Dear Chair Bocho, Honorable Commissioners, Director Ainsworth, and Esteemed Staff Members:
Congratulations and thank you again for adopting the Environmental Justice Policy on March 8. We are delighted to be part of the diverse allies who stand behind you.
We were glad to hear Commissioner Mary Luevano ask about Bruce’s Beach. We are eager to work with the Commission, the community, and Prof. Allison Rose Jefferson to faithfully, completely, and accurately celebrate the proud legacy of Bruce’s Beach and African-American Los Angeles. Here’s why.
The City Project proudly worked with Bernard Bruce, the Bruce’s grandson, to rename the park as Bruce’s Beach in 2007. Signs and public art should commemorate the story of Bruce’s Beach. The site should be an official national, state, county, and local monument.
“When I told people that my family owned the beach here, they would laugh at me. They didn’t believe black people owned beaches. Now, they won’t laugh anymore.” Bernard Bruce at park renaming 2007. Click on the image to hear Mr. Bruce on video.
When Mr. Bruce first met with us, he brought his trunk full of pictures, the family papers from the lawsuit, and more. The City Project created a public art poster telling the complete story of Bruce’s Beach with SPARC (Social & Public Art Research Center) for the dedication. We were happy to see some of those pictures on display at the Commission’s March 8 hearing, pictures that are now in the collection of the California African American Museum.
In response to our work, Manhattan Beach did rename the park with a plaque at the site. The plaque says only this about the destruction of Bruce’s Beach by the city and the KKK: “The two-block neighborhood was home to several minority families and was condemned through eminent domain proceedings commenced in 1924. Those tragic circumstances reflected the views of a different time.”
That information is not good enough. If people don’t know the history, that plaque won’t tell them. If people know the history, whitewashing the history that way only angers them.
As Commissioner Luevano suggested, the Commission can act with Manhattan Beach, public education curricula, and other programs and activities. (See Environmental Justice Policy, p. 9.)