Topanga resident Zennon Ulyate-Crow is just 18 but he’s a passionate political activist and is pursuing his vision for social justice and a better, fairer, greener America by doing something no high school senior has ever done before. Zennon is campaigning to become the youngest ever representative for Assembly District 50 at the California State Democratic Convention’s Assembly Delegate elections (ADEMs).

Assembly Delegates are elected by registered Democrats in each Assembly District to represent the district at the California State Democratic Convention and vote on behalf of their district’s constituents at California Democratic Party Regional Meetings. It’s a two-year term, with all delegates elected at ADEMs in January of every odd-numbered year. Zennon is one of 50 candidates running for 14 seats in the district that includes a wide swath of the Santa Monica Mountains, including Topanga, Pacific Palisades and Malibu.

For a high school senior grappling with all of the complications of life during the coronavirus crisis participating in this election may seem like a monumental undertaking, but Zennon says he is ready for the challenge. This lifelong Topanga resident took a moment to share how growing up in the Canyon shaped his perspective and helped develop his social conscience and his passion to change the world.

When did you become an activist? 

At Topanga Elementary, I recall learning about climate change for the first time and being shocked. That night, I sat outside with my parents, surrounded by the sounds of owls and crickets, asking how people were allowed to harm the world in such a profound way. Having grown up surrounded by my nature my entire life, it seemed wrong that nothing substantive had been done to protect this beautiful thing from a looming crisis. The appreciation for nature this canyon has given me has placed attacking global warming itself at the core of my belief system.

Are there other ways that your life in Topanga has shaped your perspective?

As I’ve grown up, I realize just how unique the drive Topangans have to help the canyon truly is. It’s the sheer determination of many Topangans, driven by their beliefs to create the change they want to see, that propels me to take action on my convictions. Being part of a community of individuals who are willing to put time and effort into making Topanga a better place, whether that is volunteering for our local school to put on theatricals for students or securing the boulevard’s designation as a scenic route, we push each other to do better for our neighbors.”

What makes Topanga different? 

“Going to middle school on the Westside, the trope among students was that us Topangans used to swing from tree to tree to get to the school bus stop each morning,” Zennon told the Topanga New Times. “It was my first experience truly out of the Topanga bubble, I had never considered that, as a community, Topanga was any different than anywhere else. I thought honking to the Peace Alliance at Pine Tree Circle each Friday or watching the Trash Warriors early Sunday mornings on my way to an AYSO Soccer game–seeing community organizations each week put their time into making our neighborhood better–was something every place had.”

Why are you running for ADEMs? 

I’m running because I wish to take that Topanga spirit statewide. As a representative for Assembly District 50 in the California State Democratic Convention, I plan to shape the party’s platform by introducing both a statewide Green New Deal and an anti-sprawl resolution. By bringing together the values of nature and determination this community instilled in me, I hope to effect substantial change in the upper levels of party politics. 

You are just 18 but this isn’t your first foray into local politics, is it?

As a Projects Co-Supervisor for Abundant Housing Los Angeles, I’ve already brought these values into my life by writing advocacy letters and speaking at council meetings to push for climate-friendly housing solutions that discourage sprawl. Locally, I advocated for the construction of a safe path between the elementary school and library, in addition to securing a new public bus route from Pali High to Santa Monica. 

Can you share some thoughts on your platform?

I am inspired by our activist and volunteer-based community, and I couldn’t be prouder to run in Assembly District 50 as the youngest person to ever campaign for ADEMs. In a community where activism and environmentalism collide, I hope to use my experience growing up here to change the Democratic Party by implementing our Topanga values into the statewide platform.”

For registered members of the Democratic Party, the deadline to request a ballot is January 11. For more information on Zennon’s campaign and the election, visit his webpage https://www.edsonlopeznoel.org/2021-adems-zennon-ulyate-crow. And look out! The next time Zennon’s name is on a ballot it could easily be for state legislature. This Topanga resident wants to change the world.

Editor’s note: Zennon is the youngest candidate in the upcoming ADEMs, but he isn’t the only Topanga resident. Longtime local political activist Adam Wolman is also running. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/NewDealSlate50

Zennon Ulyate-Crow learned to love nature growing up in Topanga. He brings that love to his political aspirations, committed to finding ways to address climate change and urban sprawl. Photos courtesy of Zennon Ulyate-Crow