On Sunday August 23rd, 2020 SaveVenice and our new wave of beautiful supporters asserted our spiritual ownership of the sacred 7 lots of the First Baptist Church of Venice by initiating a guerilla cleanup of the purposely neglected properties at E.l. Holmes Square
It is the Penske’s modus operandi to not maintain the FBCV properties in order to keep our sacred community space publicly perceived as an eyesore and to accelerate the dilapidation of the church edifice. This is how Jay Penske, the owner of Rolling Stone and Variety is doing the Black community in Venice all the while posturing about how his business supports Black Lives and equity in America on the covers of his famous magazines.
Every year around this season we notice that the landscape of the property becomes very dry and overgrown. In the past three years of our fight a simple call to LA311 by neighbors sufficed to get the property owners Jay Penske and Elaine Iriwn to clean up the grounds. However, 2020 being the highly unusual year that it is, it didn’t play out easy this time around. The overgrowth, trash, and garbage accumulation looked to be the worst I’ve ever seen. LA311 said they were not enforcing unkept landscaping, nor was LADBS, and despite dozens of pleadings to them and the fire department to mitigate what was clearly a serious fire hazard they refused to take appropriate action. We were forced to act and what a blessing in disguise that was.
About 30 SaveVenice supporters and members answered the call that Sunday. Most of them our new young and talented supporters and even some curious neighbors, felt inspired to come help with the guerilla cleanup effort. We started the FBCV cleanup at noon and culminated around 3:30 pm. We literally shared, blood, sweat, tears, songs, and music together. It was three plus hours of arduous work under a consistent hot sun. But, the aura of love, community, and Ancestors’ joy from this sacred site was working their magic on us to the point that arduous work and heat became only a minor discomfort.
Real Venice showed up that day. Black, white, Brown, OG residents, new residents, women, children, elders, spiritualists, atheists, housed, unhoused, teachers, students, and even dogs— a far cry from the flavorless homogenous scenes you will find at other popular community political and social venues that are supposed to be representative of the “progress” of Venice.
There was also an unhoused brother squatting on the property, his name was John. He spectated and had mixed emotions and worries about us being there since a cozy nook on the southwest of the property was his refuge. We assured him we weren’t there to kick him out and also explained our plans for the property. We made sure he understood that this is his space too. We ended the cleanup gathering ceremoniously and had the youngest child lead a prayer and sage blessing of the northern section of the church properties.
It was a beautiful and glorious day that is hard to fully encapsulate into words. It marked a new milestone in the proactive defense of our community space and neighborhood. There is more work to be done and we most definitely plan on doing more of these cleanups for our beloved space. I’m sure the Penskes and their other gentrification agent cohorts were still betting on the strategy of waiting us out and for us to fall away. We can do this all day. It should be clear to anyone by now, even for thick arrogant Penske skulls, to know that we’re not going anywhere and that L.A. City’s systemic racism inducing apathy is no match for the will of the community.