Meet Taylor Sims, a young Black woman, Pittsburg California resident, student, School Board Member, and leader at Lift Up Contra Costa.

Meet Taylor Sims, a young Black woman, Pittsburg California resident, student, School Board Member, and leader at Lift Up Contra Costa.

“While Black folks often bear the brunt of inequities and injustices, we are also usually at the forefront of movements to make our state more equitable and just. This is definitely true for our housing justice movement in California.”

– Taylor Sims

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What has been your journey to housing and housing justice? What role do you see housing justice playing in the lives of Black communities in California?

I’m a third-generation resident of Pittsburg, CA. I have been a student in California from kindergarten through graduation from a CA state university. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to afford my own apartment, and that’s very rare for someone my age. Some peers my age are being priced out as renters or are crammed into apartments with a bunch of roommates.

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“Pittsburg has always been a place of diversity and acceptance, but now it’s becoming less affordable. It is no longer a youthful town–mostly retirees live here–but I feel very passionate about bringing Black youth back to the Bay, especially in Contra Costa County.”

What policies and practices in your region have strengthened or diminished housing access, affordability, and justice?

We used to have redlining, which prevented us from owning homes–so we got pushed into the ghettos. When white folks started moving into Black communities, we got pushed out again. So many of the folks I talked to about redistricting and housing justice told me that they don’t want to have to worry that every time three new white families move into the neighborhood they will get priced out and pushed out.

I talk to a lot of coalitions and organizations that are pushing really hard for housing justice, but there are not enough policies that are helping renters and folks stay in their homes. We need more opportunities to vote for policies that are equitable, like rent control and affordable housing, because the cost of living in California is going up, but affordable housing, rental protection policies, and wages are not keeping pace.

What is the relationship between housing justice and Black erasure in CA? Why is it important that our CA Citizens Redistricting Commission understand this relationship?

My story is not unusual. I spoke with a lot of young Black folks, including college graduates, who can no longer afford California. We are not only experiencing Black erasure, but the erasure of Black youth. Redistricting is important to reversing this erasure because we need elected officials who can push for affordable housing and housing justice, so that more of us aren’t pushed out of our communities.

What problems in the representation of Black communities in Congress or the state legislature have impeded housing access, affordability, and justice in CA? How should these problems be addressed?

It sends a message when you can no longer afford to live in the state where you were raised. It makes you feel like the place you called home for so long is no longer really yours. During my COI listening sessions, people talked a lot about wanting to see development plans include more affordable housing. That means we need to be able to elect representatives who will think creatively and equitably about how we keep our youth in our state by giving them more access to opportunities to afford life in California. We need elected leaders who are working to make homeownership a reality for more Black folks in California, and we also need more policies that protect renters because most Black folks are currently renters, not homeowners.

What are the unique opportunities for creating more housing justice in CA? Why is it important that our CA Citizens Redistricting Commission understand these opportunities?

Now, more and more Californians are concerned about affordable housing because it’s beginning to affect all people, not just Black people.

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“While Black folks often bear the brunt of inequities and injustices, we are also usually at the forefront of movements to make our state more equitable and just. This is definitely true for our housing justice movement in California.”

We want to be in dialogue with our Commission to ensure they understand what’s at stake for Black folks and the kind of future we hope to build in California.

How have Black leaders and communities in CA organized, advocated, and voted for strengthening housing access, affordability, and justice? How can redistricting set the stage for continued organizing, advocacy, and voting around housing justice?

When we advocate for ourselves, we are championing equity for others. Redistricting can set the stage for greater affordable housing and justice for all Californians. When the Commission makes amazing, fair, and inclusive maps (I’m just going to manifest positivity here), Black people will feel represented and have more opportunities to serve our communities through voting and running for elected office. Our voices will be amplified, not muted. I’m currently the only Black woman and the youngest elected leader serving on my local school board. I envision a map that creates even greater opportunities for young people to lead future change on behalf of Californians.