A resolution to form a task force on reparations for Black Philadelphians descended from people enslaved in America was introduced to the City Council on Thursday, and the organization that lobbied for it hopes it will have an impact large scope.
What could such a working group explore? Advocates cited underfunded schools, poor health, food deserts, environmental racism and pollution, among other problems.
“(There are) so many things that need to be covered by the Philadelphia Reparations Task Force,” said Breanna Moore, co-chair of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’). COBRA PHL), which organized to seek support from lawmakers for the idea.
As proposed, the task force would “study and develop proposals for repairs,” according to a notice issued by council member Jamie Gauthier, who co-sponsored the resolution with council members Kendra Brooks and Isaiah Thomas.
“When we discuss implementing solutions that address the root of problems like poverty and gentrification, reparations must be part of that conversation,” Gauthier said at a news conference. January rally in favor such a working group.
“Reparations are not a gift,” she said. “This is what communities of color, and especially our Black community, are owed. »
N’COBRA PHL Co-Chair Rashaun Williams is hopeful that a task force will be given enough time to work. “I think we need at least two years,” he told Billy Penn. “Our people need reparation after centuries of things that have happened to us. »
There’s also a more recent issue to address: N’COBRA PHL believes Philadelphia is not fully enforcing the reparations laws it passed in 2005.
THE slavery disclosure lawwhich obliges banks and the companies the city works with to examine their history to see if they profited from the American slave trade and propose reparations programs if so.
Philadelphia officials believe the law is being followed, but declined to provide details.
“We are not aware of any custodian providing materially false information regarding disclosures regarding matters related to the era of slavery,” city spokeswoman Sarah Peterson said in response to questions about the question of whether banks were handing over completely accurate documents.
Billy Penn was denied interviews on the subject with the Treasurer’s Office, the Purchasing Department and the Philadelphia Law Department, the agencies charged with evaluating and certifying historical accounts that banks and corporations share.
Mayor Kenney’s administration appears open to the idea of a task force.
“We are open to exploring options, whether it be a task force or a commission on reparations, and we will continue to gather the necessary information as well as have internal conversations to identify an appropriate path forward,” Peterson told Billy Penn in January.
What is N’COBRA? Its roots in Philadelphia and its continuing impact
N’COBRA, the national organization from which N’COBRA PHL emerged, was founded in 1987 by Imari Obadele — a Philadelphia native who in 1968 co-founded the Republic of New Afrika, an organization seeking to create an independent black nationalist state in the southeastern United States, or the black belt – And Adjoa Aiyetorolawyer and activist with long ties to black nationalist and pan-African movements.
Its mission is to serve as “a large-scale organization for the sole purpose of obtaining reparations for African descendants in the United States and to support movements for reparations for Africans and African descendants throughout the United States.” the diaspora and in Africa”, according to an article written by Aiyetoro.
N’COBRA is one of the groups continuing to push for H.R. 40, federal legislation first introduced in 1989, which calls for a national study of the merits and feasibility of granting repairs.
The Philadelphia chapter was founded in 1994 by Latifah Ali, Sheila Jones, Richard White and others before a national conference held in Philadelphia the following year, according to Williams, the current co-president.
While supporting reparations movements elsewhere, N’COBRA specifically seeks reparations for Black Americans descendants of people enslaved in the United States – not other British colonies or any other European colonial projects. The resolution presented in Philadelphia reflects the same point of interest.
Local surveys on repairs have not been commissioned, but several surveys show less than 30% of Americans support reparations for slavery. Some surveys show that the main reason people think black Americans should not get reparations is because they just don’t deserve itnot because of pre-existing policies intended to right historical wrongs or because they believe black people are treated equally today.
However, black American support for reparations has always been exceeded 75%.
A few religious leaders in Philadelphia, notably some Quakers in Philadelphia, are in favor of reparations. The Friends of Green Street meeting in Germantown kicked off a decade of repair efforts last year by offering their black neighbors free real estate and legal services to resolve tangled transfers of titles, wills and deeds.
Other local groups are also in favor of the measure: the Philadelphia chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League in March issued a statement in favor of the creation of a working group.
“Japanese Americans are one of the few communities to have received reparations from the U.S. government as a result of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988,” the statement noted.
The statement notes that the “friendship, solidarity, and allyship” of black civil rights leaders were essential for Asian Americans to gain the right to become naturalized citizens and enjoy the rights that black Americans have been on the front lines to win for racial minorities.
In an effort to gain more support as the resolution moves through the Council, the N’COBRA PHL chairs also believe the task force could offer a useful lesson to a city that tends to celebrate its history. abolitionism when discussions of slavery arise.
“Philadelphia was just as guilty as the South when it came to enslaving people of African descent,” Moore said. “Universities built their wealth on black people, (like) so many industries in Philadelphia.”
Other disputes aside, Moore believes that arguments against reparations for black Americans cannot be drawn from the historical record.
“To me, if you really know the truth of the story, you can’t be skeptical. I would say you should dig deeper and see where this skepticism lies.