California’s reparations task force, the first of its kind in the nation, voted to officially structure the state’s reparations criteria on lineage, not race. The decision was not unanimous, nor did it come without contention, but it was supported by individuals outside of the descendant group.
The lineage-based question was narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote on Tuesday, March 29, weeks after task force member Professor Jovan Scott Lewis, who is of Jamaican descent, motioned for the lineage criteria to be set in place.
According to the motion, reparations will be “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century.”
The vote was initially set to take place on Feb. 24 but was delayed after objections arose. In the end, Scott and fellow task force members who shared his view were victorious.
Advocacy by NAASD – the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants – and the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC) helped make it possible. The groups have been fighting for more than two years to ensure that reparations signed into law in California will be paid to descendants of Black people who were victims of chattel slavery.
In addition to referring people they thought would be a good fit for the task force, the groups have continued to stress the need to repay the debts owed specifically to descendants of Black people enslaved in America.
Tangible efforts include crafting and advocating for the passage of lineage-specific language in California state assembly bills and doing a lot of grassroots outreach to drum up support for the position.
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Not everyone on the task force or members of other national reparations advocacy organizations share the pro-lineage view.
One nay vote came from clinical psychologist Cheryl Grills, who is also a member of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC). Grills went on record stating her belief that a lineage-based approach was “divisive.”
CJEC’s Lead Organizer Chris Lodgson confirmed to The Moguldom Nation that Grills “was a very strong ‘no’ on the lineage eligibility.”
Longtime reparations activist Ron Daniels, the convener of NAARC, underscored Grills’ position by making it clear that he and NAARC as a whole are proponents of race-based reparations. “The National Commission Supports Reparations for All Blacks Harmed in America!” Daniels tweeted on March 28.
Despite the challenges, Lodgson said that he, NAASD and others in favor of lineage are grateful to Scott for being a true ally as well as the other task force and community members who supported eligibility based on lineage.
“It was close … it came down to the wire,” Lodgson said. “We’ve got to speak the truth … There are people from all over the planet who are Black that want to see us get our reparations.
“The specific lineage eligibility motion is the motion that Jovan introduced; our Jamaican ally introduced the motion and that’s what the task force decided on,” Lodgson continued. “That’s crazy. That’s gon’ go down in history.”
When asked how he felt that the task force finally decided on lineage-based reparations, Lodgson expressed his joy.
“I was proud. I was humbled. I was thankful to my ancestors and I was excited when the vote passed,” Lodgson said.
PHOTO: In this Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, file photo, Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., raises her fist as she speaks during the March on Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP, File)