By Mary Getlein
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou’s powerful memoir of her childhood in Arkansas, where a man was killed for raping Maya and she was shocked into elective muteness. She thought that what she had said had ended up killing this man and she didn’t want to speak anymore. Eventually you just have to sing and not be destroyed forever by that experience, and she went on to conquer many horrible experiences in her life, including being teased and tormented by little white children in Arkansas. To be black in Arkansas was to be apart, and live in your own community and be very careful about what you do in the white community. The white community had all the power.
A similar experience is going on in Venice right now. After winning a victory over the OPDs in 2010, the powers that be here brought back their anti-homeless agenda, carefully concealed by the mantle of the OPDs. One man in particular, Mark Ryavec, has made this his life mission: to get rid of the homeless, by any means necessary. A man who is driven by his hard desire to own more more more – more money, more houses, more everything – the ultimate consumer, and he covers it up with a slick little smile. He seems like a nice man, I guess, as long as he’s getting his own way. Like many rich people he is disgusted by homeless people and wants them to be removed, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
258 vehicles were removed from Venice in 2010. 258 vehicles with people living in them. 258 people who had nowhere else to go, but were considered members of the Venice community. They have scattered to other parts of the state and the country, and some might say this is a good thing. But forced removal from one’s homeland is akin to what the U.S. Army did to all the different tribes of the Americas in the 1880’s. Now in Venice, we are being out-bid and out-moneyed, and don’t have much of a say in our neighborhoods. The Coastal Commission was on our side in 2010, and voted against OPDs. The head of the Coastal Commission has died since then, and there are new members on the Coastal Commission. We need everyone concerned with this issue to write letters, or email the Coastal Commission. You still have rights, so use them. The parking permits will wreak havoc with your life, if you are a housed or un-housed resident.
The old Venice, the one I came to in 1971, practiced tolerance above all else. Yeah, we tried peace and love, but if you couldn’t manage that, the least you could do is tolerate somebody. Give them room to breathe and be themselves.
The Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. City Council voted to close Venice Beach between the hours of 12 am and 5 am and the LAPD has vehemently enforced. The Coastal Commission made a ruling in 1976 that people of California should have access to the beach 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If the OPD permits go through, then residents of Venice will have to go out and buy permits for themselves and any guest that comes to their house. If you have a party, all the members of that party will have to get permits too.
Imagine how much money that will generate for the L.A. City Council. And all the homeless people who live in vehicles will be illegal between 2 am and 5 am and subject to arrest. They will have their vehicles towed away and be dumped on the sidewalk, like a bunch of trash. Basically, the homeless have no rights unless they go to court and fight for them, and how many people have the strength and the will to do that?
This is a human rights issue. Imagine you are in Bangladesh or Haiti, or India and you just lost your home in a terrible earthquake. Nice people from the U.S. come over and help you get your life together. It’s still a disaster, but at least you have some help.. Hopefully you won’t have to be a beggar and beg people for money to survive. In India, for a long, long time, there was a caste called the “Untouchables”. This is what the homeless are in this country. People are “tired” of the “Homeless problem” and don’t want to deal with it at all. It’s so much easier to write a check and mail it to another country, than extend your hand in your own country, and help someone who happens to be a U.S. citizen, and possibly a veteran of one of the many wars the U.S finds itself in.
We need to help people here first. We need to see with new eyes, behind the dirt and the squalor, that these people are worth helping. These are somebody’s brothers and sisters. Most homeless are not helped by their families. People in other countries can’t believe this. But people in this country believe the lies our society tells them. “Independence” is the most valued trait in this country. Interdependence is a more valued trait in other countries. They would never kick their children out of the house. They are always members of their families. Homeless people are human beings, not just a statistic. Open your hearts, and discover yourselves . This is what Venice is.
There is only so much time in a day, and then your dreams run out. If you have to work multiple jobs just to afford the outrageous rent to live in Venice, then you don’t have any time left to be creative, to find out who you are, or what you love. We all love Venice. We used to have music up and down the Boardwalk – now there are a few “performance spaces”. There used to be drumming circles and they would go all night. Now the police drive up from all directions and shut it down at sundown. Who are they hurting? They used to have artists and parties all over the place. Now you have your new yuppie neighbors calling the police if someone is having a party and making a little noise.
People move down to Venice because it’s next to the beach and it’s hip. It’s hip, it’s cool, and they love it, but they are still tourists and they call the cops if someone is being themselves. We need people to come to the Coastal Commission hearing on June 13th, at the Long Beach City Council Chambers, 333 West Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach.
Send letters opposing OPDs in Venice addressed to John (Jack) Ainsworth at: 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.
By Mary Getlein