On Thursday, Sept. 29 we hosted a conversation on the promise and practice of reparations being undertaken for Black Americans. Speakers included Trevor Smith, the Director of Narrative Change at Liberation Ventures; Donald K. Tamaki, an appointed member of the California Reparations Task Force; Jean-Pierre Brutus, a senior counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; Kellie Farrish, a professional genealogist and active advisory participant on California’s AB3121 to The Reparation Task Force; and David Mayer, the Co-Chair and Founder of Reparation Generation. It was moderated by Ama Nyamekye Anane, the founder of Good Influence Consulting.
This event was part of OBI's RiseUp4Justice livestream series.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Wow. Welcome, welcome. My name is Ama and I am an educator, and an advocate, and a poet, and a parent of kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District. And I've also had the blessing to work with the California Reparations Taskforce and several community based organizations to hold listening sessions across the state of California to hear diverse black voices on the topic of reparations. And that's really how I got to know and work with the big hearts and the big team at OBI, Othering & Belonging Institute. Thank you for hosting us. They held some really important dialogues in the Bay Area to really help inform the work, the priorities of the California Reparations Task Force along with several other community based organizations, some of whom I know are joining us today for this conversation.
OBI envisions a world where everyone belongs and not just in name, not just lip service, everyone belongs and we see that within our communities, within our systems, within our structures that really shape how we live and work and love. And that's locally, that's nationally, but that's also globally. We are in a very defining moment in the reparations movement, a long time coming moment that is a movement. And OBI leaders, Stephen Menendian as well as john a. powell, have given testimonies in support of reparations in the State of California. Jovan Scott Lewis, who is an OBI scholar and California Reparations Task Force member, studies this topic, has written about it, spoken about it, and helped shape a lot of this work as well. And we've been listening to diverse black voices on the topic of reparations and so we know that there are diverse and there are differing views on the design of potential reparations policies.
Some sharp disagreements that have emerged include specific harms to be remedied, who should qualify, the form of reparations, and the entity providing reparations. But I also want to name that there has been tremendous unity in what we've been hearing. There has been unity in the types of systems and structures that have been the greatest perpetrators of anti-black racism, of exclusion, of oppression of black people in our state and certainly in our nation. And so today you're going to get to hear about that unity. You're going to get to hear themes and you're going to get to hear some nuances and some differing perspectives on the who and the how of reparations.
But before I introduce our panelists, I want to share a few conversation norms that I'm asking our panelists and our broader audience when we have a little chat conversation later to hold in your hearts. The first is we want you to take focus and share the mic. Our panelists are incredibly impressive, they have a lot to say on this topic, and they have the mighty challenge of being concise so that we get to hear from every single person because equality of voice is very, very important. The second norm is we ask that you, especially when we get to the audience chat portion, honor diverse black voices, identities, and perspectives. If you hear something that rubs you the wrong way, you can hold your truth, speak your truth, and still respect the perspectives of other black folks, other folks who are engaging in this conversation. So we ask that you do that. And then last, but perhaps most important, this is not just an event, this is not a one off conversation, this is a movement that is long time coming. And so we need to spread the word. We are going to need to bring in our aunties, our uncles, our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues into this conversation and there'll be some resources that our team at OBI is going to give us so that we can get more black voices weighing in on this conversation.
So now I'm going to introduce our panelists. The first panelist is Trevor Smith. Trevor is the director of Narrative Change at Liberation Ventures. Trevor is also a writer and a researcher and a strategist focused on racial inequality, wealth inequality, reparations, and narrative change. So welcome, Trevor. Also want to welcome Don Tamaki, who is an appointed California Reparations Task Force member and also a partner at Minami Tamaki LLP. He's the co-founder of stoprepeatinghistory.org, which is a campaign focused on drawing parallels between the roundup of Japanese Americans during World War II and the targeting of minority groups based on race and religion. Also want to welcome. So welcome. Don. Want to welcome Jean-Pierre Brutus, who is a senior council in the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice as well as a leader within the Say the Word Campaign, Say the Word, working to establish a reparations task force in New Jersey. Welcome, Jean-Pierre. Also want to welcome Kellie Farrish. Kellie is a professional genealogist and leader at Reparation Generation and an active advisory participant on California's AB 3121 and the Reparations Task Force concerning particularly reparations eligibility based on race or lineage. Wonderful to have you. Thank you, Kellie. And last, but certainly not least, David Mayer, who is the co-chair founder and leader at Reparation Generation and the founder and president of Mayer Laboratories, which is a medical device company.
So those are our panelists. They are going to do a much better job than I just did to tell you more about what is animating their work, their passion, the perspective they are bringing to the reparations movement. So I actually want to go in this order and I'm asking all of our panelists to first introduce yourself, tell us a little bit more about the important aspects of your background that drive your passion and your work on reparations, and then I want you to tell us what are the most important actions that you want legislative bodies, policy makers, and the general public to understand in terms of the why and the how of reparations. So what's important that you want us to understand? Let's start first with Don.
Donald K. Tamaki:
Thank you so much, Ama. And it's really a pleasure to be on this panel and I want to thank the Othering & Belonging Institute for all of its good work. I did attend some of the listening sessions at OBI Operated and did a wonderful job. So why am I here and why am I on the task force? I was deeply involved in the movement resulting in reparations for Japanese Americans in the 1980s. And while there is no equivalence between the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps and 250 years of enslavement, 90 years of Jim Crow, and decades more of de jury and de facto exclusion suffered by African Americans, there are some lessons that might be helpful. Moreover, there is a reason why AAPIs and other non-African Americans need to support this movement. The racial hatred that resulted in the incarceration of Japanese Americans, for example, is merely, I think, an offshoot of the racial hatred and bias that has impacted the African American community for 400 years.
Let me illustrate that point by juxtaposing two historical examples that on its face seem to be unrelated. In 1943, 63 year old James Wakasa was confined at Topaz concentration camp in Utah along with Fred Korematsu who is a litigant in the Supreme Court that 37 years later after the court ruled against him, I represented to reopen his case. My mother and father were at Topaz and about 10,000 other Americans. One evening Wakasa took a stroll along the camps barbed wire perimeter, from 300 yards away, a sentry atop a guard tower took aim and fired the bullet striking Wakasa in the chest and killing him. No inquest was held and the guard was exonerated after claiming Wakasa was trying to escape.
Two years later in 1945, O'Day Short, his wife Helen, seven year old Carol Ann, and nine year old Barry moved into the house they built in Fontana, California. Sheriff Warren Short, they should go back to their black neighborhood. His real estate agent advised, "Vigilantes had a meeting here last night, and if I were you, I'd get my family out of here." Two weeks later, an explosion engulfed the house. Neighbors saw Helen try to beat down the flames consuming her children. All family members died. The San Bernardino County District Attorney said it was an accident. The California Attorney General concluded no evidence of vigilante activity could be found in Fontana. Other than the fact that these events occurred within two years of each other, what ties them together?
I would argue that the hate resulting in the deaths of James Wakasa and the O'Day Short family has its origins in the racism that propped up the institution of slavery and its aftermath. Slavery has existed for thousands of years, but it was only in the past 400 to 500 years that white Europeans developed a type of enslavement based on skin color to justify permanent multi-generational subjugation upheld by a culture of white superiority. Once the culture of 1619 used race to dehumanize people to the level of pigs and goats, in the words of Martin Luther King, "Thingifying them," then the most heinous crimes against humanity could follow without a second thought. Following the end of slavery, this cultural norm valuing white lives above all others morphed into forms of hate that put a target on the backs of not just African Americans, but other people of color, including James Wakasa. Simply put, if you can thingify black people, then demonizing other disfavored groups is easy. Slavery begat the cultural foundation of America's racial hierarchy of white people on top, Black people on the bottom, and everybody else in between. So while the charge for the California Reparations Task Force is to examine, study, and make recommendations pertaining to the African American community specifically, the movement involves issues that affect every American and so that's, I think, one of my driving motivations to be involved in this effort. Thank you.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Don. It's very clear what is bringing you to this work. Jean-Pierre, tell us a little bit more about you and what drives your passion around this work and what you think is something important that legislative policy makers and the general public need to understand about the why and the how of reparations.
So thank you so much, Ama. And first I want to say thank you to the other Othering & Belonging Institute for having me and thank you to the other panelist. It's wonderful to be here and it's an honor. So first I just want to talk about the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. For those of you that don't know... And I should say good evening to those of you on the East Coast and also good afternoon to those of you on the West Coast. The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the Institute is a cutting edge racial and social justice advocacy organization that seeks to empower people of color by building reparative systems that create wealth, transform justice, and harness democratic power from the ground up in New Jersey. You can go to njisj.org to find out more about the institute.
Now, in regards to why I myself am involved in this work. So first, about my upbringing and, two, about my training, my formal training and my work. So first, I grew up in a Haitian household. I'm a child of Haitian immigrants and as such, I learned about the Haitian Revolution. And as the scholar Michel-Rolph Trouillot talks about in Silencing the Past, at the moment in which the Haitian Revolution occurred, it was considered impossible by enslavers. The importance and the reason why I bring up the Haitian Revolution is that it helped to inspire revolts, slavery revolts throughout the Americas. They had occurred prior to the Haitian Revolution, but they also created a new energy of what was possible and it was also the beginning of the end of Atlantic slavery. But with the end of the Haitian Revolution, the enslaved people who had fought for their freedom were forced to repay the masters. Reparations really went to the wrong people and it fundamentally cratered the Haitian economy and destabilized the country.
That's one. Two, I've been formally trained in African American studies and in law. I've had the good fortune of being trained by scholars who have taught me to think critically and deeply about race, about racism, about empire, about colonialism, about slavery here in the United States and throughout the Americas and throughout the Black diaspora. And so it's provided me with a different point of view, a different set of insights. It's helped me to think deeply and thoughtfully about these issues.
Now, in terms of the why and how, what I would legislators to think about reparations. I'll keep it in particular to New Jersey. I will point out that many of you may not know that New Jersey was called the slave state of the North. That New Jersey was considered slave society. It was in parcel of New Jersey. Another way of putting that is slavery was a mainstream in New Jersey. And now our work at the institute as part of the SayTheWord Coalition, is to make reparations mainstream in New Jersey. And the how would be a reparations task force. So California is leading the way with a reparations task force. But New Jersey was actually the first state to introduce a taskforce legislation in November of 2019. And so we are trying to follow in California's footsteps. And the questions of eligibility, questions of what it would look like, those would be answered by a task force. And so we are organizing, in New Jersey, for a task force, 19 of the 20 members of Legislative Black Caucus are co-sponsoring it. We have a prime sponsor, the Senate majority leader, the second person in command in the Senate in New Jersey supports, is a co-sponsor of the bill. And so we would like the legislature, particularly the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker, to co-sponsor and support this bill and move this bill forward.
It's been three years in New Jersey and it's been much more time than California, it's now time to pass this bill. We're just asking for a conversation and for these legislators to say the word reparations and study the institution of slavery in New Jersey and also repair the harms of the aftermath of slavery in New Jersey. And so when we talk about the why and the how, we've got a legislative task force, we want to discuss all the impacts that slavery has had. Many of you may not know this when you think of New Jersey as being perhaps a progressive state or prosperous state. There are essentially two New Jerseys. 300,000, that's the racial wealth cap in New Jersey, one of the largest in the country, almost double the national average. In New Jersey, the median white family has a median wealth of 320,500. And for black families, that's $17,100. It's a massive racial wealth gap. And also the maternity, the infant mortality rate in New Jersey is one of the highest, it has a three to one ratio between white mothers and black mothers. And so New Jersey has a lot of disparities that are overlooked because it's northern state and because people don't realize that slavery was endemic to New Jersey. So thank you very much.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Jean-Pierre. That's sobering and I can't overstate enough how hard it has been for lots of folks, particularly non-Black folks, even to just say the word reparations. So thank you for making that a campaign. So let's actually hear from David, want to hear a little bit more. Actually, first let's hear from Trevor and then we're going to hear from David and then we're going to hear from Kellie. So Trevor, tell us about yourself, what drives your personal, professional, political passion around this work, and what you think is important for decision makers and the public to understand in terms of the why and the how of reparations.
Yes. Thank you so much, Ama. Also thank you to the Othering & Belonging Institute for holding this space today. It is such an important space and it is a real pleasure and honor to be here today. My name is Trevor Smith, I'm the Director of Narrative Change at Liberation Ventures. We are a field catalyst and a movement support organization dedicated to supporting the reparations movement. So as I said, it is an honor to do this work and build on the legacy of so many people from Belinda Sutton, who sued her former enslaver for restitution and won, to Queen Mother Moore who traveled the country to receive over a million signatures from Black folk in support of reparations. This is a long movement. A movement that is older than the United States itself.
I am also here because of the lives that we have lost that are in my heart every day. Trayvon Martin, who was the same age as me when he was brutally murdered, who I was the same age as him when he was brutally murdered. Alton Sterling, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Emmett Till, the list goes on and on. So all of those folks whose lives were lost, in my eyes, were lost because of our understanding and our perception of blackness, our narrative about blackness and how, as the way Don put it, has always sought to dehumanize black people and solidify the racial hierarchy that has always existed in the United States. So I am here in service of everyone who I named and the brilliant folks all over the country, including my good friend Jean-Pierre, who are leading the charge on the city, state, and federal level in order to make federal reparations a reality. I'm just truly in awe of the movement and the time we are in, and I'm just so glad to be a witness and hopefully a dutiful servant.
So my background is in communications, media strategy, and over the past few years I've been focused on the topic of narrative change. So I was very gratefully tapped by Dr. Darity a couple of years ago to write a chapter that explored how anti-Black stereotypes have played a role in blocking wealth creation in the labor market and the housing market for Black people. I looked at the ways in which media conglomerates have profited off of anti-Black stereotypes, from the minstrel show era to today, and then now have profited off of Black culture once they can no longer directly profit off of anti-blackness. So what I would want legislatures, policy makers to know is that reparations is a process. A process, in my eyes, that should include financial and non-financial components, much like we've seen in other countries. Reparations, in my eyes, must transform and shift how we perceive Black people in society. The work of reparations is also the work of reshaping national memory. Reparations is an economic project. Let's be really clear about that. We should close the black white wealth gap. But I also want to be really clear to policy makers, to legislators, to anyone listening that Reparations is also a political and cultural project. And that's why I'm so focused on the topic of narrative change and really excited to be here. Thanks.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you. Thank you. Really appreciate that piece about reshaping national memory. It's so that we don't have to have folks hesitating to even say the word reparations. David, tell us about your background and answer the same question.
Thank you, Ama, and I'm honored to be here and owed by the panelists with whom I've joined. And I want to thank the OBI for letting Reparation Generation spend some time today sharing a little bit about our project and reparations in real time. To understand my passion for this, I need to share a little bit about my story. I was born and raised in San Rafael, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in a white community that was segregated by design. I grew up in the 1960s and '70s within a small, strong Jewish community with a privileged middle class life. I genuinely am proud of my family's stories and successes. And for much of my life I felt my story and that of my families embodied the Horatio Alger myth, that anyone, through hard work, intelligence and virtuous life can achieve the American dream.
I came to Berkeley in 1978 and I stayed. But over the years of living in the city and working on many different projects, both civic and local, within the diverse egalitarian mythology of Berkeley, I realized it was not true. Oscar Grant and Eric Gardner, Michelle Alexander, Isabella Wilkerson and Ta-Nehisi Coates started me on a new course of learning. I began unpacking the more complete story of America, reexamining some of my family's mythology, painfully deconstructing some of my subconscious beliefs regarding Jewish exceptionalism and deconstructing my own progressive liberalism. Ultimately recognizing that the system of white affirmative action that had privileged me, my family, and the generations that look like me. As I saw more police murders, listened to more ridiculous history deniers, and watched events like Charlottesville, feelings were building.
And then Amaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. So many emotions, so much confusion. I continued to read and write and circled and reflected on justice, repair, redemption, renewal, trying to find a path forward. However, what really got me to act was my adult daughter. She was sitting at our Sunday supper table having just been to a BLM demonstration in Oakland. An interested father, I was sitting asking all kinds of questions as I often do, but she just looked at me. She didn't say a thing. She didn't have to. Her look communicated everything. "So dad, for all your progressive talk, for all your disgruntled upset, for all your hand waving, what the hell are you going to do?" She basically called me out. And rightly so. If you've ever had children, you know what that feels like. I basically fell from grace.
So what do I want my fellow Americans and legislators to understand? I'm going to speak because I have much better policy people here than me. I'm just going to speak to my fellow white Americans. And I would like to share something that was shared with me regarding the fundamental truth about American chattel slavery in this afterlife vestiges best expressed by Amos Wilson, a theoretical psychologist and pan-African thinker, when he said, "Justice requires not only the ceasing and desisting of injustice, but also requires either punishment or reparations for injuries and damages inflicted by prior wrongdoing. If restitution's not made and reparation's not instituted to compensate for prior injustices, those injustices are in effect rewarded. And the benefits of such rewards will continue to draw interest." I'll say that again. "They continue to draw interest to be reinvested and to be passed on to their children."
Consequently, injustice and inequality will be maintained across the generations, as will their deleterious social economical and political outcomes. Over the next 20 to 30 years, as me and my generation pass, we will be leaving 70 trillion, with a T, dollars. America and all Americans will benefit from the redistribution of this wealth with a major portion being redirected into the intergeneration of black Americans who have been denied the opportunity to grow their wealth.
So what drives my passion and my work comes back to my children and future generations. America right now is a place of brokenness, of anger and hatred and xenophobia and terrible injustice. I see it. You all see it. And we know that this is totally rooted in the discussion of today. I'm passionate about this work because my legacy and the legacy to my children is not about money. It has to be about America, an America where we feel we know each other more and fear each other less. An America where there's less anger and violence and much more celebration. And an America where we reach out to lift each other up so we can flourish and thrive, not out of guilt, not out of charity, but out of a shared vision of creating that more perfect union that has been promised. Again, thank you for having me.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, David. Really appreciate hearing the role that your daughter and our children play. My daughter, who's a fifth grader in Los Angeles Unified School District, we've been talking a lot about critical race theory because they have to do a better job at her school. And she said, "What's the difference between critical race theory and the truth?" And I was like, "Nothing. Nothing." So from the mouths of babes, they will they keep us honest, the children. Let them lead. So with that, I want to turn to Kellie who has done incredible work. She is a genealogist. How do you think about this work? What animates your passion around this work, and what do you want to make sure decision makers understand about the who, the how of reparations?
Yes. Well, I will answer those questions. Thank you so much for having me. I am so grateful to be a part of this discussion today. And I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Othering and Belonging Institute for inviting me and for creating this space for us to discuss the collaborative efforts surrounding reparative justice movements in the United States. The most important aspect of my background, driving my passion and work for reparations stem from the deep connection I have with my own lineage as a descendant of American chattel slavery in the deep south and my work as a professional genealogist specializing in African American ancestry. Both branches of my maternal line, grandmother and grandfather settled Green County, Alabama between 1819 and 1840, building the towns of Utah, Pleasant Ridge, Clinton, Union, Mantua, Boligee, and Knoxville. Alabama officially became a state in 1821.
The earliest of these ancestors, Alexander was originally born in Virginia, 1795. At the tender age of 11, he was forcibly transferred with a band of slaves to Spartanburg, South Carolina where he was purchased by Old Samuel Mauro of the 96th district. He lived in Spartanburg between the ages of 11 and 24 and had a wife and two small children there. When Samuel's son, William, decided to take advantage of land grants offered in the Alabama territory, he took enslaved men from his father's inventory, men whose skillsets ranged from bricklaying to blacksmithing. Alexander was one of those men. After arriving in Green County, he had more than 26 children and was married more than five times. He was 70 years old when he was freed from slavery in 1865, and 72 when he was included on the voter registration list. In 1880, he can be found living in the same slave quarters he built in a town his labors grew.
And I know for a fact that none of the street names that bear the name Mauro or the buildings or landmarks are referring to him. Through the generations of Alexander came his son William, called Buck born 1855. The two of them transforming in distinction entitled from enslaved to freedmen, Buck's daughter, Teely-Ann, born 1873, her son, Percy Thompson Mauro, born 1894, his daughter Mitty-Ann Mauro, my grandmother born 1919, her daughter Marie Hicks, born 1948 and me, Kellie, born in 1977. While the Emancipation Proclamation physically freed Alexander and his son, it would be another 100 years that the Civil Rights Acts were passed, making me, the first generation of Alexander's descendants, born with the same rights and privileges as white Americans. By that estimation, freedom as it was imagined and described to Alexander, was just offered 57 years ago, making this conversation centered around reparative justice for the descendants of American chattel slavery, very timely.
Professionally, I spent 17 years as a financial advisor working for Fortune 500 banking institutions throughout Northern California. And I'm also currently now working as a professional genealogist having demonstrated my civil rights at my prior employment. As an advisor, I witnessed firsthand the disparate treatment of African-American clients and employees. And in 2017, I, along with five other colleagues, spread throughout the country, led a class action lawsuit on behalf of black financial advisors at JP Morgan Securities for its disparate treatment of the class. From that lawsuit, other abuses were discovered.
In 2019, a New York Times article entitled, This is What Racism Looks Like in Banking, highlighted the experiences of both African American clients and employees at the bank, which prompted the United States Senate, led by Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Robert Menendez, Catherine Cortez, and Chris Van Hollen to specifically write CEO Jamie Dimon to ask what he was doing about the racism and disparate treatment discovered in his banking system.
After uncovering those injustices, I left the banking industry and went back to my original love of genealogy. I have helped over 75 African American families retrace their roots to the deepest parts of the southern United States. And in doing so, I have realized that that is still the greatest sin that this country has yet to solve. The fact that our ancestors were never given the freedom that the Civil War portended them to have. And as a result of my experiences in activism and helping African Americans trace their genealogies, I was asked to come to the AB 3121 discussion about genealogy when it comes to repairing that group.
And I gave testimony that explained that it is absolutely possible for African-American that descend from American chattel slavery to trace their ancestry back, to show that they are indeed a part of this system. And from that work, I am now working with Reparation Generation, who has a similar system where they are trying to help the descendants of American chattel slavery realize wealth through transfer grants and reparative transfers. We are also helping them uncover their genealogies and histories. I would like legislators to understand that we are not talking about ancient history and that we need to start in a very serious way rectifying the harms that slavery has caused in the United States. And from that rising tide, all votes will be lifted. Thank you so much for your time.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Kellie. Kellie's work has been very informative and helpful to the California Task Force. So I want to turn to you, Don. Give us an update. What has happened, what has been the process and the next steps? What are you proud of? What have we learned? And what, if anything, might be new and totally uncharted territory that we are trailblazing?
Donald K. Tamaki:
Well, it's all uncharted territory. I mean, we're doing this for the first time in many ways. Kellie gave terrific testimony for the task force. And Ama, thank you for your work and the listening sessions. So, the background of the legislative bill are as follows. On the 25th of May, 2020, George Floyd's murder captured in an horrific nine minutes and 29 seconds of video triggered the largest protests in American history. So, by September of the same year, 2020, the legislature passed Secretary Shirley Weber's bill, creating the California Reparations Task Force to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. Five members were appointed by Governor Newsom and four were appointed by the legislature.
The law requires a task force to one, document by June of 2022, the harm of enslavement and the racial hatred and bias that the institution brought. And two, by June of 2023, make recommendations to the legislature as to what the repairs should be. The California Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has staffed this effort tremendously, I have to say, assigning dozens of staffers to support the task force, including, I'm told, some 30 attorneys and assorted PhDs and experts as well as others to assist the process.
With respect to the first task on June 1, 2022, the Task Force published a sweeping almost 500 page report, drawing a through line from the harm of 250 years of enslavement, their racial terror and Jim Crow exclusion to follow, and decades more of continuing discrimination, resulting in today's outcomes, which are at once shocking, but not surprising. And Trevor and Jean-Pierre and David touched a little bit upon that.
America's as segregated today as it was in the 1940s. The wholesale exclusion of African Americans from equal education, employment, the benefits of the New Deal, federally insured loans, access to the suburban residential housing and other opportunities that created America's middle class has resulted in white households having nine times the assets of black households as Jean-Pierre talked about. And huge disparities that persist in housing, houselessness, the administration of criminal justice, public health, and in almost every aspect of American life that matters.
California is the first state to shine a light on the cumulative and compounding consequences of this multi-generational harm. The task force is now facing, I would say, its most daunting challenge, and that is to say, recommending what should be done. That effort of defining reparations began on September 23rd and 24th, just a few days ago in Los Angeles in which a hearing was held, focusing on this direction that the Task Force now has to undertake. The next hearing will be held in Oakland in mid-December, and then throughout the beginning of 2023, culminating in a report on the recommendations for repair, which the task force must submit by June of 2023. So that's just a quick update on what we're doing.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Don. There are some great perspectives and shout outs that I'm seeing in the chat. For our next question, we're going to adjust time just a little bit because there's so much to share. The question is really for Trevor, Jean-Pierre, Kellie and David. Tell us about your organization's current reparations work, what you're learning, and that particularly what you're learning that can help support the reparations movement, right, nationally, and... Sorry. And what, excuse me. So the question is, how do you see solidarity in bridging in your work? Oh no, I'm sorry. Let me go back. The question is, tell us what your organization is learning that can help support the movement and then what, if anything, might be uncharted territory or not? So that's the question and we'll first hear from Trevor.
Thank you. Thank you. So Liberation Ventures, as I mentioned, is a field builder supporting the movement for reparations. We have a comprehensive view of reparations that falls into four buckets, a four part framework. And it pulls some various frameworks throughout the movement, the United Nations and other folks who have put out their thoughts and their ideas on what reparations could look like. Ours is again, four parts, redress, reckoning, accountability, and acknowledgement. And we say that the country has to go through this framework, this cycle continuously to build a culture of repair. So that's kind of... Our North Star is federal comprehensive reparations. And we believe that federal comprehensive reparations looks like redress, it looks like reckoning, it looks like accountability, and it looks like acknowledgement over and over and over again to create a culture of repair. That's kind of our vision. What the work looks like also falls into four buckets, funding, supporting, connecting, and framing.
So in terms of funding, we tried to shift dollars to the movement. So we raised dollars and we grant and we regrant them out. So we got our first round of funding out last year to 13 amazing organizations who are working across the country to build power around reparations organizations such as N'COBRA, the longest legacy advocacy organization on the topic of reparations in the country, organizations like NAARC that are full of great experts being convened by Dr. Ron Daniels and have put out their own 10 point framework. Organizations like Where is My Land that is doing great work across the country to help black folks who had their land stolen, recover it. Organizations like First Repair, founded by Robin Rue Simmons, the former alderwoman in Evanston who proposed the bill in Evanston that eventually got past the finish line.
She founded an organization called First Repair that tries to help cities and localities think about how they might go about doing the local reparations effort. An organization that's dear to my heart, The Amendment Project here based in New York City that is organizing young people across the country on college campuses and off of college campuses around the topic of reparations. So, we funded some great organizations and hope to do more grant making in the future. So that's the funding.
Supporting, we try to help folks beyond the dollars with strategy support, development support, communication support. People have been doing this work for centuries, for decades, and it's usually been uncompensated. Folks have had to make do with what they had and then advocate and organize around reparations on the side. So, we do try to help folks in non-financial ways as well. Trying to provide technical assistance that usually falls in the bucket of strategy support, development support, communication support.
Connecting, we try to connect organizations throughout the movement. We are seeing a resurgence of the reparations movement and I get to meet great organizations every single day. So we try as much as we can to hold spaces like these. We hold learning communities so folks can make connections, learn from each other and see where strategies overlap. And then framing, which is where my work falls under, we really try to frame the conversation about reparations. And as I talked about earlier, not only just reparations, but about blackness because blackness has for so long been seen as undeserving in this country.
And so, our goal on the narrative chain side is to build narrative power throughout the reparations ecosystem. And we define narrative power as the ability to tell stories that shift mental models, cultural mindsets, and ultimately culture. So really we are really thinking about what are the narratives that we're up against as a movement and holding the space in our first initiative called the Reparations Narrative Lab, to really dream and imagine and think and name the narratives that we want to see out in the world.
And then once we name those narratives we want to see out in the world, how can we organize around them to tell stories? And so that folks throughout the movement, folks who want to come into the movement, can tell stories to their respective audiences and shift those mental models. And so a stat that I think really illuminates kind of the essence of our work. Recently, Pew Research put out some polling of black people of black America, and they found that 76% of black people support reparations. But only 63% believe that it will happen in their lifetime. So there's a huge hope gap. There's a lack of hope that reparations will happen in this country for the very people who it will happen for. But we have to inspire that hope. We have to tell stories of how black people have thrusted this country forward time and time again.
We have to tell stories of solidarity. We have to tell stories of how reparations have happened for other groups, and that is how we know that it is possible for black people. And so I am, again, so inspired about the work that I'm seeing across the country with folks changing narratives, the work Jean-Pierre's doing, just at the very name of the coalition, Say the Word, the work in California by groups like NAST, who we also funded in our first round in [inaudible 00:51:53], who are getting the word out and organizing and bringing awareness to the issue of issue of reparations for folks who might not otherwise know about it. The work in Evanston, Illinois to get dollars out the door for housing, and now thinking about what comes next. The work happening in Tulsa, Oklahoma as they fight for reparations for the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. They're 103 years old, 104 years old, 105 years old. They deserve justice yesterday. And so all the while we are building power and shifting how the public thinks about reparations toward a federal comprehensive reparations program. I am thinking deeply about how can we harness this and tell stories about what is happening now, what is happening in the past, so folks can shift from thinking about why reparations, and start thinking about how reparations, and start envisioning, and actually passing policies as we are seeing across the country to actually bring this to fruition.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Trevor. The story piece is so important to bringing life to this work, especially for folks who need to be brought on, need to be brought along. And I hear the urgency in the chat. When are we going to move from conversation to actual action? So Jean Pierre, tell us about your work, tell us about what you're learning, maybe even a little bit about how we're moving to action.
Sure. Thank you. So as I stated before, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice where we are leading a multiracial, racially diverse, multi-faith coalition called Say The Word reparations. So why is it called Say the Word? Well, you've got important people in New Jersey who have asked why not call it a wealth disparity task force or even a Black Lives Matter task force? Everything but reparations. And we want to focus on reparations, because part of it is that simply people are just ignorant of the history of slavery in New Jersey. There's a lack of awareness of the role of slavery in New Jersey, how it played a part. And at the institute, part of the work that we do is we issue reports about current inequality in New Jersey. And what we do is we link the current inequality in New Jersey, so things like our report, Closing the $300,000 Racial Wealth Gap in New Jersey, Making the Two New Jerseys One, or a Black Homeownership Matters, you linked that to the history of slavery in New Jersey.
If you want to find out more about the Say The Word campaign, please go to njisj.org/saytheword, and you'll find out more information about current inequality in New Jersey, and how that emerged from slavery in New Jersey, and it's aftermath with the reorganization of white supremacy after the ending of slavery, and after the end of reconstruction. There was Jim Crow in New Jersey. There were racially-restrictive covenants. There was redlining, one of the significant aspects of the GI Bill. We understand the GI Bill to have subsidized the white middle class. At the same time, it was barred from Black people throughout the United States, particularly in northern New Jersey and in New York. So when Black soldiers went abroad to fight for the double V, fight against fascism in Europe, and come back to the United States and fight against fascism here, Jim Crow, they were barred from getting or being part of the benefits the GI Bill.
So 67,000 soldiers who participated in World War II, fought in World War II, were eligible for the GI bill in northern New Jersey and New York, but yet less than 100 of those who benefited were Black people. And the GI Bill was significant in sustaining and creating a middle class. So that's just one significant aspect. But part of our work of the Say The Word Reparations is public education, but also advocacy. We are organizing for a reparations task force bill to have one conversation in Jersey about slavery and reparations, particularly at a time when we know there is a pernicious attempt to attack things like critical race theory or the study of slavery or race in the United States. And then two, to have a discussion about how we would repair those harms. And my wonderful panelists have talked about how, when the US has focused on and invested in by people, it has helped everyone.
I think that gets overlooked many a time, because reparations is seen as being a specific thing or as limited, but it's not. It's going to have a profound effect. Yes, it's focused on Black people. That's what reparation's about. Repairing those specific harms. But in doing so, as the great civil rights lawyer and professor, Lani Guinier, pointed out, Black people are the canary in coal mine. Once you help Black people, that's going to have a profound effect on the rest of the United States. So part of our work in the Say The Word campaign is to discuss that, articulate that. So what have we done? We've made phone calls to our legislators. We've texted them. We've set up meetings. Over 12,000 tweets and phone calls have been made by members of our coalition. We've also gotten 19 of the 20 members of the Legislative Black Caucus to co-sponsor the bill.
The primary sponsor of the bill is the head of Legislative Black Caucus. We've gotten the senate majority leader to co-sponsor the bill. And we know this is a long process, this doesn't happen overnight, and we're trying to get a majority of the members of both houses to support the bill. And we're following in, thankfully, California's footsteps. California has charted a path, and hopefully New Jersey can follow and be the second state in the country to do so. And so upcoming, we'll be holding a briefing for legislators and their staff to inform them of the contents of the bill, because you'd be surprised about how many legislators simply don't know what's in the bill. They don't know that the bill is designed to do. And I'll lay it out for you some of what's in the bill. It's designed to study slavery in New Jersey, that's the main thing, and come up with solutions to repair the harm.
So it'll examine the extent to which the State of New Jersey and the federal government prevented, opposed or restricted efforts of enslaved African people, and their descendants to economically thrive upon the ending of slavery. It'll examine the lingering negative effects of slavery on living Black people in New Jersey. It will make recommendations for what remedies should be awarded through what instrumentalities, and to whom those remedies should be awarded. It will hold six public meetings across the state, including in Newark, the largest city, and in Camden, and Atlantic City. And part of what we've done also as part of the Say The Word campaign is we've gotten 13 councils to pass resolutions in support of this taskforce bill, to show that there's support at the local level for this. So Newark and Jersey City, the two largest cities in New Jersey, have passed resolutions in support of this task force bill. Now, the bill number is a 8938 or S386 if you're interested in finding out more about the bill.
But one of the things that's, maybe not so surprising, is how ignorant people are of, one, the history of slavery in New Jersey, and then B, for legislators not to be aware of what's in the bill. Those two things. And so there's a lot of public education that needs to happen, a lot of public outreach, a lot of explaining of what's going on of ... some people are starting from far behind. But also, what I've learned is that when once people are aware and they learn, they're willing ... once they're willing to have that conversation, they're willing to change their minds. I've learned to give some people benefit of the doubt in the sense that once they are remedied of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge, they are willing to shift. And so we do have a broadening of our coalition, which is wonderful. We have members from ... diverse members, faith allies from many multiple faiths who are part of our coalition who drive the work that we do, and I think it's important that we continue to push this public education aspect.
The work that we're doing here to inform people about the kinds of inequalities are currently in New Jersey and that stem from the historical legacy of slavery in New Jersey. Maybe some of you don't know that New Jersey was the last state in the north to abolish slavery. It only adopted the 13th Amendment after it had been ratified. New Jersey created a racialized system of distributing land when it first was created as a colony in which white sellers were given 150 acres of land when they settled, and then an additional 150 acres of land for each enslaved person that they owned. New Jersey was the only slave state in the north to support the Federal Fugitive Slave Act. So those who were enslaved, who self emancipated and fled to the north, and engaged in this kind of form of Black freedom, this Black fugitivty, going to New Jersey was not an inviting place, because you could easily be sent back into enslavement, because of the New Jersey support for the Federal Fugitive Slave Act.
And so these things, legislators don't know, and so if you ask in an average New Jersian, did they learn about slavery as students in New Jersey? So that's part of the work that we're doing, that's part of the project that we're engaging, getting people to say the word of reparations, that it's not a scary word, and that reparations for Black people is going to have a profound effect on the rest of the United States, and shift this country in a very positive direction. So I think that's part of the work that we're doing, and it's a long battle to ... as Trevor pointed out, many people before us that have come. And California, as Don laid out, is leading the way, and hopefully New Jersey will follow in those footsteps.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Jean-Pierre. So let's hear from David, and then Kellie. Again, the question is what are you learning? What's your organization focused on? What are you learning? Is anything uncharted territory? And if so, what is?
Ama, thank you again. And I'm just again inspired by our panelists, and what they're working on. I'm going to walk you through a little bit about Reparation Generation's model and our current work, because we are actually making reparative justice payments in real time. And so where we are a model that is trying to gather information that may be useful, whether it's to Jean-Pierre or to Trevor or to other organizations that are trying to push forward on reparative justice, and allow them to use the information that we're gaining as we actually make reparative transfers of wealth. So if I could have ... I created a quick slide that will demonstrate, conceptually, how Reparation Generation works. So if someone could put that slide up, that'd be great. So the idea for Reparation Generation is very simple, which is we are gathering white transfers of wealth from white Americans, corporations, and foundations, and putting it into the bucket that we call Reparation Generation.
We have in the middle there a fiduciary and fiscal sponsor, which is an incubator of social change agents called Multiplier. Our Black board has made decisions on how the wealth transfers will be enacted, and that then gets filtered out through community investment into individual hands as wealth transfers to Black Americans. Thank you, we can take that down. But the image you see is a basic model of our citizen led, reparative transfer model. It shows our intention to raise money for reparative transfers from white Americans, corporations, and foundations, and pass these through to Black Americans who are descended from American channel slavery. Our Black founders lead the programming decisions while white founders hold responsibility for fundraising. The early decisions of our Black founders was to focus on the wealth transfers for building pursuits of wealth through home ownership, education and entrepreneurship or business. What's a reparative transfer?
This term was developed to describe financial contributions to Reparation Generation. Reparative transfers are not donations, they're not charity, and they're not gifts. While we understand the importance of philanthropy and advancing valuable programs and causes, making a reparative transfer is a conscious and intentional acknowledgement of our history, of our wrongs, and a moral payment. It's a way to reconcile the ways an individual, corporation or foundation may have benefited intentionally or unintentionally from slavery and the ongoing vestiges of our structural systems. Reparative transfers are to be made to all Black Americans, descendants of formerly enslaved people, regardless of their income status. Reparative transfer contributions and reparative transfer grant recipients are all valuable and co-learners, and co-truthtellers and co-creators in our model. Other core values for Reparation Generation include a lot of what Trevor mentioned, which are the principles that the UN came forth with in regards to reparations.
It includes truth, justice, racial healing, and of course, as many other organizations say, the commitment to non repeat. These are all parts of our model. All Americans will experience a positive individual and societal benefit from racial wealth equity. This is something that policy makers are advocating, and we all believe, and our model is trying to demonstrate, and trying to create data to support that.
Reparative transfers are not a substitute, I repeat, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive federal reparations program that must be implemented to ensure all Black American descendants of the formerly enslaved people of this country receive redress. We are a model. We are trying to demonstrate, and trying to gather data. Another core value is evaluate. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. And we're fortunate enough to have partnered with people from UC Berkeley in creating our modeling program, and our evaluation program, that have helped us come to understand the impact of our intentions and make positive changes as we go back forward.
As we learn, we are developing an understanding of what we call Critical Elements of Reparations In Action or what we call CERIA. If you're interested, we're happy to share what we find, and we will be publishing as we go. This is very quick, and I really encourage you to visit our website where we have more information on our reparative concepts and core principles. I have one more slide that I'd like to share with you, and then I'm going to let Kellie talk about what we're learning, and the impact this might be having. So this strictly discusses the process for which a Black American would apply and receive a reparative transfer of wealth. Our first pilot program has been modeled and implemented in Detroit. Reparation Generation's application process is made available only on our website. People learn about Reparation Generation's program through the website, through a local PR campaigns, media feeds, social media platforms, as well as communications from local banks, and members of the Detroit Realtors Association, which is affiliated member of the National Association Real Estate Brokers.
Now here, let me just mention that our first pilot project was specific to the transfer of wealth in the process of buying a home. So this was our first element. So the receipt of a transfer grant by a recipient was predicated on them buying a home. However, it was not necessarily for the purchase of a home, it was part of a wealth transfer. Thank you. You can take that slide ... this just walks through, actually, how they go through it. They submit an application to Reparation Generation within a very short period of time. They go get a response from their application. If they get the green light, they then begin preparing the documents needed to complete the home purchase.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
David, this is very important and I want to make sure that Kellie gets a chance to really dig in. So Kellie, if there's any additional context you want to share on this, but really the floor is yours. Please share. Thank you, David.
Perfect. That's great. Thank you. And I'll let Kellie share what we've learned.
Right. So basically, given what David was talking about, I am responsible for the site committee. So I'm responsible for the operations in Detroit, and I also help our applicants uncover their genealogies. And the first thing that we learned when I was invited to join Reparation Generation, it was because they needed help with applicants not being able to trace their lineage. It was a difficult process for them. We have a lot of Millennials, and Gen Z people that are ... and our program is based in Detroit, and they don't know their family outside of Detroit. So when I came in, I started helping them go through that genealogy journey, and every person that I've helped, we were able to uncover an enslaved ancestor, and continue their application that way.
Another thing that we're learning is that there's a big conversation about what reparations will eventually look like. Will it be just cash payments or will it have programmatic components? And from my experience in looking at our applicants and the applications that go through, and you'll see Bank of America also doing something similar, there has to be something done in a programmatic way that addresses the fact that most of the wealth building tools in the United States have to do with you being able to apply for and receive a loan of some type. And that means that you have to have consistent income, you have to have great credit scores. There are all of these things that are in the way of African Americans actually being able to take the money that we give them, and go and build wealth with it. So what we are noticing is that just in our program, cash payments by themselves, they should be coupled with programmatic relief.
And the third is that we started this process not knowing if white Americans were willing to also, and in addition to talking about the issues that we're having in race relations, if they would fund reparative transfers, because the State of California is eventually going to ask the state whether or not this is something that they will contribute towards or that they want their tax dollars to go towards. And what we found is through the house parties that we have given in Berkeley, so it's a gathering of people that discuss race relations, and their part and their privilege, 167 patrons so far has given over $500,000 to our efforts. So we believe that white Americans are ready to enter into this exercise. We believe that the genealogy component is very doable, and we also see that reparations should be coupled with programmatic relief as well as cash payments. Thank you.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Kellie. So I have one more question before we actually turn to our audience, because there is some very thoughtful, powerful, perspectives shared in the chat. And the question for our panelists is, how do you see solidarity or bridging in your work, and what impact can reparations have across other communities, particularly our communities of color? And I want to quote one of the comments I see in the chat, which is about what will it look like when Black people can say we are made whole and reparations has been successful? So I think that's a powerful rewording of that question. So solidarity bridging. What impact can reparations have across our communities, particularly, our communities of color? What will it look like for Black folks to be made whole by reparations? Kellie, let's give you the first word.
That's it. Grab that mute button. Yes. So from my experience, being made whole is three pronged. First and foremost, slavery has to be acknowledged as something that was wrong that the country is apologizing for, and that there has to be a commitment not to let something like that happen to anyone else regardless of race, creed, color. And what we're doing is trying to solve this one section of harm that has never been solved before in hopes that, when other groups are fighting for their rights, that they will use this as the springboard. They will use this as an example, and I believe that that's what the civil rights movement gained for many of the groups that are now covered under the Civil Rights Act. And that act and the movement of that act was initiated by the descendants of American chattel slavery.
And so the question is, how does this work affect other people of color? Because we're doing this work, and because we are in the civil rights movement, we are helping others plan their course of action. We are being an example to others, and just like the civil rights movement, everyone benefits in the end, even though we are specifically talking about descendants of American chattel slavery, the programs that are created from that are going to help everyone similarly situated. And I think it's important that we understand that, and that we collaborate around that effort. Thank you.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you. Don.
Donald K. Tamaki:
I agree with everything Kellie has said. I would also add that the harm was centuries in the making, and so the remedies should be not centuries, but they should be prolonged. And that should cover not one year, two years, but prospectively going into the future. California did not enter the Union as a slave state, but it was plenty complicit with the institution of slavery. And Jean-Pierre, you mentioned that New Jersey the only northern state that agreed with fugitive slave laws. But California had, between 1850 and 1854, two versions of its own fugitive slave laws that permitted the arrest of African Americans within the free State of California to deport them back to the South or enslave them anew.
So nobody's clean in this story. The harm is enormous. So ultimately California, the task force has to figure out what its responsibility is, and what its role, but ultimately this has got to be a national remedy as well. And I'm hoping that a movement evolves, that it spreads with New Jersey's help, and with the other efforts in each of the other locales that this begins to percolate, and begin to look like a national movement for, eventually, Congress to take this up. Just to close the wealth gap alone is something like in the nature of 14 trillion according to Professors Darity and Kirsten Mullen. So it's daunting.
One part of the remedy, certainly, has to be compensation. I agree with Kellie about the other one being programmatic. And all of this is going to be considered by the taskforce over the next year. I'll just close by finally saying I was the only member of the taskforce who's not African American. I really feel a heavy responsibility to reach out to other communities. Our story in terms of our reparations effort could not have been possible without allies. We're a very tiny part of the population. African Americans are bigger, that population, but only 6% of California, 14% of the country. So therefore, while the remedy has to be specific to the injured harm class that we're talking about, there's an element here that I think it's important to recognize that this is a justice issue, and that each time America has become more inclusive, it's actually become stronger. So I'll close with that, but principally organizing and solidarity and all the allies are crucial.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Don. Jean-Pierre, how do you think about this question of solidarity and bridging and what the.
And of solidarity and bridging and what the impact reparations can have on other communities, particularly communities of color. And what will it look like for black folks to be made whole by reparations?
That's a very, very big question. All right. I can answer it in a very quotidian kind of mundane, pedestrian way. And then there's the way in which I think about it, right? I think that the way in which we think about what the reparations will do, when the repairs of the harm, We need to understand the role of slavery and its aftermath in creating the U.S in the modern world, right? And I think sometimes we underestimate the role and the way slavery shaped and brought into being the United States, not just as economics materially, but its culture, its politics, the very way in which people think of themselves, the way in which they interact with each other, the way in which they conduct themselves, right? Slavery had an impact on all those things. And so when we're talking about repairing the harms of slavery, yes, we can talk about material things and those are incredibly important, right?
$14 trillion, right? We tell our programs, but fundamentally, the activist for reparations, Kim Howard had talked about the first reparative act of slavery was when those who were first enslaved as part of British colonialism fled, those 20 people, right? That was the first reparative act fleeing the plantation. But in fleeing the plantation, you're not just fleeing the plantation, you're fleeing the colonial order, fleeing a slave, you're going towards something else. That's uncharted territory. That requires imagination, that requires work and building something new, right? And so when we're repairing the harms of slavery, it's not to just go back to the way the U.S was before. No, we need to be more imaginative about what it is we're doing. We're creating something different. And so to say that I can tell you what it would be like for black people to be whole, right? Black people are going to be the engine of creating something new, right?
And I can't tell you what that new is going to be, but I can tell you it's going to be a world without racial rule, without being governed by race, without being conducting themselves and comparing themselves in certain kinds of ways. I can say that, and that will have a profound effect of people of color to also not be governed by race that also have a profound effect on white people. And so when we think about reparations, we need to have a more visionary, understanding what reparations can do because with slavery, had a profound impact on creating the way we are today, creating our very ways of being, creating the very kinds of inequalities, the very words and language that we use to conduct ourselves, the way we act, the way we talk.
And so when we think about reparations, yes, we can think about it in quotidian and material and those are important, profound ways of thinking about it for sure. What we also need to think about is what can we do with our imaginations? What can we do? We think about a different kind of being in the United States, I don't necessarily have those answers, but I can tell you when we prepare the arms, we in this current moment wouldn't be able to recognize that new world, right? Because we're so affected so deeply by slavery, we don't even understand fully how deeply we are affected by it.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you Jean-Pierre. I've been toggling between listening to our panelists and also checking in on really thoughtful things that are being shared in the comments. So I just want to encourage everybody to take a look. There are some advocacy opportunities and resources and great and important perspectives being shared. And now I actually want to turn to focus on our public comments. So we have a question for you all, all of our attendees. So warm up your fingers. If you haven't typed in the chat yet, we want you to. And the question is, what would you most want reparations to accomplish? What would you most want reparations to accomplish? If you had to pick one or two, what is the most important thing that reparations at the end of the day accomplish? And while you're typing your thoughts in the chat, we're going to play, we're going to bring mini back on, we're going to play a little music. And when we fade the music, then it's time for us to come back and our panelists are going to react to what they have read in the chat.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
There is so much richness in the chat right now. So I want to turn to our panel, turn back to our panel. You've had a chance to read some of what has been shared, right? We asked people to distill it down to what is most important to accomplish. And for your closing remarks, I want you to speak to what you're seeing from our people in the chat. And then what is the most important action you really want everyone to consider taking to advance reparations? And let's start first with Don, and then we'll turn to you, Kelly. Don, you're on mute.
Donald K. Tamaki:
Sorry, reading the chat. I mean, all of these things are tremendously important and worthy. How do we accomplish this? Can't do it without creating the political will at a legislative level. The remedies that need to be done are legislative remedies, both at the state level for all the states, but most importantly at the federal level. And in order to do that, at least in my experience going through one of the more modern times reparations, it's a political organizing education effort. And programs like this certainly do that, but they should... We need to amplify them exponentially. I think the other piece of it is beyond closing the wealth gap and housing and specific things, one of the things we learned in our movement was the restoration of identity. And that has to do with acknowledgement of the wrong to shine a light on buried and erased history.
That is a subject of willful amnesia. I mean, the fact that we're just learning about in the mainstream press, like the Wall Street, Washington Post in the New York Times covering Tulsa and Greenwood over a 100 years after the fact is just a testament to how erased this is. And one of the things that we learned in compiling the interim report is that history is littered with Green Woods and Tulsa. It happened all over the place. So there has to be a massive education program in addition to all of the tangible things that have to do with compensation and restitution and closing the wealth gap and so on. I just close by saying these comments are helpful as the task force goes into its next and most important phase of determining what the reparations might be with respect to its recommendations. I'll close there.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you Don. Kelly, want to turn to you?
Yeah, so in looking at the chat, there were a lot of questions about what type of programs and what programmatic relief would look like in my estimation. And I believe that something that has to do with land, land granting, homesteading, home ownership, because that is the number one wealth creating tool in the United States. And money does not solve that. And I believe that that has to be on the table. I think it would be wonderful if the descendants of American chattel slavery because of our free labor, that perhaps something could be written in the tax code in California where there's some exemption that's given to the descendants of American chattel slavery for paying income taxes on their income in the state.
Those are the types of programs that I think can happen in a legislative setting like Don is expressing that individuals cannot recreate or address systemic harms that were caused by a country. So it's very important that our legislators are on board with what we are talking about and that they are in line with redressing the harms. What have we learned in Detroit? We have learned that programs are important, that just giving money, just giving $25,000 that can be gone in a year. And like Don expressed whatever payments, monetary, programmatic, it should be generational. It shouldn't just be something that can dissipate in a year. But thank you for the comments and I appreciate being able to talk to you all today.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you, Kelly. Trevor, what are you seeing that you really want to react to respond to in the chat? And what is the call to action you want to offer our audience?
Yes, I'll lift up Grace's comment. She said, given centrality, given the centrality with slavery to the development of U.S racial capitalism, how can reparations address systemic roots of racism and of key U.S institutions? And I think this is exactly the point Jean-Pierre was making. I see reparations as a world making process. And if we look at reparations as a world making process, building this new world, then we have to go to the root of the issues. And you go to the root and you see that slavery is at that root. And you also see that settler colonialism is at that route. So reparations then is a decolonial process, right? That reparations is uprooting the colonial state that is the United States, right? And so to speak to the question that we got asked earlier, solidarity between communities, whenever I talk to the indigenous community, I'm just amazed in the ways in which that they advocate and support black reparations while still also talking about and advocating for their own land reparations.
And these two things can coexist and they have coexisted over time. And so to me, reparations is about closing the black white wealth gap because the black white wealth gap is the biggest indicator of the cumulative effects of slavery and anti-black racism. But it's also about more than that, as I touched on earlier, it's a political and cultural project, transforming the systems, dismantling U.S racial capitalism as Grace pointed out. And then really, as Jean-Pierre pointed out, envisioning a new future, a new country that has really rewritten and lived up to these values that it espoused in the Declaration of Independence, it wrote this Declaration of Independence, but it has never actually lived up to the words that they wrote in that document. So reparations is actually tearing up that document and rewriting something new.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
David, what are you seeing in the chat that you really want to respond to? And what's your call to action?
Well, first, again, thank you for including us and I'm really inspired by the conversation today and the intelligence of our audience. I'm drawn to all the conversation about the issue of truth, justice, and equality. And I think my call to action is something that we're doing in reparation generation, which is we're having house meetings where we're calling in individuals who have lived a privileged life to have this conversation about their truth, which has given them that privilege and that they wish to seek justice. And continuing to gather more and more voices because as Don said, this is a legislative process, but the legislature will not move forward without enough voices to kick their butt and make them move. And that's the truth of how legislation happens. And so I feel that we need to gather our voices in this forum today in other forums such as house meetings. We need to build a movement and we have to practice saying that word. Thank you.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Speaking of saying the word Jean-Pierre, let's give you the last word. What are you seeing that you want to react to and what is your call to action for us today?
Sure. There is a lot of great stuff. I would say, I hope I'm pronouncing this correct, I think it's Megred yellow, broad scale economic justice. I don't think it's possible to really do reparations for black folks in the U.S without destroying a lot of harmful enterprises that hold our communities, right? And I think Trevor touched upon this, I touched upon this earlier, the building of something new. But I do think to Don's point, this is a legislative process, right? And we need to organize and build power, but also we need to have conversations, everyday conversations with our neighbors, continuing these conversations we have here because we do have to show that there's political will, there's will from everyday people to put pressure on the legislature to get this done. Because stuff that's done at the local level and state level is really to inform what can happen at the national level legislative level.
And that's where the true kind of change that we want see will happen around operations. And I also want people to think and to retain their imaginations, right? Because part of changing the narrative is having imagination to create and articulate an alternative, but also when facing power, power is really when you're down, at your most weakest is when you can't think of any other possibilities.
And so when you always retain the possibility that there can be something different and that we can continue to push reparations even when we're facing challenges, I just hope that you know those listening and the people that you talk to always retain that kind of hope. Because pushing against power is a lot of work and we're organizing for power and we want to shift relations of power. And so hold onto your imaginations. 'Cause remember, I bring this, this is why I brought the Haitian history revolution at the beginning. It was considered unimaginable when it happened, but it was the people who were enslaved who had their own notion of freedom, not their freedom of the masters, but their own notion and that spread throughout the Americas. Hold on to your imagination.
Ama Nyamekye Anane:
Thank you Jean-Pierre and all of our panelists and everybody who showed up and shared in the chat today. This was powerful. Jean-Pierre talked about imagination. And so I think it's fitting that we close out with a poem. So anybody that is able to stay and listen to this piece, you will be blown away. So let's play a recorded poem by Elandra, Brassel and Shaddai Johnson. I hope I pronounced those beautiful names correctly, but we're going to let the last word be poetry. Thank you all.
This is life
for black women
The stories our
and her mother,
and our great great grandma
Hide in the bruises on their backs
marks a point in our history
She keeps them locked up in her vibrato
No wonder these stories get a little shaky
Is know nothing but this Field,
Is never met rest what he look like?
I'm the true definition of cotton mouth,
My hands bleed what I pick
It reaps through my skin,
Ever watch your own flesh hang?
I got wounds where God don't live,
Is sit here with the sun on my back
and my stomach empty,
Full of nothin’ like the pages of books
Me and mines could never read
only thing I ever had is God, and he don't talk back.
I pray he knows my name, know black don't shine here,
Know the only thing they don't beat is my shadow,
I done been through the mill
Is believe in hell, is believe I'm already here
It is the year 1962
I'm watching my own kin
grandmamas secret recipes
to bulging white stomachs
Just to become house maid
Just to clean up crimson and blackberry juice
Just to attend lynching picnics
Always becoming a part of the brunch
Takes care of white families
Sits them down at dinner table
and feeds them
Her anatomy says all people like her
Are good for is cooking
Have you ever
Seen a negro prepare a revolution
These white folks treat me like they threads
like these hands ain't the only reason they filth look pretty
only reason they secret ain't hanging out to dry.
I wash black blood out of white shirts.
My old lady raised me to raise white hoods
While I raise kids that don't even know they ain't suppose to like me
I ain't been home in so long
My babies don't even remember what my voice sounds like
and I'm still here putting food in racist bellies
Woman in me knows
how to sweep things under the rug
Black in me knows
what being swept under the rug feels like
It is 2017 and slavery
Is not over
But has adapted
A covert cover
Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome
An exchange system
Where they trade
Auction block goodbyes
For bidding farewells
To fathers on factory time
are still on the market
The strange fruit
Doesn't fall too far from the tree
Now our people lay right under it
You think I care about what my ancestors went through?
I got white men taking care of me,
Now ain't that what Martin fought for?
I don't need to read to know we use to be slaves,
My chains look way different than theirs.
Mines is designer
I grew up praying for a dime, now my sons got Jesus around their necks
But what if he leaves me for a jail cell like his father did?
I can't watch his name fade into a number
Because it's a mother's job to protect her son,
But how can you stand in the way of an entire gun range?
I can’t move
Cut me loose
Where are you
cause I need freedom too
I break chains all by myself
Won’t let my freedom rot in hell
We are not your slave
Only America can give racism a disguise
Make it unrecognizable
that we don't even notice
we're still the target.