“The people united will never be defeated!” reverberated through the walls of the First Congressional Church in Long Beach, as those in attendance listened to activist Leanna Noble speak about the housing crisis and gentrification in the city.
Noble’s speech was part of this year’s People’s State of the City, marking the event’s ninth year. The affair was organized by Long Beach Rising, a civic engagement coalition.
The People’s State of the City allows community members and activists to inform and mobilize citizens against varying communal and economic issues taking place in Long Beach.
Noble was one of four speakers and listed her love for Long Beach as one of the reasons she decided to speak on Wednesday night.
“I deliberately made a decision to come and retire here about five years ago, having lived here in the 1970s and 80s, and it is such a powerful place with diversity and so many pluses to this community,” Noble said. “It makes me so mad that the community is not listened to when there’s such a smart committed group of folks that really want a better life and they want it for everybody. […] [The event] seemed like a great opportunity for all of us to work together and figure out a way to share the beauty and the great ideas and the smarts of everybody that makes up Long Beach.”
Issues such as fair housing, quality education, sanctuary for all and inclusion were highlighted through performances, storytelling and were told through the lens of working people in the city.
The first creative piece transported those in attendance through a dark voyage that perched them at the feet of a visiting grandmother/granddaughter duo marveling at the city but awakened by a plethora of social and economic issues taking place.
“And now they know to look past the glitter for community, the real gold!” a voice coming from the video portion of the performance announced as the lights to the sanctuary came back on.
Challenging the status quo was the main theme of the night, with speeches empowering the community to be involved in the process of change. One of those speeches came from Audrena Redmond, an organizer with the California Faculty Association and Black Lives Matter Long Beach.
“When the foundation of our society is built around making money and the idea that something or someone is only valuable when there is money attached, then we are left with the problems we see today: crime, violence, displacement, exclusion, and apathy,” she said in her speech. “What would happen if communities were actually first?”
Throughout the night, Redmond encouraged the community in attendance to show their emotions toward the issues and the advancements highlighted in her address by using emoticons handed at the door.
And emotions ran rampant in key moments of the event.
When Redmond asked if the community was ready to vote to reform jails in Los Angeles County, and transform the way schools and communities are funded, the crowd erupted in cheer and a sea of heart emojis was suspended in the air.
Similarly, the crowd was energized to erupt in cheer and applause as the majority of the packed church stood to signal their commitment to get counted in the 2020 census.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now,” Redmond said at the end of the event. “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
And the crowd clapped their way out of the sanctuary.