Long Beach Rising leadership program returns to shape future activists in the community

By Samantha Diaz, Signal Tribune

Residents with a desire to make a difference in their community, or hopes to enter the political sphere, can apply for Long Beach Rising’s free annual leadership program until Aug. 12.

The Long Beach Rising leadership program has helped educate and encourage hundreds of aspiring activists across the city through a series of workshops, lessons, and a canvassing and outreach event. 

The goal of LB Rising is “to ​​build unity in local neighborhoods, meaningfully engage residents in the political process, and inspire residents to use their power to make well-informed decisions to improve their city,” according to the program’s online description. The first leadership training was held in 2011.

LB Rising is a collaborative effort of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs, Long Beach Forward and various community partners advocating for “increased civic participation, voter engagement and community organizing in areas that historically have been underrepresented,” said Grecia Lopez-Reyes, director of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs. 

Participants will focus on the areas of North and West Long Beach, as the program has identified those areas as historically underrepresented in the city. 

This year is the first that Lopez-Reyes is in charge of the program, though she has been a volunteer for years. Just before the pandemic, the program was at its most popular, teaching as many as 50 students in 2019, Lopez-Reyes explained. Now, the numbers have settled to around 20 participants each year.  

Participants of Long Beach Rising’s leadership program attend a seminar. (Courtesy of Grecia Lopez-Reyes)

“It was really to create a program that provides training for community leaders, for future organizers and allows them to have a political understanding of the issues that impact their lives,” Lopez-Reyes said. 

The program will take place over the course of three days: Aug. 27, Sep. 10 and Sep. 17 all from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The first two days of the program will take place in classrooms and will be taught by leaders in the community and members from the involved organizations. 

Lopez-Reyes said that the program is still seeking speakers for the first two days, but so far instructors are being drawn from the involved organizations. Aug. 27 will be a collaboration between the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and Long Beach Forward, where they will teach attendees the principles of direct organizing.

Principles of direct organizing will address questions such as, “What are the models of organizing when it comes to building relationships? How is it that people begin to identify issues and how do you move leaders into action? How do you mobilize people?” Lopez-Reyes said.

Day one of the program will also teach, “what it takes to move members of the community into developing leadership with the ultimate goal of mobilization,” Lopez-Reyes said.

The second day of the program will delve into the idea of strategy and power analysis. Lopez-Reyes said that the program hopes to get “additional support from community organizers” that specialize in immigrant rights and economic justice. 

“The goal is really to develop leaders in the community that will continue to help us shift political power in Long Beach,” Reyes-Lopez said. 

Residents will spend the last day of training learning about the importance of canvassing from a labor leader, before going out into Northwest Long Beach to participate in a non-partisan canvassing exercise. The key issue that participants will be canvassing for is yet to be decided.

“Our hope with the leadership program is that they learn about community organizing, they learn about this strategy, understanding of power and political analysis, but also to be able to get out into the field and actually be able to put whatever they learned into practice through our canvassing program,” Lopez-Reyes said. 

Previous members of the program have gone on to create political change in their communities, Lopez-Reyes said. One participant of the program now works as a staffer for councilmember Suely Saro’s office. 

LB Rising is free for anyone interested over 18 years old, though the program aims to recruit Long Beach residents first and foremost. There will be free meals during the workshops and free childcare offered to those attending. Residents can apply for the program through this link on the @long_beach_coalition Instagram page. 


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