Filipinos organize in Long Beach’s Westside

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Filipino residents stretch before the Saturday morning fun walk in Hudson Park.

As the sun rises over Hudson Park in west Long Beach, Filipino seniors gather for coffee, pandesal, and healthy group activities. In Cabrillo High School, Filipino youth in the Sama Sama club meet to talk about the social justice issues happening in the Philippines. At Grace United Methodist Church, low-wage Filipino workers are receiving free legal help to combat wage theft. Altogether, the organizers of the Filipino Migrant Center see these opportunities as avenues to empower the Filipino community and actively engage them in the movement for local and global justice.

California has the highest concentration of Filipinos in the United States. With over four million Filipinos in the country, approximately 17-25% (or one in four or six individuals) are undocumented, leading to issues of health access and immigration. In Long Beach, a large population of Filipinos have settled in the Westside between the bustling Port of Long Beach and the expanding 710 freeway. Many of the Filipino families on the Westside are low-income domestic workers due to lack of job opportunities in their community. As a result, labor trafficking and teenage pregnancies are problems many families face. Within these contexts, the Filipino Migrant Center works to educate, organize, and mobilize the community to address these long-standing problems.

Every week, organizers with the Filipino Migrant Center (FMC) knock on doors to talk about the issues facing Filipino residents and let people know about FMC’s services and activities. Through interactions with residents at clinics, schools, and social events, FMC learns more about the current problems Filipino families face, including the emotional needs of the members themselves. “We can’t address the Filipino community’s emotional and mental health just through our clinics and services,” says Executive Director Joanna Concepcion, “it’s also incorporated in the organizing work we do.”

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Filipino residents came together to celebrate Christmas at “Pasko Sa Westside!”

Beyond the legal services with labor and immigration issues, FMC organizers are also working with Filipinos of all ages to improve the health of the community. The Saturday morning Health and Fun Walks aim to engage more seniors in healthy activities. The Sama Sama youth club (meaning “coming together”) provides Filipino youth a space to learn about culturally relevant education. Social activities (such as their upcoming Christmas Party) provide community building space for residents to meet neighbors.

In addition, FMC is involved in local organizing campaigns to advance the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants within the broader community, such as the Coalition to End Wage Theft and the Language Access Coalition. Joanna Concepcion adds: “We want to help shape a new culture among Filipinos that they have the power, knowledge, and expertise to define what their future looks like here.”

For more information about the Filipino Migrant Center, visit www.filipinomigrantcenter.org.

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