At Reparations Forum In South Carolina, Descendant Of Slaves Leaves With Questions

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Written by Dana Sanchez
reparations forum
A mostly-white crowd of 400-plus attended a reparations forum in Charleston hosted by the ACLU and National African American Reparations Commission. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-Texas), co-sponsored H.R. 40, legislation that calls for a study on the lasting effects of slavery and what can be done to address it. Lee speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A mostly-white crowd of 400-plus people attended a forum on Nov. 2 in Charleston, South Carolina, to discuss reparations. The forum — the second in a series aimed at passing H.R. 40 legislation — was hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union and National African American Reparations Commission.

Initially proposed by the late Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), H.R. 40 was reintroduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) in January. It calls for a study on the lasting effects of slavery and what can be done to address it.

The Charleston forum served as a follow-up to the first event in Washington D.C. on Juneteenth, held after Congressional reparations hearings. Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor-activist Danny Glover were among those who testified on Juneteenth at the first congressional hearing in more than 10 years on reparations. 

Jameion Fowler traveled two hours to Charleston to attend the Nov. 2 forum and he sat in the front row, the Post and Courier reported. His family can trace its roots back to the 1700s to enslaved people in the Carolinas. “My father’s family were the descendants of slaves in Columbus County, N.C.,” he said.

At age 37, Fowler said he’s still paying off his student loan. He cited the racial wealth gap — the average African American household in South Carolina has around $14,000 in net worth compared to around $133,000 for the average white household.

“There’s always a sense of struggle — that you’re never really caught up,” Fowler told the Charleston newspaper the Post and Courier. “There’s always this idea that you see all these other folks with all these other resources, and we’re in a sense, corralled, into certain neighborhoods with limited resources.”

Forum participants included:

  • Dr. Ron Daniels, National African American Reparations Commission
  • Jeffery Robinson, director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, National ACLU
  • Nana Dr. Patricia Newton, CEO, Black Psychiatrist of America
  • Montague Simmons, Movement for Black Lives Reparations Policy Table
  • Kamm Howard, National Co-Chairperson, National Coalition for Reparations for African Americans (NCOBRA)
  • Nkechi Taifa, Esq., Civil Rights/Human Rights Attorney
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • Jasiri X, Hip-hop artist/activist

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Attorney Taifa described how efforts to snuff out resistance by slaves continue to this day.

“When we see that video of the ruthless pursuit of the chasing and gunning down of Walter Scott in South Carolina like a runaway slave, when we see the gunning down of Michael Brown in Ferguson like a dog in the street, when we see Eric Garner in New York being choked to death with countless, countless others all by those who have sworn to uphold the law, we know that there is a connection between the U.S. criminal punishment system and the necessity for justice,” she said to thunderous applause.

During the question-and-answer section, time ran out before Fowler could ask his question: What can be done to encourage the city of Charleston to direct some of its resources into impoverished communities of descendants of slaves?

“I just have a problem with the constant repetition,” Fowler told the Post and Courier. “I’m looking for the solutions. I’m looking for the tangibles.”

He didn’t get any tangibles, at least not during the Nov. 2 forum, the Courier reported.