My community, Sierra Madre, is a city on the outskirts of Los Angeles surrounded by mountains and frequented by black bears. Its residents have had to evacuate with ever increasing frequency due to wildfires exacerbated by climate change, but have had few opportunities to enact policies to slow it. Sierra Madre is a heavily liberal community, with “Black Lives Matter” signs and “I Support Planned Parenthood” in its yards, and yet little community based action has resulted from these signs to express community values through change in the world. Sierra Madre is an aging community, with house prices out of reach for many new entrants, but is deeply divided over the prospect of any new housing developments in the city.
Recently, I have managed multi-million dollar budgets and a scientific program for NASA with stakeholders from DC to California. Previously, I have been a lead technical developer on software which helps millions of journalists and activists around the globe speak, organize, and communicate freely. I am also a mother of two young children, aged two and four. When my youngest was just weeks old, fire approached the nearby ridge and we had to evacuate. When my youngest was about to turn two, she fell ill with COVID and my community’s response was to phone the police because “a baby was crying for over an hour.” I was only able to afford my house’s down payment—my ticket into community membership—because of a lucky windfall from my software career. Climate change, the need for supplemental community safety measures, and the need for equitable housing have touched me personally in this community. With my experience as a scientist, activist, and manager I am the right person to address these three key issues for our community.
When I landed my dream job at NASA, I thought it was time to put away my early technology activist work and focus on career and family. I was wrong. Building a future for my community means taking an active stance on issues surrounding generational justice. When I see the faces of my children, I realize focusing on them also means focusing outward so that all children have a real shot at a decent future.