Alternate content for script
By Randy Ford, Strategic Storyteller03/30/2022

On a small oceanfront park in Los Angeles County is a plaque naming the area "Bruce's Beach," a tract of land that was once home to a beach resort, opened in 1912 by Charles and Willa Bruce, a Black couple. By 1924, the city of Manhattan Beach had used eminent domain to seize the property from the Bruces under the auspices of building a park. Decades would pass before the city actually developed the park, and several more passed before the city re-named the park Bruce's Beach in 2007, at the Bruce family's urging.

Kavon Ward in a pink top smiles at the camera.For Kavon Ward, "changing the verbiage on the plaque isn't enough. Getting the land back is what matters." In the summer of 2020, she and other area mothers formed Justice for Bruce's Beach, a public awareness campaign about the park's true history. Kavon used the skills she'd developed as a lobbyist working on juvenile justice issues to get attention for the campaign. They eventually garnered high-profile news coverage and the support of influential local leaders and Black Lives Matter. Just little more than a year later, a new state law allowed the city to transfer the property to descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce. 

Kavon says at the time she just wanted to use every resource available to help right a wrong, but she was surprised to find that it was something bigger. "A lot of it was a spiritual journey as well," she says. "I didn't realize that until later, when I said, ‘Wow, did that really just happen?'"

It was indeed the start of something bigger—a national movement and conversation. By the time Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the land transfer authority into law in the fall of 2021, 30 families from across
Kavon Ward Illustration/Audrey Chan
the country had approached Kavon and her team. They now have more than 100 families who say their ancestors also were stripped of land. Such land grabs have long perpetuated a generational wealth gap between Blacks and whites, she says. 

Kavon and Ashanti Martin co-founded an organization, Where Is My Land, dedicated to reclaiming Black-owned land. The organization soft-launched in 2021 and is staffing up to fight for the return of land to other Black families, with a full launch planned for 2022. Justice for Bruce's Beach and her continuing efforts to return land to other Black families earned Kavon the 2021-2022 NeighborWorks America Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership.

"Kavon Ward is one of those people we refer to as a ‘force of nature.' She just gets stuff done," says Lori Gay, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Los Angeles County, a NeighborWorks America affiliate. "The work of reparations matters, because it also comes with the acknowledgement of slavery in America and that systemic racism continues today. True community development requires that we also look at ourselves and commit to justice and equity for all families everyday – no matter how small it may seem."

NHS supported the Justice for Bruce's Beach effort and now provides funding and technical support to Where Is My Land. "We're committed to serving all families with equity and dignity and look forward to the progress we will make together to see an America which cares for all of its people, not just some of them, loving our neighbors as we do ourselves," Gay says. 

The Bruce family still faces legal and regulatory hurdles before they can fully recover the land at Bruce's Beach, and Kavon knows that not all seized land in the U.S. will be returned to people who were wronged in her lifetime, but it's the cause she's dedicating herself to. "I see this as where I land for the rest of my life," she says. "I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing in this world. If I die tomorrow, I did something significant in this world. I would die happy." 


Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
 Security code

Related Articles