Little Phnom Penh in Long Beach
Go for a drive along Anaheim Street between Alamitos Avenue and Junipero Avenue in Long Beach and you’ll see them. Bright pink banners with yellow and white lettering flying high on the tall light poles along both sides of Anaheim Street, bringing new color and life to the streets below. These banners are evidence of the ever-growing Cambodian-American population in Long Beach. In a historic step towards understanding, the city of Long Beach is finally recognizing the Khmer community as an integral part of the city.
Wendy Thomas Russell of the Long Beach Press-Telegram believes that the banners will “serve as a message to Long Beach from the city’s large Cambodian-American population: Little Phnom Penh is alive, well and committed to making Long Beach a better place for the next generation.”
On Monday June 25th, 2001, banners were hung high on fifty-four light poles between Alamitos and Junipero Avenues. The official recognition ceremony was held the same day at the United Cambodian Community building, which is also located on Anaheim Street. The estimated cost of the banners was $6,000, which was paid for by the United Cambodian Community (UCC), the City of Long Beach Neighborhood Partnership Program, and Long Beach Strategic Marketing Incorporated.
Mardi Sim, a five-year-old student at the United Cambodian Community, designed the banners. Each banner illustrates the outline of an Apsara dancer in bold letters reading, “Little Phnom Penh \ Our Kids \ Are \ Our Future”. Inside the Apsara dancer are images of colorful hearts and a silver star.
The banners mark an area that contains the highest concentration of Cambodian businesses and residents in the city. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 Cambodians now live in Long Beach.
“This is very significant for the city of Long Beach. It is our attempt to beautify Anaheim Street, and most importantly, we want to promote community pride,” comments Andrew Danni, the current Director of UCC.
The flags will fly until August 16th. Sineth Sorn, a local Cambodian resident, added, “I think it was time that we [Cambodians] got recognized by the city. Something like this doesn’t happen everyday so we should all be really proud.”