On Saturday, February 20, the Save Venice group assembled a gathering in front of the First Baptist Church of Venice to commemorate the new Black Lives Matter mural at E.L. Holmes Square in the Heart of Venice. The placement of these giant words in the middle of the road on Westminster Avenue and 7th Avenue marks a major victory for Save Venice in their fight to preserve the historical African-American church. The First Baptist Church of Venice is a symbol of a century of Black History and Culture in Venice.
The fraudulent sale of the church building in 2017 was a direct attack on the Venice Black Community by the forces of gentrification. Save Venice has fought for over three years to reclaim this sacred site for Venice. During last year’s summer of protests all across the nation, Venice had its own mass protest rally on the steps of the First Baptist Church of Venice. It was then that Save Venice members Laddie Williams and Dr. Naomi Nightingale made a proposal to have the City of L.A. paint the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” right there on the street by the church. After meeting with representatives of L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, they were able to get the proposal approved by the L.A. City Council. The work was completed on Wednesday, February 17, with Mr. Bonin present to officiate.
The Saturday gathering served as a ceremony to introduce the new mural, and to recognize the hard work of Save Venice. It was also an occasion to celebrate the birthday of Venice Elder Jataun Valentine. Ms. Valentine is an original Venetian who traces her lineage to Irving Tabor, one of the founding Black pioneers of Venice. The diverse crowd of attendees concluded the event by standing in formation around the mural to give testimonies about Venice and about the significance of the mural. People spoke of the love of Venice. They spoke of their gratitude for divine protection. They talked about the importance of perseverance and of the work yet to be done. There were lifelong Venetians and members of the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Venice who looked forward to the restoration of the History of the Venice Black Community. And there were relatives of those who had built the building itself. Laddie Williams finished the day with the declaration that “Venice is blessed because we’re still here.”
For more information go to: http://savevenice.ca