It was an emotional refrain I heard several times while reporting my story profiling Long Beach’s Cambodia Town.
Cambodia Town has, understandably, suffered something of a bad reputation. The working class neighborhood was the site of a gang violence in the 1990s, and the area around Anaheim Street between Atlantic Avenue and Junipero Avenue remains one of Long Beach’s more rundown areas. Many of the residents came to Long Beach and the United States from the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia during the 1970s, and many more are the sons and daughters of those victims of trauma.
It’s a lot of violence.
But Cambodia Town and Cambodia itself are so much more than that history. The Long Beach neighborhood is a diverse one with people of all backgrounds — Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Latino, African American and (a few) white people. It’s one where people are pulling themselves up and making new things: new restaurants and new film festivals and new dance performances and new after school programs to get kids out of gangs.
And it’s a neighborhood filled with pride.