On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the Honorable Michael Tubbs mayor of Stockton, CA.
During the 20th century, Stockton was a commercial hub between Sacramento and San Francisco. It had military installations and was regularly used as a Hollywood set. But when Tubbs grew up there in the 1990's, gunshots whizzed in the streets and more than half of the city’s high schoolers dropped out before graduation.
His mother, who had him at 16, raised Tubbs. In a high-school essay, Tubbs describes meeting his father for the first time at the age of 12. He was in chains and dressed in an orange jumpsuit at the Kern County Prison. His dad responded: “Prison is your destiny. From birth you are set up to fail. You’re a black man in America, and it’s either prison or death.” His father’s words have never left him. They settled in his core and drive his ambition.
In less than two decades he’s graduated from Stanford, captured Oprah Winfrey’s attention and worked at Google and the White House.
In January of 2017, after four years of serving on the Stockton, CA city Council, Tubbs was installed as mayor of the town where he was born.
At age 26, he is Stockton’s first African American mayor, and the youngest mayor in American history of a city with a population of at least 100,000. He oversees a diverse community of 350,000 people, a place with big-city problems that include a high violent crime rate, a struggling school system and a growing homeless population.
So why would Tubbs, who graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and a master’s in Policy, Leadership and Organization Studies, choose to take his talents and intellect back to Stockton? In 2010, his cousin was murdered at a Halloween party, and his focus changed. Tubbs decided he did not want to be another educated young person leaving his hometown. He wanted to make a difference.