Long Beach Opera believes that discussions inspired by art should extend beyond the lobby of the theater. For this reason, LBO is using its 40th anniversary season theme, Justice, as a catalyst to present its brand new event series The Community Conversations Initiative. This initiative features five "Conversations" and three youth programs, and will create community-wide discussions about race, equity, and the justice system throughout Long Beach.

All events are free to the public. However, space is limited; reservations are strongly suggested. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook group; Facebook.com/groups/LBOConversations

The community conversations are supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation.



Past Conversations 

Black Lives, the Arts, and Mattering

June 6th at 6 pm • 2019
Long Beach City Council Chamber

Featured Speaker: Anthony Davis
Performers: Anthony Davis, Nicole Mitchell (flute), cast of The Central Park Five ,Tiffany Lytle, and J. Mike 
Moderator: Derrell Acon
Panelists: Anthony Davis, Nicole Mitchell, Councilmember Rex Richardson, Marcina Riley (My Brother's Keeper Initiative Coordinator, City of Long Beach), and Leon Wood

Acclaimed composer Anthony Davis shares his inspiration for writing The Central Park Five, which will receive its world premiere at LBO June 15, 2019. He is joined by performers from the opera. The panel explores how music and art are used in activism and how classical music can more effectively participate in activism.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

May 25th at 3 pm  • 2019
Long Beach City College, Dyer Hall 

Featured Speaker: Gary Tyler
Kimmy Maniquis
Gary Tyler, Carl Kemp (Long Beach lobbyist and community leader) and others.

Mr. Tyler was the youngest person ever convicted of the death penalty and was incarcerated in Angola prison for 41 years before having his sentence overturned and being released in 2016.

Life Beyond Prison

April 30th at 6 pm • 2019
CSULB Studio Theater, Long Beach 

Featured Speaker: Isaac Bryan
Performers: Victoria Lawal, Lindsay Patterson, Derrell Acon, singers; Neda St. Clair, piano.
Moderator: Charity Chandler-Cole
Panelists: Adrian Vasquez, Cynthia Blake, Luis Vargas, Jasmin Harris, Jose Osuna.

Representatives from the CSULB Rising Scholars Justice Lab and California Innocence Project are featured in this poignant conversation around the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals. Isaac Bryan lends his expertise on mass incarceration and public policy in the keynote address. Bryan is the Director of Public Policy for Million Dollar Hoods, a community-driven research project that digitally maps incarceration in California, and a former Policy Associate for Mayor Garcetti's Office of Reentry. The event will also include appearances by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk and Arts in Corrections program, as well as performances by soprano Victoria Lawal, mezzo-soprano Lindsay Patterson, bass-baritone Derrell Acon, and pianist Neda St. Clair.

Equity and Diversity in the Arts

March 10th at 3 pm • 2019
Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach 

Featured Speaker: Dr. Naomi André (professor and the author of the book Black Opera; History, Power, Engagement)
Performers: from LBO's Frida; Bernardo Bermudez, Joanna Ceja, singers; Maria Dominique Lopez, Allan Palacios Chan, and pianist; Stephen Karr
Moderator: Tasha Hunter
Panelists: Lawrence Brownlee, Naomi André, Anthony Davis, Vanessa Chung, and Griselda Suarez

Author Dr. André speaks opera, black performers and of blackness. She is joined by opera star Lawrence Brownlee, Anthony Davis, composer of The Central Park Five, as well as Griselda Suarez Executive Director of Arts Council for Long Beach and Vanessa Chung a visual artist, designer, and educator on a panel about equity and experience. Performances will happen throughout the event. The final portion of the evening will be a talk back with the audience.

Dismantling Racism as a Community

February 9th at 2 pm • 2019
Michelle Obama Library, Long Beach 

Featured Speaker and Performer: Dr. Derrell Acon, bass-baritone (activist, lecturer, and LBO Manager of Education and Community Engagement)
Moderator: Dr. Sabrina Sanders (Student Affairs Projects and Initiatives, California State University Office of the Chancellor)
Panelists: Katie Balderas (Manager of Office of Equity for the City of Long Beach), Audrena Redmond (Black Lives Matter Long Beach Co-Founder), Paula E. Wood (Founder of Success in Challenges), and Senay Kenfe (artist and activist).

This performance lecture explores how the performative arts can catalyze discussions around race and justice. The event includes performances of spirituals, art songs, and literary works by Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others. The panel will discuss how Long Beach as a community can address racial inequity and injustice.

Panelists Final Thoughts:

Katie Balderas: “Taking a look at our city’s budget and not only our city’s budget but our state’s budget because money is really what we are investing in and if we want to continue investing in one thing then great but…  spaces like this, like the Michelle Obama Library, this is public safety, this is public health, so are we investing in spaces like this where our community can be safe and be growing and be learning and so really looking at the budget as a tool for how we invest in more spaces like this for prevention.” “The other piece I would add is as a white person in this role I think that it’s aslo really important to acknowledge that racism isn’t just the KKK hood or a MAGA hat, good intentioned people can hold racist beliefs and so I think it’s really important to understand white supremacy and how it shows up in all of us and really better understand how we can actively be anti-racist.”

Audrena Redmond: “Check out the Black Lives Matter national site (https://blacklivesmatter.com/) for some tools for teaching Black Lives Matter in school. Those are some great resources there and in terms of what we are doing here locally many of you probably know that we have been very much involved in the yet unsolved murder of Fred Taft and part of what we have been working on with our siblings in SURJ Showing Up for Racial Justice is educating the community that there are hate groups in this community. Taft’s family believes that his murder was a hate crime and so that community doesn’t believe they have any hate groups and we can show them you do and these groups act and they act in a very cowardly fashion and they will be caught. So we’ve been working on that we’ve been working in conjunction with some others on exposing the Long Beach Police Department for its malicious destruction of records now that SB-1421 is a reality. In advance of that in December they had on the consent calendar the destruction of records which is not unusual except that there was a 23 year block of records that were approved for destruction on December 8th and all of that block of information was for arrests and histories from  the war on drugs which as we know is part of the mass incarceration which as we know is why so many black folks are in prison which as we know is why when black folks and other folks come out of prison you can’t go home to your families because there are a whole bunch of laws passed that prevent you from having resources to become a full part of society.” ”I don’t believe that having phenotypical representation in the police department keeps them from being  blue” BLM Facebook and Instagram Links

Paula E. Wood: “Invest in our youth - and that starts with preschool on up. Programs like the one that we sponsor the Freedom School during the summer. We’ve been doing this for 15 years. It really addresses not only reading issues and helping children to improve their reading but also lifting them up getting them to understand their community and to be involved in social justice issues. It’s a great program and it’s free so if you have children from kindergarten up through high school that might be interested in Freedom School” (http://successinchallenges.com/long-beach-freedom-school) “We are after school programs, tutoring, mentoring, but all of these things are important and key because if we don’t make sure that are youth build a good self-image understand who they are and where they come from our future is in jeopardy. So its got to start with those babies and making sure that they grow up with a clear vision of who they are and where they’re going so that they can deal with their future and help dismantle this whole idea of racism.“

Senay Kenfe: “Just to be clear I don’t believe that a visual representation of blacks in the police department is going to eradicate the idea of hate crimes just as a response I just want to make that clear. I only brought that up because I’m speaking specifically in a pragmatic way about group politics and group identity. It’s harder to go against people when there’s a wider representation of them in certain powerful groups such as the police department. Central Long Beach People’s Committee which I am a member of is developing a community land trust. It’s not right that we have been compelled by red lining to live in certain neighborhoods that now that there’s so, so few opportunities to develop on land because of eradication of our redevelopment agencies that now we are being pushed out of the neighborhoods we were pushed into in the first place. So now we are getting our money together and we are buying back the neighborhood.”


Thank you to our Community Advisory Committee:

Chris Anthony, Kate Azar, LaDawn Best, Herlinda Chico, Anthony Davis, LaVerne Duncan, Otis Hogan, Tasha Hunter, Greta Mandell, Dr. Vickie McCloyn, Rex Richardson, Dr. Joni Ricks-Oddie, Dr. Sabrina Sanders, Shawna Stevens, Griselda Suarez, Marcus Tyson, Dr. Rev. Leon Wood, Paula Wood, Glenda Williams, & Marcus Tyson.


Contact Us

Project Director: Dr. Derrell Acon, LBO Manager of Education and Community Engagement

E-mail: [email protected]

Phone: 562-470-7464 x111


Join the conversation on Facebook

For those unable to attend in person, the conversations will also be live-streamed on Facebook.

National Endowement for the Arts    California Arts Council Arts Council for Long Beach City of Long Beach Art Works Opera America KUSC

This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission