SECTION 14 COMMUNITY REUNITES AFTER 60 YEARS
Published: 10:18 p.m. PT Sept. 17, 2022 Updated: 7:35 a.m. PT Sept. 20, 2022
Over 200 people gathered in Palm Springs on Saturday to pray for unity, justice and healing for those with ties to the forceful evictions from Section 14 in the 1960s.
Many of the housing destruction victims had not seen each other for almost 60 years since being forced from their homes. The event was organized by Chairperson Pearl Devers, the board of directors, and the Section 14 Survivors. It was held at Frances Stevens Park, where most went to elementary school.
The group, currently consists of 430 Survivors and Descendants. Devers called for the rally for the group to have an opportunity to finally come together, to reunite, to tell their stories, acknowledge the impact of the atrocity, and to pray for healing. Many of the victims agreed they had suppressed a lot of the pain and damages over the years. This rally was just the beginning to help deal with some of the long overdue emotional and phycological damages caused by the destruction, which forced many families to relocate out of the city.
Pearl Taylor Devers, Leader and Co-founder of the group, greets the members and supporters, and tells a brief portion of her Section 14 experience.
Betty Mayfield-Taylor, president of the Section 14 Foundation, and who is a Survivor, spoke during the event. “Hello family, I tell everybody we were having a reunion here in Palm Springs… It is so good to be home; it is so good to see home.”
Among the speakers during the roughly 90-minute program was Areva Martin, a CNN Legal Analyst and Los Ángeles civil rights attorney who recently joined the legal team has been hired by the Section 14 Survivors to help seek compensation from the city.
“I’ve personally witnessed the traumatic injuries that continue to fester because these families were robbed, robbed of an opportunity to address their trauma and to heal,” Martin said. “We are gathered here tonight to start that healing process.” She also pledged that the story of the atrocities that happened in this community “will not remain a secret for long.”
Kavon Ward, founder of an organization called Where Is My Land that advocates for the return of lands to Black people, has also joined the reparations effort, said that the survivors group would not stop until justice was served and called on people to join the movement. “Don’t just talk about the movement, join the movement, boots on the ground, to help get the justice that these descendants and survivors deserve,” she said. Patricia Bruce of Bruce’s Beach was also one of the guest speakers.
Devers discussed the impact the eviction had on her father, who he said became an alcoholic and “was literally destroyed” after the family was pushed off Section 14. “Every survivor out there has a story…” Devers said. “We will hear your story; your story will be told.”
Palm Springs City Councilmember Grace Garner, whose district includes the Desert Highland Gateway Estates neighborhood where many families with ties to Section 14 now live, also spoke. She said it was a great honor to serve as part of the council that gave a formal apology given for the forced Section 14 evictions last year.
“As a ceremonial mayor of the city of Palm Springs in 2021, I truly apologize for those actions. They were wrong then, they are wrong now, they created devastation in our community and different outcomes for the Black community and Latino community that still exist today “I told you then and I will tell you all now we don’t need or deserve a thanks,” Garner said. “This conversation is just beginning; there is so much more for us to do for the descendants and survivors of Section 14.”
She added that she looked forward to being a part of city efforts “to do everything we can to make amends.”
The event concluded with the crowd linking arms while a minister read a prayer. Attorney Martin said the event had originally been conceived as a protest but was later changed to a unity rally and vigil.
“I wanted to start the healing process, and in the Black and brown community faith is so important and prayer is so important so what better way to start that process,” she said.
The groups announcer An-g Smith, board member, vice-president of the Section 14 Foundation, and descendant, skillfully guided the event. It was very nice and peaceful, and it set the tone to enable the group and the legal team to move forward to continue to prepare for talks and or the necessary steps, required to get the proper justice that these families deserve. The city is not expected to place Section 14 on the calendar for their city council meeting until sometime after the start of the new year of 2023.