The Role of the Faith Community and, particularly, the Black Church in working towards the liberation of God’s people from the lingering effects of the oppressive European slave trade.
Chicago, IL, April 23, 2014– The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC), in partnership with the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) and the Carruthers Center for Inner-City Studies, presented a national/international forum, “Revitalizing the Reparations Movement,” hosted by Dr. Wayne Watson, President, Chicago State University. The forum was presided by the Honorable Lionel Jean-Baptist, Circuit Court Judge, 9th Judicial Subcircuit and Founder, Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti and was designed to raise awareness of, and share information about the plans of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries to push ahead with their efforts for reparations from Europe. The Honorable John Conyers, Sr., Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, was also in attendance. Conyers stated that CARICOM’s efforts will revitalize the movement in the United States and that he will re-introduce House Bill HR40 in the upcoming 113th Congress. HR40, Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, was initially presented by Conyers in January, 1989, at the 101st Congress, and has been re-introduced annually to Congress.
“It is the most important piece of legislation I have ever introduced, and I will re-introduce HR40 in the 113th Congress,” stated Congressman Conyers.
Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Pastor Emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ and SDPC Trustee, gave the Biblical paradigm for reparations, citing Luke 19:8. Dr. Wright noted that many scholars have indicated that the term “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” is a misnomer and the term European Slave Trade would be more accurate, as “…the Atlantic ain’t never put nobody in slavery.” Further, “…The European Slave Trade was comprised of instigators and collaborators, and some of the collaborators looked just like us.” Dr. Wright referred to the Luke 19 passage, where Jesus met Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, a man of Jesus’ race and faith, whose wealth came from his collaboration with the oppressor, the Roman Empire. After meeting and dining with Jesus, Zacchaeus was convicted and engaged in an act of reparation by deciding to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back anything he had cheated anyone out of four times the amount. This paradigm of reparative justice is rooted in Old Testament laws of justice and restoration (Exodus 22:1, 1 Sam 12:3 and 2 Sam 12:6). He urged the audience to push engagement in this reconciliatory move, to reconcile the people, countries and the Continent of Africa that the European Slave Trade tried to decimate.
The historical backdrop of the reparations movement in the United States, was given by Dr. Conrad Worrill, Director, Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. He paid homage to the forerunners of this struggle, from Henry McNeil Turner to Marcus Garvey. He pointed out that Callie House, an ex-slave and widow with five children, was the first to file a reparations lawsuit against the U. S. Government in the 1890’s. Dr. Worrill traced the countries travelled in this fight, culminating in the victorious decision in the Durban, South Africa conference on September 8, 2001, that crafted the language in the declaration to the United Nations, resulting in the UN’s acknowledgement that slavery and the slave trade, including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were “crimes against humanity.” He expressed his appreciation of CARICOM’s development of a detailed plan of action around the issue of reparations and called their actions “profound, prophetic and timely,” and a continuation of the Durban Program of Action that was stalled, due to the 9/11/01 attacks on the World Trade Center. He further thanked Congressman Conyers for, “taking a page from the Japanese” following their interment during WWII, for drafting HR 40 to create a study commission on the effects of slavery and the slave trade and keeping HR-40 at the forefront of Congress.
The assembly was informed of the progress of our Caribbean brothers and sisters of CARICOM, in moving forward with their efforts for reparations from Europe by The Honorable Rhonda King, Ambassador to the United Nations, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and President of CARICOM. Dr. Gonsalves is one of the leading voices and proponents, in the Caribbean Community, in the quest for reparative justice for slavery and genocide of native peoples. In September of 2013, CARICOM opened its first regional conference on reparations, where each Caribbean member-state of CARICOM was urged to set up their own National Reparations Committees, to document the effects of European genocide against indigenous inhabitants of the regions, the slave trade in and the enslavement of Africans and colonization. In January of this year, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CLAC) agreed to issue a special declaration on the issue of reparations, that “…slavery, the slave trade, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity, not only for the abhorrent barbarism, but because of the magnitude, organizational nature and, especially, the negation of the essence of the victims.”
The keynote address was given by, Professor Hilary Beckles, Chairman, CARICOM Reparations Commission, Pro Vice Chancellor, Cave Hill Campus, University of the West Indies, Barbados and author of “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for the Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.” Professor Beckles informed the assembly that the trading of enslaved Africans was the foundation of the wealth inequality that existed, not only in the United States, but worldwide. The Western world was built and its profits generated throughout the globe, by Blacks, wherever free labor was required by Europeans. He further called reparatory justice “the greatest political movement of the 21st century,” as he explained that reparations is more than economics and finances. While those are important, it is also important to restore the pride, dignity and self-respect of the victims of the slave trade, for the harm done. He further explained a 10-point action plan, adopted by CARICOM in March of this year, which covered all aspects of what is needed for reparatory justice, from a formal apology, to curbing chronic diseases (related to and caused by conditions of poverty and lack of access to proper healthcare), to debt cancellation.
“It is a global struggle for a global crime,” stated Prof. Beckles “they must be held accountable for it. Our plan is to call for that justice…Slavery is over, but we are now in the jet stream of the consequences.”
Giving special remarks after the keynote address, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan issued an admonishment to the African American community for letting the issue of reparations lie dormant. Minister Farrakhan expressed that “We have a responsibility to our ancestors.” He asked, “What kind of generation will we be to have ancestors that have gone through what our ancestors have gone through and we’re sitting here today talking about the revitalization of a movement that should never have had to be revitalized?” He stated that we have done the necessary research which, “lays the base for the movements to build upon and propels movements forward. You cannot proceed for justice on assumptions. You can proceed for justice on actual facts.”
Giving the Charge to the Assembly, Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference said, “When you call a sacred assembly, you have to take the risk of hearing from the prophets, and when prophets speak, it may not be comfortable…We have heard the prophets (Rev. Wright, Minister Farrakhan and master teacher Dr. Beckles), we stand on their truths and we stand listening to the words of Callie House, who said that, ‘We must believe and know that our demand is just.’
Closing out the forum, Dr. Ron Daniels of IBW felt the mission of the gathering, to “give a spark and deliver a jolt” to the U.S.-based reparations movement, was accomplished. He indicated that the Institute of the Black World is creating a reparations resource center on its website to continue to help educate the public on reparations.
If you would like more information about this forum, please contact Dr. Iva E. Carruthers at 773-548-6675 or email at email@example.com.