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Experts: Reparations Are Workable and Should Be Provided

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “With the racial divide stoked by President Donald Trump’s racial bias, the need for some healing among the races is a progressive and necessary policy and redress and reparations promote this healing so that we can move toward a less factionalized, less racially divided country,” Minami said.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As Joe Biden prepares to enter the crowded Democratic field for the 2020 presidential election, it wouldn’t be surprising if the former vice president will join the other 19 declared candidates in using reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a political platform.

Candidates including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro have said they intend to seek reparations for African Americans.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has asked for reparations for both African Americans and Native Americans.

Just three years ago, a United Nations working group jumped into the fray.

Following 14 years and 20 days of speaking with U.S. officials, activists, and families of people killed by police in major American cities, the U.N. working group issued its conclusion that the slave trade was a crime against humanity and the American government should pay reparations.

The experts traveled to major cities including Washington, D.C.; Jackson, Mississippi; Baltimore; Chicago and New York.

“Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching in the past,” a French member of the working group of U.N. experts Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, told CBS News.

Dr. Mary Frances Berry, a Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and the author of numerous books including “My Face is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations,” told NNPA Newswire that, “as matter of justice and no matter how long it takes, there should be a full-throated demand for reparations for slavery echoing the demand of the thousands of ex-slaves in the 19th century and reasserted time and again since.”

“The odds against success are great but given the meager gains to date, it’s just as fruitful to argue for reparations as anything else and besides it is a just cause,” Dr. Berry said.

“Whatever we do, we should remind ourselves, as Frederick Douglass said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will,’” she said.

Berry, who once served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as Assistant Secretary for Education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, scoffed at the idea that reparations are “unworkable.”

Precedent has already been set, she said.

“The country has lots of experience with reparations. The federal government gave compensation to slave owners in the border states who let their slaves enlist in the Union Army,” Dr. Berry said.

“Also, during the Civil War, compensation was given to slave owners in the District of Columbia when slaves there were freed in 1862 and, more recently, compensation for Holocaust victims and the victims of Japanese Internment are examples of reparations,” she said.

Dr. Berry continued:

“In the 19th century after the Civil War, Callie House, a former slave, led a movement to demand pensions for old ex-slaves as reparations for their poverty and unrequited labor during slavery.

“Her organization collected petitions including the names of former owners of ex-slaves and succeeded in having bills introduced in Congress and sued the federal government, losing on technical grounds.”

San Francisco-based attorney Dale Minami, who was involved in significant litigation involving the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and other minorities, said he believes the African American vote is critical to a successful reparations campaign.

“With the racial divide stoked by President Donald Trump’s racial bias, the need for some healing among the races is a progressive and necessary policy and redress and reparations promote this healing so that we can move toward a less factionalized, less racially divided country,” Minami said.

For those who believe reparations are unworkable, Minami said they’re conflating two separate issues: the deserving claim to reparations and the difficulty in implementation.

“Reparations is a good idea and depending how you define implementation determines the ‘workability,’” he said.

“If reparations means individual payment, yes, there is a huge problem of allocation of money based on percentage of Black ancestry but if you define it as a Trust Fund to support Black institutions, community organizations, education, or other projects to improve the African American community, it’s bit easier to implement,” Minami said.

As an example, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund of which Minami served as chairman, received $5 million as part of a Redress bill to give to projects that educate about the injustice of the incarcerations of Japanese Americans.

The original bill called for $50 million but so many were still alive when Redress was granted, the fund dwindled, Minami said.

“So, I think there are creative ways to help make up for the enormous cruelty of slavery and its long-term effects on the Black community,” he said.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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