About 75 demonstrators gathered Saturday afternoon at Marina Vista Park in Long Beach for a vibrant, mask-enforced rally and celebration in honor of Black History Month.
Organized by a coalition of Black liberation leaders, the event featured performers, speakers and community activists from Long Beach and Orange County, as well as local vendors. Some attendees tossed a football around the park while others danced to music blaring from two large speakers, sage burning in the wind.
Anthony Bryson, an organizer, said that Black History Month is not only about celebration but also the “education of the contribution made by African Americans to our society.”
“What we should aim for is that the inclusiveness of history really encompasses all contributions made by all minorities who have been left out of history,” Bryson said. “We’ve gone from the slave house to the White House.”
Bryson, who calls himself one of the “the Black leaders within the liberation movement that are separated from BLM, the at-large organization,” led the group in affirmations to celebrate their heritage.
Another organizer, Justice Crudup, maintained that the goal of Saturday’s rally was to “educate, celebrate, motivate and demonstrate” the importance of “Black life, Black joy, Blackness, Black culture and Black love.”
“We’re not here to knock things down, burn things down or to instigate, we’re here to demonstrate,” Bryson said. “We’re here to make a mark on history.”
A few signs were dispersed throughout the park, some of which included coronavirus regulations and others read messages like “Prosecute killer cops” and “No justice, no peace.”
Several musical guests performed for the socially distant crowd, including Sugi Dakks, a local musician, and Mollie Bell, an activist who recited three poems and part of “I Hope You Dance” by Gladys Knight.
“Dance for justice, dance for Black lives, dance for everything we’ve been through,” Bell said.
Bell, who turned 74 this month, said she has been an activist for decades and participated in the event “because the Constitution says we have the right to assemble and peacefully protest.”
Several speakers including Thetis Meriwhether, a member of a local activist group called “My Ancestors’ Dream,” encouraged the group to engage in civic participation and community action.
“Get a seat at the table,” Meriwhether said.
“My Ancestors’ Dream” provides food, shelter and other resources to communities in need, Meriwhether said. A member of the coalition, Justin Frazier said he attended the event to promote positivity and offer mutual aid.
About 60 demonstrators, including performer and organizer Zodiac, are gathered at Marina Vista Park in Long Beach for a celebration and rally in honor of Black History Month. @daily49er pic.twitter.com/lAc4euXXCW
— Julia Terbeche (@juliaterbeche) February 20, 2021
Frazier, a fashion designer, said he sells clothes under his brand “Rebels at Play” to raise money for the organization.
Volunteers offered snacks, water bottles and homemade, individually packaged meals to all participants. Two activists set up a mobile espresso bar, called Cafablanca, in the parking lot, making coffee for donations.
Nizan Shaked, a professor of art history at Long Beach State, attended the rally in support of “a bunch of groups,” she said.
The group took to the streets around 5 p.m. to march along East Eliot Street, calling for justice for all Black lives and for the protection of Black women.
“We can continue to motivate, to inspire, to let you guys see and understand that, yes, black joy is a form of protest,” Crudup said. “We also know how to march our boots and put on our good shoes and still have some gratitude and good energy about how we show America what a peaceful and civil protest looks like.”