Mayor of Tustin defends diversity in government with own children’s book

Letitia Clark, mayor of Tustin and a mother of three, wasn’t sure her kids really understood her job.

“I have twins, they’re 14 now, but when I first ran for office they were 8,” Clark said.

They accompanied her to the meetings and understood that as a member of the city council, Mom was busy.

“As they started to care more about what mom was doing and why,” said Clark, “I realized that even though they were a lot with me and close to me, they still didn’t have one. good understanding of everything that was going on behind me. -the things of the scene that I did as a member of the city council and now as a mayor. “

Clark, who was chosen by his peers on Tustin City Council to be mayor for the 2021 calendar year, found that many adults were also unaware of the scope of his duties.

“When I was chosen as mayor, even talking about the process whereby I was not elected but appointed by my colleagues to be mayor, the adults were like, ‘Well, how does that work? ”Said Clark.

Clark set out to write a children’s book that would explain his role not only to children but also to adults who read the book to them.

“I thought the book could be a good conversation piece for families,” Clark said.

Clark tapped Halo Publishing International for his project and worked on the book during the pandemic.

“I knew I was going to go the self-publishing route. Halo Publishing specializes in children’s books and they helped me find the illustrator.

Clark said she worked closely with illustrator Sarah K. Turner on the details of her characters.

“We talked about how we wanted the skin color to be, the hair styles, just the feel of the book,” Clark said. “And I wrote all the stanzas in the book, but then the publisher had a say in how it should play out.”

The result is a colorful and rhyming children’s book for children ages 5 to 10 called “Mum is the Mayor”. The book explores the role of the city mayor through the eyes of children.

Tustin’s mayor, Letitia Clark’s children’s book, “Mommy is the Mayor,” about the role of a mayor.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“The book was really inspired by my kids being curious and also making sure my kids know how serious the job is,” Clark said. “It’s not just about having fun events and cutting the ribbon… there is a lot of work and everything they see in their community is impacted by what I do and what me and my colleagues. let’s do. “

The book also discusses the need for representation and the importance of role model demonstrations for children of color.

“What I’ve learned is that only 12% of children’s books feature people of color,” Clark said, “I’m happy to add to that percentage.”

In 2018, publication statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education found that only 10% of characters in children’s books were described as African or African American. The study found that the majority of characters in children’s books were portrayed as white (50%) or as an animal or other non-human character (27%).

Clark understands the need for children to see themselves as role models, as she has found her place in city government after seeing women like her make a difference.

Clark received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Xavier University in Louisiana and she began her career in New Orleans.

“When I was in New Orleans, I thought I wanted to study law. It wasn’t until I started working on black women’s campaigns… They’re running for mayor and Senate and they are winning. And they look like me, ”said Clark,“ And here I’m 19, 20, I’m seeing this for the first time and it completely changed what I wanted to do in my career. At that time, the cap for me was a lawyer because that was all I had observed.

While working in New Orleans, Clark witnessed Hurricane Katrina and saw first-hand the role municipal government can play for a community in need.

“I have just developed a very great respect and appreciation for local government and our responsibility to people,” said Clark. “At the end of the day, when it was time to react to the disaster, it was the mayor, the city council, not the governor, not the president… they came much later.”

The book is about her personal experience and she feels the impact.

“I’m already getting what I was hoping to get,” Clark said. “As people learn about the role of a mayor, they get inspired by everything our local government does, and then they see a woman of color in the book. “

So what do her children think of their mother’s work now?

“What resonated the most with my kids is that they see service as part of what we do,” said Clark. “They may not want to go into politics or government, but whatever they do, I know they will want to volunteer and they will want to get involved.”

Clark will be hosting a book signing event at Barnes & Noble in Tustin on November 20. “Mum is the Mayor” is available online at Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble.

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