State Assemblyman and task force member Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe take notes during the 15th meeting on May 6, 2023.
CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Antonio Ray Harvey| California Black Media
On May 6th, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans held its 15th meeting and voted on its final report. The report must be submitted to the California legislature by the end of June.
During the meeting held at Mills College of Northeastern University in Oakland, the nine-member task force finalized its recommendations for compensating Black Californians for state laws, policies and practices that disproportionately and negatively affected African Americans. The final report which will be available to the public is expected to be about 1,000 pages long.
Task force chair and Los Angeles attorney Kamilah Moore closed out the one-day meeting by thanking “the community of eligibility for attending” the meeting and reflecting on the activities that occurred for nearly two years since the group first convened.
“I know it might have been tough in some spots, but I just want to say: stay encouraged. History is repeating itself,” Moore said. “When we think about what Callie House and Isaiah Dickerson went through, it was actually federal agencies U.S. Postal Office and U.S. DOJ (Department of Justice), the US Pension Office that worked to hinder the free people movement for pensions. So, just stay encouraged and know that justice will prevail at the end of the day.”
House and Dickerson were leaders in the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, the first organization to push for reparations for slavery.
Among the recommendations made by the task force is for the state of California to issue a formal apology from the state of California. The implied admission of guilt should mitigate the harm historically inflicted on the Black community, task force members say.
The report will contain “a non-exhaustive list” that includes “barbarities carried out on behalf of the State by its representative officers, governing bodies, and the people.”
“The Legislature must apologize on behalf of the State of California and the People of California for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and genocide of Africans who were enslaved and their descendants through public apology, requests for forgiveness, censure of state perpetrators, and tributes to victims,” the report states. “But the Task Force does not recommend the Legislature issue an apology without taking other required steps recommended by the Task Force to conform to the international standards for satisfaction; such an apology would be hollow and ineffective.”
The draft states that the apology would address the “atrocities committed by California state actors who promoted, facilitated, enforced, and permitted” under the institution of chattel slavery.” The final draft includes evidence provided by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) of African Americans denied their fundamental liberties and humanity throughout the state’s history, from before the Civil War to the present.
“To be effective, a considerable number of survivors and their relatives must participate in the development of the apology. As occurred with the apology to California tribal communities, the Legislature should establish a program or government body, such as the California American Freedman Affairs Agency, to facilitate listening sessions that allow victims and their relatives to narrate personal experiences and recount specific injustices caused by the state of California,” the task force recommends.
It took eight hours for the task force members to approve numerous recommendations addressing issues such as over policing and mass incarceration in Black communities, health and environmental inequities and discrimination in education, housing, voting, housing, and business opportunities, and others. The report also addresses the inability to create wealth due to inequity and lack of quality jobs.
During the task force’s14th meeting held in Sacramento in March, economists advising the task force presented economic formulas estimating that the reparations owed to Black Californians who are descendants of people enslaved in the United States is likely to total more than $800 billion.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland-12) addressed the panel during the public comments section of the meeting. She is co-sponsoring the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) bill in Congress.
The first-ever congressional commission examines the effects of slaves, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color and how history impacts laws and policies today.
“Reparations are not a luxury for our people but a human right long overdue for millions of Americans,” Lee said. “A promise of 40 acres and a mule made to formerly enslaved people over 150 years ago has yet to be fulfilled and it’s critical that the promise that was made to our ancestors is kept. We must repair this damage.”
Oakland City Council member Treva Reid (District 7) and Kevin Jenkins (District 6) were present at the meeting which was attended by more than 150 at Mills College. This is where the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) was born in 1966.
Elaine Brown, a former Black Panther Party leader and Minister of Information, was also in attendance. Last year, she broke ground on an $80 million affordable housing project in West Oakland. The housing project includes 79 units and aims to house formerly incarcerated people, homeless people and unemployed individuals.
“I’m glad to see all these Black people together. I want to see us all get into the streets because you know that you cannot legislate freedom…you are going to have to fight for it,” Brown said to the panel and audience. “You want these people to hear you…you’re going to have to get into the streets (to advocate for reparations).”
The final meeting for the Task Force will be held June 29 in Sacramento. Remarks by task force Members, a Presentation of the Report, closing comments by legislators and other dignitaries will end the two-year charge for the first-of-its-kind reparations commission.
For any questions, contact DOJ at ReparationsTaskforce@doj.ca.govor call (213) 519-0504.