LOS ANGELES — One Los Angeles legislator shares a family connection with a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s uncle, Jefferson Thomas, was part of the “Little Rock Nine,” nine students who faced violent mobs in their fight to integrate an all-white high school in 1957.
Asm. Jones-Sawyer says his uncle endured years of physical abuse while trying to receive an education.
“Everyday somebody would either kick or spit on him, do some of the worst racially damaging things you could probably do to a human being and every day he went back,” Asm. Jones-Sawyer said.
His uncle’s high school years ended up changing the Assemblyman’s whole life.
“I was born when he went through that, and the reason why we moved to California is because the Klan called my grandmother and said ‘Get your son out of school or your grandson will never make it school’... and that grandson was me.”
Jones-Sawyer is a USC graduate and completed a prestigious program at Harvard University. To this day, he says he uses his education to fight racial injustice.
The Assemblymember chairs the Public Safety Committee and has been working on criminal justice reform since 2012. Jones-Sawyer says he was destined to do this work, and since the death of George Floyd, he won’t stop pushing until he sees change.
“I was born in the Civil Rights Movement and I am born for social change. This is my purpose. It’s all culminated right now with all my expertise to finally get racism out of the criminal justice system,” Asm. Jones-Sawyer said.
He says now more than ever at least one person needs to stand up to end racism, especially after what happened to George Floyd in Minnesota.
“Like those cops in Minneapolis, if just one of them would have just grabbed that law enforcement officer off of that man’s neck we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” he said.
Asm. Jones-sawyer says he stays inspired by his uncle, Jefferson Thomas, to take a stand for his own rights in the California Legislature.