More than 60 students listened to panelists discuss issues pertinent to the Long Beach community at the “Lens on Long Beach: A CSULB-Community Dialogue” event yesterday at the Karl Anatol Center.
Issues presented at the discussion ranged from local water contamination and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to air quality in Long Beach and the affordable housing crisis.
Student directed videos on many of the issues were screened at the event, which was followed by student-panel discussion.
To commence, Cal State Long Beach Multicultural Center Director James Sauceda spoke to the audience about the event’s importance.
“We recognize that many [students] commute and they don’t see or explore the issues in Long Beach or the community members,” Sauceda said. “We are here to bridge the gap between the community and CSULB.”
The Multicultural Center, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and VoiceWaves, a non-profit youth journalism and multimedia training organization, sponsored the event.
The board of panelists consisted of Norma Chinchilla, co-founder of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Christopher Covington, a VoiceWaves reporter, LaVerne Duncan, coordinator for the African American Convening Committee, and Carla Yarbrough, a journalism professor.
Aside from spreading awareness of the issues, the panelists also advocated for stronger student involvement in the community. They encouraged students to give a voice to the voiceless through journalism, which is something larger media outlets often fail to do, Yarbrough said.
“When people are not represented in the media, it is as if they don’t exist,” she said. “It is up to the youth to tell the stories.”
Currently, the age range for youth who are at-risk of drifting into violence and crime falls between 12 and 21 years of age, according to Duncan, who works with at-risk communities throughout Long Beach. She said, however, that she believes students at the university level can help change younger students’ lives.
“The community at large doesn’t have a lot of options especially in low-income communities,” Duncan said. “Young people are the ones that are going to turn it around.”
Duncan, who calls herself an “advocate of revitalizing communities,” said public and private partnerships can make a difference in fixing the issues that Long Beach is facing.
“Hopefully, what [students] get out of this is that they can become much more involved in what’s happening outside … [and what] will ultimately impact them as residents in the community,” Duncan said.
Anthony Hotch, a junior public relations major and Long Beach resident, said the event encouraged him to begin researching ways he could impact others.
“I thought this was inspiring, definitely something that motivates me to want to do something for my community and help people out,” Hotch said.
Chinchilla said she believes the event was successful in inspiring students to get out and change things for the better.
“I think what we got tonight was a broader vision of both Long Beach, our community and some of the problems but also some of the power of social media and the power of advocacy,” she said. “The message that kept coming up over and over again was that you can change things through your voices, through your writing, your advocacy, your activism and through your volunteer work.”