leadership from Mayor Garcetti.

And then we have community outreach and engagement, which includes our faith-based partners and nonprofits. You might be aware that we’ve had anti-Semitic crimes impacting our Jewish community, but a number of faiths have dealt with an uptick in hate incidents, particularly our Muslim brothers and sisters as well. When we think about our community outreach and engagement, we do a number of community diversity events. We don’t wait only until it’s a crisis. When it comes around to Hispanic Heritage Month or LGBTQ+ Heritage Month, African American Heritage Month, et cetera, we are all on board to celebrate the cultures in a positive light and even to help with discrimination bias with training and hate crime prevention. Our big hate crime prevention campaign is the LA For All campaign. We just had Cal State LA as well as USC express interest in supporting this campaign, but it’s been on Metro buses, street banners, bus shelters and even the LA Football Club put it on their digital sign.

But beyond outreach to make the City more harmonious, we also have discrimination enforcement, the equity and empowerment arm of the operation. We have the policy equity lens where we provide support to the City Council in looking at things through the policy equity lens. I’ll give you an example of something that just came to our department. Councilmember Price asked us to look at how the City responds to incidents and how we remedy accidents that the City may be responsible for. That’s may be responsible for; that’s the City Attorney in me. When we compare the explosion that happened in South Los Angeles at 27th and San Pedro compared to the City’s response to the Hyperion Water Treatment’s spill that impacted residents from a more affluent community in Playa del Rey, we want to be uniform in our response to make sure there’s equity in how we provide support for families that are impacted when something goes wrong.

Overall, my favorite part of the department is that we look at upward mobility programming. It’s the heart of what we do. I stole the idea of upward mobility from my beloved alma mater, Cal State LA, which is number one in upward mobility for students in the country, I want to make sure that what happens to change the trajectory of people’s lives isn’t a one-off. I don’t want us to have a hit-and-miss approach with a bunch of outliers. I want us to create a Los Angeles where we can make a different pipeline to make sure that families from underserved communities have a one-way ticket to the middle class and beyond. We look at college and career readiness, financial literacy and home ownership opportunities. We want to create programming to level the playing field because we know that you can’t only stop hate and discrimination and think your job is done; we need to lean in to make sure that a rising tide lifts all boats. We want to talk to our corporate partners on corporate diversity. The Office of Racial Equity is a part of our operation that’s being formed now. We have great leaders in our department. David Price is leading our Office of Racial Equity, and we have partnerships from all over really leaning in like folks from the Community Coalition, the Advancement Project and even FUSE Corporation. FUSE Corporation sent us a FUSE executive fellow to do analysis and research for us, and it is a gift to the City that is valued at $150,000. Just to have another pair of hands to do research on the COVID-19 crisis, the mayor’s budget, the racial equity audit, the digital divide, food deserts, et cetera is just a gift beyond what we ever imagined.

You have time to sleep and everything, right? That is a ton.

Capri: That is something I have not mastered. I will sit here at this spot until one in the morning three to four times a week, and we are going nonstop. We want to do all we can while we can. Being that I’ve been with the City a long time, we know that people can get policy amnesia and concentrate only on whatever’s hot now. If we don’t drive home success and win and demonstrate the need and support for effective policies, they will oftentimes die on the trees of public policy. As a student of public policy, I want to be sure that when the window opens we we push through and make sure that that window does not close prematurely until we’ve done as much as we can to make Los Angeles better.

Transgender and Non-Binary COVID-19 Vaccine Drive with the City’s Transgender Advisory Council, Kedren Health and St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral features (from left) City Human Relations Commissioner Angelica Solis-Montero; Dr. Jerry Abraham of Kedren Health; Deacon Margaret McCauley; the Very Rev. Canon Daniel Ade and the Very Rev. Canon Mark Kowalewski, St. John’s Cathedral; Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights; James Wen of the City’s Transgender Advisory Council; and City Human Relations Commissioner Courtney Morgan-Greene.

Learning a Lot

In the year since you started, what have you learned?

Capri: I’ve learned that there’s an incredible need for this work. As someone who grew up in LA, I’ve seen how fast years of civil rights and advocacy work can be unwound. There are situations where women from the API community are afraid to send their mothers to the supermarket because of safety concerns. I just never thought that Los Angeles would have these challenges. I’ve learned that we are a message center and we are the City of Angels – how we treat our African American, Latino, transgender, Jewish, and LGBTQ residents matters. It is easy to say that things are easy, but everything you do in this City is hard. When you’re starting a new department, there are so many things you don’t think of, and you’re building the plane while you’re flying it. There are so many day-to-day issues like setting up payroll or getting City badges or building the new office space. I never knew the process of how to create a city badge until now.

I’ve just discovered that so many things that happen in the City can be done in a more equitable way, whether it’s how we respond to the COVID crisis to being intentional with our budget dollars to make things better. I’ve discovered incredible support from Mayor Garcetti, our philanthropic partners and the City as a whole. People on our City Council are intentional about equity in this time, and we want to lead and champion all things good in what we do.

At the launch of the “LA is for Everyone” campaign outside City Hall. From left: Manjusha Kulkarni of A3PCON and Stop AAPI Hate; Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights; and Traci J. Minamide, COO of Public Works/Sanitation and Environment.

Optimistic

Having said all that, are you optimistic about the future? Do you feel positive? Some days more than others?

Capri: Overall I do feel positive. As painful as it is, I think America had to see some things front and center to really get the gravity of hate and discrimination. I think there’ll unfortunately be more things to see that will be painful, but I feel that we can overcome.

I’m the mother of someone who has been a high-schooler for one week, and he’s already seen more hate and discrimination in his life than I’ve seen pretty much in mine. We’re raising a generation of people who will be on point and ready to address and support equity and healing in Los Angeles. So I am optimistic that we’re taking an active role in righting wrongs of the past, and some of these wrongs were actually done and designed unintentionally or otherwise by local leaders. Even when you think about the hiring process and the testing and how things happen in that space, we’re just in a big moment in City history where we are taking on systemic racism, inequities and discrimination as a basic City service. This is a basic service and a basic need. I just am very grateful for all the people who are more engaged now in our City than ever before.

Assistant General Manager Claudia Luna, with more than a decade of public service experience, comes to the department with a wealth of knowledge from serving in Mayor Garcetti’s administration. Here, she shows Club COO Robert Larios around the new office.

Signs of Success

What are your signs of success, that working until one in the morning makes you feel like you’re already making a difference?

Capri: Sometimes it’s a one-off of somebody calling me, saying, “I never thought I’d be a homeowner, but I’m in escrow in Southern California thanks to your programming.” Or riding around the City and seeing a City bus or a bus shelter or a City banner or a Sanitation vehicle with the “LA for All” campaign, declaring that LA is for everyone. Just to see that live and in color, it being the largest multilingual anti-hate PSA [public service announcement] campaign in City government history … to know that from this little barstool in my house we were able to lead this effort, and since 1781 when the City was founded, no one has ever done anything like that. To see our City stand up for COVID equity wins – and I really want to call out the mayor out for this – we had projections that we were going to lose about 40,000 residents during the first wave of the COVID crisis. And although we did lose approximately 20,000 souls, wonderful Angelenos, we took action to make sure that services were rolled out in an equitable way. I definitely want to give a shout-out to Kedren Community Health as an organization that under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Abraham really is a model of how when we want to be intentional, we can be in making sure we provide goods and services to all communities.

We have wins with COVID-19, we’ve reached thousands of people in our Webinars for immigrants, young people, re-entry, hate crime prevention, you name it … and to know that we are developing an Office of Racial Equity here in Los Angeles, those are successes.

Are you seen as leaders?

Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights, outside the department’s new office space with Transgender Advisory Council Chair Karina Samala.

Capri: Yes. We did another campaign, the “Art of Belonging” campaign that we did in conjunction with Cultural Affairs, Public Works, etc. There were people on a national stage tell us, “You all are the leaders here, and is it okay if we share your work with other major cities?” Or to have someone from the City of Chicago saying, “What are you guys doing on equity in the City of Los Angeles, and can we replicate some of the work that you’ve done?” is just a wonderful sign of success for us. We don’t do this work alone. We have [Communications Director] Mark Pampanin, who helps us with the “LA for All” campaign; and Joumana Silyan-Saba, who leads the effort on hate crime prevention. We have Francisco Ortega, who works with the Human Relations Commission, the Transgender Advisory Council and the Commission on the Status of Women.

We also have people who help us with our operations like Nicole Bryant, who served as a volunteer while she was in law school doing a lot of the legwork to help us set up this operation. She’s now on staff with us. There were so many people who really leaned in – Vivica Rush and Brooke Helmick were UCLA students who were paid by UCLA to come and help us for a summer and stayed. So many people have leaned in to lift this effort up, and I can’t say enough about Candice Arnold, who actually reached out to you all to make sure that we spread the word about this work of justice and equity here in Los Angeles. Our staff is dedicated and passionate, and they work nonstop.

Also, we have a new Assistant General Manager who’s supposed to start with us on Sept. 7 – Claudia Luna – and she’s already been working for the last month expediting things for us. To quote John F. Kennedy Jr.: “Anyone can make a difference and everyone should try.” I just can’t thank our team for really stepping up to make a difference for LA. We’ve hit one success milestone after another. I’m really honored to be a part of this with the team that we are building out.

Excellent. What do you wish people knew about what your department does?

Capri: That we are intentional in dealing with systemic racism, hate and discrimination in Los Angeles, and that we’re able to quantify our success with metrics and an accountability of how these services are provided to LA residents. That’s most important to let them know what we do and that we do it in a measured approach so that people can feel comfortable with knowing our outcomes and or successes as we move toward making Los Angeles LA for All, an LA for All.

A Passion

What do you love about what you do? What gives you the greatest satisfaction?

Capri: Seeing a problem and being able to do something about it. Some people will watch the local news and say, “Oh that’s all messed up. That’s terrible,” but then not do anything, or be able to do anything about it. But we can come to work and say, “How do we make that better? How do we fix that?” To see something that you know isn’t right and to be able to do something about it. If we create an environment where more people can live to their highest and best potential, that’s how Los Angeles wins. I learned this when I was at LAUSD – it’s in our best interest to make sure that more Angelenos succeed and thrive to continue to invest in Los Angeles.

We’re a highly motivated team. We’ve accomplished a lot in just one year, and we have fuel in the tank to do so much more for equity and justice. LA Civil Rights is here to make a difference, to make Los Angeles better. We’re here to stay.

Capri, thank you so much for your precious time today.

Capri: Thank you. Keep the faith and keep the fight!

 


 

BEHIND THE SCENES

Club Director of Marketing Summy Lam (left) photographs Capri Maddox, General Manager, LA Civil Rights Dept., Club Member, outside City Hall.

 

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