by C.C. Campbell-Rock
“Reparations is an issue whose time has come,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Convener of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), at a recent meeting in New Orleans. The Commission hosted a benefit reception at Southern University of New Orleans on Nov. 30, and a Town Hall Meeting at Xavier University, Dec. 2.
Local, national and international professionals and activists from across the U.S. in the fields of law, medicine, journalism, academia, history, civil rights and social justice advocacy participated in the activities in New Orleans, which has historically been the site of many civil rights battles from the Maroon Slave Revolt in the 18th century to fighting for the right of return after Hurricane Katrina and taking down White supremacist monuments in the 21st century.
Actor and activist Danny Glover, whose work in civil rights activism and social justice work has been just as prolific as his film career, was among the featured speakers at the Nov. 30 reception at SUNO.
“Everything relative to slavery and its aftermath has contributed to the destabilization of our people,” Glover told the crowd gathered at SUNO.
As a young adult, Glover got involved in SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). He also was active in the Black Student Union at San Francisco State University, where he participated in the longest student strike in U.S. history; worked in a free food program for children and with the Model Cities program.
Glover has directed and produced documentaries to shine the light on injustices and pressing humanitarian issues, like the plight of Palestine and climate change.
In addition to his support for the call for reparations, Glover also reflected on his ancestors’ struggles and successes despite the challenges they and other Black Americans faced in the wake of slavery and its aftermath. He told the story of Mary Brown, his maternal grandfather’s mother, who was born a slave, only to be emancipated and experience Jim Crow. He told the story of a proud family legacy that lead his grandfather to acquire 150 acres of land in Lewisville, Ga., of his strong work ethic and his insistence of a better life for his children. Glover’s mother went on to graduate from Payne College in 1942.
Glover also zeroed in on New Orleans as a longstanding hotbed of social justice and civil rights activism.
“I remember coming to New Orleans to speak about quality education. New Orleans had the first teacher organization in the Deep South.” New Orleans is the home of people getting up and taking action. We don’t have time for Trump. We are the manifestation of a condemnation of racism and disenfranchisement of African people,” Glover says of the Reparations Now Movement.
A Diaspora Movement
Daniels was inspired to convene NAARC in 2015 after learning about the Caribbean Community and Common Market’s (CARICOM) Reparation Commission. CARICOM is an organization of 15 Caribbean nations, whose goal is to promote economic trade among its members.
The NAARC events were historic, in that the African Diaspora was represented. The foreign reparations advocates attending the events were Mireille Fanon Mendes of France, daughter of author Frantz Fanon; Ester Ogulari, a human rights activist from Cali, Colombia (South America); Chu, a civil rights activist from Venezuela; and Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and vice chancellor/president of the University of the West Indies from Jamaica and keynote speaker for the Dec. 2 town hall meeting.
“This gathering is built on recent developments in a global movement, including the recent launch of the Center for Reparation Research at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica,” Daniels said during the reception/fundraiser at SUNO.
A long-time civil/human rights advocate, Daniels credited his mentor, Queen Mother Audley Moore, N’Cobra, and former congressman John Conyers, for keeping the Reparations Movement going in the 20th & 21st centuries. Moore, born in 1898 in New Iberia, La., was known as the Mother of the Reparations Movement. After hearing Marcus Garvey speak in New Orleans in 1919, she moved to New York and joined Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association. Moore was the founder and president of the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women as well as the founder of the Committee for Reparations for Descendants of U.S. Slaves. She actively promoted reparations until her death in 1997 and is the author of Why Reparations? Reparations Is the Battle Cry for the Economic and Social Freedom of More than 25 Million Descendants of American Slaves.
Congressman John J. Conyers Jr. was slated to appear at the NAARC events. However, his sudden hospitalization and resignation from Congress, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, derailed those plans. Nonetheless, U.S. Rep. Conyers’ place in history as the only U.S. congressman in modern history to push for reparations on Capitol Hill is assured.
In January of 1989, John Conyers first introduced the bill H.R. 40, Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. He has re-introduced HR 40 every Congress since 1989, and had planned to continue to do so until it passed into law.
On Dec. 2, The National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) demanded reparations at an International Community Hearing/Town Hall Meeting held at Xavier University.
Xavier University President Dr. C. Reynold Verrett welcomed participants and audience members. Nana Anoa Nantambu, a local teacher and self-described healer, served as emcee for the public hearing, which opened with an African libation ceremony.
A group of local professionals sat on the New Orleans Regional African-American Reparations Hearing Panel, including Helena Francis, a local psychology student at SUNO; Meghan Berger, PLPC, project coordinator, Center for Traumatic Stress, Xavier University; J.A. Meyers-Montgomery, a recent Southern University of Baton Rouge Law School graduate; Anika Ofori, co-coordinator of Community Education Project of New Orleans; and Chuck Perkins, WBOK radio host and owner of Café Instanbul.
At the public hearing, Dr. Julianne Malveaux painted a distressing picture of the check stamped ‘Non-Sufficient Funds America gave African-Americans,’ as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said.
“Our land has been systematically stolen. We have been systematically excluded by law and public policy,” Malveaux said. “The Homestead Act of 1862 only included citizens, which we were not. From 1860 through 2004, we were excluded from an economic expansion of 270 billion acres. In 1910, African Americans held 16 million acres of southern land. By 1969, that had dwindled to six million.”
Malveaux, who is an economist, author, social and political commentator and also served five years as the 15th president of Bennett College, urged the audience to demand that the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) get on board. “We keep putting people in office who don’t support our agenda. Reparations is a remembrance that we can never forget.”
At the hearing, the Commission provided NAARC’s Preliminary Reparations Program as a list of 10 demands:
A formal apology and the establishment of a MAAFA/African Holocaust Institute;
The right of repatriation and creation of an African knowledge program;
The right to land for social and economic development;
Substantial tracts of government/public lands;
Funds for cooperative enterprises and socially responsible entrepreneurial development;
Resources for the health, wellness and healing of Black families and communities;
Education for community development and empowerment;
Affordable housing for healthy Black communities and wealth generation;
Preservation of Black sacred sites and monuments; and
Repairing the damages done by the criminal injustice system.
Professor Beckles was the keynote speaker for the town hall meeting. Born on a sugar plantation in Barbados, Beckles saw his parents and grandparents cut sugar cane. Beckles said he’s “been collecting research on this crime (slavery) for 30 years.”
“Our ancestors in Africa used to build pyramids and they knew it would take hundreds of years to finish. We are here to finish our pyramid. We have been here 500 years. Our pyramid project started on the plantations. They (ancestors) demanded reparations from the very beginning. Every generation has demanded reparations.”
He urged New Orleanians to work toward reparative justice.
“Let’s roll up our sleeves, come together in solidarity and let us complete our pyramid.”