Straight talk about Compton

Aja Brown, mayor of Compton

Aja Brown, mayor of Compton

Compton is a city in southern Los Angeles County, California, situated south of downtown Los Angeles, one of the oldest cities in the county and the eighth city to incorporate, in 1888. For many years, Compton was a much sought after neighborhood for the black middle class of Los Angeles. Compton has become well known in American popular culture due to hip hop groups and rappers originating from the community. After the Watts Riots in 1965, and 1992 Los Angeles riots, middle class blacks also found other areas more attractive to them. Now, only some areas of Compton are still middle class. Compton was formerly primarily black, but now Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the city.

Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush resided in Compton 1949-1950. Anthony Anderson, Ava DuVernay, James Coburn and Kevin Costner grew up in Compton. Sports figures including Pete Rozelle have roots in Compton, where Venus and Serena Williams lived until they moved to Florida.

Compton’s violent reputation was popularized by N.W.A.’s famous album Straight Outta Compton in 1988. The city was notorious for its black and Hispanic gang violence. The mid-80s gangs, and police, were out of control, streets infested with rock cocaine, and Compton was a battlefield averaging over seventy homicides a year.

Historically, in 1867, Griffith Dickenson Compton led thirty pioneers to the area. In 1930 there was only one black resident. During the 1950s and 1960s, white developers created affordable housing for aspiring middle class African Americans, and the demographics changed. 1961 – first African-American elected to City Council; 1969 – Douglas Dollarhide, California’s first African-American metropolitan mayor; 1973, Doris A. Davis – first African-American female mayor in the US; early 1970s – the city is over ninety percent African-American.

Compton’s 2010 US Census population is 96,455, average 25 years of age, compared to American median age of 35, in a working class city with some middle-class neighborhoods. Recent reports show Compton’s violent crime rate has declined over the last ten years, and is continuing to decline, although data from the FBI’s annual report of crime statistics “Crime in the United States 2010,” still ranked Compton as the 8th most dangerous city in the country.

In 2013, Aja Brown was Compton’s youngest mayor ever elected, at age 31. Barack Obama Charter School is a K-6 public charter school, in their 6th year. Compton is an “Entrepreneurial Hot Spot” by Cognetics, Inc.; on the national list for best places to start and grow a business; ranked #2 in Los Angeles County out of 88 cities. Ralphs and Food 4 Less, subsidiaries of Kroger, are headquartered in Compton, as is Gelson’s Market. The Gateway Towne opened in 2007, bringing 1,000 local jobs and addressing local services. The mega-shopping center has big box retailers, restaurants, banks, supply stores and fitness centers. The MLK Memorial Civic Center monument is surrounded by the Civic Center, Compton Court House, Compton City Hall, and Compton Public Library.