AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITY OF VENTURA
Jun 25, 2020 —
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITY OF VENTURA
“The Time For Action is Now” June 25, 2020
We write this letter as concerned citizens of the City of Ventura who stand in solidarity with the Ventureño Chumash community, and all original peoples of this nation, with regards to the removal of all statues and monuments that represent historical figures who led and engaged in racist and genocidal behavior. We understand that, as people of color and descendents of indigenous peoples ourselves, we share a collective historical trauma with indigenous, Black, and Brown communities, which is why it’s important to make this process a collective one, one in which we can share in the collective healing.
In the spirit of amplifying our collective voice, the community is asking for the following:
- Give a firm date for the removal of the statues, with the date of removal not to exceed the date of July 11.
- Whoever inherits the statue must commit to sharing all versions of Serra’s story, the good and the bad.
- The statue should be replaced with a historical figure (or figures) that honor the original people of this land.
- The unmarked burials of Chumash people at the Mission must be acknowledged and marked.
We acknowledge and appreciate the public statement you released alongside Julie Tumamait-Stenslie and Father Tom Elewaut. Like all of you, we would like to see a peaceful outcome to this so that our community can start the healing process in a good way. We were happy to read in your statement that you all understand the importance of including the community in this discussion to “help guide further action on this”.
Although your letter expressed a commitment to removing the statue of Serra and moving it to a non-public location, you did not give the public an estimated date of removal, which is something the public needs to know (not just the dates of meetings you’re holding to discuss this issue, but the actual date of removal). The community is becoming restless not knowing when this statue will be removed, especially because we haven’t forgotten the previous times our community pleaded to have it removed before which were answered with empty promises from city officials.
As community members patiently wait for this process to move forward, we have witnessed, over the past two weeks, tremendous progress in the fight for change and equality for Black, Brown, and Indigneous communities. Across the state and country, people have been taking down statues of Serra, as well as the statues of other figures associated with colonialism and racism. Serra statues have rightfully come down in the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. This past Monday, a statue of Serra was removed from the San Luis Obispo Mission and just yesterday, the City of Carmel also took down their statue of Serra.
In your statement you wrote, “The time for action is now”, expressing your commitment to relocating the statues of “Serra from city hall to a non-public location.” Many assume that this “agreement” between the City, the Chumash tribal council, and the Church has settled the matter, but because no visible action has taken place as of yet, the people continue to grow restless as we are faced with the postponement of the healing process to begin. The statue as it stands remains to be a symbol of oppression, a symbol of slavery, a symbol of stolen land, and a symbol of dominance over the people. Oppressed people have waited for hundreds of years, and, as your statement claims, “the time to take action is now.” We’d like to know when “now” is.
Please understand, that as a people who has had to live through systemic racism generation after generation, it is difficult to be told by those in power that we have to continue to wait for restorative justice to be served. It brings our traumas to the surface when we are told that the HOW and the WHEN of our liberation will be decided for us. It can be frustrating to have to be reminded that bureaucratic practices, which were designed to maintain control over the people, must first play out their role during this process, such as the time-consuming process of “unlandmarking” the statue before you remove it. To you this may seem as a “necessary” process, but for many of us, this prolonged wait is difficult because what you are doing is telling us that we must live in our trauma longer and wait for the healing process to begin until you determine when that can happen.
We say this, not to scold anyone or cause division, but because it is real and because it is necessary to have these courageous and uncomfortable discussions. It’s important for us to speak our truth and share what it feels like to live as a person of color and descendent of Indiginous peoples in this country. And for this reason, we continue to ask you to expedite this process as much as possible so that we can ALL begin to regain our humanity. The more time that passes, the more division that manifests in our community and the higher the chance that the statue could be vandalised and taken down by the will of the people. We in no way are trying to encourage that behavior, nor would we engage in that ourselves, but the fact of the matter is, that as people continue to grow restless, with no expected date of removal, and watching statue after statue be torn down around us, it would be foolish to think that the possibility of people taking matters into their hands wouldn’t manifest.
Aside from the reasons listed above, there is also the issue of not abiding by the legality behind the “separation of church and state”. There should not be religious statues in front of secular government buildings, like City Hall. Having these statues erected in public spaces violates our rights as tax-paying citizens and is in direct violation of the legal principle of the separation of church and state.
The petition we created (http://chng.it/fQR2Nj5m has accumulated over 6,600+ signatures and comments in less than two weeks. We have attached those comments for your consideration.
Concerns citizens of the City of Ventura
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