The National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants (NAASD) and Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC) attained a victory in their fight to disaggregate Black data by lineage for reparations for Black Americans.
“#AB1604 just PASSED in the CA state Assembly PERS Committee with our language requiring CA to disaggregate Black data by lineage!! Thank you @cjecofficial advocates & supporters for your testimony & comments! Another HUGE HISTORIC step forward for our people!! #lineage,” CJEC tweeted on Wednesday, March 16 after the bill passed.
NAASD and CJEC have been instrumental in fighting for reparations at the local, state and federal levels since officially forming in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Among their accomplishments is helping ensure California’s passage of AB-3121 – the assembly bill which created the nation’s first Reparations Task Force.
While the group is supportive of the right of every Black person in the African diaspora to fight for reparations, they believe the payouts should be based on lineage.
In other words, NAASD and CJEC believe America should pay descendants of Black people who were enslaved in the U.S., while other countries should pay the descendants of those whose ancestors they enslaved.
“It’s important, especially with NAASD, to not have our message present in a way that somehow makes others feel less than. That is not how we share our message,” NAASD co-facilitator Khansa “Friday” Jones-Muhammad, who has Barbadian and Indigenous ancestry, told The Moguldom Nation in a 2021 interview.
Her fellow co-facilitator Mark Stevenson agreed.
“I think this has to be clear. … There is a debt that is owed to the descendants of the slaves that were enslaved here in the United States,” Stevenson told Moguldom, noting his wife’s Black American and Panamanian ancestry. “We can put that message out there without seeming xenophobic and making it seem like it’s all about us and not about anybody else.”
The groups’ efforts to keep California’s reparations legislation lineage-based hit a snag on Feb. 24 when a critical vote was delayed that would have decided who was eligible to receive reparations.
“If you have Black skin, you are catching hell in this country,” said task force member Lisa Holder during a meeting. “We have to embrace this concept that Black lives matter — not just a sliver of those Black lives.”
Her fellow task member Reginald Jones-Sawyer agreed, saying “In essence, we’re saying people like that, who’re experiencing racism now — and you can’t tell me Barack Obama didn’t experience racism — could not be part of reparations.”
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NAASD, CJEC and California Secretary of State Shirley Webber, who authored AB-3121, maintained that reparations by lineage is the best model for success.
“Reparations are designed to repair and heal the damages done to Africans for 400 years who (suffered) through Jim Crow (laws),” Weber said at a January meeting. “Recent immigrants do not share our common oppression at the same level. … Reparations are for those who are descendants of slavery. Their ties are permanently severed from their homeland and their ability to return to Africa is almost impossible. We are truly Americans.”
The legislature agreed on Wednesday and passed Bill AB-1604. Titled “The Upward Mobility Act of 2022,” the bill requires Black groups to be distinguished by lineage.
“This bill would require any state agency, board, or commission that directly or by contract collects demographic data as to the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to use separate collection categories and tabulations for specified African American groups,” AB-1604 states.
The legislation also says AB-1604 “would distinguish between African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States and African Americans who are not descendants of persons enslaved in the United States, as defined.”
Disaggregating data by lineage is important, according to Nicole Martin Rogers, a senior research manager at Minnesota Compass.
“We (social scientists, policy makers, advocates, service providers) frequently need more information than race to help understand the strengths, needs, and quality of life of diverse groups in our communities and the differences and disparities among those groups. Careful data disaggregation can increase our clarity about a particular question or issue,” Rogers wrote in an article on the topic.
CJEC’s Lead Organizer Chris Lodgson expressed his excitement at AB-1604’s passage and thanked all of the bill’s supporters.
“We used this bill as a vehicle for our language and we’re extremely excited and extremely proud of the work that people here in California – activists, organizers, community members and just regular Black folks – working to make change in their community have done,” Lodgson told The Moguldom Nation. “It’s important that the state of California and actually the country start to recognize us as a specific group of people.”
Lodgson added they expect California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill into law later this year after it passes another assembly vote and the state senate, which they are confident it will do.
“We’re very, very confident the assembly and Senate will support it and we are confident that the governor will sign this bill with this language,” Lodgson said. “No longer can we be grouped together in this big Black or African American category. The state will have to finally disaggregate lineage and that’s an important step, one, because it’s the right thing to do and it’s long overdue. We’ve been here 400 years and we’re fighting to have ourselves recognized.”
“Second, it will help the California reparations task force figure out who is a descendant of persons enslaved in this country when talking about eligibility. It will help the commission do its job and is also important for policy outside of reparations,” Lodgson continued. “Governments across the country make a lot of different policies in a lot of different areas. If they can’t direct and identify us as a specific group of people, how are they going to direct programs to us? This is a win-win for us all around.”
Some Black Americans on Twitter also celebrated the victory.
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