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University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

From ‘problem child’ to reputable South L.A. leader, businessman

Voices Neighborhood Councilman Matthew N. Crawford’s work in the community and at home
Jackson Tammariello
Matthew N. Crawford stands in front of the Vermont Square Public Library in Los Angeles, Calif.

A stable living situation was unknown to Matthew N. Crawford in his youth. Growing up poor was difficult, and uncertainty was ever present.

“My mom would literally eat apples the last few days of the month before the food stamps came in,” he said.

Now, the 39-year-old gives back to the Vermont Square and surrounding South L.A. community. As a member of Voices Neighborhood Council, Crawford helps organize neighborhood cleanups and empowers local businesses by hiring them to serve food at events. He also advocates for more accessible and affordable public transportation, supporting initiatives like the Slauson corridor.

Crawford, who was born in Inglewood, was raised in Pomona with his grandparents and in Section 8 housing in San Bernardino with his mom.

He said growing up with an emotionally abusive mother and an absent father made him a “problem child.” 

It got to the point where he faced expulsion in elementary school.

The intervention of his principal and efforts of his teachers kept him from that fate. 

“One thing that I tried to do in my life is show gratitude to everybody who has given me anything positive,” he said. 

Crawford recently called his former principal, Diane Williams, and thanked her “for literally saving my life.”

Separate from his tenure as a councilman, Crawford is also a small business owner. Of his three businesses, the most central is being the Chief Operating Officer of Toss It Up Salad. In March 2019, he met his now-partner Javonne Sanders, who founded the company with the goal of providing affordable and healthy eating to South L.A. residents. 

Crawford initially started as a customer buying Greek salads, and the two struck up a close friendship. Sanders brought Crawford on as her marketing expert, and over the next several years, Toss It Up Salad’s following on social media grew from 600 followers in 2019 on Instagram to over 3,000 today.

“They believe in what we believe, that is a healthier South Los Angeles,” Crawford said. “An eradication of this food desert that has existed for far too long, predominantly affecting Black and brown communities.” 

Being a supportive father to his 11-year-old son, D’mari, is another key goal for Crawford. Determined to break the cycle of neglect in his family — from his own parents and others in his life — Crawford vowed to always be present for his son and to be supportive in his needs.

“It’s really easy to let hatred and disdain and anger really make you lose focus on what’s really important,” he said. “It’s okay to be angry … but that should never be the focus. The child has to be the focus.” 

In their free time, the two like to visit popular areas such as the Getty Museum and the Santa Monica Pier, as well as relax by the beach in Marina Del Rey.

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