A new South Bay action group, Anti-Racist Moms (ARMs), hosts a Junteenth picnic at Bruce’s Beach to symbolically reclaim the space that was taken away from its black owners in the 1920s in Manhattan Beach on Friday, June 19, 2020. Bruce’s Beach was one of the only places in LA County where African Americans could access the beach. It was taken over by the city of Manhattan Beach in later years and annexed as a city park. Then, decades later, in 2007, the city finally rededicated it and returned its name. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

The Manhattan Beach City Council next week will consider recommendations from a task force on how to reckon with the history of Bruce's Beach, an early 20th century resort run by a Black couple for African American beachgoers before city leaders at the time used eminent domain to take it over.

The Bruce's Beach Task Force has worked since the fall to come up with recommendations for how the city can make amends for taking the land -- and eventually turning into a park -- while also undertaking efforts to make the city more welcoming and equitable for Black people.

The task force was formed in the wake of distinct-but-related movements meant to address systemic racism: The nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and a renewed focus on the history of Bruce's Beach. 

The Bruce family owned the land, near the city's shoreline, for years, but was ultimately pushed out through eminent domain proceedings, which, the historical record shows, had racist motivations; city staff presented that history at the meeting where the council first formed the task force.

The task force's mission was to address the beach's history, rewrite the inscription on a plaque at the park and consider different art installations to honor the history of both the resort and its owners, Willa and Charles Bruce. The task force, in a report it released ahead of next week's council meeting, said its mission and recommendations expanded since its creation.

"We believe that a more expansive program of history, art, education, and community engagement is needed," the task force said in the report, "a program that should integrate into a regular part of the city’s civic life."

The group, though, has also faced opposition among some in the city, with various folks arguing that current residents should not be held accountable for the actions of past leaders, that the task force's mission paints the city itself as racist, and that this should be a non-issue in Manhattan Beach since Los Angeles County actually owns the land. 

"It's owned by LA County," Daryl Nelson said during a virtual task force meeting last week. "It seems it should be handled by LA County."

The task force addressed some of those concerns in its report, stressing that the intent was not to paint any individual or the city as racist -- even mentioning some actions the town had already taken to fight discrimination. The overall goal of the report, however, was to present its recommendations to the council.

Those recommendations include:

  • Issuing a formal apology to the Bruce family;

  • Pledging that the city will promote racial equity and become more inclusive;

  • Creating an art installation that could be educational, interactive, contemplative and more;

  • Keeping the task force on as a permanent advisory panel to the City Council and expanding its mission; and

  • Creating a webpage that will present the task force's history report, the body's continued work, upcoming community events and city efforts to combat racial injustice;

The task force also recommended three options for rewrite the inscription on the Bruce's Beach plaque:

  • Have the panel's History Subcommittee do it;

  • Have the subcommittee work with a "professional;" to propose the wording; or

  • Have the subcommittee propose the wording and then have a history expert or organization review it for accuracy.

The council meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 16.


Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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