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State Task Force Getting Closer to Identifying What Reparations Look Like

The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.

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The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.
Economic experts for the California Reparations Task Force Dr. Kaycea Campbell, right, and Williams Spriggs, left, explain to the 9-member panel in Los Angeles that the group has “rough estimations” for five harms that could be used to determine compensation. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌
California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans will be conducting its last meeting of 2022 on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 15, at Oakland City Hall Chambers located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza adjacent to 14th Street.

The start time is 9 a.m. for both days beginning with one hour of public comment. The meetings will be live streamed via the official Task Force website or ETM Media on YouTube.

Task Force Chairperson Kamilah Moore says that the next meeting is of high importance “for a few reasons,” and will include an in-depth conversation about redress and repair.

“No. 1, we will begin to refine community eligibility standards (including residency requirements); No. 2, we’re inviting leaders from local/municipal reparations efforts from across the state to share their incredible work (i.e., Oakland, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Russell City, Palms Springs etc.),” Moore said in a written statement on Dec. 1. “No. 3, it will be the first-time task force members will collectively discuss and begin to determine what types of reparation proposals will be in the final report that will be released in June 2023.”

The task force’s two-year charge is scheduled to end in June 2023.

California’s AB 3121, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom into law in 2020, created the nine-member task force to investigate the history and costs of slavery in California and around the United States.

The law charges the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on Black Californians who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.

From the information they collect, the task force will develop reparation proposals for African Americans and recommend appropriate ways to educate Californians about the task force’s findings.

After the task force decided who would be eligible for compensation in March, the panel approved a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States.

An expert panel reported to the task force in March that a “conservative estimate” of 2 million African Americans in California have ancestors who were enslaved in the United States. According to the U.S. 2020 Census, there are about 2.6 million Black Californians out of a total state population of nearly 40 million residents.

The five-member expert panel, appointed by the task force, is quantifying past economic injustices African Americans faced in the state and elsewhere, and determining what or how much compensation should be made to Black people living in California.

The expert panel includes William Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO and former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University; Thomas Craemer, Public Policy professor at the University of Connecticut; Dr. Kaycea Campbell, CEO for Ventana Capital Advisors and Los Angeles Pierce College associate professor of Economics; Dr. William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University; and Kirsten Mullen, a writer, and lecturer whose work focuses on race, art, history, and politics.

All five experts participated on the first day of the two-day meeting held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles two months ago. Spriggs and Campbell attended the event in person, while the other three experts appeared virtually.

Campbell and her colleagues discussed with the task force the “models” to provide a “road map” that would determine how reparations would be “paid and measured.”

Milagro Jones, a participant at the Reparation Task Force meeting in Los Angeles, holds up a 500-page interim report that was submitted to the California Legislature in June 2022. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey, Sept. 23, 2022.

Milagro Jones, a participant at the Reparation Task Force meeting in Los Angeles, holds up a 500-page interim report that was submitted to the California Legislature in June 2022. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey, Sept. 23, 2022.

The experts presented “five harms or atrocities,” down from the 13 they originally proposed, that could be used to determine compensations.

Campbell said the five categories under review will not be “exhausted” until they have received enough data to complete the process.

“This is not to say that other harms and atrocities are not important. As soon as, or if we get better data or more recent data, then we can, in fact, go through the process of what these look like,” Campbell said.

The experts made “rough estimates,” of property unjustly taken by eminent domain, devaluation of Black businesses, housing discrimination, the disproportion of mass incarceration and over-policing, and health inequities as the major harms.

Task Force Member Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) released the following statement as clarification that the task force has not proposed that California compensate descendants of slaves with direct compensation for historical housing discrimination.

Bradford said, “Since its formation, a lot of misinformation and willful misrepresentation of the work from the Task Force has been released. The fact is that the Task Force has not completed its work and has made no formal recommendations to the Legislature. It’s important that we be deliberative and get this right because the nation is watching and it’s more than likely ours will be the model for all to follow.”

Members of the community and media are encouraged to visit the Reparations Task Force website and subscribe to the task force’s mailing list for updates at: https://oag.ca.gov/subscribe or call (213) 519-0504.

Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Activism

Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Mayor of Oakland, Pledges New Direction for the City

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

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Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.
Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao appoints HNU’s Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as deputy mayor

By Ken Epstein

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees who overcame homelessness and domestic abuse to attend university and build a life for herself and her family in Oakland, received the official oath of office Monday afternoon as the new mayor of the City of Oakland.

Sworn in at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, she stood on stage surrounded by friends, family, and staff members. She was flanked by her son Ben Ventura, who performed a musical piece on the cello, and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao.

The mayor called on Oaklanders to join with her to create a more humane, inclusive, and just city. She spoke about her commitment as a progressive to significantly improve the quality of life for residents, making the city safer and cleaner, building 30,000 units of truly affordable housing, fostering jobs, promoting economic development, supporting small businesses and providing solutions to homelessness that recognize the dignity of the unsheltered.

“I know what we can do together, Oakland,” she said. “Our city’s’ best days are still to come. The Oakland that we all know is possible and within our reach.”

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

In her remarks, the mayor focused on the city’s long fight to become more inclusive and equitable.

“We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, not just a few, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” she said.

“Sometimes, we take our shared progressive values for granted, our advances toward justice and equality,” said Mayor Thao.

She reminded people that “a…century ago, our city was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan (where) Klan members burned crosses in our hills and marched through our streets. As recently as the1970s, freeways were made possible by tearing down thriving Black, Latino, and Asian communities,” she continued.

“We recognize what we have overcome together to remember what is worth fighting for every day…(and) to take stock of how far we still have to go.”

Promising a “comprehensive” approach to public safety to make all neighborhoods in the city safer, she said she would bolster anti-crime programs like Ceasefire and “we will fill (police) vacancies with home-grown police officers who know our community, who look like us.”

At the same time, she said, the city must increase opportunities for young people, reinvigorating the summer jobs program (for youth) and enhance the school-to-work pipeline so young people can gain experience and job skills.

She said she would beef up the many city departments that are currently operating on skeleton staffing, promising to fill the staffing vacancies that “plague our city.”

Mayor Thao said she herself is a renter, and that she “will fiercely protect Oakland renters. If you are a renter in Oakland, you’ve got a mayor who’s got your back.”

Speaking about the Oakland A’s proposed waterfront real estate development promoted by former Mayor Libby Schaaf, Mayor Thao said the city will continue negotiations to keep the team “rooted in Oakland.”

“Working closely with the A’s, I’m hopeful we can reach a good deal, (based) on our Oakland values,” she said.

The former mayor’s plan for building the proposed waterfront real estate development at the Port of Oakland was dealt a major setback this week when Oakland failed to secure more than $180 million in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure development for the project.

Speaking of the importance of the appointment of Mayfield as deputy mayor, the Mayor’s Office explained her role in the new administration:

“Mayor Thao was thrilled Kimberly Mayfield agreed to join her team because of her tremendous and longstanding leadership in Oakland. In recognition of her vast experience, it was decided that the best role for her would be as deputy mayor where she will be an instrumental part of the leadership of both the Office and Oakland.”

In her introduction at the Paramount Theatre, Mayfield said, “Today is not about political agendas…It’s about the power of the people…it’s a recognition of the rejection of the status quo. This new chapter begins with a mayor that understands how to build a culture that works for everyone. Thank you, Mayor Thao for the opportunity to serve.”

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