The idea for a series of Friend Fests came after the neighborhood was rocked by gun violence that ended the life of a 23-year-old Willmore City resident named Nelson Suarez. A second incident of gun violence six days later prompted homeowners, property managers and renters to join together at a community meeting featuring the district’s City Council member, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) West Division Commander and their local gang unit.
“A lot of the rhetoric that has existed is more about enforcement, and that can be problematic because, if that’s the only tool that we have, maybe you’ll create an environment eventually that’s safer, but it won’t be as diverse,” said Ben Fisher, one of the organizing members of The Friendship Neighborhood. “It won’t have the flavor and interesting things that have drawn me to the neighborhood.”
The organization’s latest press release states that “Friendship Neighborhood is sensitive to the problems that can accompany gentrification and well-meaning but sometimes exclusionary attempts to ‘clean up’ an area. Instead, they hope to create a safe space where neighbors can become friends and get to know each other, where talents can be celebrated, and where ways to help each other can be realized. The series of Friend Fests is intended to help work toward the mission of celebrating the diversity of the residents in the area while finding ways to connect and improve communication between neighbors.”
Micky Salatino, a founding member of the Friendship Neighborhood says, “We have gone canvassing door-to-door and received a good response from our neighbors. Doing the groundwork of canvassing is what really counts, because you get to meet your neighbors. Besides getting to know them by name, you also get a glimpse of who they are, what their wishes are, what they like, what their fears are and, on those grounds, we connect and we can start to help each other. Some of the neighbors we connected with are families with children looking for activities, especially since summer school and other programs have been cut. Friend Fest is not just one of these events that will bring activities, but, from our outreach efforts, we have connected to wonderful organizations doing activities in our neighborhood as well, so the Friendship Neighborhood is helping to spread the word about their work.”
Groups such as Centro CHA, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Foodscape Long Beach, Green Long Beach!, The Long Beach Time Exchange, The Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse, Willmore City Heritage Association, Friends of Drake Park, Housing LB, and Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach will provide flyers and other informational pieces to let people know what these groups are doing or offering, and how one can get involved. As they did for the inaugural event, The Miguel Contreras Foundation will once again be on-site, registering voters.
The musical group Romero Y Perez will return to entertain attendees with their Spanish guitar. The Long Beach Free Store Book and Clothing Swap, face-painting by The Painted Life and a community potluck will also be featured once again. The festival will provide a variety of interactive opportunities and skill-share workshops, including one on seed planting by Foodscape Long Beach, a creative reuse arts and crafts station by LB Riot Grrl and a DIY non-toxic cleaning products workshop by sisters Micky and Ana Belen Salatino, with supplies provided free for all of the above while they last. There will also be several raffles open to all attendees.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a dish of their choice for the community potluck and/or gently used clothes and books for the Free Market, but, no one will be required to bring anything in order to participate fully. Reusable water bottles, plates and utensils are encouraged; fresh water will be provided by local organization Green Long Beach! via a free hydration station, and a free raffle ticket will be given to all attendees. The event will be hosted in English and Spanish.
(562) 270-KIND (5463)