Photo courtesy of Safe Spaces Alliance

(a list of all Safe Space pledge businesses is available at the end of this story)

In celebration of Pride Month, Downtown Long Beach Alliance is collaborating with Safe Spaces Alliance to shed light on Downtown Long Beach businesses that have registered as safe and welcoming spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.

Launched in 2021 by Ellie Perez and her wife, Angela Valley, Safe Spaces Alliance now has more than 600 businesses, educators and organizations that have taken the Safe Spaces Pledge.

Founders of Safe Spaces Alliance, Ellie Perez and Angela Valley. Photo courtesy of Safe Spaces Alliance.

Perez is Executive Director and Valley is the Multimedia Producer for the nonprofit Visit Gay Long Beach, which sponsored the project. Additional support came from the Long Beach LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce and the LGBTQ+ Center of Long Beach. Their concept was approved unanimously as an initiative by the Long Beach City Council.

“As a parent of a transgender son, I faced many challenges navigating services when my son came out,” said Perez, who is the Executive Director of Visit Gay Long Beach and also serves as a Board Member at the LGBTQ Center LB.

“I knew I was not the only one struggling to find places that were safe, welcoming, and value our LGBTQ+ community,” Perez continued. “This is one of the many reasons why Angela and I created and launched the ‘You Are Welcome Here’ Safe Spaces Alliance. The work of advocating and curating safe spaces matters. Supporting the businesses and organizations that support us is key to bringing visibility, inclusion, equity, and equality to our LGBTQ+ community.” 

David Allen and Nicoletta Meza, co-owners of the plant shop Foliage LB at 205 Long Beach Boulevard, own one of the more than 40 businesses registered with Safe Spaces Alliance in Downtown Long Beach. 

David Allen and Nicoletta Meza from Foliage LB. Photo courtesy of Safe Spaces Alliance.

“We chose to register Foliage LB as a safe space because, as a part of the queer community ourselves, we understand the unique challenges and discrimination that queer people face in our society,” they said. “By providing a safe space, we aim to foster an environment where individuals can gather and express their authentic selves without fear of judgment or harm.”

Safe Spaces Alliance registrants receive a “welcome” email with additional supporting documents to help them learn more about LGBTQ+ rights and best practices on how to be an ally. They also receive a free “YOU ARE WELCOME HERE” sticker.

“We ask each person who registers and receives our sticker to send us a photo of themselves holding it up so we can promote them on our social media platforms and let our community know that they are safe, welcome, and valued at their establishment,” said Perez.

Denise Maldonado from Confidential Coffee. Photo courtesy of Safe Spaces Alliance.

Denise Maldonado, owner of Confidential Coffee at 137 W. 6th St., explained that joining the Safe Spaces Alliance is an extension of her desire to find her true identity, a search that began with an Ethnic Studies class in high school and continued as she pursued a college degree in Chicano Studies. “It was amazing to meet so many people I could relate to,” she said.

“Fast-forward a couple of years to when I was building out the shop,” Maldonado continued. “I wanted to provide a space that people could call home. I absolutely love bringing people together. That was always my goal. I’m very excited that so many people consider Confidential Coffee a safe space.” 

To meet the Safe Spaces Alliance team, they are partnering with Partake Collective to host “Cheers To Queers” on Friday, June 30 at 6 PM. The event is free, but you must reserve a spot here. Or to find a Downtown Long Beach business registered with Safe Spaces Alliance, check out the map below! If your business or organization would like to participate, take the pledge to be part of the Safe Spaces Alliance by registering through the website at safespacesalliance.com