Two separate community events, one hosted by the City of Long Beach's Violence Prevention Program and the other by 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews, Long Beach Advocates for Change and others, will be held at area parks this Saturday April 27 with the common goal of discussing and curtailing violence in Long Beach.
The Long Beach Violence Protection Plan, which held its first forum last month at Cesar Chavez Park, will continue its round of four planned neighborhood discussions where city leaders and residents are encouraged to engage in a dialogue about not only what kinds of violence are facing their communities but also ideas of how to help suppress and eventually eliminate them.
Suggestions made by community members are anonymously posted on the LBVPP website for anyone that misses meeting. Tracy Colunga, the program's coordinator, says that residents have responded positively to the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. The forum will include a free community barbeque and free childcare will be provided for those between the ages of five and twelve.
"I’ll say that people were really excited,” Colunga said about the initial meeting held at Caesar Chavez Park last month. “They were saying, ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to get involved?’"
Colunga has worked closely with Salinas and San Jose, two cities that have taken similar steps to fight back against violence and said that the forums have been successful and bringing community members together. Whether it be moms walking children to school in groups or just plain looking out for their neighbors, people are saying, “Hey, this is my neighborhood and I’m taking it back,” Colunga said.
At about the same time on Saturday just a few miles southeast, Councilmember Andrews will be partnering with Long Beach Advocates for Change and Helpline Youth Counseling to host a free youth violence symposium at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 1950 Lemon Ave. where the focus will not only take aim at policy changes and violence prevention but also creating a more empowered youth.
A free lunch will be served, gift cards for the first 25 youths will be handed out and free mentoring, counseling and medical coverage will provided thanks in part to a grant from the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Central Long Beach initiative.
The two events will happen almost simultaneously with the LBVPP meeting taking place from 1PM to 4PM and the youth symposium at Martin Luther King Jr. Park running from 12PM to 3PM. Though not connected, the two events will take place just days after the sixth homicide of the month occurred Tuesday night when a woman was found shot to death on Cherry Ave.
"We want to be safe and we want our kids to be safe," Colunga said. “We need to look for the answers on how we’re going to get there. Just say, ‘Yes, I’ll be there,’ and lets talk about it.”
For more information about the Long Beach Violence Prevention Plan (LBVPP) or to RSVP for Saturday's community meeting at Silverado Park, please call (562) 570-5585.
For more information on the youth symposium being held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, please contact the Office of Councilman Dee Andrews at (562) 570-6816 or Karen Wyatt, Director of Community Services for HYC, at (562) 599-2244.