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Tamiko Overton Parks, Communications Lead
January 9, 2023– The “BLACK LAND BACK” movement’s success in advocating for the return of stolen land from Charles and Willa Bruce, has led to 600 claimants seeking aid from Where Is My Land (WIML) of which 50 are from California. The California Reparations Task Force is a non-regulatory state agency in California established in 2020 by California Assembly Bill 3121 to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, especially those who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States. Where Is My Land calls on the California Reparations Task Force to seriously consider helping the organization as it assists other Black families, in the State of California, to reclaim stolen land.
WIML’s CEO Kavon Ward says “The state of California is leading the nation in its initiative to repair passed harms inflicted upon Black Californians around land restoration, but the Bruces are not the only Black family in California that has had land stolen from them.” Where Is My Land is amplifying the pleas of the descendants of the Hattons, the Whites (Ebony Beach Club), the Russell City Descendants for Restorative Justice group, and Beverly Moore, to reclaim their stolen land.
Russell City was an unincorporated area of what is now the City of Hayward, that was located in Alameda County, CA. Russell City and its unique culture have been erased. Established in 1853, the town was the result of racially segregated neighborhoods where whites lived in nearby Hayward, and people of color lived in Russell City. Russell City residents repeatedly petitioned the City of Hayward and Alameda County to provide them with basic services to address and alleviate deplorable living conditions, but their petitions were denied every time. It was those same conditions that provided the City and County with justification to declare Russell City a “blight,” condemn it, and evict all its residents.
Beverly Moore grew up with her family in a home they rented in the city of Richmond. When presented with the opportunity to purchase the home in 1980, Ms. Moore happily did so. Ms. Moore remembers her mom tending to their fig and pear trees with water from their well. Unfortunately, in 1993 the city of Richmond seized the home to make way for a drainage system, which was never built. The city of Richmond currently has the property up for sale.
Ebony Beach Club – In May 1957, Black entrepreneur, Silas White, fell victim to racist tactics to keep Black landowners from establishing businesses in Santa Monica. Mr. White purchased the former Elks Club building on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, seeking to open a Black beach club. He planned to call it the “Ebony Beach Club.” Constance White, daughter of Silas White, states “the city of Santa Monica seized the property under the pretext of building a parking lot for the civic center.” The parking lot for the civic center was never built. Instead, the former location of the Ebony Beach Club is now the site of the Viceroy Santa Monica Hotel.
Edward Hatton Sr. was a former slave who relocated to Napa, California from Norfolk, Virginia around 1853, and who owned his own barber shop in Napa. Edward Hatton, Jr. and his wife, Margaret Miller Hatton, owned a total of at least 213 acres of land in Napa. They also owned a restaurant called “Arcade” on Main Street that provided Black residents with a quality dining experience. In 1893, a white woman gained ownership of the Hatton’s land based on a fraudulent mortgage, alleging the Hattons had not paid. Later, she bought the property herself at the auction, then sold it back to the county treasurer for the same price at which she had purchased it.
“Land stolen from Black Americans was and continues to be an epidemic. Healing, repair and land reclamation should be just as widespread. California is in a unique position to make that possible,” says Kavon Ward