"LET'S PUT POWER BACK IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE"
Sylvester Ani Jr.
I was born in Inglewood, California, but have been blessed to call Cerritos my home for over 20 years. My parents Evangeline and Sylvester Ani Sr. immigrated from Nigeria in 1980 and always said, “I am who I am because somebody loved me”–a quote that stood on my heart when I lost my father at thirteen, and my brother at nineteen. These words posed as a constant reminder that I wouldn’t be who I am today without my father, my brother, or without any person who has shown me an ounce of love or an ounce of care to push me forward–a model that I continue to live out for others. These defining moments in my life reinforced the importance of family and the need for compassion–not only within the walls of my home but throughout the parameters of my community.
My community, much like myself, has felt what it is like to lose a loved one. With over 400,000 lives lost this year in the United States alone, everyone has either experienced or witnessed the impact of COVID-19 and the shortcomings of our government in one way or another. From lacking healthcare and exasperated wealth inequalities, every day it becomes all the more pressing for changes to be made and for myself to step up. Community is one of the strongest forces and it always starts with one helping another.
My call to service evolved after my post-graduate career at Azusa Pacific University. Three years ago, I founded my nonprofit organization, The Love We Don’t See, with a mission to uplift marginalized communities through education that promotes upward economic mobility. With focuses on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, multicultural psychology, and social-emotional learning in our youth, we were able to provide East LA students with coding programs and even raised money to send young girls to STEM summer camps. Our dedication premised a partnership with Olympic athlete Lauren Holiday and her husband NBA star Jrue Holiday. Their support and grant allowed us to fill in the gaps and launch a Guaranteed Income Pilot Program inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. Together, we were able to support families struggling with rent during the pandemic and raise awareness about the growing need for recurring checks.
I later went on to join Sunrise Movement Los Angeles–an intersectional youth movement dedicated to stopping climate change and creating millions of good jobs along the way. Here, I was given the opportunity to push forth Project No New Slaves–a project focused on completely eradicating slavery from the United States Constitution–in collaboration with Sunrise LA. Our advocacy led to a coalition with organizations sustaining the same mission and encouraged State Senator Sydney Kamlager to introduce ACA-3: The California Abolition Act, which aims to remove slavery and involuntary servitude from our state constitution. And this past March, I was granted the opportunity to be one of eight co-sponsors, to introduce ACA-3 at the State Capitol during its initial press release.
The culmination of the work I do is what I hope to expand on with my community and throughout the 38th. As we initiate this campaign we fixate on creating a new, post-COVID normal that works for–and with–everyday people.