Advocates Reflect on Safety, Community Resources
By Dianne Anderson
For Pastor Gregory Sanders, it’s hard to think that the 12-year-old Eric Brown, who was shot and killed last week. is about the age that should attract kids to an upcoming community resource and book fair he has supported.
Now, the urgency and attention shifts as a tragic reminder of the work that must be done. It’s not time to relax.
“We lost a link to our legacy, a mother lost her child, a grandmother lost her grandchild, sibling,” he said. “It ought to trigger us all, not so much to anger against [the shooter]. We’re going to be angry, but the activation is to be more diligent. It better wake us up.”
A 14-year-old girl was also injured, shot in the leg, but survived.
Sanders grew up one block from where it happened and said although the shooting is in an area not known for high crime, area pastors have been talking about re-initiating an old effort, Night Walk, where he and community men volunteer to walk the streets of Long Beach. Their scope would be based on city data of high crime activity at certain times of the evening.
“Night Walk is out talking to the community, do you have a need? Because we think crime is a symptom of a deeper problem, not having enough food, enough money, or mental issues, we want to address those deficiencies as well,” said Rev. Sanders, lead pastor of The ROCK Christian Fellowship and president of the Long Beach Ministers Alliance.
Another effort he wants to see revived is the Mile of Men project, particularly over the summer when crime heats up. The literal mile of Men was started by pastors in Long Beach years ago.
Justice is required, but with this latest incident, he said retaliation is always a concern.
“One of the things that normally happens after a shooting is there is a vigilante, you killed my family member and I’m coming for yours. We’re watching that very closely so that there’s no retaliation. Our goal as pastors is not only to be prayerful, but practical and activated,” he said.
The drive-by shooting happened on May 9 before midnight in the 2200 block of Lewis Avenue.
Many came out, many pastors, himself included, have been in conversation. There has been some discussion in the community that a reward may be offered for information about the shooter.
Mary Simmons said everybody in the community dropped what they were doing and galvanized.
“I only live a mile or two over, and it’s just tragic,” she said. “Somebody saw that shooting, the little boy got shot in front of his grandmother’s house. That’s such a tragedy.”
AOC7 Neighborhood Association has been active for several years with the city Health Department and Long Beach Advancing Peace.
Two years ago, the association partnered with the health department’s violence prevention program using city data, going into five different neighborhoods to bring resources. They held block parties to get the community in one space to provide mental health services, youth diversion programs, housing and food.
The group continues to take surveys to establish the areas of most need.
“It’s pretty strategic, it’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love, it’s important because that’s how our neighborhood grows and evolves,” said Simmons, who coordinates the regular AOC7 meetings and works with the city’s in working with the Neighborhood Services Bureau.
She is looking forward to the upcoming literacy event, but it is on the heels of a dark time.
“It may have been even them coming to our book fair, and who’s prepared? Who has money to bury their grandson, no one,” she said.
Fatima Castro, event organizer, said they will give away 3,000 children’s and teen books at the event, and expect about 300 to 400 participants. Over 30 community partners are bringing out resources. They will have different ways for the kids to have fun, including the Aquarium of the Pacific truck where kids can go in and see real-life sea creatures.
She is also a long-term intern with the AOC7 Neighborhood Association, and got involved through her last year at CSULB, having volunteered with Long Beach Advancing Peace.
AOC7, which stands for Anaheim, Orange, Cherry and 7th streets, the blocks that it encompasses, mostly outreaches to neighbors in the 90813 Central Long Beach area. The effort hosts food giveaways, regular community cleanups, neighborhood gatherings and block parties providing a wealth of information.
“Our main goal is to make sure that our neighbors get to know each other and have safe spaces to interact such as MacArthur Park,” she said.
To volunteer with the Long Beach Ministers Alliance’s upcoming community projects, email
To learn more about AOC7, see https://www.aoc7neighborhood.com