Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HR40: Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans

HR 40 IH
1st Session
H. R. 40
To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

January 6, 2009

Mr. CONYERS (for himself and Mr. SCOTT of Virginia) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ‘Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act’.

(a) Findings- The Congress finds that--
(1) approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865;
(2) the institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865;
(3) the slavery that flourished in the United States constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of Africans’ life, liberty, African citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of their own labor; and
(4) sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in the United States.
(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to establish a commission to--
(1) examine the institution of slavery which existed from 1619 through 1865 within the United States and the colonies that became the United States, including the extent to which the Federal and State Governments constitutionally and statutorily supported the institution of slavery;
(2) examine de jure and de facto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination;
(3) examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the discrimination described in paragraph (2) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States;
(4) recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings;
(5) recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1) and (2); and
(6) submit to the Congress the results of such examination, together with such recommendations.

(a) Establishment- There is established the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the ‘Commission’).
(b) Duties- The Commission shall perform the following duties:
(1) Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the United States and the colonies that became the United States from 1619 through 1865. The Commission’s examination shall include an examination of--
(A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
(B) the transport of Africans to the United States and the colonies that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement, including their treatment during transport;
(C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in interstate and instrastate commerce; and
(D) the treatment of African slaves in the colonies and the United States, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploitation of their labor, and destruction of their culture, language, religion, and families.
(2) Examine the extent to which the Federal and State governments of the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed African slaves to repatriate to their homeland.
(3) Examine Federal and State laws that discriminated against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(4) Examine other forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States.
(6) Recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings.
(7) Recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4). In making such recommendations, the Commission shall address among other issues, the following questions:
(A) Whether the Government of the United States should offer a formal apology on behalf of the people of the United States for the perpetration of gross human rights violations on African slaves and their descendants.
(B) Whether African-Americans still suffer from the lingering effects of the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4).
(C) Whether, in consideration of the Commission’s findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted.
(D) If the Commission finds that such compensation is warranted, what should be the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation.
(c) Report to Congress- The Commission shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Congress not later than the date which is one year after the date of the first meeting of the Commission held pursuant to section 4(c).

(a) Number and Appointment- (1) The Commission shall be composed of 7 members, who shall be appointed, within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, as follows:
(A) Three members shall be appointed by the President.
(B) Three members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(C) One member shall be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
(2) All members of the Commission shall be persons who are especially qualified to serve on the Commission by virtue of their education, training, or experience, particularly in the field of African-American studies.
(b) Terms- The term of office for members shall be for the life of the Commission. A vacancy in the Commission shall not affect the powers of the Commission, and shall be filled in the same manner in which the original appointment was made.
(c) First Meeting- The President shall call the first meeting of the Commission within 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, or within 30 days after the date on which legislation is enacted making appropriations to carry out this Act, whichever date is later.
(d) Quorum- Four members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold hearings.
(e) Chair and Vice Chair- The Commission shall elect a Chair and Vice Chair from among its members. The term of office of each shall be for the life of the Commission.
(f) Compensation- (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), each member of the Commission shall receive compensation at the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code, for each day, including travel time, during which he or she is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Commission.
(2) A member of the Commission who is a full-time officer or employee of the United States or a Member of Congress shall receive no additional pay, allowances, or benefits by reason of his or her service to the Commission.
(3) All members of the Commission shall be reimbursed for travel, subsistence, and other necessary expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties to the extent authorized by chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code.

(a) Hearings and Sessions- The Commission may, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act, hold such hearings and sit and act at such times and at such places in the United States, and request the attendance and testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents, as the Commission considers appropriate. The Commission may request the Attorney General to invoke the aid of an appropriate United States district court to require, by subpoena or otherwise, such attendance, testimony, or production.
(b) Powers of Subcommittees and Members- Any subcommittee or member of the Commission may, if authorized by the Commission, take any action which the Commission is authorized to take by this section.
(c) Obtaining Official Data- The Commission may acquire directly from the head of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the executive branch of the Government, available information which the Commission considers useful in the discharge of its duties. All departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the executive branch of the Government shall cooperate with the Commission with respect to such information and shall furnish all information requested by the Commission to the extent permitted by law.

(a) Staff- The Commission may, without regard to section 5311(b) of title 5, United States Code, appoint and fix the compensation of such personnel as the Commission considers appropriate.
(b) Applicability of Certain Civil Service Laws- The staff of the Commission may be appointed without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States Code, governing appointments in the competitive service, and without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates, except that the compensation of any employee of the Commission may not exceed a rate equal to the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code.
(c) Experts and Consultants- The Commission may procure the services of experts and consultants in accordance with the provisions of section 3109(b) of title 5, United States Code, but at rates for individuals not to exceed the daily equivalent of the highest rate payable under section 5332 of such title.
(d) Administrative Support Services- The Commission may enter into agreements with the Administrator of General Services for procurement of financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission. Payment for such services shall be made by reimbursement from funds of the Commission in such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Chairman of the Commission and the Administrator.
(e) Contracts- The Commission may--
(1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts; and
(2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Federal Government, State agencies, and private firms, institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys, the preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts.

The Commission shall terminate 90 days after the date on which the Commission submits its report to the Congress under section 3(c).

To carry out the provisions of this Act, there are authorized to be appropriated $8,000,000.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chances of Being Paid for Past Injustice Look Up

Chances of being paid for past injustice look up

US President Barack Obama. He said the US could do to compensate African-Americans for past injustices was to provide better inner city schools.Photo/FILE

By JAMES KARIUKIPosted Friday, April 24 2009 at 19:09

A few days before South Africans elected their fourth post-apartheid president, a US court allowed a case against multinational corporations accused of victimising Blacks during apartheid to proceed.

In all likelihood, whoever made that ruling was altogether unaware that he may have been setting the stage for the making of racial history.

During his 2008 US presidential campaign, Barack Obama was asked about the issue of reparations for Black Americans. He responded that the best that the US could do to compensate African-Americans for past injustices was to provide better inner city schools. By implication, reparations in form of monetary restitutions were out of the question.

Obama’s response was politically tailored for the American electorate; his stand on the question of payment of reparations for Global Africans remains unknown.

But it may not be long before the US President has to take a position on the matter as the victims of apartheid will not relax on their case. Should they win, it is difficult to visualise restitution in any form other than cash.

In 1804 Haiti made history by undertaking a full-scale slave revolt against the colonising French. That revolution became the first successful strike against subjugation of Black people.

Haiti hit the world headlines again in April, 2003, by demanding that France pay back $21 billion in restitution for money paid in 1825 to French “settlers” as a precondition for recognising the island’s independence. This demand was conceivably the first international claim for reparations for Black folk with a specific amount attached to it.

In April, 2004, South Africa celebrated its 10th anniversary of democracy after the end of apartheid. That revolution became the final successful strike against legal subjugation of Blacks worldwide. South Africa concluded the racial liberation launched by Haiti 200 years earlier.

Affinity quickly developed between the two nations. In January, 2004, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki attended Haiti’s bicentenary celebrations of its revolution, the only Head of State to do so. Shortly thereafter, in May, 2004, Mbeki’s regime granted asylum to Jean-Bartrand Aristide, the president who had demanded reparations from France the previous year.

Seasoned critics insist that Aristide’s forced exile was triggered by his demand for reparations. Under the guise of seeking political stability in Haiti, we are told, Western powers colluded to force a popularly elected leader out of his homeland.

Meanwhile, South Africa was already caught in a storm of animated debate: Should Black South Africans seek legal restitution from Western multinational companies that had benefited from their exploitation during apartheid?

Opinions varied vastly. One proposition, championed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was that victims of apartheid were indeed entitled to seek legal restitution and, if found liable, the implicated corporations were duty-bound to make amends. Tutu was on record as a key “friend” of the claimants in a case lodged in New York.

Mbeki’s government differed, urging that in the interest of national healing, South Africans should let bygones be bygones.

Additionally, there was concern over the sensitive matter of jurisdiction; Mbeki’s presidency was opposed to the notion of its citizens seeking legal restitution in foreign lands for domestic grievances. On these grounds, the Justice minister wrote to the relevant US Court urging dismissal of the apartheid case.

By resisting the quest for restitution, Mbeki’s government added to a widely held perception that his was not a government for the ordinary people.

For the moment, Mbeki’s regime found itself trapped in the awkward position of being on the same side of the fence as the generally discredited George W Bush, who was of the view that demanding reparations would contaminate relations between Pretoria and Washington.

More alarmingly, Mbeki’s government found itself locking horns with Archbishop Tutu, the respected ex-chairman of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Further, the government held a position that was antithetical to the cause of its most celebrated international guest, Haiti’s ex-president Aristide.

Historians would probably agree that Blacks have endured greater “collective injury” than all the other groups combined. Yet, no reparations have ever been paid to them. African-Americans have aspired for reparations for enslavement since the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation to no avail. Each freed slave is still waiting for 40 acres and a mule.

In April 2009, previously, anti-restitution forces vested in the persons of George Bush and Thabo Mbeki are no longer on the scene, replaced by Barack Obama and Jacob Zuma. Should Zuma uphold his pledge to be “president of the people”, he will throw his weight behind the apartheid’s victims.

President Obama’s position is less clear but it would be disingenuous if he actively opposed reparations while he started his political career in support of divestments against apartheid South Africa.

Prof Kariuki is a writer and independent consultant in international and African diaspora affairs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Information on the Spanish Reparations Movement

From: Federación Panafricanista [mailto:panafricanos@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 3:17 PM
To: Coates, Rodney D. Dr.
Subject: Fwd: solidarity with Spanish Reparation Movement

Brother and Sisters:

I informed you that at the initiative of Black Community: Spanish parliaments are discussing now to apologize African people for slavery and colonialism maafa . So we have launched the campaign we are not alone. http://www.documentalistas.org/proyectos/nosolos/documentos/madrid_declaration_english.pdfWe need your support the legislative initiative to become law.
We request your solidarity to collect 5 million signatures to turn this initiative into law. SIGNATURES http://www.documentalistas.org/proyectos/nosolos/firmantes.php?pagina=1&termino=

We attach you the original document


Abuy Nfubea


Madrid Declaration Black Community
2008 International Merit Award Emilio Castelar

In Madrid, Spain, December 5th, 2008 we, the undersigned, participants of the Emilio
Castelar Award to Merit DISPERSOS E INÉDITOS event, in representation of the
organized civil society of the black community and African descendants from the
Americas and the Caribbean, and of kindred organizations , in the framework of the
Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery and Slave Trade, the European Year of
Intercultural Dialogue, the Latin American Year of Non-Discrimination and Youth, the
Tenth Year of Black Communities, the Millennium Objectives 2015, the Follow-up
Report of the Durban Plan in Cincha/Perú ONU/CES 27 February 2006, Act 62/2003 on
Equal Treatment- Spain, in commemoration of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the
Spanish Constitution, Sixtieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the Tercentenary of the incorporation of Equatorial Guinea to the Crown of
Castile, and the Year of Planet Earth.

Considering our shared commitment and interest in using effectively the great
progress and development achieved by humankind in the fields of human, civil and
social rights, participative and representative democracy, citizenship, equity, equal
rights and justice, social peace, tolerance for the development of multicultural
diversity and multiethnic, cultural and educational diversity, in the protection and
defence of natural resources and the environment.

In view of our common concern about the vulnerability, inequity and social injustice
the black community and African descendants are subjected to, as reflected in the
high rates of marginality, poverty, illness, hunger, exclusion, armed conflicts and
generalized violation of their human, civil and social rights and the significant
repercussion this has on structural and institutional racism.

We here present the following Madrid Declaration of the Black Community, urging
democratic governments to implement affirmative actions to ensure in an effective
manner the inclusion of the black community in all spheres of activity, cultural, social, economic and political.


UNDERLINE the significant historical contribution of the Black community to the
political, cultural, economic, social, and religious development and to World Peace,
which makes it deserve other forms of relations with the states and official and private
bodies, to guarantee the implementation of universal citizenship, as an expression of
participative and representative democracy and of social corporate responsibility.
Abolition of Slavery and Slave Trade, Human Rights and Intercultural Dialogue, a
preamble encouraging Spain to become an example for other nations throughout the
world in the dignification of the black community, along with other counties such as
the United states, United Kingdom, France, and the Vatican.
www.documentalistas.org / www.documentalistas.com
STRESS the success of the event Dispersed and Unknown which was granted the
Award to the Merit Emilio Castelar in 2008.
HIGHLIGHT the meeting of Black Community representatives with representatives of
the two Chambers of the Spanish Parliament.
EMPHASIZE the clear will of the organized black civil community and that of Spanish
sympathizers to establish the BROWN RIBBON as symbol to the memory of the
victims of the holocaust and of the triangular trade of slavery, between Europe, Africa
and America.
REQUEST that the goodwill shown by the EUROPEAN UNION and SPAIN vis-à-vis the
indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Caribbean be EXTENDED TO AFFIRMATIVE
ACTION POLICIES to meet the aspirations of slave descendants in the form of specific
international cooperation schemes geared at their access to a comprehensive social
development, the social and economic fund and to the different civil bodies organised
around international cooperation.
REQUEST that the aspiration of the Black Community, its Diaspora and descendents
be placed on equal footing and be fully recognized in Spain as an ethnic minority and
as a socially excluded group (like Sephardic Jews, Saharawi, Gypsies, Muslims,
Buddhists, Protestants, Homosexuals), on the grounds of long-established settlement,
historical links and equal treatment.
1. Human rights cannot be legitimated without taking into account the victims of
cruelty be it holocaust, racism, xenophobia, slavery, genocide and crimes against
humanity which do not prescribe or cannot be granted amnesty, and all connected
forms of surreptitious, legitimate, institutional exclusion.
2. We urge the States to recognize and include without any restrictions the Black
community among ethnic minorities, with priority treatment by the state.
3. We urge the Spanish Administration to publicly acknowledge slavery, to proclaim
forgiveness for the black holocaust and to draft proposals to foster the full recognition
of the black community in Spain.
4. We demand that the States open up their institutions to encourage dialogue and
reconciliation and to foster effective inclusion, visibility and empowerment of the black
community in all functional areas of the state and of human development.
5. We ask for the criminalization of racist acts leading to segregation and exclusion,
detrimental to the civil and social rights and freedoms of the Black community in
6. We request the tipification of the Black community and that of other ethnic
minorities in the Spanish Constitution to guarantee their democratic representation
and participation as well as their political participation, through a special
circunscripción (constituency), and full representation in the legislative, judicial and
executive powers of the Spanish State.
www.documentalistas.org / www.documentalistas.com
7. We request the tipification of the Black community and other ethnic minorities to be
acknowledged in the European Constitution.
8. We urge the governments to guarantee compliance of the regulations and rules of
international bodies such as Durban 2001, the Human Rights Commission,
UN/ECOSOC 2006, OAS, SECIB, FRA,UNHCR, CERD/SP/69, ODM, Coalition of
American, Caribbean, African and European Cities Against Racism, Xenophobia and
Signatory countries and representatives:
Instituto Brasilero de fluencia
Centro Europeo Ibero andino de España
Asociación Iberoamericana de Integración de España
Asociación Africa Viva
Asociación Mboloni
Federación de Asociaciones Cubanas e Iberoamericanas Siglo XXI – FEDACI
Federación de Asociaciones de Afro descendientes de Ibero América en España –
Asociación Progreso Da Nacao Angolenha
Documentation Sciences Foundation
Fundación Vida – Grupo Ecológico Verde
Federación Panafricanista de España
Plataforma Solidaridad
In attendance:
Member of Congress
Director Sixth Nepad Region – African Union
Member of Parliament
International Jurists Commission
www.documentalistas.org / www.documentalistas.com
General Secretary of Organised Civil Society and Corporate Social Responsibility
www.documentalistas.org / www.documentalistas.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

Father of Reparations Movement Joins the Ancestors

Ray Jenkins, a longtime Detroit resident, will be remembered for his work advocating slavery reparations for African-Americans from the federal government, his family said.

Mr. Jenkins believed reparations were the debt the country owed blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors.

During the late 1950s, Mr. Jenkins began speaking publicly about his cause of getting reparations for African-Americans. At the time, it was a very unpopular notion.

"I used to go with him to meetings. People used to ridicule him to no end ... black and white," said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.

"They thought it was the most ridiculous thing. It wasn't until (the U.S. government paid Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II) that their moods changed. They saw it could happen. He then became a hero."

Mr. Jenkins, known as "Reparations Ray," or the father of the reparations movement in the city's black community, died Friday, April 10, 2009 of complications of a blood infection in Providence Hospital in Southfield. He was 88.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Jenkins came to Detroit in 1942 for job opportunities. He also was veteran who served in the Philippines during World War II. He received an honorable discharge from the military, said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.

After arriving in Detroit, Mr. Jenkins worked a series of odd jobs before eventually settling into the real estate business as a salesman and then a real estate broker.

In 1958, Mr. Jenkins opened his own real estate business, Ray Jenkins Realty. The office was at West McNichols and Wisconsin on the city's northwest side.

In a July 1994 article from The Detroit News, Mr. Jenkins spoke about spending $50,000 of his own money and putting in countless hours in his efforts to push the federal government for a payoff for blacks.

Ricardo Jenkins said his father never thought reparations should be a blank check to African-Americans.

He said his father wanted the U.S. government to repay blacks for slavery through educational trusts and home ownership programs.

"He thought every black American who wanted to attend college should be able to attend for free," said Jenkins.

Besides his son Ricardo, survivors include his wife, Geraldine; a daughter, Lajuana; two grandchildren; and a nephew.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bakari Kitwana: Did John Hope Franklin Want $100 Trillion for Blacks?

Bakari Kitwana: Did John Hope Franklin Want $100 Trillion for Blacks?

Posted using ShareThis

Dr. John Hope Franklin, the wildly accomplished historian who documented Blacks' place in the great American story, firmly believed in reparations -- the idea that the descendants of slaves in the United States should be compensated for the centuries of free labor that enriched slaveowners and their descendants and the American empire. It is a fact overlooked by the recent flurry of mainstream media coverage commemorating his life work. (He died at the age of 94 late last month.) But it is no small detail.

Consider his response in 2007 to state legislators in North Carolina and Virginia who balked at apologies for slavery introduced by their peers. For him a mere verbal apology wasn't enough.

"People are running around apologizing for slavery," he said. "What about that awful period since slavery -- Reconstruction, Jim Crow and all the rest? And what about the enormous wealth that was built up by black labor? I think that's little to pay for the gazillions that black people built up -- the wealth of this country -- with their labor, and now you're going to say I'm sorry I beat the hell out of you for all these years? That's not enough."

When Dr. Franklin spoke of history, he did so with the definitive authority of an expert who spent over half a century culling through the details. His accomplishments are legendary: distinguished Duke University professor who taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard University (where he earned his doctorate in 1941); author of 20 books; first African American to chair a history dept at a predominately white university; over 3.5 million copies of his book From Slavery to Freedom have been printed since it's 1947 publication.

It is very easy now in our age of political correctness to courteously applaud the accomplishments of a barrier breaking African American in the field of U.S. History, which he said he wrote without "the embellishment of emotional display." But an entirely different pill to swallow is the conclusion he gleaned from his analysis: reparations are essential to acknowledging the country's wrongs.

"There are all kinds of ways you could do it," Franklin said in a video interview at Duke University, in which he insisted he wasn't asking for reparations personally -- even though he was entitled. "What about scholarships? What about descent places for people to live? Out of the fortunes that were made, you could build a mansion for the descendant of every former slave."

Others have argued that reparations should be paid directly by the U.S. government, which Harpers magazine (November 2000) estimated at $100 trillion dollars for 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865 with compounded interest of 6 percent. Still others have argued that payments should come from corporations who benefited as well as former colonial governments.

The idea of reparations for Blacks has for years been met in the American mainstream with at best contempt and at worst ridicule. But for John Hope Franklin the essential truth of American history was found not just in the large sweeping narrative, but also in the subtleties of the racial divide lived everyday.

His careers as a historian and as an activist (he was a researcher for Thurgood Marshall for the Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education case and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma) are well documented. Less known are his day-to-day confrontations with the legacy of white supremacy, subtleties he often related in personal anecdotes:

As a 6 year-old boy, his father's business in Tulsa was destroyed (luckily his father survived) during the infamous 1921 race riot. As one of the first Black boy scouts in 1927, he was severely reprimanded midway through helping a blind white woman cross the street upon her discovery he was black. In 1995, while in DC to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest award for a civilian, he hosted a party for friends at the Cosmos Club where he was a member and was asked by a white woman to get her coat, even though uniform attendants were present.

Personal insults like these only scratch the surface of the economic and psychological setbacks he suffered, like countless other African Americans, at the hands of white supremacy ingrained in American culture. Insults like these were a reminder of the big picture reasons why descendant of enslaved Africans lagged behind in the present. For Dr. Franklin, this was a direct result of American slavery.

"They ought to develop some kind of modus operandi that they can do something else -- something to absolve themselves of three centuries of guilt from which they are the direct beneficiaries," he said in a 2007 interview. "How large is the black population now living in abject poverty in this country? How large is the population of blacks who have poor health? Sometimes they inherited the poor health right from their forebears who were beaten and treated like they were animals all over this country."

It is true, as opponents of reparations argue, that America's troublesome history of racial inequity was born in the past. But it is equally apparent, as John Hope Franklin insisted, that our future is defined by the ways we address its legacy in the present.

If we really seek to commemorate him, it seems to me that the best we can do is to not just pay lip service to the man. Instead we should honor him by paying homage in the form of meaningful national policy that considers the conclusion of his life work.

Bakari Kitwana is visiting scholar at Columbia College's Center for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media and co-author of the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era (Third World Press, 2009). He also writes for NewsOne.com.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Ray Winbush's Belinda's Petition Now Available for Purchase!


In 1782, Belinda, an African on the Ten Hills Plantation in Medford Massachusetts, petitioned the state legislature for reparations for her 50 years of captivity and unpaid labor by her former owner, Isaac Royall. Royall had fled to Canada shortly after the American Revolution since he was a “Loyalist” to Britain and feared for his life and his own captivity what would become the United States. This story of her captivity, enslavement and liberation is an incredible tale of resilience during a time when Africans in America were seen as something a little more valuable than livestock.

Belinda’s Petition is but one in a long history of the reparations struggle that is sewn in the fabric of African history for the past 550 years. This concise story of the reparations struggle is meant to provide a “view from the bridge” on the ongoing struggle of Africans throughout the world in obtaining justice for the most heinous crime of the past millennium --- the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Whether you support or oppose reparations is unimportant; what Belinda’s Petition will show you is that the western world is built upon 500 years of the unpaid labor of millions of enslaved Africans whose call for justice has been conscious, courageous and consistent since they were first captured in 1441 by Europeans.