EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing CALÓ NEWS series on the state of hate in LA and California. If you are an expert on the subject, a victim, an activist or community leader, please contact us at brenda@latinomedia.org.

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Today, Long Beach is home to “Long Beach Embrace,” a new mural unveiled at Bixby Park celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. On August 5, the mural was unveiled by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations and LA vs Hate’s Summer of Solidarity, in partnership with The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach. The mural evokes a tableau of people, movements and issues significant to the LGBTQ+ community, such as liberation, healthcare, land justice and education, among others. 

inauguration of the LGBTQ mural
Toma, Arellano, Aguirre and other city and government leaders, ribbon cutting to officially unveil the mural. Photo Courtesy of Kate Michel, CALÓ NEWS.

The mural hopes to send a clear message that hate is not tolerated in the city of Long Beach or anywhere in California and that love is greater than hate. For some Long Beach residents, this mural is a symbolic testament to the city’s committed effort to support and embrace the LGTBQ community. 

Frankie Aguirre’s story

In 2022,  Frankie Aguirre became a victim of a hate crime. At that time, he was renting an apartment in Alhambra, CA. His neighbors, living in the same apartment complex, harassed and made Aguirre feel uncomfortable for six years. Aguirre said the attacks were made because of his sexual orientation as a gay man. “I was afraid every day that I was there, walking in, walking out, throwing my trash,” he said. “They were making comments in front of me and in front of my family members when they would visit.”

Aguirre told CALÓ NEWS that his landlord refused to help, even though he had brought this incident to his attention before. “Every time I brought it up to my landlord, he did not care, and the assault just got worse,” he said.

Aguirre said that he did not know what to do. He remembered calling 211-LA in the past for other social service assistance. “So there I was, once again, calling 2-1-1.”

211 LA maintains a database that contains approximately 50,000 health and social services available to LA residents for free or at a low cost. 211 LA is part of LA vs Hate, the County’s hate crime and incident reporting program. Through the program, residents can dial 2-1-1 to report crimes of hate and receive free and confidential support. Victims may also report online at www.LAvsHate.org

LA vs Hate is a public program funded and operated by LA County’s Human Relations Commission and it has been in operation since 2012. The mission of LA vs Hate is to track and monitor hate crimes and offer services to residents who become victims. From aiding to filing police reports to helping them find medical and mental health assistance to housing and financial support.

After Aguirre called 211 LA, he was connected to what is called a care coordinator. The coordinator was able to help Aguirre by helping him find housing, so he no longer had to endure the hate in the apartment he was living in.

He said the help continued, and assistance did not end the day he was housed because they have periodic calls and check-ins with him to see how he’s doing and if his housing situation is still OK. “The care coordinator calls me and reaches out, and makes sure everything is still running smoothly,” Aguirre said.

Today, Aguirre lives in the city of Long Beach and feels “happier than ever.”

“Regardless of what your sexual orientation is, I feel at home here in Long Beach,” Aguirre said. 

Long Beach’s commitment against hate

In 2023, for the 11th consecutive year, the City of Long Beach has been named one of the best cities in the nation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) inclusion in municipal law and policy, earning both a perfect score and 11 bonus points in the 2022 Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI). Conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,  the index is intended to inform municipal officials, policymakers, and business leaders on how well cities across the nation embody LGBTQ+ inclusion in their laws, policies, and services.

“This recognition is a testament to our commitment to our LGBTQ+ community – a community that brings rich diversity and culture to our city,” said Mayor Rex Richardson in a January press release. “We will continue to ensure our LGBTQ+ community is represented in the policies we pass and initiatives we support as a city government.” 

About the mural

The “Long Beach Embrace” mural, was designed by Myisha Arellano, a self-described queer migrant artist who was born in Mexico City and raised in Los Angeles County.

Myisha Arellano is a queer artist whose work is now featured in the new “Long Beach Embrace” mural. Photo Courtesy of Kate Michel, CALÓ NEWS.

Additional supporting partners in creating and funding the mural, include the Long Beach Human Dignity Program, Vice Mayor Cindy Allen’s Office, Long Beach Parks and Recreation and The Museum of Latin American Art. 

“The mural presents two large figures forming an embrace at a distance, reflecting the community’s connection and support for one another,” Arrellano said. “This embrace, a universally recognized symbol of care and affection, allows the viewer to immediately understand the larger implications of the work. The figures create vignettes of symbolic stories based on community anecdotes and values that represent care, solidarity, and showing up for one another. The mural includes depictions of people marching and celebrating together, as well as historic landmarks, movements and resources for the LGBTQ+ community in Long Beach.”

Through partnerships with community-based organizations,  “Summer of Solidarity” seeks to celebrate cultural moments and traditions and showcase that unity is stronger than hate.

Jack Cunningham, District Deputy to U.S. Congressman Robert Garcia, attended the mural unveiling event. Garcia was mayor of Long Beach from 2014 through 2021 before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He is also the first openly LGBTQ foreign-born member of Congress. 

Cunningham said Garcia and his team will continue to address LGTBQ issues as a priority in the federal government. 

“The fact that we are tying these important social issues with art in public spaces really speaks to the importance of putting this information out to the community and making people feel that there are spaces that are welcoming, spaces where everyone can feel accepted,” Cunningham said. “Long Beach is one of those places that always tries to be at the forefront of building accepting public spaces.” 

Robin Toma, Executive Director of the LA County Commission on Human Relations, told CALÓ NEWS that LA vs Hate recognizes that art possesses a rich, extensive past as an instrument for connection, healing and unity among people. “This mural was created by the community, sending a message that Long Beach and all of LA County hold no space for hate and that the LGBTQ+ community is celebrated, loved, and welcome here,” Toma said.

Robin Toma was the host for the mural unveiling ceremony. Photo Courtesy of Kate Michel, CALÓ NEWS.

Toma also shared information about what LA vs Hate has done. From June 15 to July 1st, 465 victims of hate received assistance from LA vs Hate and its partner organizations like 2-1-1 LA. Toma also said LA vs Hate added 43 hate crimes into their databases that “otherwise would not have been known about,” and were reported to the police. “Sometimes people need an alternative; maybe they do not feel comfortable going to the police for a variety of reasons,” Toma said. “These are all ways that we are trying to change the reality of what we know about hate.” 

2022 Hate Crime in California Report

The “Long Beach Embrace” mural comes to the Long Beach community at a time when reported hate crime events against the LGBTQ+ community increased across California. The 2022 Hate Crime in California Report, conducted by the California Department of Justice, highlighted the need for continued efforts to combat hate across the state. 

The report revealed that there was a 20.2% increase in reported hate crime events, rising from 1,763 in 2021 to 2,120 in 2022. The report also stated that hate crime events motivated by a sexual orientation bias increased by 29% from 303 in 2021 to 391 in 2022. In addition, anti-transgender bias events increased from 38 in 2021 to 59 in 2022; anti-gay (male) bias events increased 28.4% from 211 in 2021 to 271 in 2022 and anti-lesbian bias crimes rose from 27 in 2021 to 33 in 2022.

“Being a local partner for The Summer of Solidarity campaign has been a unique privilege because it has allowed me to show the LGBTQ+ residents of the City of Long Beach just how integral they are to the culture of this city,” said Cindy Allen, Long Beach Vice Mayor. “Long Beach Embrace will be the first new addition to the LGBTQ+ Cultural District since the visioning process began last year. There is no room for hate in Long Beach or anywhere in Los Angeles County, and this mural will reflect that in Bixby Park for years to come.”

As LA vs Hate: Summer of Solidarity continues, new murals will be commissioned to celebrate different communities and cultures across LA County. The next mural unveiling will highlight LA County’s Indigenous and Native communities. The event will be held on Saturday, September 9, at the Grace Resource Center in Lancaster. In the weeks to come, two additional murals will be revealed, honoring the Latino and Black communities.

Anyone may report anonymously and receive access to additional community-based and crisis care resources. In addition, information about hate crime incidents or crimes may be submitted anonymously online or by calling 2-1-1. Visit the LA Civil, Human Rights, and Equity Department’s resource page HERE for additional state and legal resources.

NOTE: CALÓ NEWS is committed to reporting on hate crimes related to Latinos, from victims to perpetrators to change makers. If you or your organization would like to share your expertise regarding hate crime prevention in Los Angeles and Southern California, please contact Brenda Fernanda Verano at brenda@latinomedia.org.

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...