Meet the District 6 candidate: Antoinette Scully

As a Black, queer feminist, Scully is ready to bring change to the City Council.

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Antoinette Scully’s 38th birthday was unlike any other. It was the day that then Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez was exposed for making racist remarks on a leaked audio recording, eventually leading to her resignation and Scully’s running to take her place.

The tape didn’t just upset Scully; it put her life on a new trajectory.

After the Los Angeles Times broke the story in October 2022, several elected officials, including President Joe Biden, called for Martinez to step down. The day the recording was brought to light, Scully’s phone lit up with messages from her friends organizing protests against Martinez.

But around two weeks after the infamous tape was revealed, Scully started to think deeper about what she could do to better the neighborhood she calls home, “What would it feel like if the person who was in charge of governing this part of town cared deeply about everyone here?” she said. “What if they moved in spaces from an anti-racist, anti-oppression lens?”

Protesting injustice has been a key pillar of Scully’s life, so she ran herself. When her mother learned of her decision, she asked Scully, “Do you still get to protest?”

For now, District 6 has been left without permanent representation. A special election is set for April 4 to fill her vacancy, and if no candidate gets a majority, there will be a run-off on June 27.

Scully describes herself on social media as a “queer, Black feminist and mother of two,” though she’d like to keep her children, ages 9 and 11, out of the spotlight in her campaign. Scully is a 38-year-old National Organizer for the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation. She has a Master’s in teaching from the University of Southern California and a dual Bachelor’s in humanities and philosophy from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

Much of Scully’s work focuses on advocacy. She is the founder of Valley Justice Collective, an organization aimed at ending oppressive systems harming marginalized communities through aid, protest and civic engagement. Scully has also worked to support those experiencing homelessness, including her work with the NoHo Home Alliance and her positions as a housing coordinator and field caseworker.

Scully moved to Southern California in 2008, but she grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first town successfully established by African American freedmen after emancipation. Many of her beliefs today can be traced back to her hometown of about 2,200 people.

Scully’s parents met in high school but have been divorced her entire life. Her father moved to Pheonix, Arizona, when she was a teenager, leaving their relationship strained. However, she remains very close to her mother, who had Scully at 17. Scully’s mother has ping-ponged between jobs but currently works as a cake decorator in Florida.

Scully’s community, she said, catapulted her into a life of activism.

“I think about all of the other strong people I grew up with – my uncle, my grandparents, and all of the hard work they do,” Scully said. “Those are the kinds of relationships and people that I saw as heroes, everyday people volunteering at church, putting together festivals, people who had community gardens.”

Realizing that someone who is an activist like her, rather than a career politician, might offer an appealing alternative in the current political climate – Scully decided to take the leap and launch her campaign to “bring care to the Valley,” her website says.

Scully sports a yellow sunflower hair clip tucked into her locks nearly everywhere she goes. While it has been a recognizable symbol on the campaign trail, her rationale for the accessory is much more akin to a metaphor for the festering racial divisions in Los Angeles, the notion at the center of the leaked audio.

Take Scully at first glance: a Black woman often displaying messages such as “feminist” or “abolitionist for everyone” across her t-shirt. Her appearance, she said, makes people dismissive and even resentful.

“They look at a protest shirt with a very clear message, and they think, ‘Ugh, that person is not my kind of person,’” she said.

Scully hopes the yellow bloom serves a higher purpose: softening the blow of her messages and making people more receptive, “I wanted to give people the chance to still see me as a full person.”

On a recent episode of former city councilman Mike Bonin’s podcast, What’s Next, Los Angeles?, Scully explained she feels scrutinized, “I think that there are a lot of other people in this race who are going to be given a lot more grace than I am.”

Many have taken to Twitter to critique her, accusing Scully of identity politics and being “woke.” Several Twitter users have questioned her capacity to hold the city council position. Under a Tweet Bonin posted about his interview with Scully, Twitter user @faster_paster1 commented, “Enough with identity politics. Pave the roads, pick up the trash, reduce crime, create opportunities for people to succeed.” Another user, @Eugenesnail, questioned Scully’s motive for running, saying, “... does she have any qualifications worthy of the job she seeks? Or is it she just needs a job?”

Scully’s partner, Jolly Hollamon who goes by they/them pronouns, described how people often reverse their course when they meet her, “She’s got this aura about her where you can tell she’s kind and caring and compassionate, and it’s really disarming for people who think they want to be enemies with her.”

Along with organizing events for her church and singing in the choir, Scully can be seen outdoors: learning to kayak, taking walks and biking with her partner while her children roller skate or scooter and even taking her laptop to a park bench to get some fresh air while she works.

Scully has been an avid bookworm since she could read at just four years old. “I could read sooner than I could speak a lot of words,” she said. She created the Black and Bookish Literary Collective a few years ago, a website that celebrates Black literature, and posts her current reads on her campaign website.

One of Scully’s favorite District 6 eateries is Guido’s Pizza and Pasta, which she and Jolly have been regulars at since they met in 2019. When Scully switches up their usual order – an eggplant and cheese pizza – the restaurant often calls back to confirm they didn’t mishear.

“It’s been so nice to build a community in this space,” she said. “You get to know everybody around you, and I love that about these neighborhoods.”

Scully is running an entirely grassroots campaign. “I don’t know how to do it any other way,” she said, adding, “I don’t have the stomach to do it in a way that is not authentic or intentional.”

As of March 18, Scully has raised $12,487, the second lowest among her five official competitors, according to the L.A. City Ethics Commission.

District 6 is located in northeast Los Angeles and spans the neighborhoods of Arleta, Van Nuys, Sun Valley, Lake Balboa, Panorama City, North Hills and North Hollywood. According to 2016 estimates by L.A. County, District 6 is a majority Latino/Latina district (71%) with just over 283,000 people. Residents have a medium household income of around $45,500 a year, and nearly 23% live below the poverty line.

District 6 is facing a host of issues that Scully hopes to tackle in the office with her activist experience, including the unhoused crisis, crime, transportation and environmental matters.

For Scully, these problems should be looked at through an equity-seeking perspective. Homelessness, she said, is going to take several solutions to address its many causes.

Scully advocates for more broadly issued rental caps, limiting the percentage points that rent can be increased yearly. However, doing so would require repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a state law that supersedes council ordinances.

Scully advocates for more extensive outreach programs and relationship building among the unhoused, case workers and landlords to help get more people inside and off the streets. “It starts with talking to unhoused people and asking them what they need and want,” she said. “It continues with building more shelters … more access to affordable housing.”

Scully wants to repeal city ordinance 41.18, which makes it illegal for anyone to obstruct a street, sidewalk, or another public right-of-way by sitting, lying, or sleeping.

As a police abolitionist, Scully would like to see the eradication of the police force entirely. “[Policing] is an infrastructure put in place to harm Black and brown people,” she said. “I don’t think we should have a world for police.”

Critics of abolition have stated that a police force is necessary to protect citizens. Scully thinks the LAPD budget could be better served elsewhere in housing, parks, afterschool programs and education.

For Scully, transportation access is also an issue of equity. She prioritizes taking the Metro and public transit herself.

According to the 2022 Metro Customer Experience Survey, 58% of Metro riders are Latinx, representing the largest ethnic group, followed by Black (14%) and white (12%). These riders are often low-income, with 83% making less than $49,000 annually. Bus and Metro stops are often uncovered and without seating. She said she would like to see physical improvements in transit stops along with more reliable and increased transit schedules.

According to the airport website, district 6 is home to the Van Nuys Airport, a non-commercial airport that saw over 300,000 take-offs and landings in 2021. Scully sees the airport as “mass pollution in brown neighborhoods by privileged people.”

“They don’t live in these neighborhoods … They come to where we live, they fly their jet planes, and that pollution stays in our community,” she said, adding, “We are getting the brunt of this in every aspect.” Scully would like to see the airport closed or, at the very least, for homes in Van Nuys to receive retrofitted double-paned windows and insulation to help divert some harmful pollutants.

Scully intends to expand inclusivity and equity in the council and the district.

“I am coming at this [position] from a collaboration standpoint at every turn: I wanna get things done, I want to build the infrastructure,” she said. “It takes voices from all aspects, all walks of life.”

If a candidate came along who could be a better advocate for her district than her, Scully said she’d gladly drop out to support and uplift them. “That person has not shown up,” she said. “I am still in the race and hoping to win.”