Once again, because it is trendy, we get another Reparations Commission established in California. This time, the Taskforce/Commission was established just before Juneteenth by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, with the help of the L.A. City Council, primarily Mark Ridley-Thomas, Curren Price, and Marqueece Harris- Dawson.
According to Garcetti, his new reparations advisory commission will not look at “all Los Angeles racism” but will instead “look specifically at reparations around where the law held Black Angelenos back from opportunities to build wealth.
The luminaries chosen to come up with a reparations plan for Black Angelenos is weighty and professional. The names and burnished titles look very good indeed, from Michael Lawson, a former U.S. ambassador and current head of the Los Angeles Urban League; Khansa Jones-Muhammad, co-chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants; Mandla Kayise, an expert on economic and land use development; Cheryl Harris, a leading scholar of critical race theory and systemic discrimination at UCLA School of Law; Katrina VanderWoude, president of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president and chief executive of the Brotherhood Crusade; to Mark Wilson, founding executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development.
The primary problem with this new commission, however, is the same problem with the new California State Reparations Commission that was established from the California Legislative Black Caucus’ advocacy of AB3121 and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year. Neither body has on it a professional historian, nor a researcher expert in the literature dealing with the struggle for reparations in the U.S.A.
Organizing a viable way forward is going to be a gigantic problem for both groups, as was plainly evident in the state commission’s first meeting at the beginning of June. The group chose a worthy chair—that was about it.
Both groups have raised the public’s interest now, and it would be a gigantic tragedy if neither or even only one of the groups produced a worthwhile reparations product. This is not a journey to embark on without being sure you can bring home the bacon. The consequences on peoples’ reputations (those on the commissions) will be over-the-top harsh, and the impact on Black psyches in California will be even worse.
We strongly recommend that at least the city’s effort add on some other needed pieces and expertise. We won’t have Trump to blame for the failure of this promising effort.
We also suggest that either and both commissions go beyond the Bruce’s Beach saga, as important as it is. For those who know anything about L.A. history, there should be more than a mere mention of the loss of major housing in the Adams district because of racist urban planning, the importance of Santa Monica’s Inkwell, the evolution of the Black population of Venice Beach, and the saga of Val Verde, the resort the Black Stars built.
By the way, someone in the mayor’s office and the governor’s staff should be calling as soon as possible, Dr. Allison Rose Jefferson, public historian and author of “Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era.”
I’m just saying…..
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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