Category Archives: Reparations

NETWORK Lobby Government Relations Advocate Minister Christian S. Watkins Offers A Juneteenth Reflection

A Juneteenth Reflection

Can you imagine being free and emancipated from the brutally lethal system and culture of enslavement and not knowing it? This was the case for enslaved people in Texas who were not informed of their freedom until two years after Emancipation. On Monday, June 20, 2022, our nation celebrated Juneteenth, the commemoration of the announcement in Galveston, Texas (General Order No. 3 delivered on June 19, 1865). The Union Army marched from Galveston Island to the Negro Church on Broadway — since renamed Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church, liberating African Americans from enslavers, many of whom had migrated to Texas after the Civil War to escape Union control, Reconstruction mandates, and oppress Black people.

The delay of freedom ecause of racial bias in Texas is a shame. To be clear, over the past 157 years, our country has experienced moments of racial justice. It’s sad that as the United States carries the mantle as the world-wide beacon of democracy, and a place where all are free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, social progress and equality measures that weave Black people into the American Dream have been short-lived.

In fact, I believe that it is more accurate to assert that the Black experience in the United States is more closely aligned with great economic and social inequity, loss of life and liberty, and damage to the souls of Black people, than it has ever been tied to equity and equality. From overcoming treatment as three-fifths of a person as slaves, the denigrating effects of the post-antebellum era, the violence of the Jim Crow era, the fight for voting rights, and the ongoing struggle for equity in housing, education, wages, healthcare, etc., Black people face great harm. The racist policies and white supremacy that lingers in the laws, policies and decisions of those who hold dominant power has had tragic, and sometimes deadly, outcomes for Black people.

How can this harm be eased when the United States has yet to fully reckon with, and atone for, slavery — its original sin?

NETWORK Lobby, the Why We Can’t Wait coalition of our partners, other justice-seeking organizations, and civil rights advocates asked President Joe Biden to sign an executive order for reparations by Juneteenth 2022 — and begin the nationwide racial healing and repair.  He declined.

Juneteenth symbolizes the enduring Black American spirit and persistence to overcome injustice – despite the numerous delays and denials of equality. It’s time for the waiting to stop. Our President (and Congress, too) can and must do all they can to enact measures that address the long-lasting legacy of slavery. It was a grave mistake to avoid redress and reparations as slavery ended. The consequences of that inaction continue to cast a pall over our government, cultural institutions, criminal legal system, and our economic affairs.

It’s important to name that it is not too late to take action. The opportunity for Black Americans to freely, fairly and fully participate in our nation’s economy and democracy is still available. A reparations study is vital, but there are other measures our national leaders can take:

  • Enact key provisions of President Biden’s economic agenda and bipartisan legislation that have been obstructed must be enacted that would help eliminate deep-seated racial inequities in our economic and political systems.
  • Address the staggering racial wealth gap
  • Stabilize our democracy by fortifying voting rights against exclusion efforts and suppression tactics,
  • Create penalties for law enforcement agents who harm or kill Black lives without cause
  • End the disparity in policing and sentencing that has created biased mass incarceration rates by race
  • Stop allowing violence against immigrants.

As NETWORK advocates for the creation of a reparations commission, we continue supporting policies that will build our country anew by advancing racial justice and racial equity. We invite justice-seekers to advocate with us. Click here to find ways to take action.

NETWORK's reparation vigil featured Reverend Traci Blackmon

NETWORK’s Reparations Vigil in Cleveland Featured Revered Traci Blackmon

NETWORK’s Reparations Vigil in Cleveland Featured Reverend Traci Blackmon

Elissa Hackerson
June 17, 2022

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice hosted Repair and Redress: A Vigil for Reparations (In-Person) on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 at St. Aloysius – St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland, OH. People in the parish church and school community, sisters, the Cleveland NETWORK Advocates Team, justice-seekers, and NETWORK staff made a powerful stand for reparations for Black Americans and called for an H.R.40-style reparations commission by Juneteenth. NETWORK’s reparations vigil in Cleveland featured Reverend Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, Justice and Local Church Ministries (United Church of Christ). The United Church of Christ shared a condensed video presentation of her remarks.

Rev. Blackmon’s stirring and powerful remarks spoke to the theological call to repair a society broken by the sin of chattel slavery and the racism that has followed in its wake and addressed society’s need to atone and provide redress.  Rev. Blackmon declared that it is time to end government charity for Black people (giving fish) and deliver justice (equitable access to the lake).

The reason we have not reckoned with racism in this country–decision makers have decided that God cannot be Black, that God cannot be Brown. That God indeed must be white and therefore we have created a fractured and disabled society.Rev. Traci D. Blackmon

A classically trained violinist from Venezuela added music to the vigil.

NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda calls for a society where we all share equally in God’s abundance. For this to happen, our country’s laws, policies, and norms must:

  • Dismantle Systemic Racism
  • Cultivate Inclusive Community
  • Root Our Economy in Solidarity
  • Transform Our Politics

As Rev. Blackmon stated so clearly in her vigil remarks, “Reparations is about the church and the people and the society moving from charity to justice. Moving from hand out to hand up. Moving from simply offering to give someone a fish to giving them access to the lake so they can fish for themselves.”

It's time to address, repent and repair for the original sin of slavery and the racist laws and policies that followed

Now Is the Time to Address, Repent, and Repair

Now Is the Time to Address, Repent, and Repair

On Juneteenth, we honor and observe those in Galveston, Texas who were the last to receive the news that all enslaved people were now free. As important as it is for Juneteenth to be a national holiday, this national commemoration must be paired with support for policies that name and address the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that continue to this day. To ignore our country’s sin of legalized chattel slavery, to pretend that it did not exist, or that it is no longer relevant to modern life, is to be in complete denial. 

Joan Neal, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Deputy Executive Director & Chief Chief Equity Officer, contributed open remarks for NETWORK’s recent HR 40 Webinar. Watch below.

Slavery happened. Black human beings were put in chains, in bondage, and in indentured servitude, for more than 200 years. It is a part of America’s history and we must start by telling the truth about it. Especially, people of faith, for whom honesty and truth-telling are values.  Scripture and our religious tradition tell us you cannot be truly free of sin unless you admit that you have sinned, make a firm determination to sin no more, and, make restitution for what was lost.  The sin is not forgiven until all parties are whole again.  As a country, as a people, we cannot move beyond this evil until and unless the country tells the truth about our history and takes responsibility for the wrong it has done to a group of its own citizens.   

The question of reparations for slavery has been on the table in this country for two centuries.  Even though the 13th Amendment ended legal slavery in the United States in 1865, the residual bondage of African-Americans has continued even to this day.  The ideology of white supremacy not only persisted, it found ways to morph chattel slavery into second-class citizenship through laws, structures, systems and cultural traditions at every level of our society.  Enough is enough! 

More than four hundred years of racist policies, laws and practices have deprived African-Americans of equal access to participation in the cultural, political, social and economic life of this country. And the Catholic Church not only condoned this evil, but participated in it. The global Catholic Church supported the Atlantic Slave Trade starting with the Doctrine of Discovery, which appears in the 1455 Papal Bull of Pope Nicholas V, authorizing the enslavement of African people in the pursuit of new territory for Portugal and Spain. In the United States, many religious orders including the Jesuits, as well as individual Bishops, dioceses and churches, embraced enslavement, Jim Crow laws, and other forms of discrimination and racism.   

The Catholic Church gave slave ownership moral absolution and enthusiastic acceptance.  Moreover, centuries of racist violence, like what we saw in Charleston, South Carolina and Buffalo, New York, and oppression, like the many states where voter suppression laws are being passed to depress the Black vote, continue to be incompatible with and contradictory to the Christian call to love one another as we love ourselves and to live in right relationship.   

It is time to confess, to repent, and to repair. The harmful legacy of white supremacy and the enduring racial wealth gap must no longer deny Black people good health, educational and economic outcomes.   

How do faith teachings call us to respond?  What is our moral responsibility in the face of this history as well as the ongoing impact of the legacy of slavery?   

As Catholics and as followers of Christ, our faith calls us to be in solidarity with all who have been or are marginalized and to act for what is right and just. That means in this case, if you are white, to fearlessly tell the truth about white supremacy, racial injustice and lack of equity in our society in order to diminish the impact of historical and contemporary racism in today’s political, social and economic systems, frameworks and institutions. It means that you courageously face up to the original sin of this country, renounce it once and for all, and do all in your power to repair the damage that has been done to your neighbor. It means that you take responsibility for the sins of the past, repair the wrongs done in this day and time, and ensure that the sins of your ancestors are not visited upon your children, your neighbor’s children or their children’s children or anyone in the future.   

The prophet Micah told us what God expects of us– ‘to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God.’  Now is the time for the United States to ‘do justice’ for African-Americans.  Individual reparations programs, like that of the Jesuits, are commendable but they are not enough.  We need a national reparation program that achieves a meaningful closing of the wealth gap between Black and white Americans, now estimated to be $11 trillion.   

That is why we, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, support establishing a federal commission to study reparations, either by passing H.R.40 through Congress, or through an executive order from the Biden-Harris administration. This will take the first step forward to do justice with mercy.  

Now is the time. Now is the time to take the step forward, to say no more evading responsibility, no more denying the truth of the past, no more refusing to repair the wrong.  Catholic teaching is clear: Our entire national community must move forward together toward reparatory justice so we can become that beloved community we envision.   

Now is the time to address, repent, and repair. This Juneteenth, 157 years after that momentous day in Galveston, may our reflections on the symbolic importance of this anniversary move us to action.  

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis Delivers Keynote Speech at H.R.40 Policy Update _share_credit Beatrice De Gea

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis Delivers Keynote Speech at H.R.40 Policy Update

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis Delivers Keynote Speech at H.R.40 Policy Update

Elissa Hackerson
June 8, 2022

On June 1, 2022, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice hosted a webinar to educate and mobilize advocates about an H.R.40-style federal reparations committee to study the impact of slavery — and the racist policies and laws that were created in its wake. NETWORK Staff was joined by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister for Public Theology and Transformation at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. Rev. Lewis delivered a keynote speech that positioned reparations in a scriptural, theological framework for over 300 webinar attendees.

Rev. Lewis’s reflection zoomed in on human history with examples of humans capturing and conquering God’s people. And she challenged the ideology that some people deserve access to freedom and liberty more than others. She asserted that the ideology of whiteness has broken Black people, baptized the Holocaust, and broke Indigenous people. Reparations will bring healing, and we who have followed a Jewish rabbi into a world of faith seek repair.

Repairers of the Breach

Rev. Lewis began her remarks with scripture as a frame, choosing a beautiful call to the kind of worship, fasting and feast that God wants in Isaiah 58.  “A call to be different kinds of faithful people. A call to Israel then, and to us now, to fix what’s broken in the world…to heal the world. When we do this, God says our names will be changed. We will be called repairers of the breach, restorers of streets to live in.”

Why Reparations?

“Because we have participated, friends, in the breaking of the covenant with God. In the breaking of God’s design, in the dismantling of God’s hope and dream for us. And, I’m not talking about what happened in the Garden [of Eden] where Adam and Eve disobey and eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

Sacrifice Honors God’s Creation

Rev. Lewis goes on to share that from our Biblical origin story until today, our human desire to be like God, to make a world with God, has been corrupted along the way. White supremacists have imposed their worldview and ideology in a biased way, subduing God’s people.

We are to fast, worship, welcome the outsider, feed the hungry, clothe the naked…not hold onto ideology and a sense of supremacy. This connection to repair and connection to God is the healing and reparations required to “restore the created order” and realize that everyone has enough in “God’s economy.”