Every June the Movement for Black Lives acknowledges the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the 2020 Uprisings, and various fights for reparations including reparations for the War on Drugs, reparations for forced or coerced sterilization, climate reparations, reparations for slavery and its afterlives in the US,  and reparations for colonialism, neo-colonialism and neo-liberal policies with a series of educational offerings and activities to help you better understand reparations, get the skills you need to start local reparations campaigns, and support national and international efforts to pass reparations legislation.

All month we focus on different fronts in the battle for reparations and highlight member organizations doing reparations work.

Reparations: The Basics

What Are Reparations?

The reparations framework was developed by the United Nations to address systemic state and state-sanctioned violations of human rights.

In order for reparations to be complete, they must incorporate 5 elements:

  1. Acknowledgement of harm, including official apologies, public education, and memorials;
  2. Compensation for injury and harm, and for lost land, labor, property, relationships, culture, and spirituality;
  3. Restitution, including restoration of victims’ rights, property, and citizenship status; 
  4. Rehabilitation, including psychological and physical support;
  5. Cessation and guarantees of non-repetition, including reforming or eliminating laws and civil and political structures that led to or fueled the harm, including those that continue to do so.

Why Do We Need Reparations?

The economic, cultural, psychological and spiritual impacts of enslavement of African descended people by the U.S. government and U.S. individuals, families, corporations, churches and non-profits, enabled by a legal regime establishing, maintaining and protecting the institution of chattel slavery, are widespread, persistent, and devastating. They require comprehensive and systemic response aimed at acknowledging, memorializing, and redressing past harms, ensuring widespread healing, rehabilitation and restitution, and addressing the continuing and lasting impacts of slavery and its afterlives in the present.

Some of M4BL’s Demands for Reparations:

  1. Legislation at the federal and state level that requires the United States to acknowledge the lasting impacts of slavery and establish and execute a plan to address those impacts. This includes the immediate passage of H.R.40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” or subsequent versions which call for reparations remedies.
  2. Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high-quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education including: free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade, and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.
  3. Reparations for the wealth extracted from our communities through environmental racism, slavery, food apartheid, housing discrimination, and racialized capitalism in the form of corporate and government reparations focused on healing ongoing physical and mental trauma, and ensuring our access and control of food sources, housing, and land.
  4. Reparations for the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure, and extraction of our communities in the form of mandated public school curriculums that critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs.
  5. Reparations for the devastating impacts of the “war on drugs” and criminalization, including a reinvestment of the resulting savings and revenue into restorative services, mental health services, job programs, and other programs supporting those impacted by mass criminalization.

Learn more about M4BL’s reparations demands and the difference between reparations and invest/divest in our Reparations Toolkit


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