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338 Melina Abdullah and Regina Freer attempt to move forward particular agendas through policy work. By the 1990s Karen Bass began to define her work by “looking at specific issues in our communities and how to use public policy to deal with those issues ”;40 Community Coalition was born out of this approach. After her election to public office in 2004, Bass saw her work in Sacramento as an extension of the work that she had done in the communities of South Los Angeles—“She went to Sacramento with an agenda.”41 Bass was very deliberate in her development of a political agenda and recognized this as a departure from the practices of many of her colleagues: One of the things that I try to do in my job is insert my politics every chance I get and I also try to look for some area where I can bring about change and push the envelope. That’s why I focused on foster care. . . . One thing that a progressive can do is go in with an agenda, recognizing that there are a whole lot of folks that have no agenda and have no concern about having an agenda.42 She was clear that her agenda developed largely out of her work as an organizer. “My agenda in Sacramento totally meshes more [with my] former life. I mean, I looked at what I was doing with the Coalition to say ‘What can I do on a statewide level?’ So, most of my legislation is related to the work that I had done in the Coalition.”43 While remaining a selfdefined progressive, Karen Bass’s role moved from one of a clear outsider to a political insider with ties to the outside. The evolutionary process is one shared by Charlotta Bass, although their work unfolded in different ways. Charlotta Bass maintained her Black and leftist politics for a period but moved away, or more accurately was pushed away, from the Black community as she became more closely aligned with the white Left. Karen Bass, on the other hand, was able to move closer to the Black community, while maintaining her ties to the white Left. This speaks to the passage of time and the easing of Red-baiting , but as Karen Bass points out, it also demonstrates the possibilities that Charlotta Bass opened for her: The multiracial part of LA has always been my exposure. . . . I was never a part of the black establishment. I guess I am now, but the black organizations , the black leadership, whether you are talking about elected or just community, I was never connected to it and didn’t know half of them until 1990 when I started the Coalition.44 Bass to Bass 339 When asked if this distance from the Black establishment was a benefit or a hindrance, Karen Bass replied: It’s been good because I didn’t come in with any of the beefs, the turf, the relationships. . . . I defined myself as to the Left and I saw all that as being mainstream and I didn’t really have an interest in being there. I didn’t really connect up with it until the Free South Africa Movement in the ’80s. That’s when I met Maxine Waters, worked with her through the Free South Africa Movement.45 By contrast, Charlotta Bass was not able to escape these types of beefs and was certainly party to turf battle. Her early entrenchment in the Black mainstream, her grappling with diverse ideological leanings, her ultimate radicalization, and her move beyond the boundaries of blackness to join coalitions with white leftists and other people of color resulted in both internal and external questioning, and occasional battles. But her role in an evolutionary process of womanist praxis would pave the way for future generations of leaders to engage in the important work required for fundamental, substantive change to occur. Los Angeles offered fertile ground for the development of a special brand of Black politics. Its racial and ideological diversity offered a unique backdrop for the strategic quest for freedom. The Basses’ Legacy It is tempting to lift up the lives of Charlotta Bass and Karen Bass as unique stories of remarkable individual achievement. But their connections to one another remind us of the broader political and spatial contexts that gave rise to them. In fact, these women’s own shared core values rejected such an individualistic portrayal of greatness. They were selfconscious products of a collective. As...


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MARC Record
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