Jon Wolff

People Of Venice Come Together For Juneteenth Celebration – By Jon Wolff


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This year’s Venice Juneteenth event took place in Reese-Tabor Oakwood Park on June 18. A large gathering of multi-generational Venetians came together on this sunny Saturday to celebrate the national holiday that is considered to be the true Independence Day for African-Americans. There was music and free barbecued food for everyone. There were tables for Venice community organizations and entrepreneurs. There was an inflatable castle for the kids. It was a joyous day for Venetians both young and old. And it was enjoyed on the grass, in view of the First Baptist Church of Venice.

Tommy Walker began the proceedings, welcoming all the local pastors. Pastor Robert Shipp conducted the opening prayer for the day. Marvis Davis asked for a moment of silence for the bereaving families of people who have lost their lives. About the First Baptist Church of Venice, he said, “We’re going to see it open soon.”

Dr. Naomi Nightingale led everyone in a recital of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. She introduced a new plan to install a Walk of Fame around the park, which would include the names of notable people from the Venice Community. She talked about the ongoing effort to enforce the dog leash laws in the park. She acknowledged Sonya Green and Alvin Tabor, present at the event. Ms. Green is the granddaughter of Venice Founder Arthur Reese. Mr. Tabor is the great nephew of Venice Founder Irving Tabor. Dr. Nightingale said that Black Americans are not free yet, and that Justice demands that we not look away.

Rita Cofield is the Associate Project Specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute. She is an architect and teacher, and her research for the African-American Historical Places Project was used to secure historical designation for the First Baptist Church of Venice. She spoke about her thesis on the Black pioneers of Venice, and expressed her gratitude to the Reese, Tabor, and Powell families of Venice.

L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin marked this weekend as the first time for Juneteenth to be recognized as an official holiday in L.A. He pointed out that this is a nice recognition but that it’s not reparations. He said that he is pushing for reparations in City Council. Mr. Bonin felt that he hadn’t done enough for the Oakwood Community until the Elders of Oakwood motivated him to do more.

Venice Activist Laddie Williams spoke about the organization Venice Coalition to Preserve the Unique Community Character of Venice. She reminded everyone of the Save Venice group’s four year fight to save the First Baptist Church of Venice. She called for reparations for the People of Oakwood. Ms. Williams recognized the peace, love, solidarity, and family of this Community Day. And, to the greedy developers in Venice, she declared, “We’re still here and we ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Venice Elder Jataun Valentine spoke to the crowd via cellphone from another location, as the phone was amplified through a microphone. Ms. Valentine is known throughout the Community as the Queen Mother of Venice. She said, “I am excited to see such a big crowd. I am glad to see everyone together. It’s important to get different groups together celebrating something worthwhile. I never thought I would see all the changes that we have created together. Keep up all the great work. I am proud to have been part of working with everyone to create these changes. Together we can get things done. Divided means no positive changes. Keep on creating trouble. Love everyone.”

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