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“Listening Sessions” allow Reparations Task Force to hear Black Californians stories


A series of community Listening Sessions are being held statewide to help the nine members of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans better understand how laws and policies that contribute to perpetuating the effects of slavery have negatively impacted Black Californians.

The most recent three gatherings authorized by the Task Force took place last month. An online community session was conducted featuring panelists Friday Jones, Los Angeles Reparations Commission Vice Chair; Jan Williams, Downtown Crenshaw Board member; and University of California at Berkeley professor Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis.

“What (Reparations) must do is bring about this sense of recognition,” said Lewis, who is a member of the California Reparations Task Force. “One of the things that the (Task Force) has accomplished so far over the past year is to bring about a sense of recognition for the Black American community in California and the country overall.”

The virtual webinar and community listening session was hosted by the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), the American Redress Coalition of California (ARCC), and Community Health Councils (CHC).

CJEC is a state-wide coalition of organizations, associations, and community members that support reparations for Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved Black American men and women. CHC is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit committed to practices advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to achieve sustainable policy and systemic change.

A sanctioned in-person community listening session was held in the city of Vallejo. It was hosted by CJEC with the support of the state’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA). Personal testimony of adversity and success rooted in the Black experience in and around Vallejo were shared during this session. Struggles with employment, decent housing, racism in public schools, homelessness, police brutality, and the challenges of maintaining a business were covered.

The community listening sessions are being conducted across the state by the Reparations Task Force’s seven anchor organizations: Afrikan Black Coalition; Black Equity Collective; Black Equity Initiative; California Black Power Network; Coalition for a Just and Equitable California; Othering and Belonging Institute (University of California Berkeley); and Repaired Nations.

The listening sessions are designed to ensure certain communities around the state have the opportunity to provide their thoughts and concerns about the work the task force is doing.