The Final California Reparations Task Force Meeting

The Final California Reparations Task Force Meeting

In June, I had the opportunity to join Rising Communities on a group trip to Sacramento for the final meeting of the California Reparations Task Force. Previously, I had no idea that I would get the chance to follow and witness something historical. To see that this is the closest any state has ever been to passing state reparations for the descendants of Black American slavery is amazing to see. Many black leaders, organizations, and supporters made the trip to Sacramento that day to be a part of this.

At the final Reparations Task Force meeting, someone handed out copies of the executive summary of the final report, and fortunately, I got the last copy available. Later, Dr. Grills from the California Reparations Task Force signed my copy saying, “We will do this.” It was such a powerful experience being surrounded by advocates, allies, and my colleagues who were there to learn more about and support reparations in California. Afterwards, I took the best stroll through the gardens of the California State Capitol and reflected on how those that came before me had to fight for their basic human rights. Now, I was a part of this historical effort, and I knew I wanted to stay connected with this work.

Rising Communities Policy Form: Reparations panel

Rising Communities Policy Form: Reparations panel

Fast forward to October, as I was walking into the California Science Center for the Rising Communities Policy Forum, there was a feeling of something different. As I walked into smiling faces and greetings from some of my colleagues from Rising Communities, I knew this would be a pleasant event. I passed the photo booth section and entered the auditorium. A few moments after entering the room I knew there was something different about this day at the California Science Center, after coming here many times as a kid until adulthood. There was a great sense of overwhelming leadership that filled this space, and I loved it.
Reparations has been a talked about side conversation for years in the black community, never did I think I would see the day that the conversation would make it this far. This is truly a historic time in history, and I was beyond excited to see the talk about the importance and the history of reparations making its way to South Los Angeles and involving different cultures and ethnicities. When the reparations panel began, I moved closer, and so did others; this was going to be a much-needed intimate conversation. Chris Lodgson, President of Coalition for a Just & Equitable California (CJEC) and Policy and Community Organizing Manager at ARC was our moderator. CJEC has been our reparation’s partner and Chris took the lead while asking much needed questions, he also had a way of making you feel like no one else was in the room, that it was a conversation between you as the guest and the panelist.

The Reparation’s Panelist included Dr. Cheryl Grills (California Reparations Task Force Member), San Diego Council Member Monica Mongomery Steppe (California Reparations Task Force Member), Kamilah Moore (Chair of California Reparations Task Force), Trevor Smith (Director of Narrative Change, Liberation Ventures), Friday Jones (City of Los Angeles Reparations Advisory Commission Member).

Some key points mentioned in the conversation stood out to me, one being from Dr. Cheryl Grills. She stated, “black Americans can heal by no longer defining themselves through the lens of the oppressor, being able to take the time to deconstruct 600 plus years of assault against us as a people across all our ethnic groups and across the globe”. This stood out to me because after hearing that statement and realizing that this isn’t something that is going to be healed overnight, this was truly a traumatic event against the black community. And one way we can start to heal that wound is to no longer shield ourselves from the pain and views used to oppress us.

She also stated that we have dealt with cultural trauma. The definition of cultural trauma is the dramatic loss of identity and meaning, a tear in the social fabric affecting a group of people that has achieved some degree of cohesion. Trevor Smith of Narrative Change also pointed out that one of the biggest narratives we are up against in this fight for reparations is anti-blackness and the idea of deservedness. And being deserving of reparations, which is a form of anti-blackness, that black people are not deserving of repair.
Through these conversations, guests were able to take a deeper look at themselves. Did they practice anti-blackness in any way? Were they able to be an ally? And how? And if you were a black person in the room, you felt empowered after leaving that conversation and knowing that you are deserving of repair. You alone are not only deserving, but for your ancestors that came before you and those that will come after you. You are deserving.