On August 29th, 202, 4Corners4Justice, SaveVenice, and Pico Youth & Family Center hosted the Westside’s own march & rally celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium at Virginia Park in Santa Monica.
On August 29, 1970 over 30,000 Chicanos and supporters from all over the U.S. united in East Los Angeles for the historic protest against the high casualty rate of Chicanos in the Vietnam War. This historic protest denounced the racist military draft, police brutality of Chicanos, as well as racism in general. It was also the largest demonstration of “Mexican-American” people up until that time. For 2020 the Chicano Moratorium committee was sure to make this 50th anniversary extra special.
The committee planned a #ChicanoNationalDayofAction where about a dozen communities throughout the country would hold their own Chicano Moratorium solidarity event that would stay true to the themes of the original moratorium. With this opportunity for localized Chicano Moratorium venues we decided to do our own Westside venue. While the idea of a localized Westside Chicano Moratorium event had floated in our thoughts it was our young up and coming activist teacher and Venice High alumni Alejandro Arroyo who pushed the idea into fruition.
We wanted to have the event on the Westside for a few reasons. The first reason was that we wanted to highlight the historic Brown and Black communities of the Westside. Our communities are always overshadowed by other areas like East LA and South Central who are more associated as being the only strong Black or Brown communities in the City of Los Angeles. Gentrification media coupled with deficient representation of local history across city institutions would have people assume that Venice, Santa Monica, Culver City and Sotel (West LA ) was just palm trees, white people, and yupsters. Even tho the Westside has been hard hit by gentrification and at surface looks to mostly be homogenous, the Westside is home to some of the oldest and historic Black and Brown communities in the territory most now call California.
Being a Chicano National holiday we also wanted to emphasize the Westside’s role and contributions to not only the Chicano Movement but to anti-racism and civil rights movements in general. While East LA was ground zero for a lot of the historic walkouts and skirmishes it was satellite organizing communities of the Westside that supplemented and supported the organizing for that movement to happen. Dr. Miguel Chavez, a Santa Monica grown historian, talks about this in this YouTube video (vog.news/chavezwestla) as well as in his dissertation on what we know as the Four Corners of the Westside.
This was the mission statement for our event:
To revitalize Chican@/Chicanx (Spanish speaking Mexican and Central American Indigenous peoples with a non-anglo image of themselves) pride, movement, and organizing in West Los by lifting up Chicanx History (Moratorium 50th Anniversary) and collective community priorities while incorporating our unique communities and siblings from these neighborhoods. This includes but is not limited to, being inclusive to and amplifying the voices of the Women nation, our local Black and Vietnamese siblings, and the LGTBQ community.
We will seek to do this in a way that amplifies Chican@/Chicanx history, heroes/heroines, and community concerns both nationally and with a special emphasis on Westside “Four Corners” barrios (Las Cuatro Esquinas). In keeping with that commitment to honor the Chicano Moratorium we will stay centered on programming that: emphasizes self-sufficiency in our communities, reinforces Brown and Black unity and with other working class people of all backgrounds, that is anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, anti-military recruitment, that decenters eurocentric historical labels and narratives, that centers the voices of our women, and that is anti-patriarchy.
We accomplished just that. While not as large as the Chicano Moratorium Anniversary event happening in East LA that same day we did had a group of about 40-50 people. The attendees were primarily young adults who were sincerely engaged with what we were sharing and many of which have been consistent action based SaveVenice supporters for about two months.
The program included a March starting from Santa Monica’s PAL (Police Activities League) which harbored numerous cases of child molestation, where we spoke about accountability and defunding them in favor of more organic community led youth centers. We marched for about 10 blocks and ended at Virginia Avenue Park. We had an array of speakers and performers touching on topics centering on Chicanx history, Westside history, demilitarization, anti-imperialism, pro Black & Brown unity, and elevating the voices of the Woman nation.
We also recreated the banner that was carried by Westside Chicano activists from Venice’s BALA organization who partook in the original 1970’s moratorium. To recreate that banner 50 years later and with our 2020 twist was truly a powerful experience and realization where we channeled the power of connecting back with the vision, purpose, and spiritual frequency of our Chicanx activism forebearers of the 1970s. It was most definitely a special day.
4Corners4Justice, SaveVenice, and Pico Youth & Family Center look forward to hosting more events that will continue to push the boundaries of the Westside’s local social, spiritual, and historically conscious actions.