In a historic first, a new task force in California on Tuesday took a first step toward proposing reparations for Black residents in a bid to address the injustice of slavery and its lingering effects in everything from the criminal justice system to housing, reports the Mercury News.
The effort was created as part of a bill signed into law last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom and authored by then-lawmaker Shirley Weber, now California’s first Black secretary of state. It is the first time a state has formally undertaken a sweeping look at slavery and its impact on modern African American life, in what advocates hope will become a roadmap for a national approach to reparations.
“If not us, then who?” Weber, the daughter of sharecroppers who fled the South because of racism, said at the outset of the task force’s inaugural meeting, which was held virtually.
The task force’s nine members, led by Los Angeles transactional attorney and reparations scholar Kamilah Moore with assistance from vice-chair Amos Brown, the longtime pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, will recommend not only reparations proposals but ways to educate the state’s residents about their findings.
It is not yet clear what form their proposal might take or which residents would be eligible, but it could include everything from cash payments to land to scholarships. The task force must publish a report by June 1, 2022 with initial findings, to be followed by a report with recommendations the following year.
Newsom and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly chose the members of the task force, a mix of civil rights activists, lawyers, lawmakers, and others that includes UC Berkeley professor Jovan Scott Lewis and civil rights attorney Lisa Holder. Eight of the nine members are Black. The ninth is Don Tamaki, an attorney who helped Japanese Americans put in internment camps during World War II secure redress.