Say What You Will, We Live It Everyday in Oakwood

By Lydia Poncé, Jataun Valentine and Laddie Williams

40 years ago it was flower power, end the war and the Summer of Love.

America has not really learned anything since then. Here in Venice, 2009, when it comes to love- ‘love is not all you need.’

What the world needs now is not “love sweet love.” We will never be ‘one love’ as described in Bob Marley’s song either.

Racism continues to plague Venice. Racism continues to infect the un-healing wound of the past.

In addition to racism, Venice has an incurable case of “hyper-gentrification.”

The Ocean Front Boardwalk was free. Today, you must pay to obtain a permit for free speech. We need to get real, we need to get it right  and the urgency is now.

We believe that people are more complex and more intelligent than to be just tolerated.

Toleration is the quick fix to being annoyed by something like a  dog barking at 2 or 3 in the morning and waking up the whole  neighbor–hood. We felt it necessary to  share some racial, economic and social issues with our community.

It was necessary to withhold names of the people who shared their experiences with us and at their request we respectfully abide.

For the newly arrived to Venice, renting or owning – when you see a  group of youth congregated or  ‘hanging out’, on the front of  Oakwood Park’s entrance on 7th street, why does fear consume you?  The police are summoned on your behalf because you make the call.

No drugs, no weapons and no gang bangers. Just because they are black or brown does not mean they are up to no good.  The kids simply want to take a break, they want to have a laugh and they want to be youthful. They want to hang out! That’s what parks are for!  While the police harass the kids, those without tolerance have had the gall to applaud during the searching and the questioning.

Your gall is maddening because your dogs are off leash as you give an ovation.

You expect and demand the respect that you are not willing to give.  No one should ask anyone to do something they themselves are not willing to do. But you, without tolerance, continue to behave in this deplorable manner, while clinging to your superiority all while you break the law.

What about the raid two years ago, that was racially profiled, on multi-generational Venice families?

The Venice Neighborhood Council  (VNC) had re-issued an article on their website about Venice having  crack houses shortly before the raids.

The Hamm family, long time  Venice residents on Broadway, have been wrongly accused and were forced to give up their home. Their house has been empty since then and the family was forced to leave on trumped up charges.

The Property Abatement Program the City of Angels continues to use has robbed  people of their homes. The recent alleged gang parole sweep and  alleged cocaine drug ring were not Venice residents but were Los  Angeles and Inglewood residents. Perhaps it was a quick census check on part of the FBI and LAPD?

Let us set the record straight, the recent home robberies that were happening in Venice were not Venice youth, or ‘our’ Venice  children. Those intolerant posters on California Ave. were fear based and so hateful. The unoccupied and unsupervised youth were from Inglewood; this is unfortunate. The kids were very desperate for their own reasons. We have to ask, what jobs are there for the youth on the westside in City Council  District 11?

In addition to this economy, what, if any, new businesses have been established by the Latino and African American population of Venice?

As for the First Fridays of the month on Abbott Kinney Blvd., if we, black and brown, decided we wanted to have the second Fridays of each month to party at Abbott Kinney Blvd. or any other part of Venice, we couldn’t get away with littering the streets with trash and cigarette butts. We couldn’t get away with urinating in the  alleys and urinating behind the businesses like the white  population.

Forget drinking from red cups in public, we couldn’t  get away with it. We would have the ‘ghetto bird’ flying above us within minutes. We’d have the police in riot gear arresting us.

There’s the big inequity. That’s the truth. Now what?

We must add to the inequity of having the presence of police helicopters at Oakwood Park when we’ve had re-pass after a funeral. We have come together to pay our respects and to offer our support to the families suffering this loss of a loved one. We do not have the  luxury of congregating like others.

Perhaps we need Spike Lee come to Venice and film ‘Do the Right Thing, Part 2’ because racism continues to grow hate and perpetuate nothing more than fear. Venice people re-learn to share. Remember what you learned in Kindergarten? Let’s take Oakwood Park; it is a great example:

Venice people running your dogs off leashes at Oakwood Park, haven’t you observed the children accompanied by their parent(s) who decide not to go into the park? For years families and seniors have used the short cut across the park to get to either the number  2 Blue Bus or to get to the schools near-by.  The less tolerant decide to run their dogs off leashes, so the pedestrians walk around the outside perimeter of the park to avoid the potential harm, danger, and avoiding stepping in your unleashed dogs’ poop.  This becomes your momentary victory. You win. The park has gone  momentarily to the dogs. There are a great number of people greatly inconvenienced by your decision to break the law. Wrong is wrong.

You must have your dogs on a leash.  Animals cannot have rights until all humans have their rights. The children and seniors must be considered first.  Please be courteous and conscientious.

It is a well known fact it is against the law to consume alcoholic beverages at any public park. A few gentlemen, not all gentlemen, playing dominoes have cracked a few cold brews at Oakwood Park.

Admittedly, it’s true. However, it is a straight lie and exaggeration to say that everyone drinks alcohol there all the time  because they don’t. We do not need Venice children see anyone consuming alcohol at the park.  Leave it to kickball players in the late afternoons to get away with consuming their beers without police interference. Please be courteous and conscientious, too.

One woman (dog off leasher) shared with us how she believes that “people at the park are angry because she and others took the drugs  out of the park.” She pointed out that the gentlemen drink beers and are breaking the law. So she sees fit to walk her dog without a leash in Oakwood Park. She shared that she has been “doing this for years.” We only mention her self- validating privilege out of necessity, to dispel her assumption. No one is angry because the drugs were taken out of the park. Everyone benefits from a drug-free park. She and her allies may have had the time to organize and report whatever and whenever to the police. The sad state of affairs is that the gentlemen playing dominoes don’t care if people bring their dogs to the park as long as they are not disturbed in their game on their well-deserved retired day.

However, let’s give credit where credit is due. The staff at Oakwood Park, and the director, Liska Mendoza, have turned the park around 180 degrees in favor of the community. We, the community, bear the responsibility to show the children and youth how to share the limited green space we have.

To the RV dwellers at Oakwood Park, we must give props to you; we have not seen anyone dumping anything into the streets or seen drug use or anything else, and you have had your unfair share of generalized sweeping claims against you. As a matter of fact, we haven’t seen any of you really coming or going to and from your RVs. Please take care of your registration and tags, don’t give the police a reason to cite you or tow you. We do not agree with their tactics, and remember the city of L.A. has decided to enforce the laws on the original books. The city is broke.

Another record to straighten out:  the California Coastal Commission must approve  proposals west of Lincoln Blvd.; those 6’ parking signs need to come down.  Perhaps there are services that people living in RVs need but no one has taken the time to find out; what about the VNC Homeless Committee, have they asked?

To our Venice seniors citizens: the invisible ones, we haven’t forgotten you. You are the voice of experience and wisdom. You are all rich with stories of our community. Not one person we know owns the streets, the parking lots or the post office. If ever there was anyone named to own them, it should be you.  Venice should be accommodating your needs with passenger loading spaces and disabled parking spaces in front of public buildings and businesses.

Venice should be yielding to your needs, period.

Venice needs to renew the commitment to use key words of compassion and respect, ‘please, thank you, excuse me, and good morning- good evening.’ Can everyone recommit to being polite? You know who you  are – and you know when you are not being kind especially when you are out and about. Why are people wasting their time and their energy going to church, mosque or synagogue, yet once they exit the religious prayer service, they just  go to public areas to be rude, disrespectful, and demeaning to another?

The rude people of Venice, possessing the fully developed sense of entitlement and privilege, getting  fussy and angry with people. Would it kill you to hang up your cell phone and call the person back after the cashier has helped you finalize your purchase or transaction?  The cashier happens to want to do her  job and  provide their service, and provide the time and the energy to serve you, the customer. Respect for the worker would make the experience a lot more pleasant for all.

As for the VNC, there are too few represen–tatives for this shadow governing body to be considered relevant. Sadly, their decisions  continue to be the vector to Venice’s gentrification sickness.  91% of VNC is white. There are no Latino members.  The City of  L.A. has mandated that their terms be extended until April 2010. It must be good to be them. Back in 2005-2006, the Grassroots Venice Neighborhood Council (GRVNC) was never offered that option.

President Newhouse admitted to not knowing anyone who speaks only Spanish or anyone who needs Spanish translation of any materials VNC offers. Where are the translation headsets, VNC?  Arturo Pina shared with Lydia Ponce that other L.A. City  Neigh–borhood Councils use almost half of their funds to offer translation services. But VNC President Newhouse doesn’t know of anyone who needs these services.

The VNC need the brown and black population more than the brown and black community needs the VNC.  Half of the VNC has had ‘ethics training’ and maybe the VNC, as a whole, needs to realize, trained or not trained, that elections must be well advertised and  translated before anyone can show up to exercise their right to vote. That is simply ethical. They did realize it and they cancelled the poorly planned election at the BBQ on August 1. To date, there has been some VNC chatter to provide an election at the Abbott Kinney Festival.

What to do with the malady of the unlimited amount of privilege and entitlement at the expense of others usually those who are brown or black? Something must be said about the WMD, not Weapons of Mass  Destruction but you may view it as such. WMD –  ‘white man’s disconnect’ or ‘white man’s dysfunction’ or perhaps it’s ‘white man’s disease.’ Not all white men have it; but a good majority have  proven to have it, unbeknownst to them.

What can be done with Venice about Venice and of Venice with all of the daily stress,  the misunderstandings, the conflicts, and the unwarranted negative energy?

What we need in Venice is simply a desire to achieve understanding. This is a better remedy for what is ailing our community. Take that teachable moment within ourselves and re-align  our souls and re-align our hearts. To be loved and to love, it takes desire and passion. Do you have the desire within you? Can you find the lost passion? Who has time to do this? No one, really, but what if we made the time, then each of us would feel better and isn’t that validating for our spirit? Right now the spirit of Venice has been enslaved to the ideas and morals that black and brown are second to the favored white. The desire to achieve understanding may provide harmony. Harmony yields peace. Yeah, we all like peace, we all say we want it. It is up to us to find the harmony and peace within ourselves and share it.

Love is a word that should be reserved for people we know well and have gone through some challenges with. There are a few people in  the community that we love, but it took time and we shared experiences in our forever changing and challenging Venice. If you throw the four letter word love around too much it really loses its meaning or power. Love is the law.

One young man who was stopped on Wednesday August 26, stated “Do you know that we have a black President and you officers are around here still not respecting African Americans?” The tall officer with a bald head (dark shades, car #02737) said in reply, “Obama ain’t did nothing for me. I had my  job before Obama was President. Obama ain’t got nothing to do with what we do on a daily basis. He’s your President not mine.” This was a statement that was made about our President by one of the Public Service Officers.

Summer has come and gone. We hope the change Venice creates in the future is for all and not for just a select few.