First Congregational Church

First Congregational Church of Long Beach.

A coalition of activist groups called Long Beach Rising will host its seventh annual People's State of the City tonight with the theme of addressing barriers faced by working families.

More than 500 people are expected at the event, according to organizer James Suazo, a member of Building Healthy Communities Long Beach. It starts at 5 p.m. with an outdoor fair, then moves inside the First Congregational Church for a program beginning at 6:30 p.m.

"We're seeing a lot of issues pertaining to working people," Suazo said. "There's housing, land use, the 710 expansion — a lot of large issues we need to tackle.

"The first six years (of the people's state of the city) changed the conversation a lot. Now there's a lot more focus on where the need is in the city."

An eclectic group of speakers designed to represent the spectrum of those involved have agreed to share their thoughts tonight. As of press time, they include Rev. Elena Larssen, First Congregational Church; Pastor Cedric Nelms, Chosen Generation Fellowship Church; Nereyda Soto, a Long Beach hotel worker; Jedi Jimenez, a Long Beach youth organizer; and Juakae, a Long Beach-based artist.

Suazo said several elected officials also will attend or will be represented by staff. As of Friday, Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga had agreed to attend.

"In the past year, city leaders have voted down sexual assault protections for hotel workers and allowed the housing crisis to displace families, allowing a powerful few to get rich at the disposal (sic) of working people," Jedi Jimenez said in a statement. "Most of the time, the challenges facing the city are minimized by leaders who deny the realities of poor and marginalized communities in Long Beach."

Organizations in Long Beach Rising include Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach; California Conference for Equality and Justice; California Faculty Association — Long Beach Chapter; Don’t Waste Long Beach; Filipino Migrant Center; Housing Long Beach; Justice for Port Truck Drivers; Khmer Girls in Action; Latinos in Action California; The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach; Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy; Long Beach Area Peace Network Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community; The Long Beach Gray Panthers Long Beach Time Exchange; and Unite Here Local 11.

Suazo said there will be free parking, free food and a free child watch area for the evening. First Congregational Church is at 241 Cedar Ave. downtown.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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