By Kraig Kojian, President & CEO, Downtown Long Beach Alliance

February is Black History Month, a time of celebration and reflection – a month singled out to honor the history, contributions, and experience of our Black community and to help shape its future. But the awareness and support that is given to this community during the month often subsides when March comes along, only to resume in a year’s time.

As the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) recognizes that the Black community should be celebrated and uplifted all year long and every year, we also recognize this as one of our own shortcomings. Like many organizations throughout our country, DLBA has taken a hard look at itself over the past several months, asking ourselves to what extent have we contributed to the inequities experienced by the Black residents and business owners in our community, and how we can chart a new course. Any evaluation on how much change must occur will not be a month-long or year-long process. This is a living, breathing ongoing process that must become a part of our work and engrained in our culture in perpetuity.

As part of our commitment to this work and to the Black community, DLBA is launching a series of programs and services aimed at celebrating, recognizing, and supporting Black residents, business owners, workers, and users of our Downtown. We invite the community to participate in these upcoming events and promotions, and to join us in supporting our Black neighbors and businesses. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • DLBA has produced an interactive map promoting Downtown Long Beach Black-owned businesses, which is accompanied by resources for those businesses: This map will be advertised to Long Beach area residents and beyond.
  • On Tuesday, February 23 at 9 AM, DLBA will host its Downtown Discussions virtual roundtable, “The Black Experience in Long Beach, Past, Present, and Future,” featuring:
    • Moderator: Carl Kemp, Public Affairs Manager, Los Angeles County Public Health
    • Teresa Chandler, Deputy City Manager, City of Long Beach
    • Wayne Cheney Jr., Senior Pastor of Antioch Church
    • Melissa Morgan, Director of Communications for Long Beach Forward
    • Ahmed Safir, Chairperson, Long Beach Community Improvement League
    • Kena Fuller, Founder, Fuller Management Corporation
  • Sharing stories of DTLB Black-owned businesses on an ongoing basis, beginning with those featured here:
  • An Instagram (@DLBA) Gift Card specific to Black-owned businesses during February, and continued inclusion in the giveaway throughout the year.
  • Free business consulting and web development opportunities through DLBA in partnership with Studio LBP
  • A virtual Juneteenth event benefiting an organization dedicated to Black progress
  • With more to come

At the same time as we embark on this endeavor to better serve, support, and amplify the Black community, our organization is beginning an important process that will guide our future. We recently began the process of updating our Strategic Plan, a three-to-five-year vision, which guides the goals and activities of DLBA on behalf of the Downtown community. Ethics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access will permeate the development of this plan. We encourage Downtown stakeholders to engage with us in this process as news about how to get involved will be shared in the coming weeks and months.

Please join us in these efforts. Participate in our free events and community conversations. Visit our map of Black-owned businesses and consider these establishments for the services you need. And more importantly, join us in reflecting on the culture of inequity in our society, our own role within it, and how we can right the course moving forward.