On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom officially returned the land illegally confiscated from an African American couple by the Ku Klux Klan nearly 100 years ago.
The Manhattan Beach community had been a thriving African American township in Los Angeles County at the turn of the twentieth century. Using the justification of eminent domain, prime beachfront real estate was seized from Willa and Charles Bruce in 1924 without proper compensation that the couple had lawfully purchased in 1912.
According to Kavon Ward, founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach, “This country always likes to say: ‘You can make it. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. These people were doing that, and they were building community and spreading the wealth within the community and enhancing other Black people, and it was all stripped away.”
Inspired by advocacy for the Bruce, she founded a new organization, Where Is My Land, dedicated to helping other African American families reclaim properties that were illegally confiscated.
Among its objectives, Where Is My Land seeks to secure restitution for lost wealth and enterprise.
“For me, it was more than just land being taken from Black people,” Ward said. “It was land taken away from Black entrepreneurs. It was business. It was community.”
Currently, Where Is My Land is working with the family of Winston Willis, a Black real estate developer whose property in Cleveland was sophisticated in 1968 in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
“These are not people looking for reparations for being enslaved,” Ward said. “These are people that, despite their ancestors’ being enslaved, picked themselves up, created and built their own wealth, and their opportunity to pass on that wealth was taken away from them.”
As the United States continues to grapple with issues of race relations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in May of 2020, many states across the country are grappling with complex issues on the road to reconciliation.
Source: NBC News