Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight takes a political twist. This is one of three interviews in our Who’s Your President series. The purpose is to get to know each of the three candidates running for President of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
Give us a brief bio of yourself:
I’m a 33 year-old 4x best-selling author, community organizer, grief counselor, meditation teacher, and former entertainment industry executive. My spiritual upbringing created a firm foundation of hard work, compassion, and willingness to serve. I came to Los Angeles when I was 18 and have spent my entire adult life here.
I had the opportunity to be a part of the founding of numerous nonprofit organizations serving survivors of human trafficking, building water wells in third-world regions with no access to clean water, protecting human rights, and protecting animal rights.
I believe in proactively working with private and public partnerships to ensure that everyone has their needs met, and as a Libra, I’m convinced that everyone is innately good and there is always room for discussion, collaboration, cocreation, fairness, and justice. As an author, I’m also an avid reader. As a teacher, I’m also a permanent student. I’m a quick study, and always seeking to understand from those around me and their perspectives.
How long in Venice, and what have you accomplished/done since you have been here? Community Involvement?
I first came to Venice in 2012 to teach meditation here. I’ve officiated weddings and funerals here, organized community litter clean ups, coordinated outreach teams to help the unhoused connect to the needed services, and served as the Spiritual Director of the inclusive and non-religious center Full Circle Venice on Rose Avenue.
In 2014 I served as a grassroots leader in Marianne Williamson’s campaign for Congress. We didn’t win the entire district, but we did win Venice! I also campaigned for Marianne’s presidential campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders in both of his presidential campaigns.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve made it my business to know and understand the different services available to the unhoused throughout the city, so that I can help in any way I can. The relationships being developed there will help solve the biggest problem we see all around us in a way that is inclusive, understanding, compassionate, economically intelligent, and effective in the long run.
Why are your running for VNC President?
The primary purpose of the Venice Neighborhood Council is to advise City Hall (specifically CD-11) in the needs and experience of the stakeholders in Venice.
When Brendan Glenn, an unarmed, unhoused, young black man was killed by police in Venice in 2017, our community was devastated. I knew that this was one small part of a much larger systemic issue of unrest and pain in the soul of our community. In my heart, I knew I could be a part of a solution, but I didn’t know how. I wrote an article and led meditations on the issue and prayed to be a part of the healing. In 2020 when the global pandemic exacerbated all of the many issues we already had here in Venice, I began attending all of the VNC meetings and many of the committee meetings.
In August of 2020, when the VNC submitted a statement of “no confidence” in our elected officials at CD-11 and the City of Los Angeles, I knew that we were dealing with a VNC full of complainers and not doers. We will not get more support from our higher ups by telling them that we don’t have any confidence in their ability to help. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. So, instead of waiting for our VNC to become more diplomatic and sophisticated, I am choosing to throw my hat in the ring to see if Venice would like the support of my particular set of expertise in diplomacy, collaboration, innovation to solve our problems and hold space for the brilliance and excellence of Venetians to heal and progress as a community.
What are the most pressing issues facing Venice, and what are some concrete steps you would take to solve them?The most pressing issues facing Venice are, in fact, the most pressing issues faced by all of humanity today. Venice is a microcosm of all of the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters all over the globe. We have extreme poverty, and resulting instability. We have discord amongst neighbors. We have children and teens who have lost a year of their lives to a global pandemic.
All of these issues must be faced with vision for a brighter future, optimism for our ability to make improvements, diplomacy to facilitate a dialogue amongst disparate groups, and a will to take immediate action in all areas through cross-sector partnerships.
What would you like to accomplish in your two year term?
After an unprecedented exacerbation of our greatest challenges, I intend to hold space for an unprecedented season of healing, repair, and healing.
Being president does not mean enforcing my “agenda,” but rather to listen and create a safe place for Venetians to share their ideas and bring about a new possibility here.
We will transform and heal from our housing crisis, upgrade our approach to affordable housing, breathe new life into public spaces with an eye to making Venice a lush food forest, protect our long-time residents and small business owners from poorly managed corporate take-over, and address the mental health concerns of our stakeholders. We will front-load resources to our children, upgrade our public school offerings, and stand as an example to neighborhoods across the city, state, nation, and world of a community who achieved the impossible through collaboration and creativity.
Why should people vote for you?
Anyone who is interested in a renewed relationship with the city, anyone who wants a proactive, honest facilitator, anyone who wants a completely new approach to holding space for solving our biggest problems, will find a competent, patient, open-hearted leader in me.
Any thought on your political slogan?
“Love thy neighborhood.”
Venice is a vortex of magic and possibility, its really more of its own country than it is just a neighborhood. Venetians are the healers, the artists, the geniuses, the innovators, the engineers, the writers, the creators, the athletes, the entrepreneurs, and the avant garde! We are the cutting edge in every way.
Favorite book, band, movie, drink?
- Favorite Book: The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo
- Favorite Band: Nahko and Medicine for the People
- Favorite Singer: Bob Dylan
- Favorite Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
- Favorite Drink: Homemade Lemonade (from lemons I pick myself around the neighborhood)
- Favorite Food: I love food, especially flavorful multi-cultural foods. I love Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, and Ethiopian food.
- Favorite TV Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
What’s the best advice you have received?
When I was working for Unlikely Heroes, the founder Erica Greve taught me the value of learning from elders and those with more experience than me. She told this expression: “Failure is an orphan, but success has 1,000 fathers (and mothers).” So, I took that to heart, seeking wisdom from 1,000 mentors.
One of my mentors is Marianne Williamson, and one day, I was discussing the nonpartisan social justice work I was incorporating into my mindfulness work. I told her, “well, in my own very small way, we are making a difference.” She replied, “Look, if you are going deep with these people, it’s not small.” I learned from her that day, and have seen the evidence of its truth many times since then, that the depth and quality of my presence was more meaningful than the size of my audience in my work and contribution to the community. This has made all the difference.
Anything else that you want to share with our readers?? Fun facts, awards, accomplishments, and/or your favorite activities?
In 2012 I received the Legacy Award from anti-human trafficking organization Unlikely Heroes for my role in the organizations international efforts to abolish modern-day slavery worldwide.
I’m one of 6 brothers (with #6 being adopted) and an uncle to 7 nieces and nephews.
I work as a mindfulness consultant for nonprofits, individuals, and corporations seeking to increase productivity and improve the quality of life of their teams.
I love to work out, especially at Oakwood park.
One of my favorite activities is to go for a walk along the beach or through the Venice canals.
How can one fan and follow you?
- Website: benjaminwdecker.com
- Twitter: twitter.com/bendecker
- Instagram: Instagram.com/benjaminwdecker