Long Beach, News

Long Beach People’s State of the City Address draws hundreds

Long Beach’s fifth annual People’s State of the City Address reminded residents that community health is a major issue in a city where “your ZIP code determines how long you live,” according to Courage to Take Action Long Beach.

Courtesy of Building Healthy Communities Long Beach
Courtesy of Building Healthy Communities Long Beach

The event, which was held Thursday night at Franklin Middle School, brought together hundreds from the Long Beach community to discuss and reflect on the current challenges affecting the Long Beach area.

The address was sponsored and organized by Long Beach Rising, a group made up of different city coalitions and organizations, such as Don’t Waste Long Beach, the California Faculty Association’s Long Beach chapter, and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

Topics of the night ranged from the environment to raising minimum wage to the unequal distribution of funds within the Long Beach Unified School District.

James Suazo, who delivered the People’s State of the City Address, said that in Long Beach, different ZIP codes equal different life expectancies. Suazo displayed a map of Long Beach showing the average life span according to each ZIP code.  

Courtesy of Building Healthy Communities Long Beach

The predominantly white area of East Long Beach has a much higher life expectancy than areas such as Central, West, and North Long Beach, which are more ethnically diverse, according to Building Healthy Communities Long Beach.

Before the actual State of the City presentation, member groups of Long Beach Rising had booths set up to interact with community members.

The Filipino Migrant Center’s Community Organizer and Health Educator Alex Montances said the organization is the only Filipino group in the Long Beach area. The group works to educate and mobilize the immigrant community.

Montances, a Cal State Long Beach alumnus, said the specific focus of the Filipino Migrant Center recently has been workers’ rights and wage theft. Many Filipinos who go into the caregiving and domestic work industries either have their wages stolen or are paid an unlivable salary, according to Montances.  

The Filipino Migrant Center holds different types of workshops and town hall meetings to present the issue to both the Filipino and larger Long Beach community.  

With more than 20,000 Filipino people in Long Beach, Montances said the ultimate goal of the migrant center is to build a Filipino community center to better serve the needs of the people.

Other community activist groups present were the Long Beach Area Peace Network, the LGBTQ Center Long Beach and Californians for Justice, among others.

CSULB was also well represented. Members of CSULB’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were volunteering at the event.

Abrahan Rico, a fraternity member, said the group is trying to be more actively involved in the community.

Another member, Milton Duena, who coordinated Pike’s volunteering, said they were “trying to make a difference in the community, [as] we’re all members of the Long Beach community.”

The fraternity brothers helped by directing traffic, ushering attendees and assisting with food service, among other tasks.  

The State of the City Address itself was a multimedia interactive experience. Audience members received neon Facebook thumbs-up signs to hold up when they agreed or supported a statement or idea.

Representatives from Mayor Robert Garcia’s office also attended the event along with members of other local government departments.

The address began with a video capturing the recent tragedies and triumphs of the past year.  Images from the Black Lives Matter movement, the legalization of gay marriage and protests over the students kidnapped in 2014 in Iguala, Mexico were shown.

The rest of the night was a combination of videos, dance presentations and personal stories of struggles. Attendees were encouraged to discuss and reflect on the issues with those sitting near them.

As the People’s State of the City came to an end, Long Beach Rising organizers called on Long Beach residents to stay involved in the community. Suazo reminded attendees that: “This is our movement.”

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