LISTEN HERE (Support this project at patreon.com/AfricanElements)
The Manhattan Beach City Council this week settled on the final language for a new plaque that will go up at Bruce’s Beach Park — four months after the body chose to craft the wording itself rather than rely on the suggestions of an advisory panel.
The plaque will share a brief history of both the city-owned park and the former Bruce’s Beach Lodge, which once stood near the park on land now controlled by Los Angeles County.
That history includes Willa and Charles Bruce, who were Black, moving to Manhattan Beach and opening a Black-serving seaside resort in the1920s; other African American families moving into the city; the Bruces and those Black families facing racism from White residents; and city leaders using eminent domain at the end of the decade to take control of Bruce’s Beach Lodge, which was the first seaside resort for Black people on the West Coast.
Other families — both Black and White — also had their land taken via eminent domain, with the city eventually replacing their homes with an open space that, after multiple name changes, became known as Bruce’s Beach Park; the history embedded in the plaque will also mention those families.
The plaque’s inscription will end by acknowledging and condemning the city’s “racially motivated” actions from that era, dedicating the park to the memory of Bruce’s Beach, and committing Manhattan Beach to being an inclusive town.
“The Bruces, their patrons, and the other Black property owners in the area faced harassment, intimidation, and discrimination by some, including City Hall,” the text says. “The purpose of these actions was to make Manhattan Beach inhospitable to Black residents and visitors.”
The council approved the language on Thursday, March 10. The council also OK’d spending $20,000 from the city’s public art trust fund for the project.
The plaque currently at the park, 2600 Highland Ave., has been there since 2006, when the recreational area was renamed in honor of Bruce’s Beach. The plaque narrowly details the Bruces’ plight to maintain their entrepreneurial endeavor.
The city plans to replace it with a new one — with the more comprehensive inscription.
But before the city installs the plaque, parks and recreation staff must evaluate the spot’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A grammarian will also review the language.
Once those steps are done, the project will go before the council for final approval.
The City Council in November decided to craft the plaque’s language by itself, after disbanding a Bruce’s Beach history advisory board. That advisory board suggested language for two proposed plaques, with one meant for Bruce’s Beach Park and the other meant for the beachfront property where the resort once stood.
The advisory panel, which used its own history report to craft their proposed inscriptions, presented its suggestions to the council twice last year — because elected officials asked for revisions following the history group’s initial pitch.
Soon after that, in early December, Los Angeles County announced its own plans to place a plaque where Bruce’s Beach Lodge once stood.
That land currently houses a county lifeguard training station.
The county, which owns that land, is getting ready to transfer ownership to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce, a move allowed after the state enacted Senate Bill 796.
The county is working with former members of Manhattan Beach’s history advisory board on its plaque, using the group’s initial proposal as its baseline.
The county wants to put its 4-foot-by-8-foot plaque up in conjunction with the dedication event for the land transfer to the Bruce family, an official with Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s office told the City Council on Thursday.
But a timeline for that transfer has not yet been determined, with the county still in the process of clarifying who the Bruces’ legal heirs are.
In Manhattan Beach, meanwhile, the timeline for installing the city’s plaque is also unknown, because of the remaining steps city staff must take.
Still, OKing the language was an important step — with the inscription set to memorialize the city’s former Black residents while also creating a mission statement, of sorts, for Manhattan Beach’s future.
“The City’s action at the time was racially motivated and wrong. Today, the City acknowledges, empathizes, and condemns those past actions,” the inscription’s penultimate paragraph will say. “We are not the Manhattan Beach of one hundred years ago. We reject racism, hate, intolerance, and exclusion.”
To read the entire inscription, go here.
This content was originally published here.