California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force lived up to its promise and released its first interim report on Wednesday, June 1.
The historic report spans 500 pages and “surveys the ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans as a result of slavery and its lingering effects on American society today,” the introductory summary states.
Among the categories covered in the report are: slavery, racial terror, political disenfranchisement, housing segregation, separate and unequal education, racism in environment and infrastructure, pathologizing the Black family, control over creative cultural and intellectual life, stolen labor and hindered opportunity, an unjust legal system, mental and physical harm and neglect and the racial wealth gap.
In an exclusive interview, task force chair and attorney Kamilah Moore, 29, told The Moguldom Nation that the response to the report’s release has been “overwhelming.” It’s “the most extensive government-issued report on the African American community since the Kerner Commission in 1968,” she said.
“I wasn’t expecting to get so much of a response with the report’s release, even though I know it’s historic,” Moore said. “We’ve been working hard for this past year so it just feels good.
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“People are already responding to it in really amazing ways. On social media, people have retweeted and quote tweeted it with thoughts saying, ‘I can’t wait to read this,’ or ‘I’m going to read this with my entire family,’ which I thought was just super touching.”
She wasn’t the only one excited by the milestone. Reparations activist Tiffany Quarles, 41, said she is “ecstatic” by the report’s release.
Quarles is the national secretary and co-chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants (NAASD). She is also a member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC). Both organizations have been instrumental in the fight for reparations in California.
“It is a labor of love,” Quarles told The Moguldom Nation. “None of us get paid to do this and this is like a full-time job. We eat, breathe and sleep this. It is a watershed moment in the whole reparations movement for Black Americans period. Since Reconstruction, this is the farthest we’ve gotten because there is now a living, breathing document detailing all the harms. It’s huge.”
The report is filled with recommendations from the task force. Among them are expanding voter registration, holding police who are violent accountable, improving the condition of Black neighborhoods, paying incarcerated workers a fair market rate for their labor, giving housing grants and zero-interest business loans to Black Californians whose ancestors had property or businesses stolen or destroyed, creating a special office to help Black Californians trace lineage, and more.
Initially introduced as a resolution in 2019, AB-3121 was upgraded to an assembly bill by California Secretary of State Dr. State Shirley Weber after meeting with members of CJEC and NAASD LA, Quarles said.
“We lobbied in the state senate and worked with Ice Cube and Maxine Waters and asked Gov. Newsom to sign it and he did,” Quarles said. “Our team worked with decision-makers to help staff the task force and we’ve been working non-stop, going to all the hearings, meeting weekly and putting together recommendations.”
The bill created a nine-member task force after it was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. It held its first meeting in June 2021 with the goal of examining the impact of slavery, discrimination, white supremacy, and racism on Black Californians, then providing suggestions on how the state can recompense them.
Since June 2021, the task force has held a series of multi-day meetings and listening sessions to inform its work. In March, it voted to use lineage-based criteria for reparations proposals.
Among those in attendance at hearings were Beth Gorman, grandmother of the nation’s first youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman; ACLU President Deborah Archer; actress Erika Alexander; writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Douglass Blackmon; hip-hop MC and activist PRICE; UCLA Professor Safiya Noble; activist and Black farmers advocate Lawrence Lucas, and many more.
Renowned reparations scholars Dr. William “Sandy” Darity and his wife Kirsten Mullen were expert consultants on the report, in addition to task force members, activists, community members and civil rights attorneys from California’s Department of Justice.
“I hope that this report is used not only as an educational tool, but an organizing tool for people not only in California but across the U.S. to educate their communities,” Moore said.
Task force co-chair Dr. Amos Brown said it has been a “privilege” to work with the group on restorative justice suggestions.
“It is a privilege to sit on a task force that has the moral obligation of fulfilling the task of developing measures that will right the wrongs which were collectively perpetuated against the African American community solely on the basis of the color of our skin,” Brown said.
“Other groups that have suffered exclusion, oppression, and downright destruction of human existence have received reparations, and we should have no less,” Brown continued.
Moore said she was “extremely proud” of everyone who worked to get the report published.
“We essentially supervised the report from outline stage to final draft. We revised, included suggestions and essentially approved everything that came out,” Moore said. “I’m extremely proud of us all for meeting this very important deadline.”
Though the report does not include direct cash payments, Quarles said NAASD and CJEC are proponents of them.
“We take an unapologetic stance that cash payments must be included. The report does dance around it but we want to be on record that cash payments must be at the cornerstone of any recommendations package,” Quarles said.
“I am in awe. When we got started, people said it would never happen, but we moved in faith and we’ve come this far by faith and we’re going all the way,” Quarles said.
The report is the culmination of the task force’s first year of work which began in June 2021. Another report is due out in June 2023.
To read the full report, click here.
PHOTO: People line up to speak during a reparations task force meeting at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Janie Har)