'Stockton On My Mind' Review: Moving story of youngest US mayor and his vision to bring change to the world

The hard-hitting documentary film, directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marc Levin, chronicles the life, youth and work of Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs


                            'Stockton On My Mind' Review: Moving story of youngest US mayor and his vision to bring change to the world
(HBO)

"I think God's plan is something you have a hint of, but you can't see in hindsight," Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs sings Drake's 'God's Plan' as the film pans in on him working in his office at Stockton City Hall. The first Black Mayor elected by the city of Stockton, and the youngest Mayor of any major US City, Tubbs, at the age of 26 in 2016, had decided to give back to his hometown and work towards its betterment. 'Stockton in My Mind', a new HBO documentary, is a tale of resilience and a success story of a passionate young man who has dedicated himself to empowering and uplifting his community.

When Tubbs ran for the office of Mayor, he planned to transform his home town of Stockton, California, for the better. His election, on the same day as Donald Trump became president, was a major milestone in the history of Stockton. Tubbs was a wide-eyed, passionate young man who's political aspiration primarily became the elevation of Stockton from being at its lowest. The 90-minute documentary draws focus to not only Tubbs' political career but his beginnings and how he strived to get to where he is. In addition, it touches upon stories of a select few youths with similar passions and backgrounds as Tubbs.

Tubbs was raised by a single mother in Stockton, while his father served a life sentence in prison. All his life, he was surrounded by poverty but the fire within him to do something great for himself and his family became his driving force. Fast forward to two decades later, he is a Stanford University graduate that previously served as a White House intern on the Stockton City Council. The hard-hitting documentary, directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marc Levin, chronicles Tubbs' childhood, youth and his time in office as Mayor. 

(HBO)

Despite the absence of his father, Tubbs managed to push himself to great lengths to be the man he is today, all the while chanting in his mind that he did not want to end up in prison. Stockton had been poverty and crime-ridden for decades where people were always falling on the wrong side of the law as an easy means to get their next meal or earn some money. Mayor Tubbs took office and inherited one of the poorest, most violent and least literate cities in the nation. It was so poor at the time he expressed his intentions to be a political representative in 2012, that it was still grappling with the ramifications of the 2008 recessions where even real estate had plummeted by 80 percent. Stockton became the largest city in the US to declare bankruptcy. Tubbs' foremost intention for his run for office was to reinvent Stockton, and upon his election, he stayed true to his word. Tubbs introduced some effective schemes that in the long-run had the city on a steady footing. Never had the city seen a Mayor so full of life, and the excitement that came with his elections persisted for years to come.

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He involved himself hands-on in the problems of the community and established some improvement to help strengthen it. While he had avid supporters who stood by him, Tubbs also received a significant amount of criticism and targetted hate. Guided by the philosophy "Be the change you wish to see in the world", he pushed through. Working towards his goals, Tubbs secured $20 million in donations with help from his friend and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel for a student scholarship program for the at-risk youth in Stockton called the 'Stockton Scholar'. Under the program, selected scholarship applicants would be awarded $4,000 towards their college fees. He also installed the 'Advance Peace' program in Stockton and recruited an ex-convict to run its operations. The program is aimed at reducing gun violence and increasing public safety in the city and involves a unique approach in providing stipends to those who have resisted from committing a gun crime.

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Tubbs launched a pilot program, 'Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration' or SEED, aimed it fixing a universal basic income as a solution for poverty and inequality. The program provides 125 households in Stockton with $500 as a monthly guaranteed income. The allocation of monetary resources towards these programs were all secured through private donations. He also has a program in place that is geared towards helping the homeless. But the focal point of the entire film would be Tubbs unreserved and full-blown dedication to the youth of Edison High School, and his goal to empower them and enable them access to higher education.

Tubbs recalls his childhood and college days and hopes to provide the several underprivileged kids in the city, the same sort of opportunities that he was presented with. The unscripted film also features candid accounts from Tubbs' incarcerated father, Michael Tubbs Sr, who despite being absent from his son's life has much adoration for Tubbs and all that he has become. Racole Dixon, his mother, describes single-parenting and how she wanted to "raise a child to become someone great", while his grandmother and aunt share pleasant anecdotes from his childhood. In a heartwarming segment in the film, it also touches upon Tubbs' journey into fatherhood after his wife discovered they were expecting. She gave birth to their son in October 2019.

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'Stockton on My Mind' offers an intimate portrait of Tubbs, with Levin's effortless depiction of the young politician struggling through his first term, and his team working tirelessly to bring about the change that his campaign had promised. The director also manages to capture the transformation that is brought about by Tubbs' new programs and features real-life testimonials from locals in the community who have been greatly benefitted from it. The film celebrates Tubbs, a young visionary with reformative goals characterized by his creative ideas, collaborative spirit, and his support system comprising the Stockton community and his family.

Coupled with poignant visuals, sanguine soundtracks and a smooth narrative, Levin's documentary is undoubtedly an unvarnished portrayal of strong leadership, community, love and unity. The film comes just in time as the movements demanding justice and an end to racism has been sweeping the nation for the past few months. It is the story of an African-American man and his remarkable journey to be the change that not only Stockton but the entire world deserves. 

'Stockton on My Mind' airs on HBO at 9 pm ET on Tuesday, July 28, and will be available to stream on HBO Max from Wednesday, July 29.

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