Highlights from Southern California Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable

Highlights from Southern California Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable

Reparations Roundtable

Juanita Watson, President of the Freedmen Ignited Reparations Project, talks to attendees at the inaugural Southern California Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable. (Twitter: @Chad_Boogie)

Over 100 faith leaders, reparations activists and community leaders from across California converged at Loveland Church – Fontana for the inaugural “Southern California Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable” on Feb. 11.

Attendees and speakers alike spoke highly of the event organized by the Freedmen Ignited Reparations Project. Juanita Watson, affectionately known as Nita, is the president of Freedmen Ignited and a member of the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants (NAASD). She said it warmed her heart to see her vision manifest.

“Freedmen Ignited Reparations Project, Inc.’s first annual Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable exceeded all expectations. From the pulpit to the door, the spirit of excellence filled the building,” Watson told Moguldom Nation in a statement. 

“This meeting has started a serious conversation about the Black church’s historic role in civil rights movements for centuries beginning with General William Tecumseh Sherman’s meeting with 20 of Savannah’s religious leaders on January 16, 1865, and the subsequent Field Order 15, what we know as the 40 acres and a mule order,” she continued.

Watson added that those present believed the Black church still has an important role to play in the current reparations landscape.

“Organizers and the attendees firmly believe that the Black church’s role is critical in this modern reparations movement and will never be diminished. I highly recommend to those unable to attend this year to look forward to next year’s event,” Watson said.

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Throughout the day, presenters cover topics ranging from the history of the Freedman’s Bureau and the original promise of 40 acres and a mule to disaggregating data, lineage-based reparations and the current work and legislation in California on reparations.

Chris Lodgson, the lead organizer of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), was the keynote speaker. Before his address, Lodgson praised Watson for her commitment to the cause of securing reparations and reparative justice for Black Americans.

“I really wanted to show up for you, Nita, because you have showed up for us so many times,” Lodgson said. “I had to make sure that I was here in person to give you back that love.”

He then shared with the audience how he realized the power of organizing while living in a homeless shelter in New York. His advocacy as a resident there eventually set him on a path to working with a non-profit, moving to California and, ultimately, doing the work he’s engaged in now.

Lodgson also stressed that reparations activists are just ordinary people working to change the trajectory of Black Americans’ lives by advocating for the government to pay the long-overdue debt owed for centuries of slavery, systemic racism and oppression.

“We’re just regular people … we’re not professionals, we wasn’t trained to do none of this; we just said something is wrong, we gotta do something about it, and we not taking no for an answer,” Lodgson said. “It’s important to recognize your power, what you can do [and] what you can accomplish.”

Lodgson covered the first report of the California Reparations Task Force, some of the harms against Black Americans and the fight to end current slavery happening in California state prisons.

“You know what we are going through. What you personally are going through, you know it,” Lodgson said, pointing at the audience. “Some of us know that you can be enslaved right now in the state of California. … Somewhere in the constitution, it says neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude are allowed, except as punishment for a crime.”

He encouraged attendees to reflect on the fact that they are making history.

“Right now, every single one of you, every single one of us, is sitting and living inside of a history book,” Lodgson continued. “People are going to be reading and writing and talking about what you did, about what I did, about what we did now for reparations … 50 years from now. Right now, we are closer to reparations than we’ve ever been as a people.”

Other special guest presenters include attorney Kamilah Moore and Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, the chair and co-chair of the historic California Reparations Task Force; Khansa T. Jones-Muhammad, President of NAASD; and reparations activists Chad Brown and Tiffany Quarles of NAASDLA and CJEC; Loveland Church Pastors Chuck and Charlyn Singleton; and others.

Watson praised each of them for their contributions to the reparations roundtable.

“The presenters put on a masterful exhibition of precision knowledge of the California reparations and disaggregation laws AB 3121, SB 189, the Task Force Interim Report, the Freedmen Bureau and Reconstruction, and NAASD’s year in review,” Watson told Moguldom in an emailed statement. “Dr. Brown rendered a soul-stirring luncheon address with a full charge to the listeners to push harder than ever for reparations for the descendants of U.S. chattel slaves.”

Brown spoke about how increasingly blatant the threat of white supremacy and fascism is in America, highlighting as an example Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to ban accurate Black history from being taught in schools.

“We had culture, and we had dignity, and we had souls, and we had love in our hearts and minds … in our time in 2023, you have an evil, white, Hispanic man who’s leading a movement to say that you can’t know the truth about what happened to Black folks,” Dr. Amos Brown said. “And consequently, whenever you have that kind of mentality afoot in a society, you’re on your way to becoming a fascist state.”

“We’ve come to the point right now people are still in the state of denial and won’t admit the evils of racism, of separate but equal for 96 years … you can’t have peace when you don’t tell the truth,” Dr. Brown continued.

Chad Brown and some of his colleagues from the NAASDLA, shared information about the AB3121 California Reparations Task Force, their legislative efforts (particularly SB189 that will disaggregate the Black/AA category in state data collection), the national advocacy of the organization and why reparations must be lineage-based.

He spoke highly of the event.

It was an incredible honor to be invited to present at the Inaugural SoCal Faith Leaders Reparations Roundtable,” Brown told Moguldom in a statement. “It was wonderfully put together and I hope that Loveland continues to bring information to their members and community on the important issue of Reparations and what is occurring in California. Thank you to Pastors Chuck and Charlyn Singleton for opening their doors to us and a special thank you to Ms. Nita Watson for organizing this amazing event!”