Removal of Father Serra Statues & Name Change of Schools

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Black Lives Matter has evolved into a nationwide movement to seek justice and equality for all Black and Indigenous people. The City of Ventura and Ventura Unified School District must take action and do their part to dismantle systemic racism in all its forms. Both entities must be more inclusive and sensitive of all members of our community by moving towards removing symbols of racism throughout our city. The Father Serra statues in downtown Ventura (Both outside and inside City Hall) are offensive and must be taken down by the City of Ventura, and Ventura Unified must move towards changing the names of Junipero Serra Elementary and Blanche Reynolds Elementary schools, immediately. 

Serra is not the historical hero people thought when this landmark statue to him was erected, one of many throughout California, as a historical emblem, he is toxic and should be removed. As a community we cannot and will not support the dehumanization of the Native American community any longer. We are calling for restorative justice and are petitioning for his statue to be removed immediately. 

Often compared to Hitler, Serra was complicit in the brutal and dehumanizing conquest of native tribes in California. Serra presided over a “near-genocidal policy” of putting Native Americans on reservations and forcing them to build Catholic missions.  From an estimated 300,000 coastal Indians in 1769, their numbers dwindled to 16,624 in 1890.

Moreover, Stanford University cut all affiliations with Father Serra. In September of 2018 they had his stature removed from the campus and went a step further working with the USPS to
wipe Serra from its official mailing address. For decades, if you wanted to mail a letter to Stanford University, you’d send it to 450 Serra Mall, it is now “Jane Stanford Way” in honor of the school’s co-founder. If it can be done at Stanford, it can be done with Junipero Serra Elementary and Blanche Reynolds Elementary. 

Corine Fairbanks of the American Indian Movement proclaimed: "For too long the mission system has been glorified as these wonderful moments of California's golden era. That is not true. They were concentration camps. They were places of death.".

Deborah A. Miranda, a professor of American literature at Washington and Lee University who is part Native American, stated that "Serra did not just bring us Christianity. He imposed it, giving us no choice in the matter. He did incalculable damage to a whole culture".

The Catholic Church created this “golden era,” civilizing the Indians. This has been the myth behind the iconic California missions systems. The state’s public schools and many other of our institutions have promoted and even defended that false notion over the years. 

With regards to our local schools, last summer, VUSD passed a resolution to make Ethnic and Social Justice Studies a graduation requirement, which also requires that Ethnic and Social Justice Studies be taught at every grade level TK-12. As such, the atrocities that Junipero Serra committed against the original peoples of this area and the racist segregationist views that Blanche Reynolds imposed upon the Mexican population of our county, no longer represent who we are as a community, and we are demanding that both the City of Ventura and Ventura USD take action that will help rectify the crimes against humanity that took place in this area. 

We, the undersigned, demand that the statue of Junipero Serra in front of City Hall be removed immediately, and that the names of Junipero Serra Elementary and Blanche Reynolds Elementary schools be changed to names that represent justice and inclusivity in our city.