First Baptist Church of Venice


by Jon Wolff

Venetians gathered with the activist group Save Venice on Saturday, October 30, 2021 for a momentous occasion in front of the First Baptist Church of Venice.Save Venice organized the event to celebrate the L.A. City Council’s unanimous approval for historic designation of this church.

The First Baptist Church of Venice is the largest African-American church in Venice.It is located at E.L. Holmes Square on the corner of Westminster Avenue and 7th Avenue in the heart of Venice.The institution of the First Baptist Church of Venice was founded in Venice over a century ago.But the church building and property were sold fraudulently in 2017 to a couple who intended to gut the church and turn it into their own private mega-mansion.Save Venice fought hard for four years to achieve historic designation for the church.

The event was directed by Dr. Naomi Nightingale who spoke of the trials and tribulations endured by the community members to reach this milestone.
L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin was the keynote speaker at the event. He remembered the thousands of people who marched through Venice in 2020 proclaiming “Black Lives Matter”. He recognized the smaller group that said “Black History Matters” each week in front of the church steps. And he acknowledged that the City of L.A. must do better by the Black Community in Venice. Mr. Bonin presented a framed certificate of appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, which Dr. Nightingale received on behalf of the Save Venice group.
Save Venice member Lydia Ponce gave the opening prayer for the day. She acknowledged the Tongva land that the attendees were standing on. And she made the traditional offering of tobacco to the north, south, east, and west in gratitude to the ancestors.

Evangelist Oscar Rhone declared that “This is the day that the Lord has made. “He quoted the verse of scripture that he had cited at the beginning of the struggle four years ago from Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Pastor Vaughn Andrews of Mount Hebron Baptist Church told the audience to come together as a community and to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Marvis Davis of New Bethel Baptist Church spoke of fellowship with the First Baptist Church of Venice. He said that we too shall overcome.

Pastor Dennis Moore of True Faith Missionary Baptist Church reminded everyone that this fight isn’t over and to not give up.

Pastor Curtis Williams of God’s House of Liberty proclaimed this day to be a day of happiness. He said that the only way this came about was by the people having faith, and that God made it happen.

Pastor Nathan Hood, of Christian Teaching Center Church said that he was a member of the First Baptist Church of Venice from childhood to adulthood. He credited the “foot troops” for getting the job done.

Pastor James Jefferson and Mrs. Rosalyn Jefferson of God’s Church of Delivery Ministry talked about the history of the site on which the church was built.

Pastor Leon “Chuckie” Rogers of Higher Ground Ministries C.O.G.I.C. told of how God sent the people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

Pastor Alberto Burnett provided Spanish translation for the event.
Kovan Ward from Justice for Bruce’s Beach Land Restoration spoke.She said that “There is power in Black women.”

Darryl Goode, the Area Director of the NAACP encouraged everyone to keep Venice represented and to build our community.

Rosalind Sagara from Neighborhood Outreach, Los Angeles Conservancy talked about the importance of preserving history in our communities.

Dr. Nightingale read her poem “Revolutionary”.[The full text of this poem can be found in the May 2021 issue of the Beachhead.]

The attendees enjoyed the singing of Vienna Hayes of Calvary Baptist Church, and the music of Peter Demian and Hailey Lincoln Demian, and Carmen Fanali.
Food for the celebration was provided by Gary Featherstone and Homeless Enterprise.

There were tables staffed by local community groups:Venice Justice Committee, Venice Heritage Museum, Los Angeles Tenants Union, Four Corners International Church, H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation, and the Beachhead.

This day marked a significant step in the reclamation of the First Baptist Church of Venice.The hard work and perseverance of the Save Venice volunteers will be remembered when the final victory is won.The women and men who gave their time and labor with no expectancy of material compensation will reap greater spiritual rewards when the First Baptist Church of Venice is returned to the community that built it.