The city’s seven-member Reparations Advisory Commission hosted its first in-person event on Saturday, April 22, at the California African American Museum, welcoming 375 in-person attendees and streaming to many more on YouTube.
The Commission, which is part of the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department (LA Civil Rights Department), was created by city leaders in 2021.
“The Reparations Advisory Commission was created to meaningfully address a legacy of racism that has held African Americans back,” said Council President Pro Tempore Curren Price.
“Moving forward as one city means recognizing this inequity in our city and taking real steps to rectify it. I am proud to have played a role in shaping this Commission, and grateful to the many people who joined us today.”
“Reparations may be summarized as a program of acknowledgment, redress, and closure for grievous injustices supported by laws and enforced by governmental agencies. Acknowledgment is a culpable party’s admission that it has committed horrendous wrongs, accompanied by a promise to make restitution,” said Reparations Advisory Commission Chair Michael Lawson, who is also the CEO/president of the L.A. Urban League.
“African Americans in Los Angeles are overrepresented in homelessness and underrepresented in generational wealth. It is the result of a system that has denied African Americans the ability to fully exercise their God-given liberties. The closure needed is a mutual recognition of the wrongs that have been meted upon the members of the victimized community. I am grateful to everyone who joined us as we take this step forward together.”
“Los Angeles will not ignore its history and we will not shy away from difficult conversations to bring truth, justice and equity to our city,” said LA Civil Rights Department Executive Director Capri Maddox.
“We are so grateful to the hundreds of Angelenos who joined us today to participate in LA’s first reparations program for African Americans, to the California African American Museum for hosting us, and to the city leaders who have the courage to carry this work forward. The Reparations Advisory Commission is serious about building a meaningful reparations program with input from the community and backed by sound research.”
The two-hour meeting included welcome remarks from Councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martinez and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Following a 45-minute public comment period, commissioners shared the timeline for a reparations proposal in Los Angeles, including an academic and participatory study and fund development.
A final proposal is expected to be transmitted to City Council and the Mayor by early 2025. California State University Northridge (CSUN) College of Social and Behavioral Sciences was announced as the academic researcher to conduct the study of harms experienced by Black residents in the history of Los Angeles.
The Commission will guide the four-phased study, which will have two parts. Part I will uncover the harms experienced by Black residents of the city of Los Angeles through rigorous analysis of historic and contemporary city government actions, as well as personal accounts from current and former residents, organizations and other key stakeholders via survey and interviews.
Part II will focus on collaborative creation of the recommendations for a reparations program, including recommendations for what the city should offer to address the harms, proposals for eligibility, the cost of the reparations program, and ways the city may sustainably fund it. When completed in 2024, the study will be a first of its kind for the city of Los Angeles, including an analysis of the impact of public policy, the justice system, and geospatial trends on Black residents
The Reparations Advisory Commission is a blue-ribbon task force composed of leading voices in activism, academia, law, and racial justice, focusing on the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles since its 1925 charter. Created by the city in 2021, the Commission will engage public input and academic and participatory research to develop a future reparations program for a group of Black Angelenos. It is one of five Commissions within the LA Civil Rights Department.
The Commission has previously held two virtual events called “Homecoming” where hundreds of Black Angelenos shared their stories of systemic racism through public comment and break-out sessions. In addition, more than 700 people responded to the Commission’s online survey capturing perspectives on reparations for the City of Los Angeles.
The Reparations Advisory Commission is independent from the State of California Reparations Task Force, though the two bodies co-hosted an event in Leimert Park last year.