Why I’m Fighting for the First Baptist Church of Venice

Venice is Still Indian Land


The fight for the First Baptist Church of Venice is fight for Venice itself. When we say Venice we must remember this is still Native land and there are still Original People here struggling to protect their Sacred Sites against the same forces of colonization that most colonial narrative kool-aid drinkers think are “part of our country’s sad history.”  But the only sad thing about it is that people refuse to see that this mentality which validates desecrating sacred community spaces and history in the name of so-called progress is still alive and well.

I am not Christian nor am I Black. I am an Indigenous man living in the Tongva territory of Kuruvunga-Sa’agna and practice my Native spiritual traditions and the protection and awareness of sacred spaces and history is a primary tenet in our value system. Regardless of these social identity constructs I am a human being with human values knowledgeable in the patterns of American colonization, how it operates, and how it perpetuates itself.

First Baptist Church of Venice is a Sacred Site

To me, the First Baptist Church of Venice is very much a sacred site.

Perhaps not in the Native American historical sense of the word, but very much so in the sense of it being a long time spiritual space. It’s history and function is that of a refuge and incubator for healing and prosperity for our Black relatives battling the same system of oppression from White Racism.

What human in their sane state of humanness and with even minimal knowledge of the history of this country would not want to help dismantle these oppressive colonial modes and structures? Perhaps those that still benefit from it.

What human would want to disparage efforts to preserve sacred community spaces? Perhaps those that still benefit from it.

Desecration of Sacred Sites: A Colonial Bad Habit

A common trait of colonizers is to desecrate sacred sites.  Quick examples being the “Mt. Rushmore” vandalism of the Black Hills, oil pipelines through Standing Rock, and an example more close to home, the “Playa Vista” death star condo complex built over known Native burial grounds.  These are all clear examples of the active spirit of ignorance, disrespect, and disregard, for sacred spaces that have historical community and spiritual value.

Venice , Ca Chicano Mexican HistoryNow here we are in my hometown of Venice, CA trying to save this sacred community site. My family goes back 5 generations here. I walk the same streets and sleep in the same home my great-great-gramma did most of her life. The First Baptist Church of Venice was there when she walked the streets, and even in its current devastated state it still stands in structure and spirit for the community by all of us who gather there every Sunday.

The fight for the church is not about religion. It’s about respect for people’s history, sacrifice, and spiritual space, spiritual community space.  That respect is something Columbus never learned, nor any American pioneers learned, and apparently something these “nice” new arrivals to our community have not yet learned either.

The people perpetuating this colonial behavior of desecrating sacred sites have names. They have addresses, businesses, enablers, accomplices, and so forth. They all need to be held accountable but as it turns out they all happen to be “nice and upstanding people.” Of course, that’s the gentrifier and passive critic being quoted there.

These new arrivals come here claiming how much they allegedly love Venice yet are quick to want to change everything about it . Many of these gentrifiers are quick to express empathy for the gentrification plight we real locals face but will take zero action or stance against the imminent displacement issues we battle nor the people facilitating it in our neighborhood. That time is over. Lines are being drawn. Shit or get off the pot.

The preservation of sacred sites, of which the First Baptist Church of Venice falls into, should be an active concern to any person of conscience living on our indigenous lands, even more so to those who like to espouse their commitment to racial equity.

Black and Brown Unity- Justice for our Relatives

The fight for the First Baptist Church of Venice for me is also a fight for the healing of the wounds we’ve accumulated in this neighborhood between Black and Brown (Indigenous) families and for justice of all the lives we have lost.  It’s a fight against the very spirit and system I mentioned in the beginning of this piece. The spirit and system that has manufactured the conditions that have incited our social illnesses of poverty, violence, and drug abuse in our communities. It was never the frequency our ancestors to be in poverty, social & spiritual disarray, and in self-destruction mode.

In June 1983 my dad was killed at a house that sits adjacent to the First Baptist Church. Every day I go to the church on Sunday for our awareness demonstrations or ride my bike pass Brooks Ave. I am reminded of the social and historical elements that led to his death and that of many others.  I am reminded of all my family and friends that have died on the westside and am in full awareness of the dynamics that created and perpetuate such negative environments. Those elements still exist today albeit in slicker disguise and performance.
Venice, CA Black Church
There are intense wounds between the Black and Chicano community. Lot of crazy shit happened and some, understandably, will not be able to get over it. But I know there is still a lot of love in the streets despite some of the old animosities of the past. This is that opportunity to be reminded of that grief and those wounds and channel it towards fighting against the system and mentality that produced and incited that grief in the first place.

This fight for the First Baptist Church is the moment and place to start focusing on  the root causes and start working toward and collecting justice on behalf of all our fallen relatives.

 

Need to Make Colonizer Mentalities Understand

The First Baptist Church of is a beacon of community love and prosperity for our Black relatives in Oakwood. This historical sacred space needs to be fought for. We need to set boundaries with these “nice people” and make those who want to perpetuate those colonizer values know that there will be consequences and formidable pushback from intelligent and strong people. Otherwise these gentrifying forces think they can just walk all over us. It’s like any other relationship we find ourselves in, whether romantic, business, or otherwise..boundaries need to be set.

The First Baptist Church of Venice is a historical spiritual community space,  sacred site, and beacon of hope and strength that has persevered through eras of white supremacy. This is the spiritual place we are fighting to preserve.

So, no matter how nice they put it or how “nice and upstanding” the Penske family is, at the end of the day, they, all the naysayers, VNC board members with their fake social media profiles, Mike Bonin, and all those in the community echoing and supporting their sentiments are for the destruction of our sacred community space and are active, conscious participants in perpetuating colonial modes of racism.

For the unrighteous, our history and spaces of strength are targets and pivotal points of control. As the saying goes: “Those who control the past control the future..” Our vocal and non-subservient presence are reminders of their crimes, of what their ancestors did, and what they continue to perpetuate and benefit from.

Fuck a memorial plaque to “honor” us.
We are not dead. We are still here.
We will not be relegated to the past.
We will be respected.

Our ancestors and fallen relatives deserve no less.

This is why I fight to save the First Baptist Church of Venice.

 

Mousie Jr. signing out.

Mike Bravo
About the author

I am a 5th generation Venetian, Native American Rights Activist, Indigenous educator for youth and families in West Los Angeles, and lead coordinator of the Four Corners Spirit Run. I am also a former board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council (2014-2016.)