It's often said that we each weave the tapestry of our lives. San Francisco’s newly elected Mayor London Breed has already created a rich and diverse fabric for her 43 years. Elected as the 45thmayor of the City and County of San Francisco, California in June 2018, she also made history as the first African American woman, and only the second woman to be elected to lead the 13th largest city in the nation. Her story has been a powerful, symbolic and reinforcing message to all populations, especially with the current national political landscape and 2018 midterm elections on the horizon.
Breed proved to be this year’s leader of choice in San Francisco, known for its forward thinking, vanguard-like ways in areas such as technology, culture and entrepreneurship. It also has its share of challenges including gentrification, homelessness, housing, education and a high cost of living. She addressed those issues in her campaign, with solid backing from a multicultural base of high ranking supporters and mentors like Kamala Harris, Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi, Willie Brown and local voters – a theme that’s repeated increasingly as African American women launch campaigns and win key elections. Americans everywhere, frustrated by the daily doses of political uncertainties, changing values and perilous times, are mobilizing to get out the vote and secure more viable leaders. Those leaders are winning solidly, to actuate the change that’s needed as well. Breed has joined those ranks.
Hers is an inspirational story that serves as a beacon of light and hope, for all populations, and particularly for African American women. Breed grew up in poverty, was raised by her grandmother in public housing in the Western Addition area of San Francisco, (ironically, blocks away from city hall), where she was exposed to crime, drugs and homelessness (her sister died of a drug overdose, and her brother is in prison). She was inspired by her strong and generous grandmother, whom she witnessed helping others even though living under the poverty level. Encouraged to excel, Breed would later go away to college, graduate, obtain her master’s degree in public administration and return to work. She worked in her community as an executive director of a once failing cultural center, which she transformed into a thriving complex. She was hired into several political positions, elected as a board supervisor in the district where she was raised, then was elected president of that board of supervisors, the second highest ranking official in the city.
Breed won a highly competitive San Francisco mayoral race which had everything to do with her true knowledge of her city and a platform focused on addressing issues that mattered to San Franciscans today and in the future. Her goal - to improve the very life she had lived in her early years and pledged to be an advocate for the less fortunate and underserved. Key initiatives already underway to help realize that goal include public safety, homelessness, housing, education, police reform and protecting the environment.
A few statistics illustrate both the wide gap in today’s political profile, and steady progress by African American women leaders. Breed is one of three women mayors of the country’s 15 largest cities. San Francisco ranks No. 13 on the list. New York City, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have never had a female mayor. There are five African American women mayors in the 50 largest cities: Catherine Pugh, the mayor of Baltimore,Latoya Cantrell- New Orleans, Keisha Lance Bottoms- Atlanta, and Muriel Bowser- Washington, D.C. These inspirational, dynamic role models and other African American women in politics have motivated and encourage others to join those ranks.
Breed’s victory, her message, her tapestry is about hope, audacity, and possibilities. In one of her speeches, she offered: “No matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do. Never let your circumstances determine your outcome in life.” She joins other powerful African American women across the nation, who have taken it upon themselves to impact their communities in the most direct way possible.
By Patricia Patterson • Writer • Storyteller