Darren Parker, a longtime Democratic activist based in Los Angeles and chair of the state party’s African American Caucus, has died following a lengthy battle with stage 3 esophegeal cancer.
Parker has long pushed for racial equality and fairness for public employees. He led a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and worked under three Assembly speakers during his tenure. He also ran two unsuccessful campaigns for a spot in the Legislature, one in a 2011 special election for state Senate and another in 2016 for Assembly.
Rusty Hicks, chairman of the California Democratic Party, called Parker a “tireless fighter for our party’s values and an unrelenting advocate for the African American community.”
Herb Wesson, president of the Los Angeles City Council, considers Parker a close friend and said he’ll cherish his fighting mentality and sense of humor.
“He was a master organizer and was unbelievably respected,” Wesson said. “He had a natural ability to influence. When he and I first met, he was affiliated with labor and did whatever the labor organization needed him to do.”
Parker began “the battle for his life” in December 2017, according to a GoFundMe page that raised more than $12,000 for his cancer treatment. According to the page, Parker had to undergo at least one year of rigorous treatment.
Wesson said Parker remained resilient in his fight against cancer, even attending a political event on his behalf about two months ago — the last time they spoke in person.
“He was unbelievably ill, but still active,” Wesson said. “There was an event held for me, and somehow, some way, he came to this event and just really participated and told people I was the best thing since sliced bread. He was sick and frail, but he made the trip. We hugged and said we loved each other.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter on Monday to express his condolences.
“Sad to hear about Darren Parker’s passing,” Newsom wrote. “It’s powerful activists like him whose legacy will live on for decades to come. My heart goes out to his family at this time.”
Parker is survived by his five daughters and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.