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The politics of continuing the fight for reparations


Practical Politics 

This coming weekend, May 17th through May 20th, this year's  National Reparations Convention will be held at  Lincoln Temple United Church (Shaw Community Center)  in Washington, D.C.  The event is to be sponsored by the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) headed by Dr. Ron Daniels.

This will be another opportunity for many of the workers and the leading theoreticians to put their heads together to discuss what has and has not been working in this continuing battle, and the triumphs and failures in the movement thus far.  The triumphs will include the 2023 publication of the thousand-page Report of the California Reparations Commission and the subsequent proposed legislation being brought forth by the California Legislative Black Caucus based on that report ( as reported previously in Our Weekly). The conference will also include discussions of the reparations efforts in the Caribbean, and the progress of gaining support for the effort in various African states.

This year's conference promises to at least discuss the possibilities for a national Black American economic boycott to force a different kind of negotiation with both state/national leaders and private organizations. The threat of a national Black American boycott has been discussed virtually every year--in many different settings-- for the past 25 years of the reparations struggle, in memory of the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott of the early civil rights struggle led by Dr. Martin L. King and the  Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Thus far, in spite of the longevity of the idea, tangible plans to initiate such a tactic have not been brought forward, and though there are many more voices that now demand such organized action, there is very little chance that such plans will come out of this year's gathering, either.

But strategic steps forward are a must for this year's gathering, since with the new information from California and several other states, it is clear that the idea of reparations still has credence and currency within the Black communities in the US and other parts of the world. There will, for example, be intellectual engagement at the conference  about how to get the reparations issue seriously discussed during this year's presidential race by more than just the minor candidates.

The major issue of being able to discuss reparations arguments and solutions that go beyond a moral basis for providing a reparations result---that is, white America owes reparatory justice to Black Americans because of the tremendous wrong (slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, etc.) perpetrated on Blacks for much of American history, is indeed a critical need. How to encourage the Biden administration---if it is successfully re-elected, as expected to–at minimum appoint a National Reparations Commission (as called for by the still-pending HR 40 legislation) is an achievable goal that should be part of a national strategy forward.

The real issue at the conference will be whether the substantial egos in the room will be able to be muted enough to carve out a workable strategy forward. Otherwise, this conference will just be another talking heads session which will not push the reparations issue any further than it already is, and Black folk will simply disappoint Black folk again.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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