Black Leaders Provide Roadmap To Reparations In California

The Black Caucus is partnering with the Black Freedom Fund to go on a State of Black California tour.

San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell speaks during a panel discussion on reparations at CalMatters’ IdeasFest at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento on June 6, 2024. (Cristian Gonzalez/CalMatters)

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Acknowledgement, apology and atonement are the three keys to reparations, said California Assemblymember Corey Jackson during a panel at the CalMatters Ideas Festival on June 6.

The panelists discussed how to solve ongoing issues within the Black community, such as housing, health care and mass incarceration. Joining Jackson on stage were California Black Power Network Policy Manager Kristin Nimmers, and CEO of the San Francisco Foundation Fred Blackwell.

1,000-page report released last year by a statewide task force is about far more than just giving out cash to the descendants of enslaved people, Blackwell said. It’s about correcting a system of racism and discrimination.

“The focus on cash payments and the way that it is being framed, is clickbait. It is to get eyes on payments and eyes on screens,” Blackwell said.

Turning the more than 200 recommendations from the reparation report into law would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the reparations task force, Blackwell said. To start, state legislators in the Black Caucus are introducing a 14-bill package, Jackson said. 

“There is no doubt that their work was top notch and well regarded. The task force members have turned their work into something that is now sacred to us,” Jackson said. “We are now a part of a sacred mission to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of our ancestors.” 

According to Nimmers, one of the most important recommendations is amending the California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude of those who are incarcerated.

“The Constitution says that slavery or involuntary servitude is allowable so long as it is for the punishment of a crime,” Nimmers said. “And so that results in forced labor, which often results in profit for those in control of the prison industrial complex.”

Providing reparations for Black people can also provide a blueprint for offering similar services to Native Americans, Japanese Americans and others who have been treated inhumanely in the history of California, Nimmers said. 

“It is important that it is not only there for Black people but also for our non-Black allies,” Nimmers said. 

Out of the more than 200 recommendations in the reparations report, two stood out to Jackson.

“Number 1 is that we need to have free higher education for our people,” Jackson said. “Number 2 is that we need to have the opportunity along with the assistance to be able to own our own homes, so that we can begin to create generational wealth.” 

In order to get a better view of what issues are impacting Black people across California, the Black Caucus is partnering with the Black Freedom Fund to go on a State of Black California tour, Jackson said, starting June 15.

“We’re going to six places throughout California that have large African American populations and small African American populations to educate them on what the data says people are going through right now. We are going to Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Oakland, Moreno Valley,” Jackson said.

This story was originally published in CalMatters.org.

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