As a young Guatemalan German-Jewish woman who grew up in this district, Paula is aware of the diverse needs of the San Fernando Valley. She has been active in justice movements for 11 years, determined to prevent violence against all people and an advocate for indigenous people’s rights. Her multiethnic and interfaith upbringing shaped her into an ethical candidate that prioritizes building tolerance, unity, and the coexistence required for collective survival.

Paula was born in Los Angeles to a Catholic, Guatemalan mother and a Jewish, Chilean-German father. She was raised in Pacoima, Van Nuys, and Reseda, significantly shaped by her Guatemalan and German-Jewish grandmothers’ life experiences adapting to forced migration. Her biracial and multiethnic upbringing initiated her into becoming an intuitive bridge builder between social groups and communities. 


Paula first became politicized in high school by educators and community organizers who informed her about the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and the prison industrial complex. At age sixteen, Paula facilitated conversations on feminism, environmental justice, and at seventeen, organized two campus demonstrations. She went on to study at UC Berkeley, where she studied migration, prison, and genocide studies. She initiated what became mandatory consent (sexual violence prevention) and anti-oppression education in Berkeley Student Cooperative housing units, collaboratively planting seeds to scale out consent education on a university campus. 


In 2015, Paula became intimately horrified with the failures of the U.S. healthcare system - her mother was denied quality medical care for months for being uninsured. Patricia Elizabeth Avila Kahn died within four months of being diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer, becoming another casualty of a failing healthcare system and the war on the poor.


Since then, Paula has helped The Refugee Center Online roll out a resource guide for refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S. and internally displaced peoples around the world. Simultaneously, she has supported Freedom for Immigrants to collaboratively develop and pilot new programs. In 2016, she joined CODEPINK to co-produce the People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War, organized for the Local Peace Economies Campaign, and helped get the vote out with Courage Campaign for the 2016 election. Around this time, Paula began to accompany people confined in immigrant concentration camps funded by U.S. tax payer money and has since worked to close the camps and abolish ICE.


With a growing commitment to promote collective healing of intergenerational trauma, Paula turned to studying herbalism, the history of drug prohibition, and ceremonial use of plant medicine. She has spoken at international conferences and festivals on the war on drugs; trauma and  healing; reparations, regeneration, restoration, and harm reduction. Most recently, Paula has completed a national analysis on the systemic challenges of syringe exchanges amidst the opioid epidemic. Paula is a proud advocate of popular, preventative medicine that is for and by the people.She is a harm reduction health and cultural worker. 


Paula Kahn is a reliable first responder in times of humanitarian crisis. From consistently showing up to LAX to resist the Muslim ban, to organizing against the escalation of family separation, to building meaningful relationships with asylum seekers in Tijuana, Paula works with growing networks across borders to defend the right to freedom of movement and demilitarization.

#PaulaKahn2020   #JustTransition


© Paula Kahn 2020 by Tabatha Yelós.


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