California reparations task force met again to prep for June deadline

The committee encouraged the creation of a California American Freedmen Affairs Agency, which would manage restitution claims and help make additional policy adjustments to deal with the impact of slavery.

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A California reparations task panel — the first in the country to address the topic of historical reparations for Black citizens — met Friday to finalize preparations for its June recommendations deadline.

According to The San Diego Tribune, the nine-person group, which began meeting in June 2021, entrusted to research and recommend reparations for Black Californians harmed due to slavery and institutional racism, convened to figure out what it might take to make amends. The task force’s final report, due for delivery to state legislators by July 1, should include a recommendation on cash payments.

Former San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber drafted the legislation that established Assembly Bill 3121. Currently California’s secretary of state, Weber pushed the task force to complete the work on time and reiterated her conviction that the eligibility requirements should be strict so that individuals hurt by the legacy of slavery receive assistance.

Morris Griffin holds up a sign during a December meeting by the task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans in Oakland, California. A state task force, which began meeting in June 2021, convened over the weekend to figure out what it might take to make amends for slavery. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)

“If you don’t push it forward, it loses its momentum and you don’t want to kill yourself by time,” Weber said during the meeting, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. “I want to make sure that the work gets done.”

The Chronicle reported that the committee encouraged the state legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom to create a California American Freedmen Affairs Agency. This new governmental bureau could manage claims for restitution and help make additional policy adjustments to deal with the aftereffects of slavery.

In March, the committee determined that only Black descendants of enslaved individuals or a free Black person living in the United States by the end of the 19th century would be eligible for any future cash payments.

Economists want to estimate the financial losses brought on by redlining, mass incarceration, environmental impact and other concerns that the task group discusses.

The task team may also advise the state on non-financial actions, including declaring a formal apology and amending California’s constitution to remove the prohibition on slavery and forced servitude other than as a means of punishing criminals. According to activists, this enables the state to pay minimal wages to convicts.

“What we’re doing is actually establishing a model, however perfect or imperfect it may be,” said University of San Francisco political science professor James Lance Taylor, a member of the city’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee, The Chronicle reported. “We’ve come a long way, baby. There’s more support for the big idea of reparations than ever.”

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