The Long Beach MLK Center will celebrate its 39th year of operations at the Riverside location with a four-day virtual celebration and fundraiser starting Sept. 30 at its offices at 615 Riverside Boulevard.
In a press release, MLK Center Chairman James Hodge noted that the original lease for the facility was signed on September 25, 1981 and commenced on the first of October. The concept for the center began in the late 1960s, led by a group of Black southerners, who came north in search of a better life.
Former MLK Executive Director and a Senior Policy Advisor with the City of Richmond, Va., Dr. Patrick Graham, has chronicled the history of the MLK Center and spoke about its impact on the community.
“The Center on MLK Way symbolizes black efforts to establish a community center that met community needs and the autonomy and ownership needed to combat systemic racism,” Graham said. “In today’s current climate and calls for equity, the MLK mission is as vital today as ever.”
Graham, who was born and raised in Long Beach, has written about the southern migration in his book ‘At the Banks of the Jordan: How Southern Migrants Changed a Long Island City.’ He will also be a featured speaker during the four-day celebration.
Hodge, who has been a part of the center since he was a child, stressed the importance of the center.
“This facility would not exist if it were not for the efforts of black people demanding a building that met community needs,” Hodge said. “We are still meeting the needs of youth through tutoring, technology, and providing for the most vulnerable, as exemplified by our Grab and Go Food Program during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The center offers a variety of programs for children’s and parents.
Former MLK Executive Director Myrnissa Stone-Sumair, who currently serves as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County NY, Inc., will also be among the guest speakers. As past Executive Director, she secured the New York State School Age Care Credential for the after school program and a Nassau County Day Care License. She praised the celebration.
“Anniversaries are an important part of life,” Stone-Sumair said. “They remind us of important events, both personal and cultural. This 39th-anniversary celebration puts a pin on the calendar to remind us of something that matters to us! It is a chance to reflect on relationships and cultural identity. We look back over the years leading up to this time of celebration and reflect on how the Long Beach Martin Luther King Center, Inc. and the North Park Community has shaped us all.”
The celebration kicks off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a panel of former executives and founders discussing the history and the present relevance of the center. On Thursday and Friday, local talent and programs will be highlighted in a video and the last day will highlight North Park leaders, community members, and the current Board of Directors.
For more information on the 39 at Riverside Celebration, visit www.LBMLK.org or call (516) 889-6300.