Karen Bass made history on Sunday, Dec. 11, when she became the first woman and only the second African American sworn in as mayor of Los Angeles.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to serve as the nation’s second-in-command, administered the oath of office at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Bass was elected amid rising crime, a racism scandal at City Hall, and a spiraling homelessness crisis.
“Tomorrow morning, I will start my first day as mayor at the city’s emergency operation centers, where my first act as mayor will be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness,” Bass told the crowd. “My emergency declaration will recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside.”
She also vowed to enlist help from the federal government, the state and the private sector in her response to homelessness.
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The inauguration had originally been scheduled to take place outside Los Angeles City Hall, but rain in the forecast led organizers to move it indoors. Sunday’s program started about two hours late.
The program featured poems by Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate; and cultural justice advocate Sophie Szew. The ceremony also saw several local faith leaders deliver an interfaith invocation.
Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary performed “Can’t Give Up Now.”
A short time later, music legend Stevie Wonder belted out “Keep Our Love Alive” and “Living for the City.” Before starting his performance, Wonder said: “This is an incredible moment in history, not just for people of color. Without question, it is a moment for every human being that is about bringing people together.”
Other attendees included California Gov. Gavin Newsom, members of Congress, outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and members of the Los Angeles City Council.
Bass, 69, defeated real estate developer Rick Caruso in the Nov. 8 general election. Caruso led in early vote counts, but as more mail-in ballots were tallied, Bass pulled ahead and was declared the winner on Nov. 16.
The Congresswoman had the backing of the White House, former President Barack Obama, both of California’s U.S. senators, and many high-ranking Democrats across the state.
She vowed throughout the campaign that if elected, she would focus on addressing L.A.’s high rent prices and homelessness — where more than 42,000 people live on the streets within the city limits — according to local officials.
Karen Bass replaces Eric Garcetti, who was sworn in back in 2013. As she mentioned in her comments, the new mayor officially begins her term on Monday.