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After mayoral campaign, Dixon ready to tackle school closures

By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Fredrisha “Sha” Dixon may not be a household name but residents found her so intriguing they nearly voted her into a runoff with Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. in the 2022 mayoral election.

Dixon is originally from Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Inglewood about a decade ago. In addition to being a member of the sorority Sigma Ghammo Rho, she is a mother, lawyer and statewide coalition organizer.

Her activism led her to run for mayor in 2022 and she has continued to be active in the community since the campaign.

“I realized in 2017 that we needed new leadership,” Dixon said. “The issues in our community were easy to spot so I was confused as to why our mayor and City Council members did nothing to improve the issues residents consistently complained about.

“At the time, I was working full time, in law school full time, and a full time mom so I would always say, ‘somebody needs to run against Butts and replace him’ and at the time I didn’t realize I was the person to make that run.”

She began to put her plan in action in early 2021 but first wanted to secure her law degree so that she would be better prepared for the job.

“I graduated in May 2021 and talked to my family about my desire to run for mayor, and got their support and the rest is history,” Dixon said.

In her first attempt at public office, Dixon nearly pushed the mayor into a runoff election, which no other candidate had been able to do in his nearly 13 years in office.

“I was able to get my message out to residents because I was already invested in the community,” she said. “I’ve been an organizer and activist for 10 years so that background opened the door for me and allowed Inglewood residents to view me as a serious candidate. 

“On top of that, during my campaign, I went out of my way every day to meet the residents and pick their brains about what issues were most important to them and what changes they’d like to see.”

In the process, Dixon was able to secure the support and endorsement from the city’s longest serving elected official, treasurer Wanda Brown, who has a long history with Butts.

“I believe my candidacy resonated with voters because they could see themselves in me,” Dixon said. “I also think the fact that I’m a genuine person who enjoys advocating for my community is something that folks wanted to get behind.”

As a member of a sorority, which is founded in the commitment and spirit of community service, she says the affiliation created an extra layer of experience to her run for local office.

“I am a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated, Lambda Rho Sigma Alumni Chapter, but I didn’t become a member until after I ran for office,” Dixon said. “However, since I joined the sorority, I have learned so many valuable things and useful skills. My sorority sisters are sharp. They are all successful in their careers, highly educated, business minded and committed to giving back to the community. 

“I am soaking up lessons from them like a sponge right now and if I do run again, I’m certain I will be better prepared,” she added.

Dixon was officially notified she passed the bar exam which now allows her to practice law in the state. of She said that although the journey wasn’t easy, she found it very rewarding.

“My journey was long, rough, challenging, and full of tears and sleepless nights but now that it’s over, I can honestly say it was well worth it,” Dixon said. “I was the statistic that society will try and make you believe can’t obtain a juris doctor degree or pass the California Bar Exam so it felt good to be a part of that 1% who beat those odds.

“I plan to be one of the best legal advocates of our time. I am currently deciding which law firm or legal agency I want to take my talents to and I’m looking forward to sharing that with the community soon. I am very interested in government law, criminal defense and civil law so when I do make my decision, it will be working in one of those areas of law.”

Continuing in the spirit of community service, Dixon has turned her focus to the issues in the Inglewood Unified School District, which recently announced plans to close five schools. Dixon vigorously fought against the closures as part of a statewide coalition advocating for local control to be returned to voters in areas where school districts have been taken over by the state.

“I got involved in this fight when the district announced [it was] going to close Warren Lane [Elementary]. As we were organizing in Inglewood, I heard that Oakland was experiencing the same issues of receivership as us. 

“One day, someone invited me onto a Zoom call with organizers from Oakland,” Dixon said. “I’m an introvert so at first, I was very quiet but that didn’t last long because almost immediately, I was asked to take on responsibilities. Here, I learned that it wasn’t just our districts in receivership but also Vallejo City Unified School District and South Monterey County Joint Union High School District. 

“One day we were talking about the need to expand our coalition to include the other receivership-impacted districts and someone suggested that we hire someone to do the outreach. I expressed interest in that job, interviewed for it, and eventually was offered the position,” Dixon continued.

“However, the position that was offered to me included a lot more than outreach in the other districts. I was asked to lead the statewide effort and the legislative portion of our fight. This excited me even more, so of course, I accepted the job.”

In conjunction with residents across the state, the coalition helped draft the California Public School Sovereignty Act, which would overturn Assembly Bill 1840, which makes it possible for county administrators to close schools and either lease or sell the land on those properties.

“We have some very strong co-sponsor commitments, but we are still in need of a sponsor for the bill and once we obtain a sponsor, we can hit the home run we’re looking for opposed to the base hits we’ve been getting,” Dixon said.

As a mother and activist, Dixon wears many hats but remains steadfast in her commitment to serving the community.

“My personal life represents maybe 20% of my life and as mentioned, I’m an introvert so if I’m not working, I prefer to be at home or around people I care about,” she said. “My work doesn’t feel like work so I wake up doing my work and go to bed doing it. It has just become a part of my routine at this point. “Also, my son is a sophomore in college now so getting him to spend time with me is like pulling alligator teeth.”

As she looks ahead to the future, she doesn’t necessarily rule out another run for office but is taking it in stride in how much she was able to accomplish in 2022 being a new face to the Inglewood community.

“I knew I was out working everyone but I couldn’t be sure about how that would reflect at the polls,” Dixon said. “I had great initiatives, two of which Mayor Butts implemented after he was re-elected, and I knew my platform was what our community needed, but I was unsure if that would translate at the polls. “However, considering the type of leader Mayor Butts is, I wasn’t surprised I came as close to a runoff as I did,” she added. “I was more surprised that the votes didn’t come in to get us to the runoff. Seeing him win was very disappointing because I knew it meant more gentrification, more school closures, more neglect for our youth and unhoused population and the continued shutting out of the community under his administration.”

According to Dixon, those aspiring for office don’t need to wait their turn or have deep pockets. Her campaign raised nearly $15,000.

“It’s not enough to say you’ll start doing the work once you’re elected. Run for the positive impact you can make on the people, not the title, or position.”

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at emiliesaintjohn@gmail.com.

       
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