When we talk about how to respond to climate change in Southern California, we should look to leaders like Fatima Iqbal-Zubair. Her policies are detailed, progressive, and remarkably restorative. Her personal roots and decades-long commitment to District 64, particularly her community in Watts, make her a rare candidate, as often this district is represented by politicians whose priorities, personal lives, and donation receipts lay elsewhere. A vote for Fatima is a vote to put power back into the hands of a community that has long sought justice.
Iqbal-Zubair’s exceptionally progressive platform is a credit not simply to her steadfast ideals as a leader, but to her lived experience. Her own debts from college and medical school, and her experience as a mother of an adopted son with Autism, have inspired her advocacy for free college tuition and special needs services accessible to all. As a longtime science teacher in Watts, she founded the first competitive robotics team the district had ever seen. She previously served as K-12 Education Commissioner for incumbent Mike Gipson, where she was often met with resistance to her tendency to break with the status quo. As a longtime resident of one of the most economically disenfranchised neighborhoods in the county, she unwaveringly demands affordable housing and healthcare for all. An immigrant herself, her proposed protections for immigrants and undocumented people speak directly to what she would have the power to implement as a representative in California’s State Assembly, including calls for expanding MediCal to cover undocumented people, and providing more expansive legal representation to undocumented people in court. Leading with these two specific policies has the potential to save hundreds of lives: If policy like this were adopted at a state level -- extending healthcare and proper legal representation to all undocumented people in California -- think of how the treatment of people in ICE detention centers would be transformed (or better yet, shut down because detainees would have better legal representation and the right to due process). Undocumented people comprised 28% of California’s total tax revenue in 2014 -- they are more than deserving of our state’s public healthcare and legal services. Furthermore, she has made it clear she believes in decreasing funding to ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and policing in general.
Her campaign’s choice to focus on climate change reflects how environmental justice is racial justice. District 64’s legacy of social exploitation and environmental pollution is unparalleled across the state: 4 of California’s 15 oil refineries are in District 64, including the Marathon Refinery in Carson, the largest oil refinery on the West Coast. District 64 also has some of the highest air pollution and asthma rates in all of California. As is often the case in regions that experience pollution on this devastating scale, District 64’s population is majority black and latinx. Her proposed environmental policies speak directly to both her district’s, as well as our entire state’s, needs: immediate banning of fracking and oil & natural gas drilling and refining, clear economic incentives and green job training so community members can benefit not only environmentally, but also economically, from working to safely shut down chemical waste sites, and cleaning up abandoned well sites. She also outlines restorative initiatives such as expanding public green spaces, union protections for green workers, cleaner water and air standards, food advocacy, better-enforced building codes, and free public transit.
One of the most telling aspects of any political candidate’s true intentions is how they choose to fund their campaign. Fatima Iqbal-Zubair funded her campaign on an entirely grassroots level, with no PAC, police, real estate, or oil & gas donations -- a testament to what her priorities and behavior would look like once she is elected to the State Assembly (and something I wish I saw in more candidates running throughout this state). Her incumbent opposition Mike Gipson has accepted over $65,000 from multinational oil & gas producers, $55,030 from petroleum refining & marketing, $40,000 from national gas & oil producers, $39,000 from tobacco companies, in addition to thousands of dollars in donations from other PACs and real estate investors. His voting record reflects these receipts: he repeatedly votes to protect real estate investors instead of tenants or people experiencing homelessness, and wholly disregards the intense environmental racism in his district, doing nothing to expand healthcare for his constituents who reap the worst consequence, in order to keep getting the oil & gas industry’s checks.
Iqbal-Zubair signed the #NoCopMoneyCA pledge, promising to not accept funds from any police union or association, whereas Gipson has accepted over $140,000 from police unions and associations, and $5,500 from private prison companies. In the midst of a pandemic, economic recession, and the Black Lives Matter uprising, Gipson opted in June to align with his donors instead of with his own district and oppose setting aside $2 billion in housing relief.
Fatima Iqbal-Zubair’s political legacy is that of a concerned community member who listened, organized, and fought. Her ethics are rooted in care, collective power, and restorative justice. She served on the leadership council of Watts Rising, is a member and endorsee of DSA, and volunteers/collaborates with Sunrise, Our Revolution, Food and Water Action, Carson Community Coalition, the Bernie Sanders campaign, Communities for a Better Environment, Chicano Latino Democratic Club, Communities for a Better Environment, Progressive Democratic Club, the Chicano Latino Immigrant Democratic Club, the Gardena Valley Progressive Club, Our Revolution Long Beach, DSA Long Beach, 350 South Bay LA, South Bay Organizing, and Black Lives Matter Long Beach.
This is a candidate who has already dedicated her life not just to the needs of her district, but also to an ethics of collective care and power. She has built a campaign around what this district has been through and what it needs. She is a science teacher, a mother, and the opposite of a career politician. How much longer can we elect people who are more concerned about their wallets and individual power, than those who actually drink the water, sit in the parks, and teach in the schools of the community they represent? Her demands are not theoretical or idealistic -- they are necessary for survival. When policy is rooted in lifesaving services, we collectively approach something closer to justice so clear you can breathe it.
May we be so lucky as to see more leaders like Fatima Iqbal-Zubair running to represent California in the future.