At only 33 years-old, Yasmine-Imani McMorrin became the first Black woman to be elected to the Culver City Council in November 2020. This year, McMorrin once again made history as the first Black woman selected among the Council to serve as Vice Mayor of Culver City, a predominantly white enclave located just outside of Los Angeles, CA.
A true renaissance woman, in addition to her Council duties, McMorrin also works for California’s Children’s Defense Fund serving as Director of Education Equity. Trained as an attorney, McMorrin is proud to be a mom to her daughter, and her “vision as a Council Member is to ensure that as Culver City develops, we prioritize equity, making sure that everyone shares in the progress we create together.”
It’s been a few months into her newest role as Vice Mayor and ESSENCE had a chance to sit down with McMorrin to talk Black Girl Magic, her journey into the political arena, and how she balances wearing so many hats.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ESSENCE: What made you want to get into politics?
I’m very introverted by nature and would much rather be at home, drinking tea and reading with my daughter and my cat; but, somehow, that wasn’t the story for me. I got involved in politics shortly after we moved to California in 2016. Unfortunately, my daughter wasn’t having the best experience at school, so my entry point to organizing and advocacy here in California started by joining the local PTA. I sort of fell into it—local and policy decisions really acutely touched my life. I was a renter when I decided to run for City Council, I took transit to work, and I’m a person of color, and so it was just something that I said, “someone has to do it. I’m just as qualified, if not more qualified than folks that are currently doing it.”
But, when I was considering this I had a lot of imposter syndrome. I didn’t know if I could do it, if this space was for me, and if my message would resonate with people. What I want to convey to folks, and particularly Black women, is that we are the backbone of the Democratic party. We absolutely deserve to be in policymaking positions and roles, and to be encouraged in that. Our government is made up of people who are elected by us, and if we focus on Black women, everyone’s condition and everyone’s experiences, our cities and our states will be better. We belong everywhere, but particularly in government, especially as Black women, and it is a privilege and an honor to do this kind of impactful work and I’m very grateful.
ESSENCE: You’ve made it all the way to Vice Mayor, and the first Black woman at that! Did you anticipate making history?
I ran a very progressive campaign, and it was a risk to run under a divest/invest model in terms of wanting to divest 50% from the police department into housing, into services for youth, into services for our unhoused, creating an unarmed mobile crisis response model because I see safety as something more police responding to a crime.
I see safety as folks having food, folks having shelter, having access to good transit, having access to programs and a living wage, all of these things. I knew [I’d be the first] so, I was able to run with those things in mind and I wanted to run as myself. I didn’t pretend to be anyone else. I’m a single mom and these are things that Culver City was not really used to seeing, but I was also very well qualified, and I guess it translated. But again, it is a privilege because other single moms and other folks from communities of color will come up to me say, “I really appreciate your voice. You’re speaking for me.”
ESSENCE: You probably get this question all the time, but you have a full-time job, you’re Vice Mayor, you’re a mom. How do you balance it all?
Well, shout out to therapy and also shout out to boundaries, which is something I’m still working on. Calendly keeps my life sane, and they’re even a Black-owned business! But, we’re human beings and I can’t do all of the things in my personal life or at work, so it’s a balance. I definitely don’t have it all together and I don’t want to sell that story, but I have an amazing support system, my wonderful friends and a community here who look after and support one another. I just try not to get super overwhelmed by all of the things on my to do list, and I’ve created systems that help create order in the midst of chaos or business. It’s one thing at a time and hoping it continues to expand and I continue to do what God has placed me here to do.
ESSENCE: What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?
My daughter has a Black Girl Magic pennant in her room that her grandmother bought for her, and sometimes I like to peek at her room and look at it. I think it is that unquantifiable, that je ne sais quoi. We are magic and it is beautiful. I feel humbled to see my daughter and her friends come into their own, my peers and friends who’ve gone to Spelman getting married, having children, excelling in their careers. I’m grateful to be surrounded by it. I’m grateful for the reminder that it exists. I’m grateful when I see it, and I continue to be inspired by Black Girl Magic in all its glory.