Updated: Oct 26, 2020
ARTS & LIFE October 7, 2020
James Suazo, associate director of Long Beach Forward and CSULB alumni, speaking at an event. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Forward
With the recent spike in social reform movements in Long Beach, as well as the general election approaching on Nov. 3, having community support and access to information is important to Long Beach residents.
And it is important to Long Beach Forward.
Long Beach Forward is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help at-risk communities build knowledge about social issues that can affect them directly and keep them informed.
Currently, Long Beach Forward is encouraging community members to vote. The organization is helping residents understand the propositions on electoral ballots and how these can have an effect in their community.
Elsa Tung, land use program manager for Long Beach Forward, said that the organization works as the “glue” that keeps their partners and other similar non-profit organizations, including the Long Beach Residents Empowered and the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, together as one single social group.
“We help to build people’s leadership and empowerment so that they can be their own community leaders and help influence their friends and neighbors,” Tung said.
Tung also oversees all partnerships and issues related to health, equitable land, affordable housing, environmental justice and planning and development.
Under their new campaign called People’s Budget Proposal, organized with Black Lives Matter LBC and other community allies, Tung is currently helping residents understand the complex process of the city’s budget and how that money is distributed. She also said that this year, the People’s Budget Coalition has been advocating for defunding the Long Beach Police Department.
They, along with other members of Long Beach, participated in a march to call an end to police brutality on Sept. 8.
“We hold a number of virtual workshops explaining the [city] budget process and some of the core issues like police funding,” Tung said. “We help them break down how much money police gets versus other areas like health, libraries or parks for broader community knowledge.”
Some of the people that are currently working in the organization are no strangers to the community.
Long Beach State alumni, Diana Martinez, who graduated in spring 2019 has made Long Beach Forward her home.
“I feel really fulfilled with my job and the work that I do here,” Martinez said.
Martinez, a communications assistant, said that CSULB really prepared her for this opportunity. She was part of DIG Magazine and credits different faculty for her current success.
“I came here well-prepared,” Martinez said. “A lot of the work that they prepared us for made me confident coming to the real world.”
Martinez said that she began to realize the impact that the organization had in the community after working on their census project. It was one of the first projects she was involved in after getting hired.
“The response rate that we had this year compared to the last census, 10 years ago, was incredible,” Martinez said. “We went over our target because we were working with other organizations by doing door hangers, phone calls and social media posts.”
Long Beach Forward offers a variety of leadership programs to help children, young adults and parents to be aware of racial and economic injustices. Per their mission statement, they believe that “race and economic status should not determine the future of these communities” and that everyone has something important to give back to the city.
“We exist to help create a healthy Long Beach by helping low-income communities of color to understand how the institutions around the city, and the decision that they take, impact their communities,” Melissa Morgan said, communications director for Long Beach Forward.
Morgan said that the organization helps any resident with assistance on how to make their voices heard, whether they are immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community or a person with special needs. More often than not, Morgan said, the important decisions are being made without their consultation or based on their real needs.
“A lot of our work is building knowledge so that folks can understand what’s going on,” Morgan said. “We want everyone to have a chance to experience the best [version] of Long Beach regardless of their income level or immigration status.”