Members of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) were enthusiastically received in Atlanta June 10th and 11th for two days of meetings, designed to intensify the movement to win reparations for African Americans for centuries of enslavement and generations of damaging discriminatory policies.
The primary purpose for the gathering was to give people from the Atlanta area/region an opportunity to hear and make recommendations on the Commission’s Preliminary 10 Point Reparations Program -which was presented at a Community Hearing and Town Hall Meeting at the historic Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC).
During a Press Conference at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR), Actor, Humanitarian and Activist Danny Glover declared, “People of African descent have no reason to be shy about demanding reparations. Compelling the U.S. government to formally apologize for slavery and make restitution in the form of resources to repair the damages done to our people is part of the process of achieving justice and reconciliation.” Mr. Glover, who recently addressed the Organization of American States on the subject of Reparations, received a rousing welcome at a Benefit Reception for NAARC at NCCHR.
Janae Bonsu indicated that there are 30 organizations associated with the Movement for Black Lives, including her organization Black Youth 100 Project (BYP100), are preparing a major platform demanding reparations for release in mid-July.
Keenan Keller, Senior Counsel, House Judiciary Committee, who spoke on behalf of Congressman John Conyers, reported that a revised version of HR-40, the Reparations Study Bill, is being prepared for introduction in the new Congress in January of 2017. “There have been a tremendous number of developments since Congressman Conyers first introduced HR-40 the Bill in 1989,” Keller said. “There have been tons of studies documenting the damaging effects of slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans. Therefore, the intent of the new Bill will be to examine appropriate methods of remedy.” The revised version of HR-40 will be unveiled at the Reparations Braintrust of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.’s Annual Legislative Conference in September.
More than 300 participants attended the Community Hearing/Town Hall Meeting during the day Saturday June 11th at ITC to hear presentations on reparations and have input. Don Rojas, Senior Advisor to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor/President of the University of the West Indies, delivered an inspiring message on his behalf. Professor Beckles was scheduled to deliver the Keynote Address for the proceedings, but was unable to attend due to pressing administrative matters at UWI. Quoting from the speech prepared by Professor Beckles, Don Rojas said, “We grossly devalue the lives of our ancestors who were kidnapped and used as chattel, property, to create enormous wealth for Europe and the United States if we do not wage an unrelenting struggle for reparatory justice.” Professor Beckles remarks received a protracted standing ovation even in his absence.
The gathering also heard encouraging words from Rev. Dr. Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, The National Progressive Baptist Convention and Chairman of the Morehouse School of Religion. He informed the audience that the Clergy/Faith Leaders Roundtable, which was incorporated into the proceedings, resolved to mobilize faith leaders across the nation to support IBW/NAARC and to collaborate with the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, to engage congregations in building a grassroots movement to win reparations.
NAARC heard scores of recommendations from a Panel of scholars and advocates and participants in the audience. Placing a greater emphasis on the centrality of Africa in the discourse on reparations; the intersectionality of race, gender and sexual orientation in terms of inclusive remedies for enslavement and discrimination; self-determination for Africans in America as a goal; remedies that are transformative and reflective of humanistic values; and, the international/global nature of the reparations movement were among the recurring themes in the testimonies and recommendations.
Dr. Ron Daniels, President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century which functions as the convener and administrator for NAARC, reported that there will be additional area/regional hearings over the next 18 months. The Commission will review the input/recommendations from the Atlanta Hearing and the others to develop a Final 10 Point Reparations Program.
Dr. Daniels summed up the results of the Atlanta Area/Regional Town Hall Meeting: “We are extremely pleased with the success of the proceedings. There was incredible energy and enthusiasm among the participants which reflects a growing conviction that fighting for reparations is not only a worthy cause but achievable. The revised version of HR-40 can be a critical focal point of the struggle in the months ahead.
And, there is a determination to push the Platform Committee of the Democratic Party to include planks supporting reparatory justice within the context of the U.N. Decade for People of African Descent. The potential for a powerful cross-generational collaboration between NAARC and Movement for Black Lives to intensify the struggle for reparations also emerged from the Atlanta proceedings.” Dr. Daniels also announced that IBW is urging African Americans to become Reparations Advocates to support the work on NAARC in advancing a Reparations Program by signing up online at www.ibw21.org.
The Following Commissioners were present for the proceedings:
- Dr. Ray Winbush, Director of the Institute for Urban Research, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland
- Rev. JoAnn Watson, Former Detroit City Councilwoman, Detroit, Michigan
- Atty. Nkechi Taifa, Criminal Justice Reform and Reparations Activist, Washington, D.C.
- Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Political Economist and President Emeritus, Bennett College for Women, Washington, D.C.
- Nana Dr. Patricia Newton, CEO, Black Psychiatrists of America, Baltimore, Maryland
- Yvette Modestin, Founder and Executive Director, Encuentro Diaspora and IBW Board Member, Boston, Massachusetts
- Kamm Howard, National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations In America, Chicago, Illinois
- Dr. Joyce King, Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.
- Dr. V.P. Franklin, Editor, Journal of African American History, New Orleans