House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. John Lewis join L.A. rally to end child poverty

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) speaks at a rally pushing a California Assembly bill aimed at reducing child poverty in the state.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Civil rights hero John Lewis and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lent some star power to a South L.A. rally Sunday aimed at drastically reducing child poverty in California and across the nation.

The event — in support of a California Assembly bill that seeks to increase funding for childcare, after-school service, job placement programs and other antipoverty initiatives — was part block party and part progressive pep rally, as lawmakers took potshots at President Trump and danced to pop songs as they took the stage.

For the record:

3:31 a.m. May 20, 2024A previous version of this article misspelled the name of a student from the Stem Academy in Hollywood. It is Ilene Garcia.

Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke of his days fighting for voting rights and equality in the segregation-era South, encouraging the nearly 200 people in attendance to raise their voices and urge legislators in Sacramento to push the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.


“Here in California, you must get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble, and pass this bill,” said Lewis, whose wife grew up in Los Angeles.

Assembly Bill 1520, authored and introduced earlier this year by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), seeks to reduce the percentage of children living below the poverty line in California by half by fiscal year 2039.

One in five children in California lives below the federal poverty line, according to the bill, including 30% of African American and Latino children.

“This bill is not based on politics. It’s not based on assumptions. It is based on research,” said Burke, adding that much of the legislation was drafted in response to studies undertaken by Stanford University.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) invoked President Trump’s decision to take military action in Syria last week after children were killed in a poison gas attack, nudging the administration not to cut funding to programs that provide necessary services to low-income families in the U.S.

“If you care about the children in Syria, and we all do … let that be a message to care for all of the children in the world,” she said.


Ilene Garcia, a teenage student at the Stem Academy in Hollywood, drew loud cheers when she spoke of her experience growing up poor in Los Angeles. Born to a single mother who has worked as a janitor in the city for two decades, Garcia said her family has been forced to move at least five times in recent years while struggling to cover rent.

“I come home from work and do the cooking and cleaning before I even get to my homework and studies,” said Garcia, who plans to study biology when she attends UCLA next year.

Lewis also touched on his childhood in rural Alabama, where he said he grew up “very, very poor,” but his family was able to survive with the help of relatives, urging the California Legislature to offer the same kind of aid to struggling families in the state.

“If it hadn’t been for people helping out, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” he said. “So we must never, ever, give up on any child. Ever.”

Twitter: @JamesQueallyLAT