OBI scholar Jovan Scott Lewis appointed to CA taskforce on reparations

Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 7, 2021

BERKELEY/SACRAMENTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that Jovan Scott Lewis, an associate professor of Geography and Othering & Belonging Institute-affiliated faculty member, has been appointed to the state's first taskforce created to study reparations for slavery.

Lewis, who co-leads OBI's Economic Disparities research cluster, is one of nine people who will comprise the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, which was formed after the passage of AB 3121 last year. Five of the nine members were appointed by the governor, two more will be appointed by the state senate, and another two by the state assembly.

"California is leading the nation, in a bipartisan way, on the issue of reparations and racial justice, which is a discussion that is long overdue and deserves our utmost attention. ... Today’s appointment of individuals with an expansive breadth of knowledge, experiences and understanding of issues impacting the African American community, is the next step in our commitment as a state to build a California for all," Newsom said in a statement.

The statement said the five individuals selected by the governor to serve on this task force represent diverse backgrounds and meet the statutes required by law, which include choosing one candidate from the field of academia with expertise in civil rights, and an additional two appointees selected from major civil society and reparations organizations that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice.

Other key factors considered for committee candidates included a background in economics and community development, health and psychology, law and criminal justice, faith-based and community activism, and an expertise in the historic achievement of reparatory justice.

Lewis, 38, is an economic anthropologist and geographer who researches reparations, the political economy of inequality, and race in the United States and the Caribbean. His current work focuses on the history and contemporary circumstances of the historic Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the consequences of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

He is the author of the recently-published book Scammer’s Yard: The Crime of Black Repair in Jamaica.

He earned a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science degrees in Economic Anthropology from the London School of Economics and a Master of Arts degree in Administration from the University of Miami.

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