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Long Beach

Pilot program for homeless student overnight parking launched

Students participating in the Safe Parking Pilot Program would also be case-managed by LBCC staff in order to find long-term stable housing



Long Beach City College's Pacific Coast Campus Parking Structure (Photo Credit: LBCC)

LONG BEACH – A first of its kind program in the greater Los Angeles region, designed to assist homeless community college students by allowing them to stay in their personal vehicles overnight in a parking structure owned by Long Beach City College (LBCC), launched this week.

“Our goal for this program is that it will serve as a pathway to housing stability for our students,” said LBCCD Board of Trustees President Uduak-Joe Ntuk. “These students would otherwise have to be worrying nightly about their vehicles being broken into, trying not to be seen or bothered, and not having the police called on them, all while keeping up with their coursework. It could be an exhausting situation that makes it more difficult to get ahead.”

All currently enrolled students who are experiencing homelessness are eligible to stay in the secured Pacific Coast Campus Parking Structure, seven nights a week, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The students will have access to restrooms and Wi-Fi throughout the night. They will also have access to showers at the Pacific Coast Campus between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily.

For this pilot program, LBCC students must be independent with no spouses, partners, or children sleeping in the vehicle with them. Service and Emotional Support Animals are allowed to stay with the students if proper documentation is provided.

“The unfortunate truth is that LBCC has close to 70 students sleeping in their cars each night —quite possibly more,” said Long Beach Community College District (LBCCD) Interim Superintendent-President Dr. Mike Muñoz. “If we can help to keep our students safe so they can better focus on their student responsibilities, this program is absolutely worth pursuing. Our goal at LBCC is always to remove barriers that get in the way of our student’s success.”

Students participating in the Safe Parking Pilot Program would also be case-managed by LBCC staff in order to find more long-term and stable housing.

LBCC has contracted with a security firm to keep watch throughout the duration of the pilot program from Oct. 25, 2021 to June 30, 2022. Safe Parking LA (SPLA) will serve as a consultant to the College’s Basic Needs Program, which is overseeing the effort, providing technical assistance and training for the first three months.

“LBCC demonstrates incredible leadership in positively impacting their students who are unhoused by understanding that access to stable housing touches all aspects of their life,” said Silvia Gutierrez, Safe Parking LA executive director. “Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep and safe parking programs build pathways to housing and stability. SPLA is excited to be part of this endeavor and share our best practices.” 

The pilot program is the latest in LBCC’s efforts to assist unhoused students. The LBCC Foundation has a fundraising group that focuses on finding housing solutions and the LBCC Basic Needs Office was formed in recent years to provide food and other assistance for students.


Long Beach

41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration drew tens of thousands

The parade drew tens of thousands along its route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach



Long Beach Police Chief Wally Hebeish & officers march in the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Celebration & Parade weekend kicked off on Friday with a Teen Pride celebration which was held from 5 p.m. till it ended at 9 p.m.  The theme for Pride this year was Rhythm of the Rainbow.

The Long Beach Pride festival opened at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Rainbow Lagoon, 386 E. Shoreline Drive.

Photo Credit: California Attorney General Rob Bonta

The Pride Festival offers hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, disc jockeys, dancing, drag shows and more. Reggaeton star Ivy Queen will headline Sunday and Valentina of “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” TV series will also appear.

Also on Sunday the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade, broadcast by NBC4 and Telemundo 52, drew tens of thousands along the parade route on Ocean Boulevard between Lindero and Alamitos avenues in downtown Long Beach.

Among the celebrants was California Attorney General Rob Bonta who posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Had a great time at the Long Beach Pride parade with Vice Mayor Cindy Allen.   In California, we work tirelessly to protect and defend our LGBTQ+ communities all year long—not just the month of June.”

Watch coverage of the 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade from NBC4-LA here: (Link)

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Long Beach

Long Beach Pride kicks off as Pride flag is raised at civic center

“This symbolic gesture demonstrates the City’s commitment to supporting and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community now and into the future”



Image courtesy of Long Beach Pride

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The city of Long Beach kicked off its Pride week and month activities Tuesday with a ceremonial flag raising in the Civic Center Plaza in downtown. With City Manager Tom Modica, Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr, Parks and Recreation Director Brent Dennis and Ninth District Councilwoman Dr. Joni Ricks-Oddie looking on, Mayor Rex Richardson hoisted a Progress Pride flag on a city-owned flag pole.

“Long Beach is a city of acceptance, and we proudly celebrate diversity and inclusivity across our entire community,” said Mayor Richardson. “It is our duty to take a moment of pause to celebrate the raising of the Progress Pride flag to reflect the visibility, contributions, and resilience Long Beach’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

In June 2023, the Long Beach City Council adopted a resolution recognizing the week of Long Beach’s annual Pride Festival and Pride Parade, taking place this year over the weekend of May 18-19, as Long Beach LGBTQ+ Pride Week and directing to annually raise the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride Flag at Long Beach Civic Center Plaza and light City assets during that time. The resolution additionally recognizes May 22 annually as “Harvey Milk Day” in honor of his birthday and recognizes the month of June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The recommendation to adopt a resolution was brought forward by Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr and approved by the City Council.

“This symbolic gesture demonstrates the City’s commitment to supporting and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community now and into the future,” said Fifth District Councilwoman Megan Kerr. “I commend our City Council, City leadership and City staff for their dedication to equality and diversity.”

Long Beach Pride is kicking off Pride season this weekend, May 18-19, 2024

The 41st Annual Long Beach Pride Parade is kicking off on Sunday, at 10 a.m. Audiences can tune-in to special coverage on parade day on, on the free NBCLA and Telemundo 52 mobile apps and on the stations’ free 24/7 local news streaming channels NBC Los Angeles NewsTelemundo Noticias California.

Led by an esteemed lineup of grand marshals, the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade will feature over 130 participating organizations, businesses and stakeholder groups showcasing a variety of vibrant and engaging floats and displays. The parade will commence at Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue then travel along iconic stretches of Ocean Boulevard to Alamitos Avenue in Downtown.

IVY Queen, the Queen of Reggaeton, will headline the Sunday lineup of the 41st annual Long Beach Pride Festival, scheduled for May 19th, 2024.

Tickets Now Available:

General tickets for the Long Beach Pride Festival are now on sale, starting at $40. These tickets grant festival-goers access to a weekend of exuberant celebration, stellar performances, and a welcoming community environment.

Earlier this year, the City of Long Beach announced it will serve as the official host and funder for the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade while Long Beach Pride, the nonprofit that traditionally produces the parade, restructures its organization. This year’s parade will coincide with the Long Beach Pride Festival, taking place Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 along the Downtown waterfront. The festival is a separate event organized by the Long Beach Pride organization. More information about the festival will be available at

More information about the 2024 Long Beach Pride Parade is available at

The City of Long Beach

Long Beach is nestled along the Southern California coast and home to approximately 466,000 people. As an award-winning full-service charter city, Long Beach offers the amenities of a metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods, culture and community. With a bustling downtown and over six miles of scenic beaches, Long Beach is a renowned tourist and business destination and home to the iconic Queen Mary, nationally recognized Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach Airport, award-winning Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center and world-class Port of Long Beach.

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Long Beach

Long Beach Pride celebrated its 40th anniversary 

The festival kicked off on Saturday with drag artist Symone, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” performing live & other artists



Long Beach Pride Parade 2023 (Screenshot/YouTube)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Long Beach Pride celebrated its 40th anniversary with nearly 20,000 people at its festival and parade this past weekend in downtown Long Beach.

“We are thrilled to mark Long Beach Pride’s 40th year with an amazing festival and parade that celebrates our dynamic and growing LGBTQ+ community,” said Elsa Martinez, Long Beach Pride co-president. “We are grateful to our talented music artists and many other performers who brought so much excitement and enjoyment to our fabulous crowd of supporters and fans, many of whom have been with us for many years!”

The festival kicked off on Saturday with drag artist Symone, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” performing live, along with Mexican best-selling music artist La Diva Lucia Mendez and acclaimed singer Gio Mendez. On Sunday, Grammy Winning R&B artist Mya headlined the stage along with Mexican superstar Laura Leon, along with pop artist Edith Marquez and others.

The event also featured a dedicated stage for drag artists for the first time. The Drag Dome featured Jasmin Masters, Delta Work, Jewels Long Beach, Honey Davenport and many others who shared their musical and dancing talents to an appreciative crowd.

At the Dance Stage, EDM, Reggaeton, house music and more was spun by a slew of popular deejays that included DJ Ivan, DJ Joe Pacheco, DJ Jerac, DJ Kidd Madonny, DJ Kimberly S and many others as fans rocked to the beat.

Festival goers also enjoyed a variety of international foods from renowned chefs as well as from local food vendors and many of the area’s acclaimed food trucks that specialize in unique cuisine and local favorites. The event also featured a variety of vendors selling shirts, tops, hoodies and various apparel, as well as health and wellness products, headgear, footwear and more.

The weekend was capped by the popular Long Beach Pride Parade led by Parade Grand Marshals and R&B artists The Mary Jane Girls, as well as Media Grand Marshals Annabelle Sedano, NBC4 anchor; and Enrique Chiabra, Telemundo 52 anchor. Serving as Political Grand Marshal was Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, who was joined by other community members who also served as grand marshals.

The parade, which was be held on East Ocean Boulevard, between Linden Avenue and Alamitos Avenue, featured Long Beach Pride co-founder Bob Crow, the last living co-founder, along with a variety of dancers, bands, community dignitaries and others who have contributed to the event’s success over the years.

Telemundo 52 and NBC4 served as Long Beach Pride’s official media partners. CHANNEL Q (97.1 HD2 and on the Audacy App), iHeartMedia Los Angeles and Mayra Berenice En Vivo of 107.1 FM served as radio partners.

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Long Beach

Anti-Hate Mural unveiled in Long Beach’s Bixby Park

The mural was designed by Myisha Arellano, a queer, migrant artist born in Mexico City and raised in LA County



The mural was designed by Myisha Arellano, a queer, migrant artist born in Mexico City and raised in LA County. (Photo by Jade Blairs)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – A new mural was unveiled at Bixby Park in Long Beach celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, presented by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ initiative LA vs Hate’s Summer of Solidarity, in partnership with The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.

The mural, titled “Long Beach Embrace,” evokes a tableau of people, movements and issues of significance to the LGBTQ+ and greater community, and will be revealed as part of the Long Beach Pride celebration.

The mural was designed by Myisha Arellano, a queer, migrant artist born in Mexico City and raised in LA County.

“The mural presents two large figures forming an embrace at a distance, reflecting the community connection and support for one another,” explained Arrellano. “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.”

The mural comes at a time where reported hate crime events against the LGBTQ+ community increased across California, rising 29% from 303 in 2021 to 391 in 2022. Recent violent clashes in LA County, including brawls at a Glendale school board meeting and a North Hollywood school.

New data from the Long Beach Police Department shows the number of hate crimes has risen since 2022, and this year’s total has already surpassed last year’s. Out of 39 hate crime incidents reported in Long Beach the past two and a half years, the most targeted group was the LGBTQ+ community.

“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 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.”

The mural is part of LA vs Hate: Summer of Solidarity, a summer-long celebration of the County’s cultural and community diversity and unity against prejudice, discrimination and bigotry. The series of events includes monthly art-led and community-centered events in each of the county’s five supervisorial districts.

“Pride is a time for celebration, reflection and solidarity, and that is what this mural honoring the LGBTQ+ community here in Long Beach is all about,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “Myisha Arrellano and the community have created a vibrant, powerful mural for people of all walks of life to enjoy for years to come.”

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

“The LGBTQ Center Long Beach is proud to partner with LA vs Hate on this mural,” said Ellie Perez, Interim Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach. “It has been uplifting and inspiring to be part of such a wonderful collective of individuals coming together to envision a mural that celebrates our LGBTQ+ community’s history and future.”

As the LA vs Hate: Summer of Solidarity continues, new murals will be commissioned and revealed, celebrating different communities and cultures across the County through partnering with community organizations. LA vs Hate will reveal a new mural that celebrates LA County’s Indigenous and Native communities on Saturday, September 9 at the Grace Resource Center in Lancaster. In the weeks to come, two additional murals will be revealed, honoring the Latine and Black communities.

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

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Long Beach

Museum of Latin American Art hosts drag artist Robbie Osa

The free event this Sunday, July 23, 2023 is sponsored by the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.



Photo Credit: The Museum of Latin American Art

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is hosting a special Drag Story Hour featuring the fabulous Robbie Osa. Robbie, an esteemed drag queen entertainer, will be reading “Julian at the Wedding,” by Jessica Love, the recipient of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award for “Julian is a Mermaid.”

The free event this Sunday, July 23, 2023 is sponsored by the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m..

“At a time when the country is seeing a backlash against the LGBTQ+ community and the calling out of drag queens, this event is to acknowledge communities where all LGBTQ people live in health, wellness, safety, and prosperity,” a spokesperson said in a release.

The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach advances equity for LGBTQ people through culturally responsive advocacy, education, programs and services.

 Robbie Osa, has a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of California, Riverside. He works as a Clinical Coordinator with individuals diagnosed with autism. Robbie has actively helped fundraise for many organizations, such as The Center of Long Beach and The United Waves Scholarship Fund. He has also performed as a drag queen entertainer for the past 10 years in the city of Long Beach.

The event will be held  in the Screening Room  at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), located at 628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90802


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Long Beach

Long Beach Police arrest man in stabbing death at popular gay bar

The suspect got into a physical fight with the two victims, which escalated to him stabbing both victims. He then took off on a bicycle



Long Beach Police uniformed patrol unit (Screenshot/YouTube KEYNEWS.TV)

LONG BEACH – Long Beach Police investigators on Monday arrested a man wanted for a murder outside a business at around 11:45 p.m. Friday night at the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway.

Long Beach Police Department Special Investigations detectives, with assistance from patrol officers, identified 56-year-old Michael Smalls as a suspect in the stabbing death of  28-year-old Christopher Finley of Long Beach. Smalls was charged one count of murder in the death of Finley and one count of attempted murder in the stabbing of another man who was accompanying Finley.

Investigators were looking into the stabbing of the two men outside the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway Friday at around 11:45 pm. Police said late Saturday afternoon one of the victims Finley, had died.

According to the LBPD, Detectives believe the murder stemmed from two altercations. During the first altercation, the victim(s) were involved in a fight with a man who was armed with a “taser” in front of a business. Moments later, a second altercation occurred in which Smalls got into a physical fight with the two victims, which escalated to Smalls stabbing both victims. Smalls then took off on a bicycle. The man with the “taser” was detained at the scene and arrested on an unrelated charge.

Smalls was booked into the Long Beach City Jail and is currently being held on $2,000,000 bail. Detectives will present the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for filing consideration this week. The motive is under investigation. Currently, there is no evidence this is a hate or bias motivated incident.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is urged to contact Homicide Detective Michael Hubbard and Jesus Espinoza at (562) 570-7244.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to your smartphone (available at the Apple app store or Google Play), or by visiting

In a social media post on the bar’s Facebook Page Saturday afternoon, the bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died.

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Long Beach

Long Beach police investigating double stabbing at gay bar

The bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died



Mineshaft LGBTQ bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway, Long Beach, California (Photo Credit: Mineshaft/Facebook)

LONG BEACH – Investigators are looking into the stabbing of two men at the popular Mineshaft gay bar in the 1700 block of East Broadway in Long Beach. Both victims were hospitalized and the search is underway for the suspect. Long Beach Police said late Saturday afternoon one of the male adult victims has succumbed to their injuries.

Police identified the man who died as 28-year-old Christopher Finley of Long Beach.

According to Long Beach Police Department spokesperson Richard Mejia, an argument at around 11:45 p.m. Friday night escalated from a a verbal argument between the two men and a third when the confrontation became physical. The suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed the two victims then fled before Long Beach officers arrived.

Police have not yet released any information about the suspect’s description, but told media that the investigation is ongoing and ask that anyone with information about the incident to contact the Long Beach Police Department.

In a social media post on the bar’s Facebook Page Saturday afternoon, the bar’s owners Jeff and Rhonda Darling expressed their dismay over the incident as the news broke that one of the two injured men had died.

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Long Beach

Long Beach Police need public’s help locating sexual assault suspect

Suspect described as a male White or Hispanic approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short hair



Photo Credit: City of Long Beach Police Department/Facebook

LONG BEACH – (Press Release) The Long Beach Police Department is seeking the public’s help locating a male suspect involved in a sexual battery incident involving a minor.

On July 31, 2022, at approximately 1:30 p.m., officers responded to the 1100 block of East 4th Street regarding a sexual battery incident that had just occurred.

Upon arrival, officers learned the suspect initially followed the victim for several blocks. While following the victim, the suspect propositioned him and then grabbed his lower body. An altercation ensued, which resulted in the suspect striking the victim in the upper body before fleeing.

Detectives are releasing a photograph of the suspect from surveillance footage and video from the incident. The Long Beach Police Department requests information about this incident and/or the suspect’s identity.

The suspect is described as a male White or Hispanic (light complexion), approximately 18-25 years old, between 5’10” to 5’11” in height, with a thin build, short medium-length hair in a “comb over” style, and a light-colored mustache. The suspect wore a blue Dodgers T-shirt, light-colored pants, and black sandals. The suspect may have attended a party in the area before the assault.

Courtesy LBPD

To view a video of the suspect, click on the following link:            

Anyone with information regarding the person responsible for these crimes should contact Sex Crimes Detective Monica Moore at (562) 570-5514 or Detective William Neal at (562) 570-5513.

Anonymous tips may be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), downloading the “P3 Tips” app to your smartphone (available at the Apple App store and Google Play), or visiting

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2022 ILGA World Conference taking place this week in Long Beach

Upwards of 600 LGBTQ+ activists in attendance



Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for global LGBTQ+ rights, speaks at the ILGA World Conference in Long Beach, Calif., on May 2, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Andy Perez/ILGA World)

LONG BEACH — Upwards of 600 LGBTQ+ activists from around the world are attending the 2022 ILGA World Conference that is taking place this week in Long Beach.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights abroad, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ issues, are among those who spoke at the conference that began on Monday at the Westin Long Beach. Activists from Ukraine, Lebanon and dozens of other countries are also in attendance.

“When you are fighting to decriminalize homosexual status or conduct, secure legal recognition of gender identity, end unnecessary surgeries on intersex persons, or exercise freedoms of peaceful assembly or association, the struggle can be overwhelming,” said Stern on Monday in her remarks. “This is why I marvel at all that you have achieved and all the impact that lies ahead.”

“In case you haven’t heard this often enough, let me say: I believe in you, and I believe in us,” added Stern. “I will do everything in my power to raise the priorities of LGBTQI+ human rights defenders and LGBTQI+ civil society across the Department of State and around the world.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia on Monday noted there “is a coordinated act from extreme forces in our country — and across the world — trying to erase the beauty of our community.” 

“Right now, gay rights in this country are being pushed backwards. Trans and non-binary people are being attacked every single day, and there’s an incredible amount of work ahead, especially to protect young people from these destructive laws,” added Garcia. “The work happening here at this conference is a worldwide effort to represent the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for civil rights. We have to stand up — especially at this moment — for our trans and non-binary community, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to recommit ourselves to this task.”

The It Gets Better Project is the conference’s host.

The conference was to have taken place in last November, but the pandemic postponed it. Some of the conference sessions are taking place virtually.

The next ILGA World Conference will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2024.

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The Dream Academy is training refugees to be leaders

“We’ve realized through training leaders is that there’s so much talent in this community that larger culture absolutely needs”



Solomon Alpha Ahumuza, left, and Safe Place International Founder Justin Hilton. (Photo credit: Justin Hilton)

LONG BEACH – Solomon Alpha Ahumuza, a gay man from Uganda, is only just beginning his journey in the United States. But his journey to get to his new home in Long Beach, California, was long, difficult and transformative. 

Ahumuza left Uganda back in 2015. He told the Blade in an interview just before Thanksgiving that he decided to leave because of the homophobia in his country. 

Uganda has long been a dangerous place for LGBTQ+ individuals to live. Not only are homosexuality and same-sex marriage illegal, but an Afrobarometer survey found only 5% of Ugandans have “tolerance for homosexuals.”

His road wouldn’t get any easier as he fled to neighboring Kenya, another country where homosexuality and same-sex marriage are illegal, and there is a frighteningly low percentage, 14%, of acceptance. 

While in Kenya, he stayed in the Kakuma refugee camp, which has a history of violence and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people, for two months. It was in Kakuma where Ahumuza would be attacked and beaten, he said.

After the attack, he was transferred to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Ahumuza was kidnapped while living here. He said he still has scars from the injuries he suffered. “They kidnapped me for one night,” he said. “Then they dumped me somewhere I didn’t know.”

“Then we were tortured by the police,” he added. 

Now, 6 years later, Ahumuza lives in Long Beach after the U.S finally granted him asylum. 

Before moving to America, he was introduced to The Dream Academy, an educational program for LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers. Ahumuza, who was and still is a very active member of The Dream Academy, considered himself lucky. “I was happy to meet all of them,” he said. 

The Dream Academy is a program of Safe Place International, a group that provides multiple services dedicated to supporting the dignity and self-actualization of the most marginalized members of the refugee community, according to its website. 

Justin Hilton, the founder of Safe Place, told the Blade over Zoom that refugees, like Ahumuza, are at worst “dehumanized – you know, put in cages and in, put in camps in ways that are a sad commentary on humanity at this point. And at best they’ve been commoditized is a problem that we need to collectively deal with.”

He added: “I think the thing that we’ve realized through training leaders is that there’s so much talent, and there is a voice and a perspective in this community that the larger culture absolutely needs. So we’re committed to representation. We think representation in leadership and decision making positions for marginalized people is absolutely essential for the health of the larger culture and world.”

The Dream Academy has enhanced Safe Place’s mission, giving LGBTQ+ refugees a chance to learn invaluable leadership and safety skills. “What we found is that, not only was it kind of healing trauma and stabilizing people, but it was preparing them for leadership in a way that we hadn’t expected before,” Hilton said. 

The program is also rapidly growing. According to Hilton, The Dream Academy is graduating 140 people this year. Next year, the goal is 700 – substantial, considering the pilot program started in only April of this year. 

Though it has only been around for a short time, The Dream Academy has already seen a large group of people arrive in the U.S. – “from West Virginia, to Atlanta, to Denver, to Austin, to Houston, to Long Beach, to the Bay Area,” according to Hilton. 

Among them was Ahumuza, who Hilton called “an amazing, beautiful, brilliant man who I adore.”

“There’s a whole community of LGBT Ugandan refugees there, and he just feels like he’s home,” Hilton said. 

Still, Ahumuza is adjusting to the U.S. “It’s not yet good,” he said of living in Long Beach. “But I think it’s because it’s a new country, new people, new environment.”

But he remains optimistic. “I have received very, very warm support from Safe Place and the Dream Academy,” adding, “I think I will be alright.”

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