Hi name is Mike Bravo. I am a 5th generation Venice resident who is also an established political community representative. I am a Venice Neighborhood Council representative speaking for myself. I also represent dozens of Chicanx and Indigenous families who also have cultural contributions to the Venice area community. We are asking that you please keep the name of Oakwood Park in Venice, CA as Oakwood Park.
While the intention to honor our community’s Black cultural forebearers is honorable, we acknowledge that there are problematic issues with what we feel is hasty name change. The top issues we have are with the seemingly unilateral and non-transparent execution of the name change as well as the reinforcement of the erasure and invisibility of the Chicanx/Indigenous families. There were only 11 people along with LA Councilperson Mike Bonin who initiated the name change process. There was zero community engagement.
It should be noted that Oakwood is a name and identity highly revered by both the historic Chicanx and Black communities of Venice. Contrary to recent narrative by proponents of the name change, even the strong majority of the Venice African-American community does not want Oakwood’s name changed. Oakwood is also a cultural identity point that has united both the Black & Brown communities of Venice for at least three decades. To sacrifice one beloved name (Oakwood) for another (Tabor & Reese) is both unnecessary and shortsighted.
While Mike Bonin’s August 17, 2022’s updated motion to instead propose “Reese-Tabor Oakwood Park” as a compromise is well meaning, it still does not address the unilateral nature of the name change as well as the lack of community outreach and erasure of Chicanx and Indigenous families of Venice, formerly known as Rancho La Ballona, and even before that, the Tongva village of Kechegna.
Sadly what is also happening with the name change is the reinforcement of invisibility of the Chicano/ Mexican American community. Mind you this harm is happening in the midst of socio-political declarations for systemic change and inclusivity. In a historically diverse and intersectional community like Venice we must be mindful not to perpetuate harm toward other historically targeted people in our restorative process to amend racial injustices.
Ethnologist Andrew Deener who has done great work in Venice and authored a short piece (2010) titled “The ‘black section’ of the neighborhood: Collective visibility and collective invisibility as sources of place identity” notes:
“During the course of six years of research, I attended over a dozen political forums held by the city specifically to address the issues of the black community that never even mentioned the Latino (Chicano) majority. This phenomenon raises a host of questions about how Latino residents fit into an evolving urban ‘color line’.“
This is the chance to remedy this pattern of harmful erasure toward the Chicanx and other Spanish surnamed Indigenous peoples of the West LA area. As a city and community we now have the opportunity to be creative in expanding historical equity and spaces. We can do this without contributing to creating tension in BIPOC communities where spaces and opportunities to acknowledge our ancestors is extremely limited.
It should also be noted that Arthur Reese and Irving Tabor already have at least four buildings and streets named after them. We also feel Tabor and Reese deserve a more meaningful monument that reaches beyond the once redlined boundaries that created Oakwood . Tabor and Reese were bigger than Oakwood and were instrumental in creating the world famous Venice of America that everyone loves today.
Thus, the historic families that I represent and myself, will gladly support a more significant and meaningful monument dedicated to Tabor and Reese . A monument placed in a more popular and public Venice space where they can be acknowledged by the millions of international visitors they helped create the magnet for.
Please do not cut corners on racial reconciliation initiatives by changing the name of Oakwood Park. Help us do it the right way, in a way that is advancing of spatial justice and beneficial to everyone
Director, Save Venice