Picking Up the Pieces

tamika l. butler
ZORA
Published in
11 min readOct 12, 2022

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Picture of LA skyline in background and a neighborhood in the foregroundd
Photo by Alexis Balinoff on Unsplash

At the beginning of the pandemic, my family moved out of the city of Los Angeles.

Less than 2 miles from where we used to live in Leimert Park, we were now LA County residents. We were about to have our second kid, we were two parents working from home, we needed more space. But I did not want to go. Completely aware of the privilege I had to even be thinking about working from home, upgrading our space, and owning a house at a time when so many of my community members, colleagues, and friends were struggling to hang on and begging our city leaders to prioritize tenants, Angelenos facing housing instability, and our unhoused neighbors. A lot has changed since our 2020 move. We are now a family of four. COVID has forever impacted how we interact with others and how often we leave our little bubble. I have started a PhD program in Urban Planning at UCLA. Beyond that, a move that is a few miles away in LA means a drastically different commute and schedule, especially when I now have to drive to a Westwood classroom instead of a downtown conference room. So, we decided we needed to change our oldest son’s school.

Overhead view of LA highway
Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash

No longer writing the typical LA highway love story every morning as we drove from the 10 to the 110 to the 5 to drop off at daycare, we were now able to barely get out of the house 10 mins before daycare drop off in West Adams. Less time in the car, more time in sweats, life was good.

Then things started changing for our 3 year old son. One day he came home and over dinner declared to my wife and me that he was a “bad kid.” As we scrambled to tell him about how good kids sometimes have bad days and showered him with love, we questioned who said this phrase enough to make him internalize it.

As parents you feel helpless. Kids are figuring it out, exploring new things, learning about themselves…and often learning how it feels when other people seem them and judge them. As calls home and parent-teacher conferences mounted, like every parent of a Black kid, I was on high alert. I watched my white wife have to confront for the first time in her life what it meant to be this close to anti-Blackness — and not be able to ignore it. (Because…

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tamika l. butler
ZORA
Writer for

tamika is a land use, equity, & social and racial justice advocate. She's an Urban Planning PhD student at UCLA & the Principal at tamika l. butler consulting