Equity Is important, Long Beach—Especially When It Comes to Park Space
Photo courtesy of Partners of Park. Above: the Long Beach Municipal Band.
The first time I ever went to a Long Beach Municipal Band concert, along Marine Stadium, I didn’t even live in Long Beach. Fresh out of high school and barely affording college, I was taken to one by my landlord (who gave me discounted rent because my grades were spectacular).
At the time, I understood why Marine Stadium was attractive: water, trees, a wealthy neighborhood surrounding it. It was one of the initial reasons I fell in love with the city and, if there were others, I wanted to know about ’em so I can try and show my friends that, beyond the bong and critical theory rambling, I was cultured and sophisticated. When I turned to my landlord and asked, “Do any of these happen in other places throughout the summer?” I’ll never forget her answer, said while laughing: “No one wants to go anywhere else in Long Beach.”
The sentiment expressed lingered because, soon after that, Long Beach became my home after falling in love with it bit by bit, dive bar to queer bar, neighborhood to alleyway.
Perhaps even more egregious, throughout this absolutely absurd conversation in which defenders of the band come with the argument “This is tradition! This is how we’ve always done it!”—that’s some damn well-served privilege talkin’ there, along with a complete lack of caring for our city as a whole.
And that sentiment? Pardon the colorful language, but get the fuck outta here with that nonsense—especially when it comes from a local journalist who tries to paint the lack of equity in park space throughout Long Beach by saying the “Municipal Band plays for all” while getting quotes from old white folks who say that El Dorado and Marine Stadium are safe and clean while others are, well, not.
Forgive the eye roll, but this goes way beyond the band, sir.
On top of this, it might have behooved said journalist to look up equity and how it differs from equality. Here, I’ll type “equity vs. equality” into Google and paste the first thing that pops up:
Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.
So, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilmember Lena Gonzalez deserve props—not for attacking the Municipal Band (which they were not—some guy held up a “Save the Band” sign despite the fact that the Band itself is not under threat) but wanting to know about how parks are programmed, how many hours of those programming are given to certain areas, and if disproportions exists.
And I assure you, disproportions do exist—that’s the just blunt reality when West and North Long Beach are so park poor that it prompts a serious discussion about removing part of a freeway just to give these marginalized neighborhoods some green space.
I find it intellectually challenging that anyone can look me dead in the face and say they expect other Long Beachers to cross Anaheim and PCH to visit them but heaven forbid those same folks hop over to Admiral Kidd Park or Cesar Chavez Park.
Hell, let’s take a quote from a Long Beach teacher at City Council who “applauded” the Council for looking into park inequity but backtracked by saying, “Let’s be honest: businesses and yoga instructors don’t want to go to those parks” because “they don’t feel safe” so we need to look into lowering crimes in those areas and that would prove more attractive for the band to play.
Wow. Just… Wow. The irony with that statement? I’ll leave it to Richardson, who threw a little salt “Programming in those parks is one of the first steps toward safety.”
Boom. And there’s data behind that.
Perhaps even more egregious, throughout this absolutely absurd conversation in which defenders of the band come with the argument “This is tradition! This is how we’ve always done it!”—that’s some damn well-served privilege talkin’ there, along with a complete lack of caring for our city as a whole. The only tradition that needs to be respected is to provide a space for humans to gather—and when we disproportionately activate spaces in more affluent, more privileged neighborhoods, I can assure you that the Drake Parks of the world are going to go into further depreciation.
This isn’t about a “fair share.” It’s about Long Beach.
All of it. Every damn nook and cranny. And the Council deserves applause for moving forward into looking how we program our parks.
How we program the Westside and the Northside and the Eastside and the shoreline—and I find it intellectually challenging that anyone can look me dead in the face and say they expect other Long Beachers to cross Anaheim and PCH to visit them but heaven forbid those same folks hop over to Admiral Kidd Park or Cesar Chavez Park.