MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. —  An effort to right a wrong that was committed against Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard’s ancestors is gaining support from people he’s never even met. 

What You Need To Know

  • Willa and Charles Bruce purchase a piece of land in Manhattan Beach after moving to California from New Mexico in 1912
  • The entrepreneurs built a resort that catered and serviced Black families

  • The city of Manhattan Beach took the land away from the couple who faced violence and intimidation from the KKK

  • Kavon Ward, founder of Justice for Bruce's Beach, is helping the descendants of the Bruce Family regain their land

“It seemed like it was going to be insurmountable at one time, but now we see a little light at the end of the tunnel,” said Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, a spokesperson for the Bruce family.

Chief Shepard is related to Willa and Charles Bruce, a Black couple who celebrated their freedom by purchasing a beach-front property in Manhattan Beach in 1912. Last year, a group called Justice for Bruce’s Beach began advocating for the land to be returned back to the Bruce’s after it was taken by force and intimidation nearly a century ago.

“I was really moved about hearing that somebody actually decided to take up our cause and get justice for our ancestors,” said Chief Shepard. 

Leading the charge is Kavon Ward, an activist, poet and founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach. She started the movement a year ago on Juneteenth, short for June 19, which recently became an official national holiday recognizing the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, months after the Confederate army’s surrender and two full years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. 

“I felt like I needed to do something. At that time, I didn’t know what doing something meant, but for me, I knew there should be policy changes made to deed the land back to the Bruces,” said Ward.

She called on her movement’s supporters to celebrate this Juneteenth at Bruce’s Beach— a city park on Highland Avenue that sits on a portion of the family’s land— with music, food and community. 

"This is going to set a precedent. This is going to be the first time that I’m aware of in U.S. history that land was given back to Black people,” says Ward.

The bill to return the land back to the Bruce’s was approved by the State Senate this month and is heading to the Assembly. This is something Chief Shepard never thought would happen.

"Just getting the land back from the county is going to be the first step. We know that people going to step up and try to block everything that they can,” said Chief Shepard, who says the family also deserves reparation. 

Both Ward and Chief Shepard say they’ve gotten threats from people who don’t want to see Bruce’s Beach returned to the family, but they’re pushing forward to right the wrong that was done nearly a century ago.