In Stockton, California change is the hands of one man- Mayor Michael Tubbs Jr, the first African American mayor of Stockton.
Tubbs has been implementing change in the city of Stockton, a city that only emerged from bankruptcy five years ago. In HBO’s new documentary Stockton On My Mind, the effects of Tubbs’ and his team’s initiative for change program Stockton Scholars is examined looking at how the program affects the lives of students within the city. In the 90 minutes, long documentary Tubbs’ own background is examined in an effort to show how his experiences with growing up the child of a single mother with an incarcerated father, like many of the scholars in the program, serves as an example of the possibility of what is possible through higher education.
Tubbs makes it clear early on that his story is against the odds kind of narrative. A black man growing up as the son of a teenaged mother, and imprisoned absentee father, the odds were in favor of him being just another statistic. The documentary goes further into Tubbs’s background by featuring interviews with his mother, father who was interviewed while in prison, grandmother, aunt, and wife. In particular, Tubbs’ mother shares her story of strength in knowing that despite the odds being against her and her son, she pushed to make sure he wouldn’t become a statistic, and how in it takes a village to raise a child fashion called upon her mother and sister to raise young Michael. Tubb’s father whom he is named after openly describes his mistakes but it doing so reveals that sometimes bad choices are made in situations where individuals can’t afford to do the right thing. When Tubbs’ senior and juniors connection is explored, however, Tubbs Jr. doesn’t seem to hold any type of judgment or animosity towards his father, explaining that he hopes one day his own son will build a bond with his grandfather.
Some of the other individuals who were followed in the documentary include a young black athlete that finds himself in legal trouble, a teenage mother, and a Hispanic man who was at one time imprisoned with Mayor Tubbs’s father. Again each of these individuals doesn’t seem as just randomly picked students, each representing a part of Tubbs’ past. The teenage mother’s story is basically Tubbs’ mother’s, and Tubbs himself sees himself in the young athlete.
The main issue that is explored within Stockton On My Mind is, Tubbs plan to boost the city’s local economy through a universal basic income. Tubbs has become noted for being one of the first politicians to experiment with giving residents no strings attached recurring monthly basic income. Tubbs’s experimental plan began long before the US government’s proposal for the first economic stimulus check to help in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it would seem residents would be receptive to a universal basic income plan, as shown in Stockton On My Mind that isn’t always the case, showing pushback from the community against Tubbs’ plan. Opponents argue that should everyone really get a basic income check without a background check, feeling individuals who have committed crimes should not be entitled to a check. Tubbs’ plan didn’t seem to touch upon the background qualifications of recipients when factoring in who gets a check. Mayor Tubbs understands individuals who may have a tough time securing employment and resources due to a lack of higher education and incarceration. He just wants to provide fellow people of color, many disadvantaged with the educational opportunities to expand what is possible in their lives and communities.
It’s the particular conflict regarding providing a universal monthly income to all residents of a community, that make Stockton both timely as well as a model for the future. Tubbs’ universal basic income and Stockton Scholars program was indeed a success and can begin to serve as models for future communities figuring out how to implement a universal basic income plan especially now when needed as many suffer economic hardships due to COVID-19 pandemic
HBO announced the launch of its digital Action Series which is an educational experience that will inspire social justice organizers, political activists, and community figures and those who were moved by Mayor Tubbs’ story and efforts to follow in his footsteps and make a difference in their communities. The multi-day series of interactive digital live chats began Wednesday, July 29, 2020, and will last through Friday, August 8. Programming includes topical discussions around the Prison Pipeline, Voter Registration/Suppression, and more led by Tubbs, Van Lathan, Angela Rye, and a slew of other prominent activists. All events will be released by the participants on their social profiles and will live on the HBO website.
Friday 7/31: Action Series – Boomerang Effect
- Van Lathan (Host and Media Personality) and Lavelle Hawkins (Former NFL Player, Edison High School Asst Football Coach) explore civic engagement. Find out more about the benefits of returning home to plant new roots in the community and working towards local social change.
Monday 8/3: Action Series – Voter Registration
- Angela Rye (Political and Cultural Commentator) and Franchesca Ramsey (Author, Host, Activist) explore voting myths, the importance of voting, how to stay informed, and best practices for making sure your voice counts during election year in a pandemic.
Tuesday 8/4: Action Series –Activism at Any Age
- Blair Imani (Activist, Author) and Jasmine Dellafosse (Community Organizer, Gathering for Justice) discuss youth activism, how parents can have conversations with their children about what’s going on in the community, and how people of all ages can make an impact. Tune into this discussion to learn how every generation can get involved and have their voices heard.
Tuesday 8/4: Docs Club
- Eunique Jones Gibson (Founder, Because of Them We Can) and Jen Winston (Writer, Activist) engage in a unique discussion via Instagram Live with fans who are encouraged to participate by sharing their questions about the film and its subject matter.
Wednesday 8/5: Action Series – School to Prison Pipeline
- Frederick Joseph (Author, Activist, Marketer), Samuel “Sammy” Nunez (Founder and Executive Director, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin) and Raymond Aguilar (Senior Youth Mentor, Fathers & Families of San Joaquin) discuss the impact of the school to prison pipeline on communities of color and look at Stockton as an example of how to promote the advancement of youth and families in disenfranchised communities.
STOCKTON ON MY MIND premiered on HBO, Tuesday, July 28 at 9 PM ET/PT and available to stream on HBO Max.