This is where surf, sand and sun all shape its identity. This is Redondo Beach, the part of California where homebuyers looking for properties within walking distance of the ocean should expect to pay upwards of $1 million.
The coastal city that is home to some of the finest distinguished schools in the country has been represented by a string of four-year term elected board members for decades.
But none of them was Black.
Kimberlee Isaacs thinks she has a shot at changing that this year and increasing diversity in the Redondo Beach Unified School District is one of her most important issues.
“The reason why I am running is that there has not been a Black person on the Redondo Beach School Board, and so my goal is to represent the children of all races. Especially the children who don’t feel like they’re being heard or represented in the curriculum,” said Isaacs, who has one son at Redondo Union High.
Isaacs believes that expanding the school curriculum to include various perspectives allows educators to discuss views and ideas underrepresented and provide students with a more holistic understanding of the coursework.
The accountant and Durham, North Carolina native, moved to Westchester in 2002. Her family relocated to Redondo Beach to be in a better school district for the high school grades. She created a Diversity Committee at City Charter Middle School dedicated to educating students about different ethnicities and the LGBTQ community. She currently serves on the RBUSD Race and Equality Committee. She said it’s vital that the school board represents the district and that just having one person of color on the board could make a huge difference for students of color in the district where issues of race and gender can be appropriately examined.
“Kimberly is somebody who really wants to make a difference for positive changes on the Redondo Beach School Board. I know that, and I feel that because of the time that we have spent working together. Her heart is truly about the safety of the students and equity and anti-racism, which are the kind of values I support too,” said Trish Vasquez Valdez of the Southbay Equity Project.
But as Isaacs’s message may resonate with some voters and friends, she has also seen yard signs supporting her candidacy vandalized by those with opposing viewpoints.
Recently, a campaign sign outside her home was defaced.
She became a target of criticism over her online activities regarding comments about the American flag on her Facebook profile.
In an email, an unidentified Redondo Beach resident sent an open letter to other residents informing the group that “there are a lot of concerned Redondo Beach voters who believe Mrs Isaacs views are abhorrent, and certainly have no place on the Redondo Beach School Board.”
Isaacs says her comments were taken out of context.
“I was having a conversation on social media with a Black female friend who understands the Black experience. Not everybody has the same feeling when they see the American flag,” Issacs explained.
She added that “on July 4th, 1776, my people were enslaved, and so not everyone in this country feels the same way about Independence Day. There are a lot of Black Americans who are more interested in celebrating Juneteenth – which is when everybody was free at that point.”
Isaacs said her perspective about the American flag is based on a deep understanding of racial inequities and the realities of being Black in America.
“This RBUSD election is a perfect example of being targeted, and it’s part of the trauma we as Black people experience every day. It’s violent and threatening when someone cuts out your face out off a lawn sign. It has me worried about my family,” Isaacs said.
Still, Issacs has soldiered on with determination.
Over the weekend, Issacs and a small group of her supporters set out from the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center to knock on doors in the neighborhood. Each canvasser was armed with a stack of campaign flyers in hand encouraging registered voters to vote for Isaacs for the district school board.
Redondo Beach City Council for District 3, Christian Horvath, who has thrown his support behind Isaacs’s campaign, told LA Focus that her voice and experience is lacking at the Redondo Beach School Board.
“[Isaacs’s] lived experience, and her perspective is one that we need to have on local, state and federal levels of government for us to move beyond some of the issues we continue to see on a day to day basis around the country”, he said.
Asked how realistic Isaacs’s chances were of winning the election given some of the hostility she has faced by some Redondo Beach residents, Horvath said:
“Take out the fact that she is an African-American woman; if her message for what she wants to bring to the position is resonating with the residence, then I think she stands just as good as a chance as any of the other seven candidates.”
Election Day is on March 2nd, and Ballot Drop Boxes will be locked promptly at 8:00 p.m.