Archive for May, 2019

Join the Effort to Save Our Historic Landmark

The First Baptist Church of Venice, CA 

Sign Petition and Donate

The First Baptist Church of Venice at 685 Westminster Ave. in Venice has a historic legacy in the Venice Community.  According to the First Annual Report recorded January 02, 1914 African American residents came together to develop a worship at a place of their own on July 17, 1910, amere 45 years after slavery was abolished.  Although the group met in various places, the original church was built in 1927 on land donated by Arthur Reese, a black man, and seminal figure in Venice, CA history who came to California seeking refuge for himself and his family from the remnants of  slavery and in hopes of a better life. A remarkable accomplishment considering this was in an era of restrictive covenants and the Klu Klux Klan highly active in political leadership in West Los Angeles.

In the early 1960s the congregation outgrew the small Church so they gathered together to build a new church.  Through the personal commitment of funds, semi-skilled and skilled labor and other support services from the community, the current church at 685 Westminster was completed.  The congregation took occupancy of their new church in May 1968.   The church which is part of the ceremonially dedicated corner called E.L. Holmes Square was purchased by families who put up their land trust to purchase the property back in 1910.

Today the Church is in trouble.  Without the knowledge of the community the Church was fraudulently sold in 2017 and unless we can delay forces in action, it will become an 11,700 square foot, single family residence for millionaire Jay Penske.  Not only will this historic building we transformed into someone’s home, but the legacy, the contributions, the meaningfulness and the 108-year-old connectivity and significance to the community will be eradicated.

The vision for the First Baptist Church of Venice is to formally recognize it as a Historic Cultural Monument and continue to maintain it as the Historical Black Cultural Institution that functions as the central unifying core of the African American people of the Venice community. It is an institution that was built by African American people of the Venice community from the early 1900s and continues as the religious, spiritual, social, education and personal development inspirator of the African American Community now known as Oakwood.  The First Baptist Church of Venice represents the effort and essence of the hard working resilient pioneers and other hopeful and courageous African Americans coming to Venice from the south to escape Jim Crow laws and racism, only a few decades after the emancipation proclamation, and with meager means took the desolate place they were relegated to live from a swamp land to a livable, prosperous, community.

FBCV is the living symbol of this struggle, resilience, vision, and transformation. It is and has always been a spiritual beacon at the crossroads of the historic African American community in Venice and must be preserved as such.

We are currently in the process of establishing ourselves as a Community Land Trust (CLT) with the intention of retaining ownership of the Church & its land to ensure that it remains in the community’s possession in perpetuity. The purpose of this CLT is to benefit the neighborhood and the preservation of black and other marginalized cultures and histories in Venice. Through this land use model the community will steward the land and achieve equity.

Go here to learn more …. and to sign the petition and donate to this worthy cause