PB Community Spotlight: Carrie Broadus (LA)
Carrie Broadus has a mantra that guides her work informing and engaging underserved communities across Southeast Los Angeles:
As a black elder and community partner in the 2022-2023 LA REPAIR participatory budgeting (PB) process representing Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, she knows from experience that trust building across the community is an essential - and often challenging - part of this work: “A lot of people are like ‘here we go again.’ If they want to repair something, repair Black folx’s credit. Others say, ‘this is very interesting because I’ve seen it done in other places.’ Some don’t trust the process anyway.”
And so she keeps engaging, sending out emails, exchanging texts, calling neighbors on the phone, and answering any questions people have about the process, no matter how small. Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches uses a variety of outreach channels to connect with a cross section of community stakeholders, including social media and virtual platforms during the Idea Collection phase.
She sees that it’s not her role to win anyone over: “I am not there to convince them, I am there to inform them. They have to convince themselves.” This is how she was trained to serve as a bridger in civic processes by Mrs. Caffie Green, an LA black liberation movement and civil rights activist and one of her mentors. Mrs. Green taught her to take detailed notes, get copies, and then come back and break it down with her communities.
With diligence and steadfast determination, she equips her neighbors with the information and means to fight the oppression and marginalization they experience: “A system that is designed to draw people in and push others away; that’s what we have to address. Any effort to dismantle institutional racism, you will find me in the midst of…I have no other choice but to do this.”
What It Means To Her
This anti-oppression work is deeply personal for Ms. Broadus, rooted in her family history as the direct descendant of Africans forced into slavery in the American South. She has had multiple maternal family members die as a result of poor medical care, and for one, from outright denial of treatment at a nearby hospital because of their race.
Today, a disproportionate number of black women (3x) continue to die from pregnancy-related causes, and she describes this as symptomatic of the institutional bias against them: “The health care system undermines the wellbeing of black people.” In her experience as a black woman, this has meant that, “I am not invited. I am not supported. I am not worthy of. And I am not a priority.”
She also connects it to the longer history of civil rights and black anti-oppression movements in the US, from her mentor Clara Luper of the 1950s Youth NAACP Council in Oklahoma to Operation Bootstrap in 1960s Los Angeles.
How COVID Brought Her Into LA REPAIR
Advancing health justice for South LA neighborhoods during the pandemic was her entry point to the city’s participatory budgeting process. She connected with it through her involvement in CRSSLA, a collaborative community response system for the COVID crisis focused on sharing information, distributing key resources, and coordinating across organizations. When the LA Department of Civil Rights + Human Rights announced the LA REPAIR participatory budgeting process, she brought the opportunity back to the network to build on the crucial work they had done resourcing low-income communities of color disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
As she points out, it’s not the first time the public health care system has developed a participatory process with an impacted community: “That system was organized around HIV/AIDs. It created a system to serve and support those with that disease, those affected by it, service providers, and others doing planning and resource allocation. The commission on HIV is very specific in the community it’s representing.”
For her, COVID was a powerful equalizer to many that lost their jobs and may have looked down on those using public healthcare programs like MediCal: “They found themselves in the same lines, seeking food, diapers, and so on.” This pointed to how advocacy for public health and racial justice benefits all of us and belongs to all of us. And it reflected her conclusion listening to enrollees as a consumer advocate on the board of LA CARE, LA’s public health agency for low-income individuals: “The problem is we don’t see ourselves in the same boat. We see our issues separately.”
LA’s Participatory Budgeting Process
LA REPAIR offers new opportunities and funding to address healthcare disparities and institutional racism in Los Angeles. The pilot PB process will distribute roughly $8.5 million directly to nine L.A. City neighborhoods, called REPAIR Zones. Communities in her Zone will decide on $1.5 million dollars in programs developed from community member ideas and implemented by local nonprofits and community-based organizations.
For Carrie, compared to the HIV/AIDS example, this participatory budgeting process changes the game by opening wide the doors of participation: “It's a much broader audience. It’s not just those who are citizens. It includes those who don’t have the right to vote in our political system, but contribute to the system [through their labor and by paying taxes].”
She is steadfast in her commitment to using it as a breakthrough opportunity to resource her community and practice democracy. This is especially true as she has watched the neighborhoods around her change. After LA REPAIR finishes in 2023, she hopes its culture of solidarity and collaboration takes root and grows: “what I want to see is an apparatus there to manage the repair that creates a truly participatory body. That the community continues to work with [those grant awardees after the process].”
One way or another, Ms. Broadus plans to keep showing up and doing the work of dismantling institutional racism, using PB as a powerful example from which to grow community-led decision making: “Participatory budgeting is so necessary because it allows us to turn over a new leaf; it allows us to engage each other in a different way. We are going to use every means necessary to reclaim our humanity.”