The Friendship Neighborhood Hosts 2nd Friend Fest at Drake Park August 31

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Photo from Friendship Neighborhood Community-Building Facebook Page

Photo from Friendship Neighborhood Community-Building Facebook Page

The Friendship Neighborhood continues their effort to spark relationships among neighbors with their second Friend Fest event August 31st from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Drake Park (10th Street and Maine Avenue). 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.

Ben Fisher, one of the organizing members of The Friendship Neighborhood, says, “A lot of the rhetoric that has existed is more about enforcement, and that can be problematic because, if that’s the only tool that we have, maybe you’ll create an environment eventually that’s safer, but it won’t be as diverse. It won’t have the flavor and interesting things that have drawn me to the neighborhood.”

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.

Micky Salatino, a founding member of the Friendship Neighborhood says, “We have gone canvassing door-to-door and received a good response from our neighbors. Doing the groundwork of canvassing is what really counts, because you get to meet your neighbors. Besides getting to know them by name, you also get a glimpse of who they are, what their wishes are, what they like, what their fears are and, on those grounds, we connect and we can start to help each other.”

“Some of the neighbors we connected with are families with children looking for activities, especially since summer school and other programs have been cut,” Salatino says. “Friend Fest is not just one of these events that will bring activities, but, from our outreach efforts, we have connected to wonderful organizations doing activities in our neighborhood as well, so the Friendship Neighborhood is helping to spread the word about their work.”

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.

This is not your usual tabling event – 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.


The mission of the Friendship Neighborhood is to foster a proud, safe, vibrant neighborhood of diverse- yet connected friends and acquaintances empowered through education, cultural and activist history, shared resources, and community-building activities. All residents and friends of Willmore City are invited to attend the monthly Clean is Cool neighborhood cleanup the second Saturday of every month, starting at Cesar Chavez Park (5th Street and Golden Avenue) at 9 a.m. and ending at Drake Park (Tenth Street and Maine Avenue) at 11 a.m., and are also encouraged to participate in the planning of upcoming Friend Fests. All interested should contact The Friendship Neighborhood.

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