Centro CHA Inc., a nonprofit organization that enriches the lives of low-income, underserved Latin youth, families and neighborhoods in Long Beach, is partnering with Cultural Alliance of Long Beach and Palacio de Long Beach to sponsor an exhibition of youth art and video produced this summer as part of the Be S.A.F.E. program held at Drake Park. Youth were asked to paint images reflecting their lives, families and their communities.

IMG 0387My Story: An Exhibition of Youth Art will showcase not only the youths’ art, but also screen a video of the artists’ reflections and their creative process to compliment the work. Meanwhile, music and refreshments will accompany this joyous celebration of our youth.

Artist and community worker Danny Flores, who mentored the youth over the summer, said in a written statement, “These are so called high-risk youth who have found positive ways to express themselves through art.” 1st District Councilmember Lena Gonzalez is scheduled to attend.

Be S.A.F.E, formerly known as Summer Night Lights, is a violence prevention strategy and youth development project implemented at a number of city parks, including Martin Luther King, Houghton, Drake and Admiral Kidd Park. The program is funded in part by Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine, WAGEES, PGWIN- Hire a Youth and The California Wellness Foundation. Be S.A.F.E. is held during the traditionally most violent summer months and focuses on educating communities and implementing the best neighborhood-based strategies to improve health and safety, to prevent and counter “toxic stress” and help vulnerable youngsters follow a better path to success.

Centro CHA Executive Director and President Jessica Quintana said in a written statement, “Be S.A.F.E.has been an important vehicle to deter crime and gang violence weaving together promising practices in areas that historically face high-crime, have low educational rates, and have high rates of juvenile incarceration. Enriching the lives of children and parents with safe places for youth and families to engage, providing summer job opportunities, and access to healthy activities and food is Martial Law during the peak time of summer and out of school time.”

Quintana added, “This important partnership with The City of Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine and other community-based and faith-based partnerships has resulted in both reduced crime around the participating parks but also greater community engagement.”

My Story was funded by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach in an effort to continue their support for developing, encouraging and enhancing the cultural environment in Long Beach by supporting artists within the community.

“We are always happy to host events and exhibitions that reflect both the diversity and breadth of art in this city,” explained CALB manager Karen Reside in a written statement, ” We look forward to a wonderful evening to celebrate the voices of our youth.”

My Story: An Exhibition of Youth Art will open Friday, November 14 from 7:00PM to 9:00PM at the Cultural Alliance of Long Beach art gallery. Click here to RSVP via the Facebook event. The Cultural Alliance of Long Beach gallery is located at 729 Pine Ave.

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Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].