Sunday, November 19, 2017
Reparations Town Hall Meeting Attracts 50+ Community Activists
By Francis Taylor (Contributing Writer)
Published July 19, 2007

Marking the one year anniversary of a local group’s collaborative meeting to coalesce effort, activities and energy towards reparations for the descendants of African slaves in this country, Rev. Dr. Richard “MeriKaRa” Byrd, Sr. minister of the KRST Unity Center of AfRaKan Spiritual Sciences, hosted a Reparations Town Hall Meeting where over 50 community activists and pro-reparations advocates discussed the current status of the reparations movement.

The town hall meeting, broadly covered on local radio community affairs programs was hosted by community mouthpiece Mollie Bell, whose frequent calls to 102.3 FM, KJLH Radio’s early morning talk show, “Front Page,” has been instrumental in keeping the idea of reparations on the minds of KJLH listeners by always beginning her commentary with the phrase, “reparations in memory of our ancestors.”

The town hall program featured a free exchange of comments, questions and ideas from the participants as well as presentations from Dr. David Horne, associated with the Reparations United Front (RUF) who provided an update on the African Union (AU) Community Council of Elders and the Town Hall Meeting in August.

In addition, presentations were also delivered by Morris “Big Money” Griffin, representing the National Coalition for Reparations and Economic Wealth (NCREW), John Gardner, David Brown, James W. Clark, Taylor Mayfield, Mary Randall and John Peoples. Bell served as program moderator.

As the reparations movement appears to be making small gains throughout the nation, reparations activists are encouraged by the growth in understanding of the reason for reparations among a broader cross-section of Blacks as well as the political awareness and specific actions on the part of an increasing number of Black elected officials, locally and domestically.

{mospagebreak}Southern California’s N’Crew Chapter distributed a collection of material and recent news articles related to the reparations movement including a reprint of an article where it was reported that 8th District Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks garnered a majority vote of support among council members for a resolution he initiated in support of House Resolution 194, a bill originally introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee that calls for an apology for slavery and its lingering impact on Blacks.

While it was reported that Councilman Parks was out of the country and unavailable to participate in the Town Hall Meeting, the group’s organizers expressed their appreciation for his initiative as well as the support of his colleagues, specifically Council members Jan Perry and Herb Wesson, whose presence is expected at the announced Reparations Town Hall Meeting, called by Councilman Parks, that will be held August 18 at the California African American Museum.

The reparations issue is one that evokes a broad range of intensity and emotion among Black people and White people as well.

Oftentimes, contemporary Whites generally dismiss the idea of reparations for a condition that ended over 150 years ago reminding themselves that they never enslaved anyone, one participant explained.

Their contrary arguments include statements that suggest there is no one group who may be held accountable for slavery, that many Blacks have achieved far greater educational and economic growth and success than many Whites, or that it was the White abolitionists who aided in the dismantling of slavery and a White President Abraham Lincoln, who gave his life by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, to bring slavery to an end, to name a few.

{mospagebreak}Many proponents of reparations, as was evidenced in the recent Town Hall Meeting recognize that there are a number of obstacles that require further analysis and discussion before the matter will derive more substantial and measurable progress.

Dr Horn, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California Los Angeles in African History and is a current professor at the University of California, Northridge, was the best-equipped and most articulate in addressing the historical and factual issues related to the reparations discussion.

Without referring to any text or other notes, he is able to extemporaneously describe in detail the historical justification for reparations as well as the significant literary works and legal attempts that have been launched over the years to redress our past enslavement.

He effortlessly reminded the audience about the book by Randall Robinson, which “brought the middle class into the reparations discussion,” the legal efforts of Attorneys Johnnie Cochran, Charles Ogletree and others which began in 1989, and the fact that Congressman John Conyers’ historical HR 40 initiative, which is now likely to make it to the House Floor for debate, and the possible impact it may have on the reparations issue from a legislative point of view.

Proponents of reparations for descendants of Black African slaves in America have a long way to go in coalescing their argument, in determining who is eligible for reparations, what those reparations should be, and precisely how they should be delivered, to list only a few of the complex questions that are yet to be answered.

{mospagebreak}When that is accomplished, the next serious challenge is persuading a generally unconvinced population of Americans that reparations are in the best interest of all Americans.

In the meantime, Dr. Horne and an increasingly larger band of others are continuing the dialogue and struggle for reparations. He made it clear what Black people should be doing at this time.

“The best thing for Blacks to do now,” Dr. Horne said, “is get informed and do whatever they can to educate another Black person to make sure that they understand that Black people have labored in this country and have never been paid.”

“My job,” he continued, “is to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors to make sure that Blacks are returned to the level of respect that we deserve. I expect to do as much as I can, for as long as I can to build the infrastructure for our success.”

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