Continuing To Organize On The Ground

By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (May 27, 2003)

 

The momentum gained from the successful Millions For Reparations Mass Rally, held on August 17, 2002 in Washington, D. C. must be continued in our day-to-day grassroots organizational work, and as we do so we must continue our efforts to develop and support the legislative and legal components of the Reparations Movement.

           

It is the responsibility of the more than fifty thousand people who attended the rally from sixty-six cities and thirty-eight states across the country to keep the spirit of the Reparations Movement alive no matter how mainstream media marginalizes, distorts, and trivializes our efforts, on behalf of our ancestors, to be compensated for chattel slavery and its vestiges.

           

This responsibility must also be assumed by the thousands of African people in America who were unable to attend the rally, those thousands who viewed the rally on C-Span as well as those who held reparations events in their cities in support of the Millions For Reparations Mass Rally.

           

We cannot let the media put us to sleep or sidetrack us with peripheral issues. To the contrary, we must intensify our organizational efforts and stay the course, demanding that we be repaired for the most heinous crime in the annals of human history, the European chattel slave enterprise that enslaved millions of Africans and resulted in an incalculable number of deaths in the millions among Africans and their African descendants.

           

The December 12th Movement, one of the co-sponsors of the rally, distributed thousands of position statements that made many profound points such as the following:

 

“Today’s Rally occurs within the historical context of 400 years of struggling for justice and

genuine freedom for our people. The legacy of the freedom fighters and organizations that

fought and continue to fight this good fight have collectively contributed to our clarity on the

line of march, the necessary tactics, and understanding of on who does this battle depend?”

           

Further, this December 12th Movement Position Statement exclaimed,

 

“Therefore it is with clarity that we must return to the scene of the crime. Yes, because we are

perfectly clear it was/is a crime, and the 2001 U N World Conference Against Racism, in

Durban, South Africa, removed any doubt of the type and magnitude of the crime it was/is,

by its declaration that the Tran Atlantic Slave Trade Was A Crime Against Humanity. And

as such, crimes against humanity have no statutes of limitation. The crimes committed against

our people have no parallel in the annals of human history. They have no historical precedent.”

           

The National Black United Front (NBUF) Central Committee, another of the co-sponsors, decided to move forward with three specific organizing strategies to help fuel the momentum gained by the Millions For Reparations Mass Rally and to add to the increase in interest in the Reparations Movement among African people across the United States.

 

 

Strategy I: The Elected Official Reparations Survey Scorecard

The Houston Chapter of NBUF initiated an idea that NBUF chapters across the country will begin implementing. This is a survey that will be distributed to elected officials in the U. S. Congress, in state government, and local government. To implement this survey, we have developed a letter to be sent to elected officials throughout America that includes the following:

 

            As you may be aware, there is a national debate taking place over the issue of

reparations for the horrific crime against humanity, the enslavement of African

people and its vestiges. We are conducting a survey to determine exactly where governmental representatives stand. Please complete:

 

Questions:       

1.      Do you support the H. R. 40 Bill, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers,

      which proposes that a commission be formed to study the impact of the

      enslavement on African people and its vestiges, and to recommend various    

      remedies? Yes ___  No ___

 

2.      If this commission concluded that reparations were appropriate in some form   

(monetary compensation, land, educational opportunities, and so on), would

you support the commission’s recommendation? Yes ___ No ___

           

The result will be published and made available to the community so that we can be clear on where elected officials stand on the question of reparations for African people in America.

           

Strategy II: Phase IV of the NBUF Petition/Declaration Campaign

NBUF will launch Phase IV of the NBUF Petition/Declaration Campaign. During Phase III, we were successful in gathering 157,000 signatures from African people in America who agreed that the United States Government committed acts of genocide against us. We traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in May of 1997 and officially filed our genocide petitions, clearly pointing out that the vestiges of slavery, as it relates to the Prison Industrial Complex validates the contemporary demands for reparations. The acts of genocide by United States Government continue, which has spurred NBUF to continue its Anti-Genocide Campaign. It is clear to NBUF that “Our Continued Genocide— Demands Reparations.”

 

It continues to be obvious to NBUF that the scheme revealed by Gary Webb in his controversial newspapers series reported in the San Jose Mercy Newspaper in August of 1996, is still at the heart of the Prison Industrial Complex epidemic in America. Webb’s series, “Dark Alliance” revealed that an agency of the United States Government was involved in a scheme that targeted people of African descent for the distribution and sale of a deadly drug, crack cocaine. This has had and continues to have a far reaching, cataclysmic impact on the African Community across the country as witnessed by the recent report, “Cellblocks or Classrooms? The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men.” The report, produced by the Justice Police Institute, a Washington based public interest group, cited that as a result of the “get tough on crime measures— including mandatory sentences, the prison population has exploded, quadrupling from 500,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 2002.” The report states that, “The African American community has borne the brunt of our expanding correctional policies.”  “When more than a million new prisoners were added between 1985 and 1997,” the report notes, “70 percent of prison growth came from the addition of new African American and Latino prisoners.” It should be clear that this trend is tied to the genocidal crack cocaine phenomenon in America, which enhances and gives further substance to our demands for reparations.

           

The NBUF Genocide/Reparations Petition will once again be submitted to the United Nations on September 13, 2003 in conjunction with the United Nations Reparations March, which is being organized to further expose and dramatize the connection between genocide and reparations.

           

Strategy III: NBUF has taken up as a part of our reparations organizing work, the mobilization of the African Community in America to support Reparations Lawsuits filed by Deadria Farmer-Paellmann and others. This is also an outgrowth of the Millions For Reparations Mass Rally where Farmer-Paellmann made an impressive appeal for the community to support the lawsuit by appearing in the courtroom during proceedings.

           

The Farmer-Paellmann lawsuit was filed on March 26, 2002 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. In this unprecedented lawsuit, which seeks payback form companies with historical ties to the slave trade over 137 years ago, eight major corporations were named. The suit named Aetna Inc., CSX Corporation, and Fleet-Boston Financial Corporation, among others, as “unjustly profiting from the slave trade before the Civil War ended in 1865.” Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, is considered the Rosa Parks of the Reparations Litigation Movement, according to the newly released book, Should America Pay? As an attorney activist, she has studied the relationship of government and corporate policies that determined economic and social policies impacting Africans in America.

           

News accounts according to Farmer-Paellmann, reveal that “Slavery is anything but over.” Thus, “for five years, she has spent hours online and in archives hunting evidence that ties Corporate America to pre-Civil War Slavery.” These accounts further revealed that “Despite having no outside financial backing, she rocked the insurance industry in 2000 by confronting Aetna with evidence it had insured the lives of slaves for slaveholders. That prompted California to require other insurers to search archives for slave policies.”

           

Since the filing of the March 26th lawsuit, the momentum has picked up and reparations lawsuits have been filed in New Jersey, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The group of lawyers and plaintiffs led by two law firms, Thomas, Wareham, and Richards in New York and Jean Baptiste and Associates in Chicago are called “The Corporate Restitution Team.” These cases were originally filed in several different states. Since then the cases have been consolidated before Judge Charles Norgle, U. S. District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division in Chicago, Illinois.

           

NBUF has taken the lead, along with other reparations activists in Chicago, to pack the courtroom in all of the court proceedings on this case. This strategy is aimed at supporting the plaintiffs, Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, Andre Carrington, Mary Lacey Madison, Richard Barber, Marcelle Porter, Hannah Jane Hurdle-Toomey, Eddlee Bankhead (deceased), Julie Mae Wyatt-Kervin, and Ina Hurdle McGee, the lawyers, and to continue to educate the community on the progress of the lawsuit.

           

The work of NBUF in the Reparations Movement will continue to be inspired by the righteousness of our just demand for reparations.

 

Millions For Reparations: The Mississippi Model

By Baba Hannibal Afrik

 

Historical Background

The contemporary demand for Reparations is due to the United States sponsored chattel enslavement of African men, women, and children that resulted in forced labor without compensation for nearly three hundred years. It is also a form of economic justice for the centuries of racial discrimination, Jim Crow laws and vestiges of slavery that continues today.

           

I have served in several capacities within the Reparations Movement for nearly fifteen years as Life Member and past National Co-chair for the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N`COBRA), 1995-2001, and Minister of the Interior, Provisional Government / Republic of New Afrika, 1999-2002.

           

It was my pleasure to be a delegate to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in August 2001. Our strong African in America delegation, the Durban 400, lobbied for a major resolution on reparations in concert with the African Heads of State.

Under the leadership of the December 12th Movement and the National Black United Front, the Durban 400 successfully influenced the final conference resolution which proclaimed that “the Trans Atlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity” and compensation should be given to the victims and their descendants.

           

Upon returning to our communities, plans were made to conduct forums to provide information and inspiration to our people in order to move to the next level, mass mobilization. I was designated to be the Mississippi State Coordinator for the Millions for Reparations Mass Rally that was held in Washington, D. C. on August 17, 2002.

           

Along with the dynamic work of my co-leader, Brother Asinia Lukata Chikuyu, a veteran organizer in the Jackson area, we formed the Mississippi Reparations Committee (MRC) and created a Love Caravan that brought a busload of students, parents, educators, and community activists to that historic national event on August 17, 2002, where over 50,000 participants demanded Reparations Now!

           

The Mississippi delegation attracted national media coverage through the Associated Press wire services and C-SPAN television programs. The Washington Post and several newspapers in Alabama and Mississippi printed articles based on interviews of our delegates.

 

Community Awareness Campaign   

With the successful completion of the Washington, D.C. rally, the Mississippi Reparations Committee expanded its organizing efforts by establishing a Task Force Leadership Structure. This included Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes and veteran publisher Charles Tisdale, Jackson Advocate, as Honorary Co-chairs. There was also Attorney Chokwe Lumumba, legal advisor, along with a Steering Committee of representatives for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Jackson chapter of N`COBRA, and Cultural X-Pressions entrepreneurs.

           

Local contact persons were identified in sixteen cities to help sponsor Reparations Town Hall Meetings throughout the state. Correspondence was sent to all of the states’ African American senators, representatives, and mayors, requesting them to support the Congressional Reparations Bill, HR-40, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers every year since 1988.

           

Monthly press releases are being sent to electronic and print media in order to provide updated information. Interviews have been conducted on various radio programs in Mississippi and nationally.

 

Mass Mobilization

The Reparations Town Hall meetings are designed to educate and organize grassroots support in several ways, including soliciting volunteers to secure signatures on our petitions and challenge elected officials to sponsor reparations resolutions.

           

These gatherings have helped the community to understand the legal and legislative importance of our movement, nationally and internationally. A wide range of literature, books, and study materials has been made available as well as committee T-shirts and buttons.

           

The initial meetings in October 2002 were held at Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, where student committees are now involved in hosting classroom and campus discussions and organizing Reparations Study Groups. Since that date, several mass meetings have been held throughout the Jackson area including a “Reparations Sunday” event on Ujamaa (co-operative economics) during the Kwanzaa season.

           

A workshop was conducted at Rust College in Holly Springs during its Ninth Annual National Student Leadership Conference, January 2003. The presentation focused on the topic: “Organizing Student Advocates for the Reparations Movement.”

           

Town Hall meetings have been sponsored in McComb, West Point, Starkville, Laurel, and Port Gipson with plans for Natchez, Bolton, Belzoni, Philadelphia, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley State University, among others.

           

The yearlong campaign will culminate in a summer “State-Wide Reparations Summit” of historians, educators, elected officials, and community activists. An Action Agenda will be formulated to ensure operational unity between a diverse cross-section of Mississippi organizations and faith-based groups. This process will concretize our demands for economic justice and should become the litmus test to determine the moral integrity of Mississippi and America regarding social equality.

 

Conclusion

The question of Reparations is the most unifying issue our people have today. However, education is an essential ingredient for our mass mobilization. The Mississippi Reparations Committee considers this to be a sacred vocation for repairing, healing, and restoring African people, “those at home and abroad.” It is a divine duty to obtain economic justice for our beloved ancestors.

 

Free the Land! REPARATIONS NOW!

 

 

What’s Next In The Reparations Movement

By Dorothy Benton Lewis, National Co-Chair, N`COBRA

 

A precious chapter in this book, written by Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, is an outstanding contribution to origin and development of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N`COBRA).

           

As a child in predominantly white schools in Alaska, I endured social studies lessons on the Benefits of Slavery to the African. Basically, it civilized the savage and christianized the heathen. The lessons were similar for my Alaska Native and Native American classmates. So, I came to the Reparations Movement in the early 60s with a personal mission that no other child would be similarly humiliated by such ignorance. As a young adult, I gained some insights and instincts from my observations and participation in the process leading to the successful Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement. Now in the leadership of my fifth reparations organization, the evolution and the course of the current Black Reparations Movement process remains somewhat predictable. As N`COBRA continues its work in the Reparations Movement, we have established three tracks around which we are currently organizing: education, economic development, and preparation for the victory.

 

Track I: Education

The average person or child on the street must be able to understand and explain briefly why reparations are due and needed. Our goal is to demystify reparations such that reparations becomes a household word, and “of course” or “yes” is the first thought that follows it.  Educational strategies include trials, tribunals, state and federal congressional hearings, United Nations interventions, town hall meetings, academic research, and well-informed speakers at national and international conferences. These venues allow the masses to participate in their own education and have a safe space to channel their hurt and grief into constructive action.

 

A.     Information and Media:

Educating and informing the public has been an uphill battle. It has been an uphill battle due to the lack of resources and control over the media and institutions that impact our lives. This is a vestige of slavery and current day practices.

 

N`COBRA members, reparations advocates, and others who produce books, records, compact disks, audio and video tapes, DVD’s, newsletters, magazines, newspapers, use web sites, list serves, and other tools of technology are vital to our efforts to overcome media biases and the suppression of the Black Reparations Movement.

 

N`COBRA is working with artists who want to become more involved with activists and academics in the Reparations Movement. We encourage our talented youth and adults to write scripts that include intelligent, serious, and comic (but regretful) reparations conversations in their movies, plays, and concerts. Creativity and culture are ideal mediums to spread the word to as broad an audience as possible.

 

Many years ago, N`COBRA declared February 25th as Reparations Awareness Day. This has become institutionalized in many colleges and communities and provides a great opportunity for chapters and member organizations to host reparations events. Also, N`COBRA is working with members of the Faith Community to institute a Reparations Sunday to engage the spiritual aspect of the Reparations Movement.

 

B.     Legislative

N`COBRA’s Legislative Commission launched, “A Year Of Black Presence” on Capital Hill. On January 30, 2003, Philadelphia members filled the House and the Senate office buildings to educate members of Congress on the urgency of passing HR 40. This scene will be repeated each month N`COBRA chapters from a different state until HR 40 is passed and a Congressional Hearing is conducted. N`COBRA members are influencing representatives at state and local levels to pass resolutions in support of HR 40, set up state or local commissions similar HR 40, and to enact specific reparations proposals.

 

C.     International

N`COBRA established its International Commission recognizing that African descendants scattered throughout the Diaspora are, by birthright, connected to land, resources, and kinships in Africa that must be restored. Africans dispossessed of their land and their resources through European invasion, colonialism, and neo-colonialist terror are also due reparations and debt relief. I and other N`COBRA members have traveled to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to petition for our Human Rights and recognition of African descendants as a people. Without a status similar to that of indigenous Nations, whose experience with Europeans was the same as that of Africans, we have no human rights as a people, and are individual clones of our various oppressors, always at their mercy.

    

After N`COBRA’s outstanding contributions to the successful outcome of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), members now participate in the development and work of the Global Afrikan Congress (GAC). The GAC grew out of a commitment of African and African Diasporans who participated in the WCAR process, to stay connected and make real the UN Program of Action that we crated. I was elected as one of the seventeen representatives who formed the Interim Steering Committee of the GAC.

 

 

D.      Legal:

The Legal Strategies Commission now partners with the Reparations Coordinating Committee. While we are excited about the legal work, we are clear that the Reparations Movement does not turn, rest, or depend on a legal strategy alone. It is just one strategy among many. A case winding its way through the courts or lost in a court decision is simply fuel for another strategy: legislation, international, or direct action. We encourage individuals to research their family, city, and state history. A number of N`COBRA members have individual lawsuits, and such research can provide evidence for state and local class action cases. In order for the truth to be fully known, every institution involved in the dehumanizing process of enslavement, must have the light of truth shined on them.

 

Track II: Economic Development

N`COBRA supports a reparations settlement strategy that will benefit generations. This requires infrastructure development in preparation for the victory. N`COBRA is working with the business community to institutionalize a buy black project called “Black Fridays,” and to design and develop a new community as a demonstration project.

 

N`COBRA’s Economic Development Commission periodically canvases African people for views on what a reparations settlement should look like. The mass-based approach is designed to ensure community awareness of and involvement in reparations business conducted in their names on their behalf. The Commission conducts elections of commissioners who must be nominated by an organization that can vouch for their integrity and competence to represent the African Community regarding any settlement. The Commission is committed to economic development for self-reliance and participation in projects that support that commitment.

 

Track III: Preparation for the Victory

There must be transformation within the context of the Reparations Movement. So often we think that our perceived differences can be bridged through rules and points of unity. Some of us, often the best among us, make the rules and are the first to break them. We have seen a number of brilliant organizations with brilliant people start and fail. We have seen grand projects with bright promise, fizzle to a shadow of its potential. We attend meeting after meeting to plan much only to leave and implement little. Through N`COBRA’s Organizational Division and the Global Afrikan Congress, North American Regions, we are beginning the process of transformation work within the Reparations Movement.

 

Our healing and transformation occurs in the work required to achieve the victory. Some of us are familiar with the Willie Lynch speech regarding the slave making process. The modern day version was the United States Counter-Intelligence Program designed to destroy Black resistance during the 1960s. It is exciting and gratifying to know that we have the skills among us to transform 500 years of terror. We hold annual conferences in June to address the issues in Tracks I and II. Now it is time to institutionalize conference retreats that allow each of us to look within to see the kind of emotional and  behavioral baggage we may be carrying as a consequence of our enslavement and the intergenerational trauma of ongoing oppression. This looking within together allows us to see ourselves in others and to remove any blockages that get in the way of our fulfilling on our commitments. This may be on e of the most important tasks of the movement in that it will make all other work most effective.

                       

If you stay in the Reparations Movement long enough, you will find that while we don’t know every step to victory, the path is revealed with the taking of each step. Victory is certain!