Friends and family of Donte Jordan came together to celebrate his life with the unveiling of a memorial bench nearly a decade after he was killed by Long Beach police.
The community gathered at Seaside Park on Sunday to celebrate Jordan’s life with music, speakers, arts and crafts, and a cookout catered by My Father’s Barbecue in Carson. Though there were tears, Jordan’s mother, Pamela Fields, said she wanted to create a fun, community atmosphere to honor her son.
“Because that’s what my son did, he did community service,” Fields said. “The houseless, whoever’s walking by, is welcome to come get a plate.”
Jordan used to live in the Washington neighborhood across the street from Seaside Park, where the bench is now located. Fields said he would regularly give haircuts and feed or clothe his unhoused neighbors there.
“That’s why it was important to me that he has that bench here,” Fields said. “He deserves it.”
On Nov. 10, 2013, Jordan was shot in the back by police officers as he walked away from them. The District Attorney’s office said that minutes before, Jordan had fired a gun at a car. The responding officers said they tried to get Jordan to stop walking but, ultimately, they feared he would turn around and fire a gun at them or shoot at other bystanders.
The DA concluded the officers “acted lawfully in self-defense and the defense of others,” saying Jordan “was walking down a public street carrying the handgun he had used only moments before.” The family, on the other hand, maintains that Jordan was murdered by police.
Talks to create Jordan’s memorial bench first began in 2020, according to Cynthia Luján, director of public art for the nonprofit Long Beach Arts Council. Luján said the project cost at least $20,000, paid for by the Arts Council as well as the city’s Percent for the Arts Program.
“We’re committed to bringing the ability to process grief, the ability to have joy, the ability to be in the community with each other, be outdoors and convene,” Luján said of the Arts Council’s role in the Memorial Bench Program.
Audrena Redmond, the director of political education and chapter coordination for the national Black Lives Matter Grassroots organization and co-founder of its Long Beach chapter, said the Arts Council first reached out in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. She said the idea was to create art projects around the city “lifting up Black lives.”
The talks resulted in murals, but Redmond said the organizations wanted to memorialize people in a more meaningful and permanent way.
“The benches are the perfect way to memorialize people,” Redmond said. “It might seem like a little thing, but for these folks, it’s so meaningful.”
The bench art was designed and painted by Sharniece Chantal, a Long Beach native, in partnership with the Arts Council, Black Lives Matter Long Beach, Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine, and nonprofit Partners of Parks.
“A lot of the designs are very tribal,” Chantal said. “His family was expressing him as a very caring, very bright individual, so I made sure that I went that route with using the brighter colors—just making sure that it popped and it stood out.”
Chantal said she was elated that the family selected her to “bring their loved one back to life” through her art.
Another memorial bench is being unveiled Saturday at Pan American Park in honor of Fredrick Taft, who was shot and killed in a still-unsolved homicide at the park in 2018.
Fields said she is grateful that the various organizations came together to memorialize her son.
“I couldn’t have did this alone,” Fields said. “I feel so blessed and I just pray that my son is looking down on us.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct Audrena Redmond’s job title.