Issac Bryan stands arms folded, at a Black Lives Matter in June 2020 | Trevor Jackson

I WAS THERE: Isaac Bryan was Born for this Moment; Confronting Police, Protests and Power

My name is Isaac Bryan. I'm the director of public policy at the Ralph J. Bunche by Center for African-American Studies at UCLA. I’m also director of the Black Policy Project at UCLA.  

2020 may become one of the momentous years of an entire generation.   

The protest right outside of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house was not publicized. We know that law enforcement has been brutal to many organizers in the city. I have been brutalized by law enforcement during these times of protests. And so the idea of marching on the mayor's house and peaceful protest, we were quite frankly, scared of what could be lethal repercussions. 

it was one of the most beautiful and powerful things I've ever been a part of. It was well organized. We spent time organizing  thousands of people were in the streets. We chanted. We sang. We did the electric slide. I want to give a special shout out to Common for coming out.  

We were met by law enforcement  but clearly a message of standing off and standing back is starting to resonate with the LAPD. 

This moment right now is the culmination of personal and professional experiences in my life coming together. 

My origin begins in Dallas, Texas, in early 90s and on the product of a violent attack on a teenage mother who lived in poverty. That ultimately forced me to come to early contact with the child welfare system 

when I was in middle school  I was suspended seven or eight times. I was pushed out of school despite being in the gifted and talented program. I didn't graduate middle school. In fact I struggled so hard that I almost didn't make it to college. 

I accepted the offer at UCLA and I got my master's in public policy.] I graduated top of my class out here and I worked for Mayor Eric Garcetti in the Office of the Mayor  for a couple of years 

I've been out on the streets/ I have been in the halls of power negotiating change. And I've been on the frontlines of organizing.  

As someone who has moved between different  spaces I can tell you right now is the space for organizing. It is the space for protesting, it is the space for exclaiming just how upset we are.  

We saw a man murdered on camera. For the umpteenth time. And it's not training that's going to fix that. 

We need our leaders to be inspiring, to be bold and to push for actions that might seem uncomfortable but are very, very necessary.  And that is the end of my rant.  

"This moment right now is the culmination of personal and professional experiences in my life coming together," says civil rights activist and UCLA's Director of Black Policy Project Isaac Bryan. In this episode of I Was There Bryan describes helping lead a Black Lives Matter protest outside of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s residence and why the experience was a pivotal moment for him. A week earlier he’d suffered injuries at the hands of law enforcement at another protest. What would happen this time?

Most of Bryan’s career has been spent as an educator, public policy analyst and co-founder of several civil rights groups. Born into poverty and a product of the child welfare system, Bryan barely graduated high school only to end up working on public policy issues at L.A. City Hall. His personal narrative speaks to his personal struggles and why this moment of unrest feels different to him.


About the Series

"I WAS THERE" is about telling a great story. This series of first-person accounts breaks current and historical events down to human scale, carefully taking the viewer behind some of Southern California’s biggest headlines.

Production team

Executive Producer: Karen Foshay 

Producers: Tori Edgar, Denise Chan & Michael Ray 

Photographers: Trevor Jackson, Karen Foshay

Editor/Graphics: Michael Ray, Andy Viner

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