When Jedi Jimenez approached the podium at the People’s State of the City Thursday, he faced hundreds of Long Beach residents, crammed shoulder to shoulder in the pews of the First Congregational Church located downtown. Attendees shared one unifying goal: to take their city’s issues head on.
When Jimenez finally spoke, he didn’t just ask for the crowd’s attention — he commanded it.
“Over the past year, our country has faced some of the biggest threats to our values of democracy, inclusion and justice,” he said to the audience. “So, you would think that our city leaders would respond with more than just words.”
Jimenez, an emcee at the event, has been involved with People’s State of the City since its inception in 2012. He related to Long Beach’s city-wide problems just as every resident in the congregation hall. Waving his arms like a deejay, Jimenez gestured back and forth with the audience. Jimenez felt comfortable with the Long Beach residents, who he considers his people.
When he chanted “Long Beach,” the crowd chanted along with him. When he, with fervor in his voice, pointed out city wrongdoings, the audience booed to his cadence. Despite the differences in religions and demographics within the crowd, they could all agree ‘the people won’t be denied,’ as stated by the flier for the event.
The People’s State of the City event took place March 1 and covered a wide range of community issues including hotel employee abuse, homelessness, K-12 education and the Land Use Element.
Before the presentations began, a five-minute skit portrayed a mock-public comments session of a city council meeting. In the sketch, residents spoke for different causes, with each speaker being denied meaningful time at the podium, and resolved in chants of “Action now!”
Organized by civic engagement coalition Long Beach Rising, the event featured 15 groups including the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, the California Faculty Association of Long Beach, Khmer Girls in Action and Housing Long Beach.
City officials present at the event included second district Councilmember Jeannine Pearce and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.
“Communities at their core are made up of people, and when the people suffer, communities suffer.” Richardson said. “When the people thrive, communities thrive.”
Sexual abuse toward hotel workers in downtown Long Beach was a prominent topic at the event.
Hyatt Centric hotel worker Jose Soto sympathized with the female housekeepers and passed out “I Stand With Women” stickers to attendees.
“Housekeepers are made to work and clean over 20 rooms sometimes, pushing them to the brink of exhaustion, getting hurt, and the abuse go on and on,” Soto said. “The hotel industry isn’t doing anything to limit these things that are happening to workers.”
For him and labor union UNITE HERE Local 11, participating in this event meant informing residents about an ordinance to stop abuse in hotels.
According to Soto, the ordinance includes supplying hotel workers with panic buttons for security measures against abuse.
Long Beach animal rescuer Emily Ghosh and a troop of picketers marched outside the church advocating for no-kill shelters in the city. Recognizing lack of funding and other city priorities as hurdles to establishing the shelters, Ghosh said she believes that community involvement can help move toward having progressive animal dwellings.
Ghosh suggested having a bottle-feeding programs for underage kittens, a foster program for animals that need behavioral assistance and a resource central for low-income families with pets.
“We are very progressive city and we’re a very pet-friendly city. We want our shelter to reflect that as well,” Ghosh said.
According to Jimenez, the community was more engaged than last year’s event.
“The issues we were saying we’re more more more relevant because of the times that we live right now with [President] Donald Trump and his attack on the youth,” Jimenez said. “I think people were really feeling it and feeding off of that vibe.”