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East Bay city apologizes for bulldozing blues community


(HAYWARD, CA) – A California city has apologized to Black and Latino residents and descendants of a tight-knit community that was torn down more than half a century ago.

The East Bay Times reports that the apology was welcomed by many from the 12-block area known as Russell City in Hayward, which was a vibrant hub for blues musicians until it was torn down to make way for an industrial hub.

“For me, as an African American woman, it’s really, really meaningful,” said Artavia Berry, a Hayward resident who chairs a city commission that drafted the apology. “It’s been a very tearful week for me.”

The Hayward City Council issued the apology on Nov. 16. It’s among a number of U.S. cities that have been reckoning with past racial injustices, including the nearby city of San Jose.

San Jose apologized in September for its treatment of Chinese residents in the 19th century. The city’s thriving Chinatown was burned to the ground in 1887 by arsonists.

Russell City was named in the mid-19th century for a teacher who came to California during the Gold Rush. Initially, Danish immigrants lived there. By World War II, people had migrated to the community from the southern United States and Mexico.

The unincorporated area near Hayward had 1,400 mostly Black and Latino residents, lacked fresh water and had mostly unpaved roads. But it had a thriving music scene, said Ronnie Stewart, the head of the West Coast Blues Society.
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