By Keyshawn Davis | Special to The OBSERVER
The auditorium of the March Fong Eu building was packed with anticipation and joy Thursday morning when California’s Reparations Task Force released its 1,100-page final report – the first document of its kind in American history.
The agenda was filled with personal testimonies from families affected by the state and public comment, followed by the nine task force members expressing their journey in creating the recommendations before handing them over to the secretary of state, Dr. Shirley N. Weber, who created the task force, which included civil and human rights leaders, academics, lawyers, psychologists and elected officials.
Dr. Weber said the document leaves no question as to why reparations are needed.
“This country has shaped and formed us and we have given to it and we have a right to be here,” said Dr. Weber. “We have a right to have the benefits and we have the rights of those who acknowledge the harm that’s done and begin the process.”
The report goes to the state Legislature to implement a range of remedies, how the state would pay for it and identify qualified recipients.
Sen. Steven Bradford, who has been in office for 25 years, called his work on the task force the most impactful public service work he will do in his career. Bradford said the task force made numerous worthy and essential recommendations on what reparations could encompass.
“It could include cash payments; it can include free tuition to our UCs and CSUs; it can be as first-time homebuyer assistance downpayment, interest-free loans, state tax relief, free health care – on and on and on,” Bradford said. “Let’s be clear and honest: the cost of reparations will be high. But make no mistake: the harms that are done are just as tired and hard. And the disparities it created continue to this day.
“Now comes the hard work of turning this into a reality.”
Bradford noted that California just passed a $300 billion state budget. “If .5%, or $1.5 billion a year, is put into an annuity, we can do this,” he said.
The Legislature also has to pass laws that define who qualifies for reparations and how much.
Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, another task force member, said he’s very fulfilled and pleased with the end result. “I think the expectation was that it would be our final opportunity to make a declaration of the meaning of the work that we’ve been doing for the past two years,” Lewis said. “We have demystified the notion that reparations are impossible.”
The task force sunsets July 1, and chair Kamilah Moore hopes the task force’s general efforts strengthen the movement for global reparative justice for people of African descent.
Moore and other members urged the public to keep pushing hard for justice and legislative action to make it a reality.
“It is my hope that the task force’s general efforts reinvigorate the Black American community to exercise our human right to self-determination with a renewed spirit and energy that enables us to freely determine our political status,” Moore said. “And to pursue our economic, social and cultural development via comprehensive reparatory justice policy.”