- Reporters Desk
The Friendship Neighborhood continues their effort to spark relationships among neighbors with their second Friend Fest event, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 31, at Drake Park in Long Beach.
The intention of this series of outdoor community events is to create a viable network of friends within the underserved Willmore City/Drake Park area of Long Beach and, through these relationships, find a sustainable way to counteract and reduce the incidents of violence in this area.
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.
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.
Long Beach favorites Romero Y Perez will return to entertain attendees with their crowd-pleasing Spanish guitar, and other popular aspects of the event such as the The Long Beach Free Store Book and Clothing Swap, face-painting by The Painted Life, and community potluck will 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 – the last event had children toting away brand new bicycles as well as several basketballs and soccer balls (gifts made possible by a grant awarded to The Friendship Neighborhood by Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach).
For most of the organizers, the highlight of the day was seeing the two children who had shyly offered their help all day long happily rolling their new bicycles away while many others gleefully filled their arms with free books from The Free Store. Attendee Ebony Batups appeared on VoiceWaves (a Long Beach youth-led journalism and media-training project) to say that she appreciated the uniqueness of the event and the fact “that it brought people together on a hot summer day to simply enjoy life.”
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. Event will be hosted in English and Spanish.