Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities

By Darnell Hunt; Ana-Christina Ramón | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Decline of a Black
Community by the Sea
Demographic and Political
Changes in Oakwood

Andrew Deener

I attended a party at the small cottage of my wife’s friend John, a white man in his late twenties, who recently moved to Oakwood and works in the film production industry. Oakwood, a one-square-mile area in Venice, California, was often recognized as a distinct neighborhood altogether. Many referred to it as the “black section” of Venice, and activists commonly described it as the last remaining “pocket of poverty” in this coastal neighborhood, due to the fourteen low-income, housing projects constructed during the 1970s. Sometimes Oakwood residents identified this location through more pejorative terms as “the ghetto,” “the ’hood,” “the projects,” or as “Ghost Town.” Despite these labels, Oakwood was a very diverse location that was no longer a predominantly black community.

John’s cottage, which he rented for more than $2,000 a month, was a small two-bedroom structure and rests behind a larger, aging house. The only entranceway was through the gate out front, which was locked. Without a phone, we waited on the street trying to figure out how to get inside this blocked-out world, a world that escaped any public contact or visibility. As I looked around, the only public activity came from African American children running in the street, and African American teenagers leaning up against a concrete wall in front of a house. We watched them as they checked us out, standing there trying to enter our friend’s home. John finally let us in, and we walked to the back of the property where about twenty people were standing around barbequing, drinking, listening

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