On Fighting For Reparations And American Descendants of Slavery: An Interview with Tamara Johnson Shealey

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Tamara Johnson Shealey
Tamara Johnson Shealey, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said she wants to take a reparations agenda to Washington D.C.

U.S. Senate candidate Tamara Johnson Shealey spoke about reparations, American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) and Black pain in a recent interview with BlackHer.

In an effort to improve the resources offered to those in her industry and community, the Georgia businesswoman has run for political office three times and founded The Concerned Beauty and Barber Professionals (TheCBBP) and Politics Beauty and Barber (PBB) organizations.

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Though she didn’t win either of her races, the percentage of the vote she received each time increased. Now thanks to the leadership of Stacey Abrams, Shealey believes her odds have improved and she’d like to take a reparations agenda to Washington, D.C.

“I am absolutely clear about the need for reparations and I am very vocal about it,” Shealey told BlackHer’s Jocelyn Harmon. “At 47, I shouldn’t remember the outhouses, the tin roofs, and the tobacco truck coming by to take my family members to work, but I do.  There is a debt owed to American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). Far too many of us are still living with the devastation and generational trauma caused by historic and present-day systemic racism.  In addition to slavery, ADOS experienced the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, convict leasing, redlining and exclusion from government programs like the GI Bill and the New Deal. Now, we are suffering because of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.  We are a broken people. America has a debt to pay to ADOS and reparations are past due. In the words of Dr. King, “we are coming to get our check.” That is why I am running and why I am reaching out to ADOS to help me do it. My goal is to create a federal agency to provide the funding we need to address reparations.”

When asked by Harmon if she thought her support of the ADOS movement would hurt her campaign because the group has come under fire for being “racist at worst and divisive at best when it comes to immigrants and other Black people,” Shealey said she didn’t agree with that characterization.

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While noting ADOS is not without its flaws, she heralded their strategic approach to banging for reparations.

“The ADOS movement is the voice of pain for a lot of people who are demanding to have their needs addressed.  I do not believe that is racist. The data shows that unless something changes Black America, the net worth of Black Americans will move to zero by 2053.  I believe that seeking reparations is a form of self-preservation,” Shealey said. “ American Descendants of Slavery built this country and want to make sure that their needs are met and that reparations are on every candidate’s political agenda. I do not think ADOS is divisive.  I think they are being strategic and you know the saying, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease.’”

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She sees reparations as a form of helping to heal Black America’s trauma and pain.

“Slavery broke us as a people.  We are all clear about that and there is a lot of healing that needs to happen both individually and collectively. Our healing must be led by qualified professionals and experts.  This is a part of reparations,” Shealey said.