Victory at the Venice Lives Celebration + Photos

Venice Lives

The Venice Equity Alliance held its first Venice Lives Celebration on Saturday, August 3, 2019. The Venice Equity Alliance (VEA) is a grassroots collective organization dedicated to bettering the lives of the most excluded and oppressed people in Venice. This event served as the group’s introduction to the greater Venice community, as well as a statement to the world that the true Spirit of Venice lives today.

The event took place on Westminster Avenue between 7th Avenue and 6th Avenue, and concentrated at E.L. Holmes Square. E.L. Holmes Square is the intersection that was named in 2000 after the late Bishop E.L. Holmes who pastored the historic Black church, the First Baptist Church of Venice for forty-four years.

This area in front of the First Baptist Church of Venice was chosen as the location for the festivities because of the church’s spiritual and cultural significance in Venice, and because the church has been the subject of much controversy for two years now. The church property was purchased in 2017, under questionable circumstances, by the wealthy heir Jay Penske and his wife, former underwear model Elaine Irwin. They seek to gut this historic church and turn it into their own private mega-mansion.

The Venice Lives Celebration was an act of reclaiming sacred space in Venice. It was a symbolic event that unified diverse Venice Locals in one significant place, and in one Spirit. Present on this day were representatives of various Venice organizations. Each organization had a table with information and items for distribution. Venice Community Housing, Venice Family Clinic, and United Teachers of Los Angeles with Venice High School students from the Black Student Union and MEChA were prominent at the celebration.

The Venice-headquartered Westside Local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union did outreach efforts for Venice renters. The Venice Justice Committee and the Services Not Sweeps Coalition worked the event, as well as HELPER Foundation and Ghost Town. Free T-shirts were provided by Born x Raised. And of course, the Beachhead had its own table with ample copies of the latest issue.

Some tables were staffed by notable activists and artists. David Busch, the advocate for Venice’s unhoused community was there. Jorge Ochoa, professor at Long Beach City College was there with his survey of every species of tree in Venice. Eleu Navarro from the Venice High School Learning Garden brought free vegetables for all. Mazen Khawaja demonstrated linoleum printing techniques to the attendees. Ines Garcia and Alfonsina Gonzales created handmade jewelry.

And Lance the Bicycle Whisperer was there to service bicycles. Food was provided at the celebration by local vendors, such as the Valentino’s taco truck. Venice Activist Patricia Sanchez and Venice Neighborhood Councilmember Matt Fisher cooked for everyone.

There was music and poetry at the celebration. DJ Eric kept the tunes going throughout the day, with DJ Bahar filling in. Kid Caviar from local band Horny Toad played a set. The Black Student Union thrilled the crowd with their Hip Hop performance. Matt Sedillo’s poetry was enjoyed by all.

Youth awards were given to students from Venice High School. Community awards and portrait photos were presented to Venice Activists Jataun Valentine and Patricia Sanchez. Dr. Naomi Nightingale spoke of the history of Venice and reminded us that diversity is our strength and unity is our power. The VEA collective read aloud the principles of the Venice Equity Alliance. And the Butler Initiative was on hand to interview participants.

The Venice Lives Celebration was the first action of the VEA in the battle to restore equity in Venice. It brought out Venice Locals to demonstrate to those seeking to capitalize on Venice that the original Venice, working class Venice, still lives and is organized.

This event at E.L. Holmes Square made clear that the fight for the First Baptist Church of Venice is at the center of the battle. And the fight is ongoing, but it can and will be won.

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