Identity, Civic Engagement, and Common Fate

Venice’s complex identity is evident in the beach-front area and its neighborhoods, in particular Oakwood. The residents of Venice come from various backgrounds, ranging from African American to Latinos to Caucasians. Venice was founded by a Caucasian man, Abbot Kinney. Venice was once a predominantly lower class African American neighborhood. Many of the residents worked for upper class Caucasians that lived in the Santa Monica area. After Kinney left his home to his African American chauffeur, Irving Tauber, the demographics of the community began to diversify. The Tauber house is no longer at its original location, but it serves as a memorial to the history of segregation in Oakwood, a traditionally working-class neighborhood. Venice also named a street in their community after Abbott Kinney.

Graffiti can be found everywhere, among murals, multimillion dollar homes, and around the beach. Many new houses and a few older houses have bars on the windows and doors. The homes also have high gates and fences, closing them off to the rest of the community, in particular the homeless. To an outsider, security and safety are obviously a concern. Many of the newer residents voice their concerns about the safety of the community, as explained by our group leader, Mona Davis.

Civic engagement is a vital resource in the community. A couple of the main resources are Officer Theresa Skinner and The Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center. Officer Skinner’s role in the community is to be a liaison between the community and the police officers, most often handling issues of homelessness and complaints from residents. The Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center provides the community with computer literacy courses and gang intervention specialists to keep youth and adults off the streets.

Those fighting to help people in need, including the homeless, are a collective of agencies, community centers, clinics, and individuals. Sharing a common fate, this group must engage with new and old residents in order to establish and maintain harmony among community members.

submitted by: Erin Dowler and Maryam Jahanshi

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