The new documentary Stockton on My Mind, directed by Emmy(R) winner Marc Levin (HBO’s “Class Divide,” “Thug Life in D.C.”) is the multi-layered story of millennial mayor Michael Tubbs, whose own experience growing up amid poverty and violence inspired him to create innovative change in his beleaguered hometown of Stockton, California.
Born to a teenage mother and an incarcerated father, Tubbs felt society destined him for either prison or death. Defying expectations, at the age of 26 in 2016, he became one of the youngest mayors of a major American city and Stockton’s first African American mayor. The film follows Tubbs’ efforts to reverse the fortunes of a city known as one of the poorest, most violent and least literate in the nation.
The documentary debuts Tuesday, July 28 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.
As a child growing up in Stockton, Tubbs felt he was “set up” for either prison or death, but he forged another path for himself. After excelling at Stanford on a scholarship, he returned to his hometown with a clear mission statement: to “upset the setup” and empower others to change the status quo through positive civil action.
In 2016, the picture was bleak for Stockton. The city had been ground zero for the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008 and had become the first major U.S. city to declare bankruptcy in the wake of the Great Recession. Drawing on his own disadvantaged upbringing to shape his vision for change, Mayor Tubbs launches some of the boldest social and economic policy experiments in the country to lift up his city of 300,000 residents. With a holistic approach to change, the city becomes an incubator, using private/public partnerships to test ways of challenging the systems that create conditions of inequality and lack of opportunity in the first place. From the Stockton Scholars program that provides college funding for high school graduates, to the SEED program, an experimental “universal basic income” payment to citizens chosen by a lottery system, to Advance Peace, an initiative to prevent violence by engaging with communities around the root causes of conflict, Stockton is at the forefront of a dynamic transformation. Yet, change is hard, and there are many headwinds to contend with, including skepticism, criticism and even a recall effort from some of the residents.
Stockton on My Mind weaves Michael Tubbs’ story together with a wide array of people living in Stockton, some of whose stories echo Tubbs’ own, and many of whom are leaders working alongside him to reinvent the city.
Raymond Aguilar, who served over two decades in prison and now works to incentivize at-risk communities to deter violent crime
Jasmine Dellafosse, a community organizer and activist who seeks to dismantle the school to prison pipeline
Lavelle Hawkins, a Stockton native and former NFL wide receiver who now serves as an assistant football coach committed to guiding his students on the right path
Michael Tubbs, Sr., a Stockton native and former gang member sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping when Mayor Tubbs was a young child
Isaiah “Zay” Evans, a promising high school senior from a troubled home on house arrest and facing jail time on a burglary charge
Joy Almendarez, a teenage mother determined to beat the odds and make it to college
Rogelio “Junior” Vivero, a first-generation Latino student who messaged Mayor Tubbs on twitter and became one of the first student ambassadors of Stockton Scholars
In addition to the day-to-day challenges of running a city, Stockton on My Mind follows Michael Tubbs’ personal milestones over three years as he welcomes a son with his wife, First Partner of Stockton, Anna Malaika Nti-Asare-Tubbs, and reflects on building a deeper relationship with his own father who hopes for parole at some point in the future.
Despite the critics and deep-seated challenges, Tubbs’ political journey continues to have an impact. As of early 2020, the homicide rate in Stockton had declined by 38%. The first class of Stockton Scholars received 879 college scholarships totaling over $700,000. And the SEED program was extended an additional six months, through the end of 2020.
Culminating in a visit to the city by rapper and activist Common, Stockton on My Mind is a powerful, moving testament to the commitment and dedication of individuals making a difference by planting seeds of hope and opportunity in their community.