Lakshmi Sarah

Producer, Educator & Writer

How to Participate in California’s Reparations Task Force Meetings

Originally appeared on KQED news.

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December 7 and 8 mark the third substantive set of meetings for California’s reparations task force. Participation is easy for now — it’s as simple as logging into the conference — but it could become more difficult to access as the nine members are slated to begin meeting in person next February.  ‘All interested Californians should participate no matter their identity.’Kamilah Moore, chair of California’s reparations task force

Established with the passage of AB 3121, authored by former Assemblymember Shirley Weber and passed in 2020, the group is tasked with studying slavery and its lingering impact on the lives of African Americans. The group also is charged with exploring remedies of “compensation, rehabilitation, and restitution” for Black Americans, with special consideration for descendants of persons enslaved in the United States. Under the bill, the task force must issue a report to the state’s Legislature by June 1, 2022. Read more of our previous coverage here.

“I think all interested Californians should participate no matter their identity,” said task force chair Kamilah Moore.

Moore said she also has been asking people who have experienced the effects of homelessness and gentrification to reach out to the task force. “Black Californians who were pushed out of the major cities like LA or San Francisco, or even pushed out of the state in general because of issues of affordability and gentrification — we definitely want to hear from people like that because that ties into our conversation on the community of eligibility,” she said. The question of who might be eligible for reparations is one the task force began discussing in October.Sponsored

The above video is a reparations task force meeting originally livestreamed by Emend the Mass Media Group.

“Precision early on is always best,” said task force member Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, in the October meeting. Lewis is associate professor and chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Geography. “I wanted us to make sure that we were very clear about who we were talking about and what kinds of injuries we were tracing.” He zeroed in on questions they’ve yet to answer: What is the cutoff point to award reparations? How long do you have to have lived in California to qualify? At what point do you have to have had arrived in the state?

For Black Californians who were born and raised in the state, but had to leave, would they still be eligible for reparations? “That’s an open question,” Moore said.

On Dec. 8, the task force will host a panel focusing on entertainment, arts and culture, so those with experience in those industries are especially welcome to participate.

There are a few different ways to get involved. Here’s how to watch, and how to participate through public comment, and some tips for finding even more opportunities to plug into local and national conversations on reparations.

What’s on the agenda for December?

Before looking at how you can participate, the agenda is a great place to start to understand the broader topics that will be discussed. For those interested in the meeting materials, these are also available on the California Department of Justice website and link to an 848-page document (which includes meeting minutes of the October meeting) and two more documents (64 pages and 68 pages) that include some testimony from experts who will also provide their perspective live.

The public comment period for Dec. 7 is 9:05 a.m.-10:05 a.m., followed by a panel on infrastructure from 10:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m. with expert testimony from:

In the afternoon, a panel on gentrification and homelessness from 1:50 p.m.-3:00 p.m. will feature expert testimony from:

On Dec. 8, the public comment period is again from 9:05 a.m.-10:05 a.m., followed by a panel on entertainment, arts/culture and sports with testimony from:

Once you have the agenda and decide to tune in, here’s how to watch and make your voice heard.

Watch: Live on YouTube or the CA Department of Justice

Emend the Mass Media Group, a Black media outlet that self-identifies as “laser-focused on political advocacy for reparations,” will continue to livestream the task force meetings. Previous meetings are available on their YouTube page.

The California Department of Justice also will be livestreaming the meetings as of December. For those who prefer to watch afterward, or watch the two days’ worth of meetings all at once, previous meetings are available on the Department of Justice website, which links to the DOJ YouTube page.

Ensure your voice is heard — make a public comment

The task force uses BlueJeans, a desktop application similar to Zoom that can be accessed through a mobile app or on a desktop computer.

To give public comment, join the meeting through the BlueJeans app.

For now, public comment takes place at the beginning of each day on a first-come, first-serve basis. Click the “raise your hand” button when prompted. Each person has up to three minutes to make a comment, after which the microphone is turned off.

While California is discussing reparations on the statewide level, many cities are considering their own initiatives. 

San Francisco County

San Francisco supervisors appointed 15 people to the city’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee in May. Just weeks ago, actor Danny Glover and NAACP San Francisco chapter President Rev. Amos Brown, who is also vice chair of the state’s task force, asked the city of San Francisco to give the Fillmore Heritage Center to a nonprofit to rebuild a Black business center.

In San Francisco, follow the Dream Keeper Initiative for its next meetings on reparations.

Alameda County

In October 2020 the Alameda County board of supervisors adopted a resolution calling for reparations for African Americans, and reparations were discussedin Berkeley in February 2021.

Charles P. Henry, author of “Long Overdue: The Politics of Racial Reparations” and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, said he’s hopeful California will ”be a pioneer path-setter in what can happen in a positive way.”

Henry also noted how it’s become easier to get involved at the local level: “In almost any community in the United States and certainly in any state in the United States, you can find a reparations issue and you can find a reparations group — and actively work with that group.”

Henry said this could mean getting involved with local renaming initiatives like the one to rename buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus. But involvement in reparations is part of a broader movement, he said, and getting involved will broaden people’s curiosity.

“You’re going to meet people who are interested in other issues, around Native American sovereignty or land rights or repatriation of remains,” he said. “There are issues where you can get involved and help try to heal the polarization that’s going on — that all of us are sort of upset about — but don’t find ways of connecting to help overcome it.”

While reparations as an issue has been seen as divisive, he said, it’s actually an effort that means to repair relationships. “That should be seen as a very positive thing to do,” he said.

Sign up for more communications

An occasional reminder of what’s happening with California’s reparations task force may be useful for many. For notifications on upcoming meetings, anyone can sign up for the AB 3121 mailing list.SPONSORED

Since the mailing list is from the Department of Justice, their communications tend to be simple and to the point, without much flourish. The agenda for upcoming meetings is sent out 10 days prior to each meeting.

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This entry was posted on December 7, 2021 by in KQED and tagged .

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