Editor’s Note: This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Teen Vogue: What drew you to Kenneth Mejia or the campaign?
Simbilal: [Kenneth] Not only did he make campaign promises for when he was later in office, he helped people meet their immediate needs right now, and that has been tremendous to me. I lay down for him in a way I’ve never done before.
The climate is a very big priority in Los Angeles and everyone else [citywide] Candidates ignored it. Kenneth opined: “Here, you take care of the climate, you want this to be on the front lines, you write ours Climate Justice Platform,” vs. I had to literally disrupt a mayoral debate Get climate platforms from the other citywide candidates.
Lorenzo de Felitta: As abolitionist approaches to policing, prisons, and incarceration became more mainstream and more talked about in our political discourse, many people used their initial emotions about these issues to argue for abolition—and this is evidently outright valid, great and necessary. But what appealed to me about this campaign is how we took it a step further and also made logical, coherent arguments that no sane person could contradict. We have used logic and reason to convince people that police and prisons are ineffective, a waste of taxpayers’ money and causing more damage to our society.
Dillon Foster: The “middle ground” politics is really detrimental to people, but I also think they’re kind of dying out. People are starting to really think about things like abolition and worry about climate and housing, homelessness and want compassionate approaches to those things instead of just criminalizing someone and sweeping them to the next block.
Dannie Nunez: Kenneth, and this campaign in general, was about pushing boundaries. It was about testing boundaries, seeing where people like us — tenants, people of color, climate justice activists, organizers — can land in electoral politics. And for this campaign, it’s very symbolic, because the establishment has told us “no” so many times, and we never listened – and Kenneth never listened.
I think it’s really starting to reckon with the youth organization. The people around this table are also going to be the ones who are going to start determining what policies are going to be on the table, what message goes to our youth.
One of the things Kenneth really wanted for this entire campaign was, “How can these things be digestible? How can we gain ground and win a people’s movement in a way that humanizes really tight city budgets?” And it’s those very people here. It is youth that has produced the most brilliant ideas.
TV: The campaign has attracted a lot of attention to empower youth organizers. What difference did having Gen Z’ler in the campaign make?
Nunez: That is, why Don’t mess with Gen Z: Because not only will they find the data, they will also troll you. And they know how to use social media – and they do will hurt your feelings