Article by Ryan Anderson for Venice Heritage Museum
A teenager when he arrived, Irving Tabor became the patriarch of one of the first families of Venice’s Black community. Invited by his cousin Arthur Reese to explore a new life out west, Tabor and his brothers left their sharecropping family in Louisiana in 1910 for the opportunities that awaited in Venice.
Shortly after his arrival, the 17 year-old Irving Tabor had a chance encounter with Abbot Kinney while working on the Venice Pier one day. Impressed by Tabor’s can-do attitude, the Doge asked him if he knew how to drive. Tabor quickly replied “yes” — though he had never been in a car before in his life. Learning on the fly over the next few days, Tabor became Abbot Kinney’s chauffeur and the two worked in close partnership until Kinney’s death in 1920.
In a twist straight out of @riancjohnson’s “Knives Out,” upon his death, Kinney left his luxe villa at the tip of the Grand Canal to Tabor. Thumbing his nose at canal residents who didn’t want a Black family in their midst in the era of racist housing covenants, Tabor and his brothers cut the house in three pieces, transported it by mule, and rebuilt it in place on 6th and Santa Clara in Oakwood, where the house stands today with a designation from the city as a Historic Cultural Monument. Tabor went on to found the first Black-owned maintenance company in Venice and became an elder statesman and historian of the neighborhood before his passing in 1987.
Jataun Valentine, Tabor’s descendant, carries on his work of leading Venice’s Black community through her advocacy for the First Baptist Church of Venice (@savexvenice). Her long-time volunteer work with the Oakwood Recreation Center has enriched the lives of hundreds of Venice’s seniors. In January 2020, the artist Ivo Vergara completed a dazzling mural of her on the northeastern corner of Lincoln & Rose for Venice Community Housing.
Jataun Valentine awarded the Spirit of Venice Award at the Abbot Kinney Fest in 2019
Sources: Goldman, Pouliot, Tanck community calendar; Jataun Valentine; LA Times; Venice Community Housing Corporation.
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Founded July 4, 1905, “Venice of America” as it was originally called has become an epicenter of creative influence spanning art, music, literature, film, style, and more. At its heart is an eclectic and passionate community.
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