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A Sabbatical and an Endless Summer

Long Beach Forward Friends,

Back in 2014 I joined what is now Long Beach Forward, as the Hub Coordinator for Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, then moved into the Associate Director role for three years, and eventually took a brave step into the Executive Director role at LBF in January 2021. At that time we were in the thick of a global pandemic and a racial upheaval that were both long overdue.

I’m proud of and inspired by how our team courageously pivoted to serve the needs of the most vulnerable communities and to fight for equity across our city, despite the mounting challenges. We learned, unlearned, and were able to lead and support many crucial calls to action. With you by our side, LBF has:

  • Separated from our long-time fiscal sponsor and became an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization last year;

  • Brought back the in-person Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute to empower community members to effectively advocate to and serve on citywide commissions;

  • Supported efforts of the Invest in Youth Coalition and its first citywide participatory budgeting pilot process to deliver equitable summer programs this year, funded by Measure US;

  • Co-anchored five annual multiracial, multilingual, multigenerational People’s Budget campaigns in Long Beach, helping to secure funding and institutionalized support for community needs that the people prioritized related to equity and justice;

  • Built a new Anti-Surveillance Coalition with radical community partners who are working to rid our city of spy technology to keep us all safe to live, love, and express ourselves without the danger of incarceration or deportation;

  • Restarted bimonthly Best Start Central Long Beach community-led Partnership Meetings, as well as participatory budgeting projects like the Social Media Safety Education workshop series, to serve the needs of parents and caregivers of children under the age of 5 so that children are safe, healthy, and ready to learn in Long Beach;

  • Continued to mobilize supplies, support, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to community-led projects, focused especially in central Long Beach through our Best Start initiative;

  • Closed a successful three-year #HealthyLB campaign that enabled us to hire Community Organizing Fellows who coordinated community-led solutions that delivered public health information, supported families in navigating the rapidly changing landscape, and supported health equity through hybrid efforts during the height of the COVID pandemic;

  • Continued to champion narrative change work, like with our RAD AF and new LBC Connection podcasts;

  • Added three permanent community organizers to our team from our group of Fellows, promoted staff, raised our baseline wages for all staff to $27, built our Wellness program (institutionalizing a Wellness day off on the last Friday of each month), and hired two new coordinators to support our administrative team, just in time to open our office back up to in-person community needs;

  • Built a non-traditional, community-centered culture of philanthropy in our organizational culture and hired on a Development Manager;

  • Established an incredible founding Board of Directors made up of 9 organizers, parents, teachers, and public health leaders;

  • And much, much more.

 

LBF can only do what it does by working with you, our community partners. We’ve accomplished so much together to build the Long Beach we know is possible and attainable. Thank you for always being by our side.

Our work ahead to create a healthy Long Beach where race and income don’t determine a person’s future is not easy. As inequality grows and corporate interests push the narrative that the country is “post pandemic,” low-income and marginalized communities are facing challenges that have been brewing over generations: a housing crisis, bloated police budgets, learning loss in public schools, and the depletion of a social safety net and health services. We must keep sustaining our fight to build a Long Beach where everyone is safe, connected, and healthy.

That’s why the culture we’ve fostered at LBF is about seeing the long game and cultivating a duty of care for one another. Friday, June 23rd will mark my 9 year anniversary of organizing with LBF and the beginning of my 10-week sabbatical leave. I’m grateful for the support of the team and our Board of Directors for their encouragement to take care of myself and explore what will feel like an endless Summer, and for being part of an organization that offers sabbatical opportunities to all staff for rest and rejuvenation. I’ll return to LBF on Tuesday, September 5th. I step away knowing that Long Beach Forward has a strong community of committed leaders and partners that will move our work forward. You can learn more about, and connect with our team at www.lbforward.org/people

During my 10 weeks away, we are kicking off our Endless Summer fundraising campaign with the goal of committing 10 new people to give at least $10/month as monthly donors to help move resources towards our mission-driven work. Will you join us as a monthly donor for $10/month? 

Thank you for your trust in our team, your ongoing passion for our shared vision of a just Long Beach, and your continued support as we continue to build community knowledge, leadership, and power. See you on the other side of Summer. 

 

In solidarity,    

James Suazo
Executive Director
Long Beach Forward

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