Jean Quan: From Cal Activist to Mayor of Oakland

Added on by Alexei Mohajerjasbi.

Amidst all of the W’s and L’s in this past election cycle, we wanted to single out someone in particular whose election made history in all sorts of ways. Jean Quan, now the mayor-elect of Oakland, will be 1) the first female mayor of Oakland 2) the first Asian-American female mayor of a major U.S. city 3) the first Chinese-American mayor of a major U.S. city. She is also, at the time of this writing, following both Sabzi and Geo on Twitter. BIG TINGS.

As a student at UC Berkeley, Jean Quan was one of several students whose sit-ins and demonstrations—a movement labeled the Third World Liberation Front of 1969—rallied for and created the college’s Ethnic Studies Department, which would become a hallmark program and eventually an established discipline across the country, academically dignifying the histories and experiences of the marginalized and people of color. (Shoutout to all y’all Ethnic Studies majors, and boo to the State of Arizona for outlawing Ethnic Studies programs earlier this year.)

She became a union organizer, and was catalyzed to jump into politics when the city of Oakland was proposing to cut music and arts programs in public schools. She’s been on the Oakland City Council for the last eight years, and will now get a chance to lead a city that’s historically been the crucible for progressive politics and radical organizing. (And conflict. The same week Jean was elected, Oakland residents took to the streets to protest the killing of an unarmed barbershop-owner by police. That fatal shooting happened three days after the contentious sentencing of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, responsible for the death of Oscar Grant.)

This article by the East Bay Express does a good job illustrating Quan’s for-real grassroots mayoral campaign strategy against the moneyed and established Don Perata, and below is a short narrative on Jean Quan’s path to being mayor-elect. Congratulations, Jean! Follow her here on Twitter; we also highly recommend Fake Jean Quan.