Teen mom's journey to becoming one of LAUSD's chief educators

How did a Black teenage mother in a segregated L.A. suburb become one of the most influential people in the nation's second largest school district? Dr. Adaina Brown will tell you the key is a good education.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Growing up in Southern California, Adaina Brown always knew she was going places. But getting there would be quite the adventure.

Brown was born and raised in North Carson, a quiet, multi-ethnic enclave south of Los Angeles.

"Carson was very diverse but very segregated. You knew not to go to that side of Carson because this is where you belong. If you go over there at night something bad might happen," she said.

By her own admission, she was a curious and precocious kid. She grew up surrounded by love in a progressive, middle class family. However, navigating her childhood wasn't always easy. Brown went to an all-white private school where, at an early age, she realized that something wasn't right.

"I never had a Black teacher. By the time I got to fourth grade, I begged my mom to send me to public school, which was right up the street, because I wanted to be with people who look like me," she said.

By 18, Brown was in college. She was also a single mother, a predicament not completely uncommon in many Black communities. But for her, education was never an option. She was determined not to be another statistic.

"I love school. I love learning. I took my kid with me to UCLA. My dad was a little upset, he dropped me off at the welfare office and said, 'You're going to handle this yourself.' So, I got on welfare and did what I had to do," Brown said.

With the support of her family, Brown went on to obtain four degrees, including two Masters and an EdD, all while raising her four sons with husband Lennie Jr. She is now the local district west superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the country. Personally, she says she hopes her story will inspire other teenage mothers. Professionally, she's on the frontlines of a revolution to reimagine America's approach to education.

"We don't want compliant children. We want children who are going to question the thinking. We want children who are going to push the envelope. We teach our kids to listen, to think and to repeat so they understand better," she said.

This story is part of "Our America: Living While Black," a five-part ABC Owned Television Stations docuseries. Find all all episodes on your streaming device, including FireTV, Roku, Apple TV and Android TV.

Brown has been an educator for more than 20 years. In 2018, she was awarded LAUSD Middle School Principal of the Year. She believes education is the key to solving many of the issues that fuel systematic racism.

"We can't fix years of generational racism with a GoFundMe. We can't throw money at a problem that's so deeply-rooted in our culture," Brown said. "We have to create laws, put people in positions, empower folks if we are going to end it."

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