On September 3, 2020, six years after our inaugural event, the City Impact Lab welcomed Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the L.A. Civil and Human Rights Department. Capri emphasized the importance of resilience and relationship building which she learned as a kid who attended 13 different schools before entering her freshman year at Fairfax High School. Living in many places gave her lots of experience getting to and understand different people.
A drive to achieve, against the odds
Like many African American girls (who are three times more likely to be suspended from school than their counterparts), Capri was immersed in a system that didn’t foster her potential. She was placed in special education classes until she could prove she was capable of more challenging coursework. When she dove into the high school experience, a guidance counselor discouraged her from higher education, saying she wasn’t “college material.” When she did get to college, she finished her bachelor’s degree in three years in an effort to beat the statistics that would put her at 50% likely to drop out.
Entering graduate school and the workforce in the early nineties placed her in the middle of upheaval in Los Angeles. She became part of rebuilding communities as a block grant analyst in the City of Glendale. Her dealings with slumlords in that capacity motivated her to go to law school so that she could legally challenge those responsible for substandard housing. She has continued to protect and build communities throughout her career as a neighborhood prosecutor, a public works commissioner, and a special assistant to LAUSD and the Los Angeles City Attorney.
A mission to combat discrimination
Appointed by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Capri now leads the newly formed Civil and Human Rights Department. There, she and a small but mighty team are sharing tools in communities to build a more equitable Los Angeles. 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. They do this by initiating and investigating complaints of discrimination, as well as enforcing the Los Angeles Civil and Human Rights Ordinance.
3 insights on making an impact in communities
Capri is inspired by the words of former L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley: “Our greatest ability is our availability.” She continues to show up, empowering communities and individuals, an framing her actions within these three insights:
- Relationships: Developing an understanding of people will help in identifying those who can work together in efforts to bring about systemic change.
- Resilience: Tackling big challenges means running up against roadblocks. Rather than backing down, finding the determination and drive to keep going and finding other passageways makes all the difference in moving forward.
- Hope for a Revival: When asked what we did when the world was tilting, be able to say that we pressed forward with a hope that the work of dedicated individuals and communities will set things right again. Do all you can, while you can.
Watch Capri’s remarks:
After some Q&A time, the attendees broke into small to discuss the questions:
- How can you use your availability to make an impact?
- Who do you need to make sure knows you’re available or do you need to make yourself available for someone or some group?
Our thanks to Capri for sharing her experiences and vision with us. And we invite you to join us for our October City Impact Lab!
Watch these archive City Impact Lab video recaps: