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A community-based, grassroots meeting promises to give Long Beach residents of all backgrounds an equal platform Wednesday evening.
The People’s State of the City 2015 will take place 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at Stephens Middle School, 1830 W. Columbia St. in West Long Beach. The free event is aimed at drawing residents from all around the city to voice concerns, especially over issues faced by underrepresented groups.
Organizers expect more than 300 people will attend. Free refreshments and child care will be provided as well as translation into Spanish and Khmer. Organizers advise arriving early and carpooling if possible.
The event, now in its fourth year, has spurred some real community growth and collaboration, organizers say.
Christine Petit is a hub manager for Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, one of the organizations involved in the People’s State of the City.
“The event has gained a lot of excitement and traction,” Petit said. “After the first year people were asking when the next one would be.”
The community appears to have built on that initial interest with groups beginning to coordinate their resources, she said.
“There’s a real desire for dialogue,” Petit said. “It’s not about the event even though it’s important. The discussion’s shifted from when’s the next event to how can we fix the problems.”
Discussions sparked by the People’s State of the City gatherings have begun to catch the ears of those at City Hall as well, she said. A candidate guide for last year’s citywide election was a result of some discussions. City officials and council members attend the People’s State of the City events as well.
“For us, it’s an emphasis on the work of the Long Beach community to promote a vision of equity,” Petit said. “It’s really not shying away from the fact that government policies, historically, benefit some groups at the expense of others. We have to be proactive.”
Cosponsoring the event are Ankabayan Long Beach, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, EndOil, Filipino Migrant Center, Housing Long Beach, Khmer Girls in Action, Long Beach Latinos in Action, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, The Long Beach Time Exchange and the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.
Nikole Cababa, a community organizer with the Filipino Migrant Center, said the event is a platform where the community can come together.
The need for well-paying jobs is among the most important likely to be raised, Cababa said.
“Jobs really define a lot of our community’s experience,” she said.
She also emphasized that all the issues are interconnected. Housing, K-12 education, higher education, wage theft and unemployment are among other major issues.
Every year the meeting’s location changes. The decision to hold the meeting in West Long Beach comes after the murder of Keyshawn Brooks, Cababa said. Brooks was a Cabrillo High School student who was stabbed to death while walking home from school in March.
James Suazo, a hub coordinator for Building Healthy Communities, said the message of this year’s meeting is simple: to celebrate successes made in recent years and prepare for future work.
We’re halfway home but we still have a long way to go,” Suazo said. “We need to bridge the gaps between all these issues.”
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