Silent Struggle: Racism and Apathy in Venice

racism at first baptist church of venice

I have to mention this incident. Not because of the mural on the street, but the implications of what this represents, for Venice. For those that don’t know, Located in the Oakwood subarea of Venice, the mural is on the street in front of the Historic First Baptist Church of Venice, originally founded as an African American congregation in 1910.

The founding of the First Baptist Church of Venice corresponded with the evolution of Oakwood, formerly known as West Venice, as an early enclave of African American residents. This church was the center of a fight for preservation, and also a symbol of the gentrification taking place in Venice.

In 2020, the church became a site of protests against police brutality and racism, sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At the time, the church was owned by Jay Penske of Penske Media Corporation, which publishes “Variety” and “Rolling Stone.” Penske planned to convert the church into a home for his family, yeah a house, fuck History right?

Anyway, The property had been sold to Penske by the church’s former pastor, Horace Allen, and was tied up in a legal battle over whether Allen had the authority to sell the property. Much later, the property was sold to Lee Polster in late 2020, and would finally get it’s designation as a historical. That’s the version without all of the internal drama, but it gets much worse.

It’s 2023, enter Traci Park a candidate endorsed by elements that have never respected people of colors place in Venice, gains office, in spite of widespread protest. The thinly veiled racism of her campaign, and her very obvious Nimby support, set the stage for what happened here, and guess what?

You hear very little outrage to this, with notable exceptions. This speaks to many problems with the fight against gentrification and racism in Venice, and the fight to preserve it’s integrity. And, well fuck it, I’m going to say it, the so called activists that look the other way for many reasons, and run to a camera for exposure, leaving the ones truly looking to preserve their community hanging with no support.

The other reason is Fear. Fear of the political machine in place, fear of the power of the gentrifiers and their resources, and greed. You put money in some people’s faces, it changes everything for them, it becomes about THEIR preservation, fuck everyone else. So the Vandalism, and the general ignoring of it, speaks volumes to what could be the Fate of Venice’s originals, black, brown, and the poor.

To those activist that are fighting that good fight, like Mike Bravo, I salute you, and others like you, the others in my view are cowards, or people easily distracted with pettiness, greed, and their own internal prejudice.

A house divided is doomed to fall, it’s the first tactic in the art of war people, wake up…..

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