California is leading the way with lineage-only reparations efforts for Black Americans descended from people enslaved in the United States. The state’s first-in-the-nation Reparations Task Force voted last week to use lineage as a criterion in any recompense the group is successful in getting passed into law.
Not all reparations advocates are for lineage-only reparations. Some believe the distinction to be divisive. However, there are some prominent voices among those who agree on limiting it to lineage.
Here are six key players in the lineage-only reparations movement in California.
Reparations task force member Dr. Shirley Weber is the author of California’s Assembly Bill 3121 – which established the task force with a goal “to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, with a special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.”
Dr. Weber made history when she was appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsome to serve as the first Black Secretary of State but her political career didn’t start there. A scholar and academic, Weber helped establish the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University, where she taught for more than 40 years before retiring, according to her online government bio.
She also made history in 2012 when she became the first Black person elected to the California State Legislature south of Los Angeles.
Weber is one of the most vocal proponents of lineage-only eligibility. “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.”
“It’s an issue not about being Black. It’s an issue of descendants and lineage,” Weber continued. “There will be many Black people who do not deserve reparations, but there will be many whose lineage clearly says very strongly that they deserve to have reparations.”
California Sen. Steven Bradford represents the state’s 35th district. He’s been in public service for more than 20 years and is also a history-maker who became the first Black official elected to the Gardena City Council.
According to an online bio, Bradford has been successful in getting more thanr 43 bills signed into law. He is a member of the reparations task force and a strong advocate for the lineage-only reparations movement.
His was one of the five “yes” votes to establish lineage-only criteria for the state’s reparations efforts. When asked why he voted “yes” to lineage, Bradford said it’s because reparations was originally designed to help repair the harm done to Black people enslaved in America and their descendants.
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“When you understand the concept and the creation of reparations, it was for those enslaved people as of 1865 here in United States and that was the promise of 40 acres and a mule to them,” Bradford told Fox 5 San Diego in an interview.
“Has there been true remnants of aftereffects of slavery that Blacks have experienced in this country? Without a doubt,” Bradford continued. “But the original origin of reparations was for those folks who were in bondage for hundreds of years, who had their families torn apart, who were beaten, who were lynched, who built this nation’s wealth on their backs and they labored for free. So that’s what reparations is … and that’s the core of why we created reparations in this country.”
Kamilah Moore is a reparatory justice scholar, attorney and the chairwoman of California’s Reparations Task Force. Through her law practice, she specializes in entertainment and intellectual property transactions.
Moore has spent her academic and law career exploring the harms imposed by racism, human rights violations and gender violence. While studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam, Moore wrote a master thesis exploring the intersections between international law and reparatory justice for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, and their legacies, her online bio states.
She’s a staunch pro-lineage reparations supporter.
“Lineage matters. When we’re talking about reparations for the institution of slavery, we’re talking about a particular group of people and a particular crime against humanity, that being the institution of slavery as it was enacted and constructed in the United States,” Moore said in an interview with ABC10. “That’s why it’s really important that we centralize lineage in this discussion.
“Think about it,” Moore continued. “In terms of reparations for the institution of slavery, those enslaved Africans, they were promised reparations though 40 acres and a mule but it was rescinded through the broken promise of reconstruction and because of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. So those freed African slaves never got repair and then the harms that they faced were transferred upon their direct descendants.”
According to his bio on the Reparations Task Force webpage, Jovan Scott Lewis “is an Economic Anthropologist and Geographer who researches reparations, the political economy of inequality and race in the United States and the Caribbean.”
He is the chairman of the University of California Berkeley’s geography department.
Though Scott is of Jamaican descent, he is the task force member who made the motion for the group to define the reparations eligibility criteria as lineage-based and argued passionately for its approval.
“I move that we define the community of eligibility based on lineage 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 United States prior to the end of the 19th century,” Lewis said on Tuesday, March 29.
Lewis earlier explained his support for lineage-based eligibility as recompensing the group which directly suffered both during slavery and afterwards.
“The idea here is that we are identifying a kind of central group that has been integral to the development of the United States, who have remained the reference for the abuse suffered by Black people,” Lewis said at the task force’s February meeting.
Chris Lodgson had been advocating for years for reparations for Black Americans descended from enslaved people. He is the lead organizer for the Coalition for A Just & Equitable California (CJEC) and a member of the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants (NAASD).
While Lodgson is supportive of Black people across the globe fighting for reparations, when it comes to the United States, he has made it clear he is pro-lineage-based reparations.
“It’s important that the state of California and actually the country start to recognize us as a specific group of people,” Lodgson told The Moguldom Nation in a recent interview. “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 … 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.”
Pastor Dr. Amos C. Brown has been fighting against racial injustice for much of his life. According to his bio on the reparations task force webpage, he is a protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom he was arrested in 1961 at a lunch counter sit-in.
A board member of the NAACP, Brown is the vice-chairman of the task force and longtime pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco. He held other pastoral appointments prior to Third Baptist.
Inducted into the International Hall of Fame at the King International Chapel at Morehouse College, Brown has received several awards for ministry and advocacy.
Brown, too, was one of the five “yes” votes for lineage-based criteria.
“This measure is about reparations for those who are harmed by chattel slavery in this country,” Brown said in a December 2021 L.A. Sentinel interview. “What I want to accomplish is Black people being and knowing that something was done about their pain — that can be done in the state of California. Things can never be perfect, but at least collectively, people of conscience and good will can stand up and say, ‘This is what we must do to right this wrong.’”
IN THE ORIGINAL PHOTOS:
In this June 10, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, calls on members of the Assembly to approve a measure at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Weber, was named on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, by picked Gov. Gavin Newsom to be Caliofornia Secretary of State. She will be the first Black woman to hold the post and comes to the job with a special understanding about the right to vote. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File
In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, addresses a press conference at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. California would start licensing law enforcement officers, create a way to end their careers for misbehavior including racial bias, and make it easier to sue them for monetary damages under an expanded version of legislation that died at the end of last year’s legislative session, supporters said Tuesday, March 16, 2021. The bill by Bradford, who heads the Senate Public Safety Committee, would require the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to issue each officer a proof of eligibility or basic certificate, renewable every two years with initial and renewal fees of up to $300. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)
The Rev. Amos Brown speaks during funeral services for civil rights activist Clara Luper in Oklahoma City, Friday, June 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)