California‘s reparations task force has descended into chaos as activists blasted music and aired wild accusations – a day after it was revealed activists want $800billion.
Among the first people to speak was activist Reggie Romain who blared James Brown’s I’m Black & I’m Proud through his phone and down the microphone.
Romain, as well as members of the audience, danced to the 1968 track and after cutting the song short promoted his social media channels before sitting down.
Later, a San Francisco-based activist at the podium described the US as a country ‘born in the name of evil’ and said: ‘Evil cannot give justice.’ She went on scream at the committee members: ‘We ask you for nothing. It’s ours!’
The second-day began amid controversy over the absence of senior committee member Rev. Amos Brown, who is in West Africa, as part of Kamala Harris’ official trip to the continent. On Thursday, one activist demanded that Brown ‘should stay in Africa.’
Activist Reggie Romain played James Brown’s 1968 anthem I’m Black & I’m Proud down the microphone
Unlike at Wednesday’s meeting, Rev. Brown did not Zoom in to make remarks on the meeting.
Brown Zoomed into Wednesday’s meeting in Sacramento in which he complained that the reports that $5 million would be given to black residents in reparations in the Bay Area were part of a ‘smear campaign.’
Brown, 82, said that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, of which he is a member, gave ‘lip service’ to reparations and noted that the city is facing a massive deficit.
A member of the public who called into the meeting to offer comment addressed Brown’s absence saying: ‘Shame on you.’
The reverend’s absence came on the same day that it emerged that the bill for California’s reparations bill has skyrocketed to at least $800 billion.
During the vice president’s historic visit to Africa, Harris promised billions of investment to the continent as she toured historic sites associated with slavery.
It later emerged that while in West Africa, Brown attended a lavish state banquet in Ghana this week as part of the VP’s delegation.
‘Dr. Brown, shame on you… absolutely shame on you. You give us these fiery speeches only to turn around as Judas did Jesus and betray us…. Him being in Ghana with Kamala Harris, whose administration has done nothing to help black folks is a symbolic gesture,’ a member of the public said at Wednesday’s meeting.
On Thursday, Rev. Brown was once again in the firing line.
‘I’m here to pick up the dead carcass of Amos Brown. We all know Amos Brown, the c***, the buffoon, the disrespectful, the lying poverty pimp that he is. He sits in the pulpit and sweats in the house of God, you wanna know why? Cause he’s the walking devil,’ said one activist.
‘He can stay in Africa, wearing his dashiki or whatever he’s doing? He can stay there. They can keep him,’ he continued.
Brown, who has served as the vice president’s pastor since the 1990s, was listed alongside his wife, Jane, as a guest of Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo at a dinner on March 27th.
The Browns were joined at the state banquet by the Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, movie stars Idris Elba, Rosaria Dawson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, as well as Oscar-winner Spike Lee.
Rev. Brown, the leader of San Francisco’s NAACP chapter, pictured with Vice President Harris in 2008
Since 2022, Rev. Brown has operated the Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana in conjunction with the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
According to the NAACP website, the fellowship offers students a chance to ‘be ambassadors for social and racial justice’ and to ‘gain experience about the Atlantic Slave Trade’ in Ghana.
Public opposition to the reparations packages being offered came in the form of phone comments.
‘Who is going to pay? And how are the going to pay?,’ said one person. Another argued that giving reparations will increased the divisions in America. ‘I don’t know who funded you in the first place,’ railed another caller.
Speaking about racism, a white caller said: ‘The woman who called me a Karen yesterday, that’s racist.’
The $800 billion estimate is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget, and does not include a recommended $1 million per older Black resident for health disparities that have shortened their average life span.
Nor does the figure count compensating people for property unjustly taken by the government or devaluing Black businesses, two other harms the task force says the state perpetuated.
‘We’ve got to go in with an open mind and come up with some creative ways to deal with this,’ said Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, one of two lawmakers on the task force responsible for mustering support from state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom before any reparations could become reality.
In an interview prior to the meeting, Jones-Sawyer said he needed to consult budget analysts, other legislators and the governor’s office before deciding whether the scale of payments is feasible.
The statewide estimate includes $246 billion to compensate eligible Black Californians whose neighborhoods were subjected to aggressive policing and prosecution of Black people in the ‘war on drugs’ from 1970 to 2020.
That would translate to nearly $125,000 for every person who qualifies.
Demonstrators with the Reparationist Collective gather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to demand reparations for slavery in February 2021
The numbers are approximate, based on modeling and population estimates. The economists also included $569 billion to make up for the discriminatory practice of redlining in housing loans.
Redlining officially began in the 1930s when the federal government started backing mortgages to support homebuying, but excluded majority black neighborhoods by marking them red on internal maps.
Such compensation would amount to about $223,000 per eligible resident who lived in California from 1933 to 1977. The aggregate is considered a maximum and assumes all 2.5 million people who identify as black in California would be eligible.
Earlier this month, Lisa Holder, a member of the California Reparations Task Force and president of the Equal Justice Society, suggested in a letter that an appropriate figure to be given to applicants would be $360,000.
Speaking about the new figures of the total cost of reparations, legal advisor Richard Weaver told California Globe that the task force’s recommendations could face legal problems.
‘Giving money right off the bat or giving big housing loans, well, they need to prove how it benefits people, and again, they need to make it legally sound… if any kind of reparation legislation is passed, and that is a big if, it will be dragged through the courts for years and will probably not see the light of day,’ Weaver said.
‘Reparations are, on average, a very unpopular policy. The fact that the Task Force isn’t even trying to give a figure now is kind of showing that now.’
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in 2020 creating the reparations task force after national protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.
While federal initiatives have stalled, cities, counties and other institutions have stepped in.
An advisory committee in San Francisco has reportedly recommended $5 million payouts, as well as guaranteed income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness for qualifying individuals.
Supervisors expressed general support, but stopped short of endorsing specific proposals. They will take up the issue later this year.
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