The new plaque for Bruce’s Beach Park will at last be set in stone — in just a couple of weeks.
Manhattan Beach will unveil the new monument immortalizing two Black entrepreneurs from Manhattan Beach’s early days during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, the city announced recently. The city is currently installing the plaque’s foundation and will finish putting the entire thing in by the reveal.
Mayor Steve Napolitano and yet-to-be-determined guest speakers will give remarks at the event.
“It is important that we remember and honor the history behind the area we now call Bruce’s Beach Park,” Napolitano said in a Friday, Feb. 10, press release. “While we cannot change what happened nearly 100 years ago, neither should we run from it. We have taken great strides to better understand that difficult chapter in our history and embrace the lessons we can learn from it.”
The City Council last month picked the ultimate design and directed staff to begin installing the plaque. It has taken nearly three years to get here.
A task force initially charged with planning the plaque redo in 2020 was turned into a history advisory board that was then set to rewrite the plaque’s language in 2021. But the City Council ended up taking over that job last year.
Then projected installation dates kept getting pushed back, from last Juneteenth to December, targets the city also missed.
But the original plaque was finally removed in November.
The national reckoning on systemic racism that exploded in 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, became particularly local in Manhattan Beach after a Juneteenth celebration, organized by activist Kavon Ward, brought to light the history of Bruce’s Beach and the surrounding area.
During the 1920s, the city used eminent domain to take away land from Willa and Charles Bruce, who were Black and operated a seaside resort for African Americans. The city used eminent domain to take their land, as well as other properties — primarily from Black residents — for racially motivated reasons.
Ward used the awareness of that history to lead a movement that ultimately saw LA County return the two parcels of seaside land, nearby Bruce’s Beach Park, to the original owners’ descendants last year. The heirs recently sold the land back to the county.
Manhattan Beach, meanwhile, grappled with how it should respond to its resurfaced history. The City Council ultimately voted to condemn the actions of the town’s former leaders and began the process of revamping the plaque at Bruce’s Beach Park; critics said the original language glossed over the reasons the land was taken.
“By shining a light on the truth of the injustices of the past, Manhattan Beach has begun a new chapter of recovery and healing,” Napolitano said in the city’s release. “Today, we are an inclusive, loving and caring community and this new plaque reflects that.”
Besides the soon-to-be-installed plaque, the city’s Art-in-Public-Places Committee is also working on a separate art piece and landscaping to go around the plaque honoring Bruce’s Beach; that project has its own timeline. The city is currently developing a request for proposals for the art piece.
If you go The plaque unveiling is at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at Bruce’s Beach Park, 2600 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach.
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Tyler Shaun Evains | Reporter Tyler Shaun Evains covers city government, school board and community happenings for the beach cities (primarily Manhattan Beach and El Segundo). She was previously an editorial assistant for the San Gabriel Valley Newsgroup. Tyler earned her journalism degree from the University of La Verne in 2018.