During Black History Month, we have a responsibility to take a critical eye to our own history locally. Racism and discrimination are not just legacies left behind from other places in the country — they have happened right here in our own backyard.
One example: Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach. The land it stood on was bought in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, a young Black couple who turned it into the West Coast’s first beach resort owned by and meant for Black Americans. Many other Black families followed suit and for twelve years, this beach and the surrounding area served as a chance for Black people in and around the community to enjoy the surf and sand in a place they could call their very own.
But in 1924, following years of complaints from white neighbors and even attacks on the resort by the KKK, the City of Manhattan Beach took over the resort using eminent domain under the pretense of building a city park. The Black property owners and beachgoers were forced off the property and the land stayed empty for decades.
A century later, we still haven’t properly dealt with this dark history and the impact it has had on generations of Black families in LA County. The City of Manhattan Beach has created a task force that will be making recommendations to the City Council for next steps, including rewriting a historically inaccurate plaque that credits the white property developer. I think this is a good start and means there is an important and long-overdue conversation happening in Manhattan Beach.
I think we can and should go further. The LA County Lifeguard Headquarters sits on the land that was once Bruce’s Beach. I take this very seriously and I want the County to be part of an eventual solution. The Bruce family and the other Black landowners had their property and livelihoods taken from them. We need to think long and hard about what real justice looks like for their descendants.