Archive | May, 2017

Long Beach Renters Begin Struggle for Housing Justice

21 May

Upstairs at the Scottish Rite Event Center, on May 18, before the program begins; Photo by Barry Saks

About 150 people met on Thursday, May 18, at the Scottish Rite Event Center, 855 Elm Ave. to begin to fight for the city of Long Beach to implement anti-displacement measures, like just-cause eviction and rent control.

According to the press release for the event, this was the first Renter’s Assembly and Housing Long Beach hosted it.

Sharon MacNett, from the Long Beach GRRRL Collective, which defines itself on its Facebook About page as a feminist collective, spoke first on the program.  MacNett said, “We demand affordable housing now.  Access to housing is being stripped from our communities of color, from our immigrant communities, from our seniors, from our neighbors with disabilities, from the working-class and all historically marginalized communities who call Long Beach home….Widespread displacement is occurring while mayor  and our city council sit idly by….Housing is a human right.”


Josh Butler speaking, May 18; Photo by Barry Saks

Josh Butler, the Executive Director of Housing Long Beach, said, “The situation has become dire and time is not on our side.  Further inaction and delay from our mayor and city council will mean more people being put out of house and home.”  He then thanked the organizations who sponsored the event and thanked the Liz Waite, the student organizer, and the two community organizers, Maria Lopez and Brenda Caloca.  Butler introduced Ernesto Rocha, who is an organizer for the Clean and Safe Ports campaign for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.


Ernesto Rocha emceeing on May 18; Photo by Barry Saks

Rocha emceed.  Rocha put the dramatization, which was to follow, into context by talking about his own and family’s experience as newly arrived immigrants, who needed to rent.  Rocha pointed out that many times when repairs in the rental needed to be fixed, his family did the repairs because they didn’t want to inform the landlord out of fear of being deported.  Rocha introduced Lopez, who played the daughter, and Melissa Arechiga, who played the mother in the first scene of the dramatization.

The dramatization was in Spanish and English.  The daughter spoke of hearing the mice under her bed and the roaches crawling on her and one which crawled into her ear.  Her mother spoke of working two jobs.  When the daughter asks the mother when a repair will be fixed, the mother says, “Call the landlord for what?  So he can be mad at us.  So he can raise the rent another $50.  So he can get another tenant…or worse call La Migra (the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)?”

After the first scene of the dramatization, Rocha introduced Elena Popp of the Eviction Defense Network, which according to its website under Tenants Together is a network of trial lawyers, advocates and tenants dedicated to defending the right to affordable housing and ensuring access to justice in housing matters to tenants in Los Angeles County.

Popp described how the legal clinic Housing Long Beach has grown and the use of rent strikes.  She said in August 2016 when she first came to Long Beach without any notice of a lawyer being available, 12 people were there with legal problems.  A month later, 36 people were there.  She said usually there were two reasons for the need of a lawyer.  First, the tenants were given a 30-day or 60-day notice to vacate depending on the circumstance, or second, “a huge rent increase” usually with a new landlord.  Popp spoke of using rent strikes when tenants are living in “bad conditions” and fighting the evictions when conditions are not bad.  She pointed out that these tactics without just-cause evictions, only get renters more time and saves them rent sometimes, but it is something.


Brenda Caloca, on May 18, explaining just cause eviction; Photo by Barry Saks

Caloca spoke next on renter protections or more specifically just cause, also known as a responsible renter ordinance.  She pointed out the city of San Diego also has just cause.  Caloca listed some of the most common just causes for eviction: not paying rent, causing substantial damage to the unit, refusing to provide access, the need to substantially rehab the unit, the unit is being withdrawn from the rental market and illegal use of the unit which includes drug dealing.  She also pointed out just cause would only apply to people on the lease.

After Caloca, the dramatization returned with its second scene.  The mother tells the daughter they will be going to the house daughter’s grandmother to shower, instead of at home.  The daughter objects and tells the mother she wants to shower at home where they pay the rent.  The daughter informs her mother of what she learned in a history class about the uprooting of population around what would become Dodger Stadium and identifies it as gentrification.  The mother acknowledges she doesn’t know her rights as a renter.  Finally the daughter tells the mother a Renter’s Assembly is coming up where she can learn some of her rights.   The mother says she’ll go.


Aimee Inglis, May 18, explaining rent control; Photo by Barry Saks

After the second scene of the dramatization, Aimee Inglis spoke about rent control.  Inglis, who is an Associate Director of Tenants Together, a statewide organization for renters’ rights, said, “Rent control is really just fair rent” and added 14 cities in California have some form of it.  Inglis said, “The California State Legislators, all those folk are bought off by the real estate industry….There is very little public housing.  There is very little nonprofit housing.”  She pointed out rent control is legal with each city decides how rent increases occur, as long as the landlords are allowed “a fair rate of return.”  Before Inglis spoke from the podium, while eating dinner before the program, she said her salary yearly about $60,000, including benefits.  She lives in San Francisco with her partner.


Melissa Arechiga (mother) and Maria Lopez (the daughter), on May 18, at the end of the dramatization; Photo by Barry Saks

The program ended with the third scene of the dramatization.  The daughter apologizes to her mother.  They reconcile.  The mother says, “I’ve raised you to be a strong woman…. Sometimes I feel so powerless.”  The daughter tells her mother they want us to feel powerless.  The mother and daughter realize they must struggle together to win housing justice.  The scene and the program ends with the chant, “No justice, no rent.”

One of those in the audience was Jorge Rivera, the Program Director of Long Beach Residents Empowered.  Rivera said, “We’re here because we are a housing advocacy group and so naturally we have to support anything that has to do with renters or furthering renter protections or affordable housing and we’re here to help mobilize and support, to bring renters out so that we can inform them and educate them….I think what they want to hear is what is can be done ….about the rent increases, what can be done about the unjust evictions.”  He added he was hoping the renters at the event would be motivated enough to get involved in housing justice.

One person in the audience was Bill Sive, 56.  Sive said he lives in Long Beach’s Council District 3 and rents.  Sive said, “We need to get someone…from any these organizations get themselves elected to office to create change from within.”  After getting elected, the representative then needs to make “alliances, partnerships (and) collaborations with groups that are represented here….It’s all about lobbying your fellow councilmembers to make the change.”

Another attending was Erin Foley, who is a renter and who volunteered to be an usher to help people find their seats.  Foley said once she rented a place, in which bedbugs came into her rental unit.  She gave the landlord notice she was moving.  It then took 13 days before the landlord did anything about removing the bedbugs.


Thyra Jackson eating downstairs, May 18, before the program begins; Photo by Barry Saks

A third person attending was Thyra Jackson, 55.  Jackson said she rents and lives near 8th St. and Lime Ave. and said she heard about the event from her son, who gave her a flyer.  She was there with her son and another neighbor.  Jackson said, “The rent is getting higher and higher….They (apartment owners) can raise the rent whenever they want to and you can’t do anything about it, which is why people are moving out Long Beach.”  She said she has had friends who were forced to move to Las Vegas and further inland.  She added she was willing to go to meetings, talk to her neighbors and was willing to protest for rent control.

Student Government urges California State University at Long Beach to Divest from firms in Israel

12 May

CSULB Student Senators Meeting of May 10; Photo by Barry Saks

After dozens of speakers, pro and con, during the public comments, with more than a hundred people, mostly students in the audience, on Wednesday, May 10,  the California State University Long Beach student representatives (senators) of the Associated Students Inc. voted 15-7 with one abstention to support a resolution urging the school administration to divest in firms doing business with the government of Israel.

One of those in the audience was Juwairiah Syed, who said she is a third-year student, who in the fall is going to declare deaf studies and American-sign language as her majors. Syed added she’s a member of the Muslim Student Association and the Vice President of the CSULB Interfaith Project, which its About Facebook page states it is “a diverse group of CSULB students – Muslims, Christians, agnostics, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Catholics, and more – who are committed to growing in our understanding of one another and of our spiritual and religious traditions.”  She said, “I am here today because …. the voting is done by our senators in there and they need to see  that the people on our campus support divestment.”

CSULB President Jane Close Conely in a April 26 letter to the student senators, in part, said, “The Jewish people have been the targets of suspicion, violence, discrimination, and ostracism for centuries. They have suffered institutional racism in the United States and dozens of countries across the world. Israel’s actions against the Palestinians may certainly be critiqued, but what about Syria’s actions against its own people, Brazil’s brazen violations of human rights, North Korea’s imprisonment of an entire nation, or Russia’s current war on their LGBTQ+ community? Why are only Jews picked out for condemnation? It’s worth reflecting, I think, on implicit bias when singling out only one group of people for sanctions.”

Palestine Legal, in a May 3 letter to President Conely, responded.  The letter said, “(W)e write to raise serious concerns about your public statement surrounding campus debates on Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS), in which you blame students concerned with Israeli human rights abuses for causing campus antisemitism, without evidence…. conflating criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Jewish hate undermines efforts to combat bigotry.  Moreover, despite your professed concern about addressing hate, your office has been silent in response to an explicit death threat targeting the campus Muslim community.”

A May 4 post on 49ers for Israel Facebook reads, “Divestment does nothing to help anyone. It does not help Palestinians, it does not help the peace process, and it does not help our campus community. What it does do is promote a hateful campaign against Israeli, Jewish, and pro-Israel students and faculty on campus. Divestment is a poisonous piece of legislation that does not belong on our campus or any campus for that matter!”

Barry Saks is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.


CSULB Divestment Banner, May 10; Photo by Barry Saks

Long Beach Church Honors Mothers Whose Children Died of Violence

9 May

Rev. Michael Eagle, May 6, posing with Mexican Dancers; Photo by Barry Saks

About 50 people, mostly African-Americans and mostly from the congregation of the Grant AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church Long Beach, at 1129 Alamitos Ave., on Sunday, May 7—heard music, poetry, testimonials and comedy—as part of a program to honor mothers who lost their children to violence.

An outside processional was planned to be included in the program of the tenth annual event, however, with the pouring rain, the Rev. Michael Eagle decided to have the processional around the inside perimeter of the church, which were led Mexican dancers, who the Reverend had invited.


District Director of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, May 7,  presenting Certificate of Special Recognition to Rev. Eagle of Grant AME Church Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Following the processional, Blanca Jimenez, District Director for Congresswoman Maxine Waters, said she was honored to be there representing the Congresswoman and presented to Rev. Eagle a Certificate of Special Recognition to acknowledge the church putting on the event of “Making Mothers Matter.”


Lietenant Commander David Efferson of California Highway Patrol, on May 7, suggesting ways to stay safe when being stopped by a police officer; Photo by Barry Saks

After the church choir sang, Lieutenant Commander David Efferson, of the California Highway Patrol, spoke.  The Lieutenant Commander told audience the CHP, after evaluating its recruitment program, understood the need to recruit more minorities, including women.  He then suggested some safety tips when being stopped by a police officer: be sure to stop at a safe location, turn the lights on in the vehicle, put your hands where they are visible, preferably on the steering wheel, and tell the officer before you do something what you’re about to do.

After Efferson, the church congregation gave the mothers gifts and two mothers told their personal stories of tragedy.

Comedian Jonathan Slocumb was the master of ceremonies, church member Brenda Calhoun read one of her poems, and comedian and impressionist Jay LaMont and jazz vocalist Eloise Laws, who sang and danced, entertained.


Pastor Eddie Jones Jr. at the ‘Mothers Matter Event’ on May 7; Photo by Barry Saks

A participant was Minister Eddie Jones.  He pointed out while he is a minister and pastor, at this church he is only member.  The Minister said, “This (event) is for mothers who lost their kids because of gun and gang violence, suicides, car accidents.  He added one result of these yearly events is the mothers who have lost their children, are able to bond with each other.

Another participating church member was Kisha Frazier, who said she has been going to the church all of her life.  Frazier, who said she was there to greet people, added, “I’m here to give my contribution to the mothers and let them know they have not been forgotten by the church (and) by the community.”

Long Beach May Day Marchers Demand City to Become Sanctuary

3 May

May Day 2017, Long Beach, California; Photo by Barry Saks

About two hundred people, many who were youth of color, marched, Monday, May 1, from McArthur Park to Long Beach City Hall, to celebrate May Day and to highlight for Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.

Before marching at the park, a picnic table was used as a stage for the program of speeches.  The two emcees, Alex Montances from the Filipino Migrant Center and Maria Lopez from Housing Long Beach, began the  program with a chant, “Ain’t (sic) no power like the power of the people, cuz (sic) the power of the people don’t stop. Say what!”


Alex Montances, one of two emcees, speaks on the history of May Day, in Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Montances and Lopez gave a brief history of May Day and described the local May Day Coalition, including the self-characterization that the coalition is “pro-immigrant, pro-worker, pro-human rights, pro-social justice and pro-Black Lives Matter,” which was followed with cheers from the audience.


Maria Lopez, the second emcee, leading a chant on May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Lopez pointed out that this year’s theme was “sanctuary for all.”  Montances was more specific.  He said the May Day Coalition wanted Long Beach to become a sanctuary city and defined briefly what he meant.  He said, “We demand a sanctuary city policy … for the police officers not to cooperate, not to use funding or resources for deportation and immigration enforcement.  They (the police) shouldn’t be sharing people’s sensitive information about people’s immigration status (with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

Elisa Gomez, from the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, spoke in Spanish with English translation.  She told the audience of the deportation and subsequent death of her brother-in-law, and that the local city representatives have been silent on making Long Beach a sanctuary city.  At the end of her talk, she said, “The city needs to protect us, but I say to ICE we are also observing you and your actions.”

Marabel Cruz of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, who is bilingual, spoke in English and then Spanish.  She said she came to this country when she was two years-old and echoed the earlier statements for the need for Long Beach to become a sanctuary city.


Gabrielle Sibal recites her spoken-word poem on the need for International Solidarity, May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Gabrielle Sibal of Gabriela Los Angeles, who characterized her organization as a “Filipina anti-imperialist organization,” read her spoken-word poem on the need for international solidarity.


Nereyda Soto speaks on the struggle of hotel workers in Long Beach, May Day 2017; Photo by Barry Saks

Nereyda Soto of Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community also spoke.  Soto said she works in the Long Beach hotel industry and is the daughter of Salvadoran refugee.  She said, “My coworkers and I have been fighting for Claudia’s Law for two years….for a policy to protect us from sexual harassment in our workplace and overbearing workloads….and we still have not heard anything from (the Long Beach City) Council, shame.”

Three other chants, which were part of the program were “Get up, get down.  There’s a people’s movement in this town,” “I believe that we will win” and “Si se puede (Yes we can),” which was the motto of the United Farmworkers.

At the other end of the march at Long Beach City Hall, a second program of speeches began.  Montances and Lopez again emceed.  One of those who spoke was George Funmaker, who was identified as being from Red Earth Defense and who has previously organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Funmaker pointed out to the crowd they were standing on Tonga land and said as indigenous people national borders aren’t recognized.  Funmaker urged the crowd to move its money from the banks, which are funding the oil pipelines, like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, to local credit unions.


Liz Waite of Housing Long Beach Marching on May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Liz Waite, from Housing Long Beach, spoke.  Waite said, “Housing is a human right….We are the only city on the West Coast without renter protections.”

Bruce Jefferson, from the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, also spoke.  Jefferson said he works at Cal Cartage through a temp agency.  He said the Warehouse Worker Resource Center was organizing because of low paid, the lack of respect, no health care, favoritism and racial discrimination.

Sergio Gonzales also spoke.  Gonzales said he has been a truck driver for seven years and that he and the other drivers have been misclassified as owning their business instead of as employees.

Naida Tushnet, from the Long Beach Area Peace Network, was the last to speak.  Tushnet said, “What we are fighting for did not begin with Trump’s election…Let me tell you that the war budget is part of our problem and we need make sure we argue for a peace budget that takes care of everyone.”

While marching to Long Beach City Hall, the chants were “When workers’ rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up fight back.  When immigrant rights are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up, fight back,” “We are people, we are not illegal,” “From Palestine to Mexico, all these walls have got to go,” “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all,” “Sanctuary, not deportation,” “Everywhere we go people want to know who we are.  So we tell them.  We are the workers, the mighty, mighty workers” and “Black lives they matter here” and “Move ICE, get out of the way, get out of the way, get out of the way.”

One of the marchers was Stephanie Deschams, 29, said she was there to support the rights of the immigrant community and hoped Long Beach would become a sanctuary city.  Deschams, who said she got certificates in nursing and phlebotomy from Long Beach City College, pointed out Donald Trump’s grandfather had immigrated from Germany and Ivanka Trump had immigrated from Slovenia. She said, “We (should) stand united.  If one person goes down, we all go done.”


Robert Jay carrying is sign in McArthur Park, May Day 2017, Long Beach; Photo by Barry Saks

Another marcher was Robert Jay, 43.  Jay said he lives in Long Beach, works part-time in long shore and is a member of Local 13 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.  Jay said, “May 1st is important to me…. (It) is the original Labor Day, which is a sign of solidarity because every society the working-class is always in the majority.”

Besides the trade unionist Jay marching, contingents of hotel workers, teamsters and teachers also marched.

According to the website for the May Day Long Beach, the event was “presented” by Anakbayan Long Beach, Black Lives Matter Long Beach, California Faculty Association, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Coalition for Latino Advancement at Long Beach City College, DAYS, Filipino Migrant Center, Gabriela Los Angeles, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, Justice for Port Truck Drivers Campaign, LAANE-Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, LiBRE-Long Beach Residents Empowered, Little Brown Church, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & a Healthy Community, Long Beach G.R.R.R.L. Collective, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Palestinian Youth Movement, Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope) and Stop Fracking Long Beach.