‘Framework for Reconciliation’ listening sessions about systemic racism to begin this week

Editor’s note: The city later added more sessions, find the updated list here

Amid nationwide calls for racial equity and police reform, Long Beach will convene a series of listening sessions seeking input about racial injustice starting this week.

The plan, dubbed a “Framework for Reconciliation in Long Beach,” will give residents the chance to participate in 12 collaborative, focus-group-style meetings with top city management over the next 2 weeks.

After gathering community input, the city will assemble Black and other diverse community leaders to evaluate feedback from the listening groups to shape policy, budgetary, charter and other reform ideas.

The initiative was unanimously approved by the City Council last Tuesday.

“Systemic racism exists in all public institutions, and that includes Long Beach,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “We have an opportunity to listen to the community that is demanding change and take action on solutions to address racial injustices and equity for all.”

These meetings will be held virtually to adhere to physical distancing orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Community members can register now for an upcoming session (dates hyperlinked below with registrations) or provide feedback in this short survey.

Here are the session topics, dates and times:

City officials said the framework for reconciliation centers around 4 steps:

  • Acknowledging the existence and long-standing impacts of systemic racism in Long Beach and the country.
  • Listening to accounts and experiences of racial injustice, inequity, or harm of community members.
  • Convening stakeholders to evaluate the feedback from the listening process and shape policy, budgetary, charter and programmatic reform ideas.
  • Catalyzing action, presenting immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term recommendations for the City Council’s consideration.

Officials acknowledged long-term racial inequalities such as the disproportionate effects of air pollution on Black residents due to the proximity to the ports and diesel trucks riding on freeways, as well as higher COVID-19 death rates compared to White residents.

The Long Beach Police Department has also been criticized for excessive use of force upon Black people, in some cases, leading to 10s of millions of dollars of settled lawsuits. In Long Beach, a city whose population is about 12% Black, 29% of the most serious uses of force cases were against Black residents or visitors in 2018, according to data from the California Department of Justice. The LBPD maintains that their uses of force have been warranted and point out they’ve been declining in recent years.

“The pain we are seeing from our community is real,” said City Manager Tom Modica in a statement. “It needs light, it needs discussion, and it needs action. The time is now.”

Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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