Nearly everyone gathered outside the boarded-up First Baptist Church of Venice has grown up in the surrounding Oakwood neighborhood. It’s a Saturday afternoon and many of the people gathered for a rally to save the church can point to their childhood homes just down the street or proudly rattle off the numbers of their first addresses.
Even if they never attended services at the church on the corner of Westminster and Seventh Avenue, less than a mile from the Venice Boardwalk, most have a family connection to it.
Laddie Williams says her grandfather and his son poured the concrete on the front steps and her grandmother cooked meals for people on the streets around it. Jataun Valentine says her great uncle, who worked for Venice developer Abbot Kinney and was later willed Kinney’s first home at a time when racial covenants restricted where black people could live, was a pioneer of the church in the early 20th century; her cousin was later a pastor there. Oscar Rhone, a third-generation member who got married in the church, says his grandmother loaned the pastor the deed to her house to help..