At 28, Cedric Coad has been a Long Beach High School football player and volunteer and a board member at the Martin Luther King Center. Now he is slated to assume the biggest job of his life — board chairman of the center, one of the city’s largest organizations.
That may seem a weighty title for a young man, but Coad is no stranger to MLK. He has volunteered for and worked at the center since he was 14, when he started organizing basketball and other sports activities for children.
He will become board chairman in November, following a surprise announcement at the Oct. 5 City Council meeting by James Hodge, who said he had been “term-limited” after 16 years in the job. Hodge said that Coad, whom he had mentored for years, was approved by the center’s board.
“I have been groomed for this position,” Coad, athletic-looking with a ready smile, said in an interview at the center earlier this week. He grinned through some pain. His left leg was in a plastic brace, the result of a knee injury incurred while playing sports with kids.
Not only has he been around MLK Center for a long time, but his late grandmother, Virginia Coad, was a board member and served as board chairwoman. Uncles and aunts have also been center volunteers.
Coad, who joined the MLK board last year, said he was eager to get started, and added that his initial thrust would be to work with young people, broadening the center’s appeal to them and sharing with them the passion he has long had for the facility, on Riverside Boulevard in the city’s North Park section.
The center provides meals for the food insecure and after-school activities for children, and serves as a meeting place for the North Park community.
“I’m very passionate about this building,” Coad said. “This place has helped me. I want the kids to feel about the place the way I did growing up. I want to help the kids get to college. But college is not for everybody. I want to help them get focused on what they want to do.”
Hodge, who said he planned to remain active in the community running food drives and other activities, was confident Coad could do the job.
“It’s not all on him,” Hodge said. “He’s part of a team. I have total confidence in him. His family is entrenched in MLK.”
Coad has worked on food drives, once buying 100 Thanksgiving turkeys and handing them out in the community. He has organized fundraisers, one of which garnered $4,000 for the center. In past years he helped put together events for Black History Month.
MLK board members are all volunteers. Coad is a pharmacy technician at a CVS in the area. He arrives at the center at about 4 p.m., when schoolchildren stream in for after-school activities. He graduated from Nassau Community College.
He said he knows he faces a large task, including improving relations with the Long Beach City Council. During Hodge’s years in office, there was friction, particularly in the spring of 2020, when Long Beach fire officials ordered the center closed because of a faulty fire alarm. Hodge said the city had locked the doors, and he and the staff were unable to enter to prepare hot food.
“We should be allies with the city,” Coad said. He said he was seeking the city’s support to help with funding and volunteering.
Anissa Moore, a leader in the Black community and a former City Council member — the first Black council member — said, “We’re proud of Cedric’s new role in the community. We believe he can inspire so many young people to get involved.”
Coad describes himself as “low key” and said he would eventually arrange a meeting with city officials. But first, he said, there is work to be done at the center. He would like to organize exercise classes for older adults and draw in others from outside the North Park area.
He said he planned to retain all current staff members, including Executive Director Mac Graham, whom Hodge had hired.
“I’m not big on titles,” Coad said. “I just like to get the work done.”