At least three reparations discussions have been held on Twitter in December including one by USA Today, which conducted a Twitter Spaces talk on Dec. 8 that inspired another organization to do a deeper-dive reparations session via social media.
Many reparations activists felt the USA Today discussion — entitled “Repairing America: A chat about race, reparations and social justice” — was too short. In response, the United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen (USADOF) organization held its own reparations discussion on Twitter Spaces.
The mission of the United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen is “to uplift our largely disenfranchised communities, Freedmen history, and lineage tracing.”
Among the participants at the USA Today event were newspaper editors David Mastio and Felecia Wellington; journalist Eileen Rivers, author of “Beyond the Call” (an outgrowth of a multi-media project she produced for USA Today); and retired chief probation officer Tamara K. Lanier, who had a failed lawsuit against Harvard University lawsuit that alleged the university unlawfully possesses and profits from historic photos she says depict her enslaved ancestors.
Held on Dec. 12, the Freedmen’s discussion ran more than three hours and featured founding members of the Freedmen, including USADOF chairman Nyhiem “Lord Abba” Way; Charles “Logic Supreme” Ware, national spokesperson of USADOF; Ali Bey, secretary of USADOF; and Josh Gray, treasurer of USADOF.
The United Sons and Daughters of Freedmen intend to “create an online database designed to document eligible beneficiaries of a federal reparations program, i.e. those who have researched their ancestry and located at least one American enslaved ancestor and have identified as Negro, Black, colored, or African American in official and legal documents for at least 10 years before a reparations program,” the website states.
During Sunday’s USADOF Twitter Spaces session, Way discussed why he saw the need for a follow-up to the USA Today reparations discussion. “USA Today had a discussion, and some of the answers were good, but many of them were incomplete when you’ve studied the whole subject of reparations as we had. And so we saw fit to have this particular discussion today,” Way said.
“You know we live and breathe reparations; that’s our fight,” said speaker Ibrahim Tanner, who described himself as a Freedmen. The USA Today discussion “included people who were opposed to reparations, and they went unchecked,” Tanner added.
Bey defined reparations and the forms they could take, noting that he felt the USA Today forum lacked concrete details and solutions. “Reparations is making amends for a wrong that has done by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged,” he said. “Some of the forms that reparations can take are our direct cash payments, credit score resets, or debt forgiveness grants, and forgivable loans for homeownership, business startups, or the pursuit of higher education.”
If USA Today wanted to present a serious discussion on reparations, they would have included the “criteria for eligibility established by Dr. Darity and Kirsten Mullen,” Bey said. Reparations scholars Dr. William “Sandy” Darity and A. Kirsten Mullen laid out a plan for reparations in their book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”
Bey continued, “As to why we need reparations, that’s an ongoing checklist of things (including) the robbery and destruction of the Freedman’s bank leading to the loss of generational wealth.”
The Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company was a private savings bank chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1865 to serve the newly emancipated Black communities. At its peak, the Freedman’s Savings Bank held assets worth more than $3.7 million in 1872 dollars, which translates to approximately $80 million in 2021, according to Oxford University Press blog, “Academic Insights for the Thinking World.” The bank failed in 1874, and many historians note that its failure not only affected the savings of many African Americans but also their trust in financial institutions.
Ware (Logic Supreme-Freedmen) stressed that reparations must be on a federal level, not through local initiatives. “We must construct that program in Washington, D.C.– not local; it has to be federal,” he said.
USADOF treasurer Gray countered arguments against reparations. Some of those opposed to reparations point to successful Black people as a reason why reparations are not needed. “Just because I have given myself my own repair, it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve repair from the government. Just because I have overcome the odds and obstacles to become successful, it doesn’t erase the injury done to me by the policies of the government,” Gray said.
Tanner added that the government in the past has issued reparations to repair other communities such as the Japanese Americans for their internment during World War II. “Government involvement was able to lift them up through government programs and different things that were exclusive to their group,” Tanner said. “What we’re talking about goes beyond that because we’re talking about why the government was lifting up other groups while it was holding us back.”
“(Black people) were not emancipated into the American dream, to begin with. We were emancipated into extreme poverty; we were emancipated into racial terrorism,” Ty Harper said.
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Besides the USA Today and the Freemen’s reparations panels, on Dec. 10 the National African American Reparations Commission held a virtual town hall meeting, “Building a Local #Reparations Movement” that was live-streamed on Twitter. The event featured actor-activist Danny Glover; Eric Phillips, vice-chairman of CARICOM’s Reparations Commission; and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, lead sponsor of federal reparations study bill HR-40. CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is an intergovernmental organization of 15 member states throughout the Caribbean that promote economic integration and cooperation among members to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr
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