Families Seeking $2B After Being Displaced From California Neighborhood

by Joshua Brown
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Lawrance W. McFarland was a kid who used to live on Native American reservation in Palm Springs, California where houses were all clustered around one another. His neighborhood was bordered by popular places that had been featured in movies and visited by tourists. Unfortunately, his neighborhood got torn down and the buildings were burned one by one. This area is now known as Section 14.

At first, McFarland’s family didn’t know that they were going to have to leave their home. However, soon his family was told to pack up and move out of their house. To make ends meet, the family had to stay at different houses for a while before eventually settling in Cabazon, which is located about 15 miles (or 24 kilometers) away from Palm Springs.

The Palm Springs city council has decided to apologize to the people who used to live in a neighborhood made up of many Black and Mexican American families. But the people who used to live there don’t think that’s enough for what happened back in the 1960s when they had to leave their homes.

People who used to live in this city believe that the city owes them more than $2.3 billion dollars because they were forced to leave their homes. This equals out to almost $1.2 million per family! An expert named Cheryl Grills discussed the exact dollar amount at a meeting discussing how to give African Americans monetary compensation for what they went through.

People in Palm Springs, California are trying to get back what was taken from Black people due to unfair rules and regulations that stayed even after slavery ended. This is part of a larger effort to get money or other types of help from states or cities for the wrongs caused by these unjust laws.

California has a group of people whose job is to decide how the state should make up for things it did wrong in the past. This includes taking away homes from Black families, and not letting them live in certain places. Recently, the city of Los Angeles paid $20 million back to a Black family that had their land taken by the government many years ago.

Palm Springs officials may choose to give money or other forms of compensation to families who were kicked out of the area. A council vote could happen this month to decide. This city of 45,000 people is near Los Angeles and is usually known for its golf courses and luxury resorts.

The families are trying to get money back with the help of a lawyer named Areva Martin. She sent something called a tort claim to the city saying they hired people to bulldoze homes and send fire trucks to burn them down. The city said they were willing to work together with the families and their descendants. Areva said that doing this will show how much these people had contributed to the city, but there is no proof of it.

Julianne Malveaux, an economist, said that 2,000 families were displaced and hurt by the amount of money spent, which was around $2.3 billion. Lisa Middleton from the Palm Springs city council mentioned that it is important to recognize the city’s responsibility for moving people out of their homes in Section 14.

“We have a lot to be proud of in our history,” she said at a meeting. “But it’s also important that we remember and learn from the mistakes we’ve made so we don’t make them again.”

Renee Brown from the Palm Springs Historical Society said that Section 14 is more complex than it may seem.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation has an area called Section 14. Over the last ten years, the tribe and city worked together to get this space ready for developers. The city may not have been able to do it without the tribe’s permission. The tribe couldn’t be reached for comments.

This claim said that the tragedy was similar to what happened over a hundred years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as Black Wall Street. This event caused the death of around 300 people, but there were no deaths when families were moved from Section 14.

Three people who survived the Tulsa massacre are asking for payback through a legal case against the city. The government wanted to make it simpler for survivors and their children to receive reparations, but nothing was done about it.

Pearl Devers from Palmdale used to live in Section 14 until she was 12 years old. She is helping out with creating a group to think back on their life there and see what they should do next.

Her dad, a carpenter, built their home and many other homes in Section 14. The people were close-knit so it felt like a family in the neighborhood. But one day, her mom told them to pack up quickly because they needed to run away from being burned out. She remembers seeing and smelling burning homes as they ran away.

Alvin Taylor, who’s Devers’ brother, says that it is very important for city officials to talk to people whose homes were taken away and their descendants before they decide on what to do now. He said “saying sorry isn’t enough”.

Sophie Austin is a person working for Associated Press and Report for America. They are a group that helps put journalists in local areas so they can learn the stories behind what’s not being reported. If you want to keep an eye on Sophie, you can follow her on Twitter: @sophieadanna

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