Back in 1994, activist Silis Muhammad pushed the United Nations to encourage the U.S. to give reparations to Black American descendants of slavery. He submitted a formal appeal to the intergovernmental organization.
Silis played a major role in the Nation of Islam. Following the death of the NOI leader Elijah Muhammad in 1975, Silis resurrected the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in 1978 and became its CEO. He published Muhammad Speaks, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam, from 1960 to 1975. One of the most widely read newspapers ever produced by an African-American organization, its founders included Malcolm X.
Silis’ outreach for reparations was supported and formally backed by a group founded by a white woman and comprised of white people urging the U.S. government to agree to a reparations program.
Ida Hakim formed Caucasians United For Reparations and Emancipation (CURE) to promote the idea of reparations to fellow white Americans as a form of redemption.
Hakim had met Silis through her husband, who was African American and a supporter of the Nation of Islam and later, of Silis’ movement.
In his submission to the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for Inclusion, Silis Muhammad cited Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. had ratified. It states, said Silis, “In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”
Black Americans — or Afrodecendants, as Silis referred to the Black descendants of slavery — had their identity, culture, language and religion stripped from them and deserve to be compensated, according to Silis.
He wrote, “We, the so-called African-Americans, are not in possession of our human rights as ethnic slave descendant minorities living within the confines of the United States of America. Our mother tongue, culture and religion of our origin were removed by force and design during slavery…”
He continued, “The United States Government’s disregard and contempt for human rights ought to be seen by the U.N. as the U.S. Government has dispossessed us of our original identity and forced the identity of the majority population upon us. As minorities we remained quiescent for a long period of time, in the names given to us by the white majority: African American, Afro-American, Blacks, Negro, Colored, and so on.”
CURE supported Silis Muhammad’s submission by making its own appeal to the U.N. in July 1998.
A North Dakota farm girl, Hakim was the daughter of a country preacher. She talked about the beginnings of Caucasians United For Reparations and Emancipation (CURE) during a 2020 interview with Art NUstal TV.
“I got into studying about reparations probably around 1985, around that time when I met my husband,” Hakim recalled. Hakim moved with her husband to the south side of Chicago.
“Life really changed and a lot of things opened up to me that I hadn’t seen before…I was searching very, very deeply for something, for answers to what’s going on” in the U.S.,” Hakim said. And she learned about the need for reparations through Silis, who suggested that CURE apply for non-governmental organization consultative status with the U.N. With this status, CURE could participate in talks about reparations at the U.N.
“I undertook that and it took several years but I did get consultative status with the U.N. for CURE,” Hakim said.
One of the first tasks Hakim undertook was to submit a petition in support of Silis Muhammad’s earlier submission on reparations.
CURE submitted a written statement to the U.N. in February 2000 saying, “Silis Muhammad is the spiritual son of the Honourable Elijah Muhammad. He sojourns amid 40 million Black men and women in the United States of America whose foreparents were brought to the United States aboard slave ships. They were brought to America over 400 years ago. During the period of plantation slavery, they were forcibly denied the right to speak their ‘mother tongue.'”
The CURE statement continued to bolster Silis Muhammad’s argument that the loss of identity was a cause for reparations.
“The destruction of identity is only unique to African Americans. African Americans had your original identity, your mother tongue, your family, your concept of God, your entire life as you had experienced it through the generations taken away when Africans were brought to America,” Hakim said during the interview.
Hakim pointed out that it still has not been recognized that millions of people lost their identity during the transatlantic slave trade. “They lost their families. They lost their history,” she said.
Some 12.5 million slaves were taken from Africa, and 10.7 million were sent to the Americas, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Monetary reparations would be a win-win for Black and white people, Hakim said.
“I think that reparations would be the most redemptive act that white people — Americans and Europeans — could do to uplift themselves and that redemption is needed for us,” she said. “I can see is nothing but a benefit to us to do the right thing. I would say reparations benefits white people too. It benefits us spiritually and I think we need this.”
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