Photos by Asia Morris.
Members of the Long Beach community, local dignitaries and NAACP leaders celebrated the grand opening of the renamed NAACP Freedom Park, located at 2300 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Long Beach on Tuesday. Spirits were high as councilmember Dee Andrews, who initially made the request to name the green space after the long-standing civil rights organization, cut the ceremonial ribbon to enthusiastic applause.
Andrews said he was very proud to be standing in the first park in America named after the over 100-year-old organization.
“I chose to name this park in honor of the NAACP because the organization has played such a pivotal role in my life as well as thousands upon thousands of lives that have come before and after me,” Andrews told attendees. “Not only African American lives, but all lives of color, in Long Beach and across the United States, the NAACP has helped make a positive change in education and economic development.”
Notable speakers at the celebration included Naomi Rainey, president of the Long Beach Branch of the NAACP, Ernest McBride Jr., son of the Long Beach Branch NAACP Founder, Ernest McBride, Sr., Gregory Sanders, Sr. pastor of The ROCK, Long Beach and president of The Long Beach Ministers Alliance, Anitra Dempsey, executive director of the City of Long Beach Police Complaint Commission and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
After thanking all those involved with making the naming of the park possible, Garcia spoke of the unique diversity of Long Beach.
“I think it’s also really quite fitting that Long Beach, which is a place of such diversity and such strength, and a place that really believes in supporting people, would be the first community in the country to have a name like NAACP at one of our parks," said Garcia.
Dempsey spoke of the park’s transformation in 2012, from a used and abused trash-ridden place to an inviting and much-needed sliver of green benefitting its Central Long Beach community. Rainey spoke eloquently of just what the NAACP stands for and what the naming of the park represents for the city.
“The NAACP, the oldest civil rights and social justice organization, is not just about African Americans, it’s about the voiceless, it’s about any downtrodden or any group whose social rights and civil rights are ignored,” she said. “Our city has great diversity and this park is another symbol that we stand for equality and justice for all, it’s not just on paper, but this park makes it a reality.”
NAACP Freedom Park is located at 2300 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.