Descendants Of A Black Entrepreneur Are Fighting To Reclaim Their Family’s Land In Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica CA and the coastline of the Pacific Ocean.

In 1957, Silas White, a Black entrepreneur purchased a valuable plot of land in Santa Monica, CA. White wanted to transform “the space into the Ebony Beach Club, a place where the local Black community could come together and socialize during a time when such establishments were few and far between,” NBC Los Angeles reported.

White had already started renovations, but unfortunately, his dream would never become a reality. A year after White’s purchase, the city seized the land, citing eminent domain, which “refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use, referred to as a taking.” Four years later, White passed away and the story almost died with him. It would take decades before White’s descendants learned about their family legacy.

And today that land is home to the Viceroy Hotel on Ocean Avenue. But how did White’s descendants learn about their family’s land? It’s all because of Where Is My Land?, an organization founded by Kavon Ward aimed at helping “Black Americans discover connections to stolen land through research, data, and technology,” helping their descendants reclaim said land, and educating the public.

In 2022, Ward helped the Bruce family reclaim their Manhattan Beach property, which “was taken under similar terms in the 1920s.” Thanks to Ward’s efforts, “Los Angeles County transferred the property back to them, righting a century-old wrong.”

“I think it opened up a lot of hope for Black people who have had their land stolen,” stated Ward. “It means money…Money for the violation of civil and human rights, and money for taking land that could’ve gotten them more money.”

For Milana Davis, White’s niece, the family’s spokesperson for Connie White who now resides in North Carolina, “It’s frustrating. Disappointing…Maybe the right thing will finally be done and my cousin will receive some form of restitution for what was done to him.”

“It’s an open wound with no remedy,” Davis added. “From what I’ve been told, there were already 2,000 people signed up [for the Ebony Beach Club.”

Ward and the Whites recently met with City Manager David White and Councilwoman Caroline Torosis. “Torosis said the city is working on adopting a citywide equity plan, which includes exploring models for restitution and reparations, but so far it’s unclear how support exists on the council with regards to returning the land to the White family.”

The City of Santa Monica released a statement, which read in part, “Santa Monica hears and acknowledges the voices on this topic in the community and is actively seeking appropriate and realistic remedies.”

“We know that for those who have been wronged by the city’s past discriminatory practices, justice can’t come soon enough, and we take what we’ve learned from the families and individuals who have been harmed by these acts very seriously,” continued the statement. “We are a better city because of their continued attention to these issues and we are committed to getting this right.”

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