Juneteenth Celebrated at Bruce’s Beach Park: Remembering the past and looking to the future

by Brianna Smith

The City of Manhattan Beach Wednesday morning held an official Juneteenth ceremony, for the first time, at Bruce’s Beach Park. Over 200 people showed up for the event including event organizers, families, and other community members. 

Police and traffic safety were present to ensure the event ran smoothly. The ceremony lasted an hour and consisted of nine speeches and performances, including Mayor Joe Franklin.

Singer-songwriter Angel Heart began the ceremony with a performance of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” to which some community members sang along. The Faithful Central Bible Church Choir, also known as One Voice, performed two songs. They filled the park with their voices and had audience members clapping and dancing.

“Juneteenth is symbolic of the end of slavery as an American institution and the beginning of the possibility that we could actually achieve liberty and justice,” said Isla Garraway, a UCLA Health urologist and Manhattan Beach resident who participated on the Bruce’s Beach Task Force. “The actions accomplished on Juneteenth represent a critical chapter in the American story that make the American dream possible because Juneteenth represents the indefatigable spirit of America seeking freedom, opportunity, and self-determination. And this is why Juneteenth is such an important commemoration for all Americans, not just those descended from slaves.” 

Throughout the ceremony, people who walked by stopped to listen to the speeches – nearly all clapping and taking pictures. 

Franklin talked about Juneteenth’s historical context and honored the 40,000 Black Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.

“So let’s let our Juneteenth celebration not only honor the vision establishing our country and Abraham Lincoln’s steadfast principles, but also the memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion by serving the Union cause of freedom for all,” he said. “Let us recognize their enduring legacy and the fight for the unity of our country and equality for all its citizens. And let us recommit ourselves to the work that lies ahead and let us ensure that our nation’s revered principle of equality is fully realized for everyone so that it will be treasured and endured for generations to come.”

 

Several speakers referred to Bruce’s Beach and the significance of holding the ceremony, which was a pioneering Black resort a century ago, taken from the Bruce family a century ago. The portion of the area where the resort stood was returned to the Bruce family last year by Los Angeles County in an historical act of reparation. The remainder of the park was where a small community of Black residents once lived, who also lost their land, but whose families did not receive reparations. 

“Bruce’s Beach is more than a beautiful coastal landmark. It is courage and the relentless pursuit of equality,” said Gina Young, a descendant of Elizabeth Patterson, one of residents at Bruce’s Beach. “In the early 20th century, my ancestors envisioned this place as a haven for Black families during a time when racial segregation cast long shadows across the nation. This act not only stripped my family of their rightful land, but also struck a blow to the ideals of freedom and fairness. However, today as we stand on this ground, we do so not in the spirit of bitterness, but in the spirit of frustration and progress. It is essential for us to remember that understanding our history is crucial for growing a better future,” 

Black in Mayberry President Tanya Taylor spoke on what freedom means today. She emphasized the struggle African Americans went through and continue to go through to ensure their freedom.

 “Freedom is a continuous action,” Taylor said, adding that she had hoped to hear more actionable ways the city was working to safeguard the freedoms of African Americans as opposed to just hearing reiterated history from “those who fail to recognize themselves as the oppressive group.”

After the ceremony, the community came together. Everyone was chatting with one another, taking pictures, and congratulating a job well done to the speakers. ER 

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