It took a while, but Long Beach’s Martin Luther King Jr. statue now has a new plaque at its base, nearly two years after it was stolen.

Members of the community were upset in March 2019 when the original nameplate disappeared. Beyond commemorating the civil rights leader, the plaque also listed the names of individuals and organizations who helped fund the statue at MLK Jr. Park.

“There’s so many layers to the significance of this plaque,” said newly elected 6th District Councilwoman Suely Saro, whose district includes the park. “It’s our history, our Long Beach history.”

But replacing the plaque wasn’t an easy task said Isabel Arvea, chief of staff of former 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews. “We didn’t, in the beginning, have a clear picture of all the names that were on the plaque,” Arvea said.

The city’s Marine, Parks and Recreation Department was tasked with researching the original plaque’s exact inscriptions and having it replicated.

The bottom plaque of sponsors' names was stolen from the base of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at a park in Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.
The bottom plaque of sponsors’ names was stolen from the base of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at a park in Long Beach. Photo by Thomas R Cordova.

“We finally got all that together, fashioned it, and then COVID hit,” said Valerie Davis, the department’s executive assistant. The pandemic, she said, further delayed the process as the city focused on responding to the public health crisis.

Although out of office, former Councilman Dee Andrews said he’s happy to see it replaced, just in time for Black History Month.

“It took some time,” he said. “I’m just glad they finally got it up.”

Sharon McLucas, 69, the daughter of one of the donors, said she was so happy to hear that the plaque had been replaced. She decided to drive by the park and take a look.

“I actually shed a tear about it, because my elders worked so hard to get it implemented, and now it’s back,” McLucas said.

A spokesperson for the Long Beach Police Department said they haven’t been able to determine who took the original plaque.

“A detective looked into it but no suspect was identified nor has an arrest been made,” said Paige White, a public information officer with the department.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Sharon McLucas’ age as 70.