Long Beach’s People’s State of the City Urge City Council to Support Their Issues

8 Apr
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Crowd on the ground level at People’s State of the City, April 5; Photo by Barry Saks

Hundreds of people sat in the pews on the ground level and in the balcony of the First Congregation Church in downtown Long Beach in the evening of Wednesday, April 4, to hear and see speakers, videos and dramatizations regarding issues Long Beach residents face and confront, such as police killings of young men of color, gentrification, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids, struggles by hotel workers and port drivers, and struggles around education by students and parents.

The press release for the event said Long Beach Rising organized the event and characterized Long Beach Rising as a coalition of organizations focused on promoting civic participation, voter engagement, and organizing among communities historically marginalized from the political process.

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Staged potest, April 5, at State of City; Photo by Barry Saks

The evening program began with about 20 young people marching in a circle in front of the audience chanting are carrying signs, as if they were at a protest.  While they aimed some of their anger toward the President by chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” they included two other chants, one indicating their solidarity with “Black Lives Matter” and another indicating their solidarity with women’s reproductive freedom.

Some of the young people spoke individually.  While one referred to Hillary Clinton and said she would have a better president the Trump, others raised the need for people who are new to activism to continue.   They ended with the chant, “The people United will never be divided.”

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Emcees Victor Espinoza and Yunique. on April 5, at People’s State of the City; Photo by Barry Saks

The emcees were Yunique Pettigrew and Victor Espinoza.  They introduced the Rev. Elena Larssen, the Senior Minister of the First Congregation Church.  The Reverend welcomed everybody.

A video was next shown, which started with a quoting the Mayor Robert Garcia, where he said he would defend the rights of the people of Long Beach.  It then highlighted the efforts to get the City Council to address sexual harassment of hotel workers by passing Claudia’s Law and to create affordable housing, and to spend more money on youth programs; it also highlighted the marches of Black Lives Matter regarding police killings and the organizing efforts of port drivers.

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Amber-Rose Howard and Maria Lopez, April 5, at People’s State of the City; Photo by Barry Saks

Amber-Rose Howard presented the People’s State of the City.  Howard said that she grew up in Pomona in a poor Black and Brown community and was a focused student.  By the time, she was a high school senior, she said, she had lost her mother and sister, and a month after her eighteenth birthday she was in prison for committing a felony.  After being released, she said she was determined to succeed.  She worked 40 hours a week, went to school fulltime and stayed connected with her community.  She said even after doing everything right, she still continued to face barriers and realized that she had to dedicate her life for people’s rights and for fighting for social justice.  She said her father worked hard and sacrificed himself for his family, but like her faced the same systematic barriers.

She said while some people get ahead, most don’t because of systemic barriers—like low paying jobs, poor housing, toxic air, abuse and discrimination that prevents them from succeeding.  Howard said what makes tonight exciting is we’re moving into action to change the odds for everyone.  She pointed out a couple of the local victories—getting the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour and getting the City Council to allocate $700,000 to fight wage theft.  Howard said, “Tonight we renew that call to our City Council and ask them to stand up for working families.”

She, then, highlighted the need for safe and affordable housing, and the need for renter protections.  She talked about the polluted drinking water in west Long Beach and the expansion of Tesoro Refinery, as examples of environmental racism.  She said that we stand in solidarity with Don’t Waste Long Beach and reiterated the need for the City Council to pass Claudia’s Law.

Howard brought attention to activity in the Long Beach Unified School District, such as the youth-led “Every Student Matters” campaigns led by Khmer Girls in Acton and the legal-struggle by parents represented by the Uniform Complaint Procedure.  Then she introduced Maria Lopez.  They left for the audience to see and hear two dramatizations between a parent and a child.  One dealt with police killings of young black men.  The second dealt with the fear of deportations immigrants face.

Howard and Lopez returned and in response to the dramatizations, Lopez spoke.  She said, “Communities like ours have been oppressed for trying to unite and fight against racism, sexism and capitalism….Unity is the only thing that will lead us toward a true sanctuary, a sanctuary where families don’t get deported, where I don’t worry about my black brothers and sisters being killed, and where all workers are treated with dignity and respect.”

Before the evening’s program, a community fair was held, where about 30 local organizations with their volunteers had set up informational tables to engage community members.

One volunteer was Annika Swenson, 28, standing behind a table for Long Beach 350, which according to a flyer is a group of residents “with a passion for climate justice table.”  Swenson said she lives in the northeast of Long Beach, near Lakewood.  She said she has been with Long Beach 350 about four months and that she has volunteered in the past to do beach cleanups and trash collections.  Swenson said, “I think events like this are important because they bring a pretty-wide variety of groups together and so that we can learn about other people’s interests and things they care about and learn how we can collaborate together.”

Another person who had volunteered to be at the table for Long Beach 350 was Sean Kearns, 29.  Kearns said he lived in Long Beach from 2009 to 2011, but now lives in Redondo Beach and studies Political Science at Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB).  Kearns said it was his first time at the Peoples State of the City and was interested in Housing Justice and Environmental Justice.  He said he had previously volunteered his time with Housing Beach and East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ).

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Taylor Thomas of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice Outside at the Community Fair, April 5, before People’s State of the City; Photo by Barry Saks

Meanwhile, Taylor Thomas, who is also a CSULB student said, “I’m here to get folks to come out to the People’s Climate March, in Wilmington, on April 29 (Saturday) at Banning Park.  We want to center front-line communities, communities of color (and) low-income communities in the climate discussion because they are the ones most impacted by climate change.”

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Bobbie Ferencsik Sitting with her Sign at the Community Fair, April 5; Photo by Barry Saks

Four people were sitting with signs.  Holding one in front of her was Bobbie Ferencsik.  Sitting with Ferencsik were Margaret Hennessey and Elizabeth Cino, both of whom identify with the Gray Panthers.  With her sign in front and wearing a line-green sweater, Cino indicated they lived at Plymouth West, which is about a block away from the church on Chestnut Ave.  Cino said she was 74 said she has lived in Long Beach since 1956.  She said, “There are (sic) not enough low-rent housing for seniors from HUD (Housing and Urban Dcvelopment) program.  They’re just not available” and added that costs for rental units locally are now thousands of dollars each month.

The event’s press release added the coalition’s member organizations include A New Way of Life Re-entry Project, All Of Us Or None, Anakbayan Long Beach, Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, California Faculty Association Long Beach Chapter, Don’t Waste Long Beach, End Oil, Filipino Migrant Center, Housing Long Beach, Khmer Girls in Action, Latinos in Action California, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, The Long Beach Time Exchange, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the Participatory Budgeting Project  and Unite Here Local 11.

 

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Crowd, April 5, at People’s State of the City; Photo by Barry Saks 

2 Responses to “Long Beach’s People’s State of the City Urge City Council to Support Their Issues”

  1. 95Alda Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 9:24 am #

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    • Barry Saks Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 9:05 am #

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      >

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