Category Archives: Reparations

Racism, Reconciliation, and Repair

Racism, Reconciliation, and Repair

Racial Justice is Central to Renewing Society, Politics, and Church

February 1, 2023
On June 15, 2022, NETWORK advocates organized a prayer vigil for reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland, Ohio.
On June 15, 2022, NETWORK advocates organized a prayer vigil for reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a consequential election year, the re-election of Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia finalized the composition of the 118th Congress. His election, in many ways, symbolizes how the U.S. struggle toward progress is bound up in how the country deals with racism, white supremacy, and reparatory justice. The election of a Black man in a former Confederate state, while certainly symbolically powerful, doesn’t capture the work undone in securing racial justice in U.S. politics, including in elections themselves.

The first cornerstone of NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda is “Dismantle Systemic Racism,” and its placement rightly suggests that racism must be confronted at every level of our social structures for economic injustices and other wrongs to be fully addressed. The many in-person and online actions taken by NETWORK in 2022 also reflected the central prioritization of racial justice in Catholic Social Justice.

Talk About White Supremacy

Fr. Bryan Massingale

In the second installment of NETWORK’s  White Supremacy and American Christianity event in October, Fr. Bryan Massingale of Fordham University, author of “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church,” dialogued with Dr. Robert P. Jones, founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. They discussed data gathered by Jones that showed almost half of white evangelicals and almost four in 10 white Catholics in the U.S. believe that their country should be a place that privileges people of European descent and that God intends this.

“That attitude has become hardened and more dangerous,” said Massingale. “What we’re seeing now is a willingness among those who hold that ideology to use any means necessary to achieve that end… a country that says only white Americans are true Americans and all others are Americans only by exception or toleration or not really at all.”

Massingale referenced the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, with a growing number of people questioning the legitimacy of elections themselves and adopting the position of “If my candidate loses, then by defi­nition it was an illegitimate election.” This, coupled with very open use of voter restrictions and voter suppression, as well as the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, made clear to Massingale that “any means necessary” includes political violence.

Concerned that the normalization of political violence is the next stage after voter suppression and election denial, Massingale cited the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing a connection to the rhetoric of Christian nationalist rallies across the country in the weeks preceding the attack.

“God’s angel of death is coming,” Massingale noted one rally speaker proclaiming in reference to their political opponents. “Let’s connect the dots here. … One needs to understand that even though people don’t necessarily call for overt political violence, if you say enough about divinely inspired victory and gun rights and God’s angel of death, then we can’t be surprised when people take violent means.”

Massingale also cited the “failure of religious leaders to connect the dots,” noting that Catholic bishops offered only cursory statements in response to the Pelosi attack.

Dr. Ansel Augustine

Massingale’s observations also reflect a Black Catholic doing the work of educating a white, predominately Catholic audience, about the pernicious implications of racism. This is an unfair burden placed on Black people, says Dr. Ansel Augustine — to educate colleagues on racism, while continuing to endure its effects.

Author of the new book, “Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back?,” Augustine told Connection, “Ministering in the church, which at times perpetuates this ‘original  sin,’ constantly has us questioning and renewing our commitment to the faith,” Augustine told Connection. “It is tough having to be an ‘expert’ on something that is trying to destroy your dignity as a human being, especially within an institution that is supposed to empower you and be your safe space to simply ‘exist.’”

James Conway, a cradle Catholic in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, notes that the last two years have been different for Black Catholics.

“People no longer seem to be afraid to show any racist tendencies that they may have secretly harbored for years,” he told Connection. “Now it’s just blatant and in your face under the guise of being cultural ignorance.”

He also sees “an uptick in instances of racial aggression and microaggressions against minorities in the church.” He was told by a now former member of his parish that, because they sing gospel music, she would be taking her money and her family elsewhere, and that the parish would be closed within six months without her fi­nancial support. Two years later, the parish is still open.

Focus on Reparations

Sr. Patricia Rogers, OP

The church not living up to its own teaching on human dignity when it comes to race is a problem that goes back centuries, Sr. Patricia Rogers, OP shared in a conversation on NETWORK’s “Just Politics” podcast in November.

She asked, “Why is it that Black Catholic children were denied a Catholic education before the Civil Rights Movement? I never saw a Black nun, and then I learned that the first Black nuns had to establish their own congregations because they were not welcome. And it still makes me wonder, what happened to the dignity of all humans? You just don’t know what to do with that sometimes.”

This raises the question of reparatory justice for harm inflicted over generations and the need for reparations in the U.S. today. In that area, NETWORK has hosted and participated in numerous events, including a June action near the White House calling on President Biden to take executive action to set up a commission on reparations, as called for in H.R. 40, a bill first introduced in Congress in 1989.

Cleo and Yvonne Nettles speak at the June 15 prayer vigil for reparations at St.
Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland.

In June, NETWORK also helped organize an in-person event Repair and Redress: A Vigil for Reparations at St. Aloysius-St. Agatha Parish in Cleveland.  The parish and school community, Sisters, the Cleveland NETWORK Advocates Team, justice-seekers, and NETWORK staff together made a stand for reparations for Black Americans and called for a reparations commission by Juneteenth.

Rev. Traci Blackmon of The United Church of Christ 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, as well as of the need to atone and provide redress.

Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General
Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries
for The United Church of Christ, speaks at
NETWORK‘s reparations vigil in Cleveland.

“The reason we have not reckoned with racism in this country,” she said, is that “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… society.”

NETWORK continued the push to set up a reparations commission by executive action following the November elections with the event Faith in Reparations.”

“I’m so sick of living in a nation that treats white rage as a sacrament and black grief as a threat,” Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, said at that event.

“White rage is why we had Jim Crow. White rage is why we had redlining. All of the structures in our nation are built around white rage’s disdain for Black people’s beauty and body and joy,” she continued. “I’m so tired of the permanent pernicious nature of white supremacy in this nation that is now in a wicked dance with Christianity, blessing with Jesus’s name and in the name of God this vile hatred that is always directed to my people.”

Sr. Anita Baird, DHM

Sr. Anita Baird, DHM, founding director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice, said:

“Reparations are…about America fulfilling her promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice for all. And until this injustice is acknowledged and rectified, there can be no healing and no moving forward. The Biden administration must uphold its promise to African Americans. It is a matter of justice. It is a matter of life. Now is time.”

The NETWORK community will continue calling on Congress and President Biden to act on their commitments to dismantle racist laws, policies and frameworks, and advance racial equity.

Leticia Ochoa Adams and Elissa Hackerson contributed to this feature.

This story was originally published in the 1st Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

H.R.40 Re-Introduced in the 118th Congress

H.R.40 Re-Introduced in the 118th Congress

Update:

On January 24, 2023, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced S.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, legislation that would establish a commission to consider proposals for reparations for African American descendants of slavery. The legislation is the Senate companion to H.R. 40, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18).

Jarrett Smith
January 11, 2023

On the first day of the 118th Congress, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced H.R.40 with a speech on the House floor. In her speech, Rep. Lee noted, “H.R.40  is a crucial piece of legislation because it goes beyond exploring the economic implications of slavery and segregation. It is a holistic bill in the sense that it seeks to establish a commission to also examine the moral and social implications of slavery.

H.R.40 was first introduced in 1989 by former Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and has been introduced in every Congress since. In the last Congress, H.R.40 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee for the first time in its history, however, it failed to receive a vote on the House floor.

NETWORK, and our multi-faith coalition partners, strongly support the passage of H.R.40, however, given the reality of the divided Congress, we also call on President Biden to establish a commission on reparations via Executive Order.

A table in front of the White House holds a large letter with signatures at the bottom and candlesLast year, more than 2,000 Catholic Sisters and Associates sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to fulfil his campaign promise to support reparations. The letter followed a months-long campaign to build support for reparations with vigils organized by NETWORK advocates to pray and act for reparations. The vigils were held across the country in-person and online with local and national faith leaders.

Creating a commission to study and develop reparations proposals, as outlined in H.R.40, is the only policy that will lead to concrete proposals for repairing the damage that the United States government has inflicted on Black people. Its passage will allow us to move towards dismantling white supremacy and towards repair so that we can build anew together.

Catholic Social Teaching is clear: racism is a sin. Our faith teaches us to reject the immoral system of white supremacy and to work for truth-telling and repair. We can no longer deny the sins of the past and its ongoing implications Black people experience every day. NETWORK urges Congress to support and pass H.R.40 in the 118th Congress.

Action to Take After Watching Faith in Reparations

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NOW is the time to sign an executive order for a reparations commission.

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Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season One

Faith Speaker Bios

Sister Anita Baird, DHM

Sr. Anita is a member of the Religious Congregation of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary having served as Regional Superior, Provincial Councilor, and most recently as United States Provincial. A trail blazer and history maker, Sister Anita became the first African American to serve as Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Chicago in 1997. In 2000, Cardinal Francis George appointed her the founding director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice. 

She is a past president of the National Black Sisters’ Conference,  and recipient of the organization’s Harriet Tubman “Moses of Her People” Award. Since 2001, Anita has traveled the country preaching at parish revivals, directing retreats, and presenting anti-racism workshops.   

Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein

Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein has written and taught extensively about the case for slavery reparations in Torah and Rabbinic literature, including in a 2018 article, “The Torah Case for Reparations”. Aryeh is a fifth-generation Chicago South Sider who works as National Jewish Educator for Avodah and Educational Consultant for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. 

Aryeh is a Senior Editor of Jewschool.com and a member of the Tzedek Lab. Aryeh studied at several institutions of higher rabbinical studies and was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes’s Yashrut Institute.

Dr. Iva Carruthers

Dr. Iva E. Carruthers is General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC), an interdenominational organization within the African American faith tradition focused on justice and equity issues. SDPC is both a 501c3 and United Nations Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). As founding CEO and a trustee of SDPC, she has steered the organization as a unique, influential and esteemed network of faith based advocates and activists, clergy and lay. Former director of the Black Theology Project, Dr. Carruthers has a long history of teaching, engagement in community development initiatives and social justice ministry, fostering interdenominational and interfaith dialogue and leading study tours for the university and church throughout in the United States, Caribbean, South America and Africa.

Dr. Carruthers is Professor Emeritus and former Chairperson of the Sociology Department at Northeastern Illinois University and was founding President of Nexus Unlimited, an information and educational technology firm. She was appointed to the White House Advisory Council on the internet, “National Information Infrastructure”, Mega Project and the educational software she developed was awarded a ComputerWorld Smithsonian Award. She is also founder of Lois House, an urban retreat center, Chicago, Illinois.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis 

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis—Author, Activist, and Public Theologian—is the Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City that is driven by Love. Period. Jacqui is the author of several books, including her latest: Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World. Jacqui earned her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and earned a M.Phil. and a Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion from Drew University. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she is the first African American and first woman senior minister in the Collegiate Church of New York, which was founded in 1628.

Middle Church and Jacqui have been featured in media such as The TODAY Show; Good Morning America; The Takeaway; The Brian Lehrer Show; and in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Her podcasts include Love.Period., which is produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation, and The Four—a fearsome faith foursome talking about Black Life, Love, Power and Joy, with Otis Moss III, Lisa Sharon Harper and Michael-Ray Mathews. 

Rabbi Jonah Pesner

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner serves as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He has led the Religious Action Center since 2015. Rabbi Pesner also serves as Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, a position to which he was appointed to in 2011. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader and tireless advocate for social justice. 

Rabbi Pesner’s work has focused on encouraging Jewish communities to reach across lines of race, class, and faith in campaigns for social justice. In 2006, he founded Just Congregations (now incorporated into the Religious Action Center), which engaged clergy, professional, and volunteer leaders in interfaith efforts in pursuit of social justice. Rabbi Pesner was a primary leader in the successful Massachusetts campaign for health care access that has provided health care coverage to hundreds of thousands and which became a nationwide model for reform. Over the course of his career, he has also led and supported campaigns for racial justice, economic opportunity, immigration reform, LGBTQ equality, human rights, and a variety of other causes. He is dedicated to building bridges to collectively confront anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate and bigotry.

Jarrett Smith, NETWORK Government Relations Advocate, is pictured at a June 16 reparations event near the White House alongside Nkechi Taifa.

The Moral Imperative of Reparations

The Moral Imperative of Reparations

Movement on H.R. 40 Is an Act of Justice for Black Americans
Jarrett Smith
November 15, 2022
Jarrett Smith, NETWORK Government Relations Advocate, is pictured at a June 16 reparations event near the White House alongside Nkechi Taifa.

Jarrett Smith, NETWORK Government Relations Advocate, is pictured at a June 16 reparations event near the White House alongside Nkechi Taifa.

Last year, the U.S. government honored Juneteenth as a federal holiday. This recognition came 155 years after the first celebration marked the anniversary of formerly enslaved people and families learning of their liberation in Texas. While the majority of Congress voted in favor of commemorating this day, more is required to fully incorporate the formally enslaved into the American project following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Our national will to act and repair must not end there.

It is time to create a system that protects Black people by putting an end to economic and employment inequality, a failing healthcare system, housing segregation, and state-sanctioned police violence. The passage of H.R. 40, a bill first proposed by Rep. John Conyers in 1989, could put the nation on solid footing toward such a process. The bill would create a commission to research and quantify the persistent economic disparities that Black people continue to suffer due to slavery and the discriminatory federal laws and regulatory practices that followed in its wake, and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.

The passage of H.R. 40 would be the first accounting of the role of the federal government and U.S. institutions in the atrocity of slavery, the legalized discrimination that followed, and action needed for atonement. Despite widespread and growing support to reckon with the legacy of systemic racism, H.R. 40 has not been brought to the House floor for a vote.

This reality calls to mind how much who we elect matters. It’s also why NETWORK Lobby calls on President Biden, as a Catholic Christian and U.S. president committed to justice, to sign an executive order to enact H.R. 40 now. It is a moral imperative.

There are precedents for federal-level repair. The federal government has examined and honored claims for reparation from other communities in the past — in 1946 to federally recognized Native American tribes, and in 1981 for Japanese Americans interned during World War II.

Federal financial support to residents following a natural disaster is an example of reparations. This action happens every year. FEMA is the government’s reparations arbitrator. Repair was made because of a harm suffered. As people of all races and backgrounds grapple with the question of what our country’s history means for us, people of faith have shown up repeatedly to drive this point home. Last year, over 200 faith organizations and leaders, including the African American Ministers in Action, the American Muslim Empowerment Network, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and the Union for Reform Judaism, signed a letter to House leadership asking for legislation to study redress. In May 2022, dozens of secular and faith-based organizations and racial justice advocates sent a letter to the White House urging President Biden to sign an executive order that would create a federal commission by June 19.

Supporting such proposals should be second-nature to Catholics, whose faith believes in reparatory justice in pursuit of reconciliation. We saw this lived out boldly with Pope Francis’ visit to Canada in late July, in which he met with Indigenous people and apologized repeatedly for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.

Dr. Ron Daniels, Amara Enyia, Bishop Paul Tighe, Nikole Hanna-Jones, and Kamm Howard meet at the Vatican's Dicastery for Culture and Education on July 18 to share ideas regarding reparations for Black people in the U.S.

Dr. Ron Daniels, Amara Enyia, Bishop Paul Tighe, Nikole Hanna-Jones, and Kamm Howard meet at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education on July 18 to share ideas regarding reparations for Black people in the U.S.

That same month, a delegation from the Global Circle for Reparations and Healing met in Rome with Bishop Paul Tighe, an official of the Dicastery for Culture and Education. A leader in the Vatican’s efforts to grapple with emerging issues, including social media and artificial intelligence, Bishop Tighe suggested the time is “ripe” for the church to consider these issues and agreed to share the delegation’s findings with others.

In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted that America had given Black people a bad check “which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” Wide support from faith-based and secular organizations today demonstrates the conviction of people in the U.S. that our country must address its original sin of slavery.

People of faith are called to carry on the legacy of working for civil rights and to use their collective power to call on leaders in Congress and the Biden administration to make good on their pledge to tackle systemic racism. Bypassing the opportunity to understand, analyze, and financially quantify this devastation would be more than a missed opportunity; it would be a moral failure.

This story was originally published in the 4th Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

This Saturday: White Supremacy and American Christianity

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Earlier this year, thousands of justice-seekers joined us to hear from experts working at the intersection of religion and race — Fr. Bryan Massingale, Robert P. Jones, and Dr. Marcia Chatelain.

Join us this Saturday as Fr. Bryan Massingale and Robert P. Jones return to speak with NETWORK for a follow-up conversation on white supremacy and American Christianity, this time in light of the upcoming midterm elections. Together, we’ll continue learning about the intersection of white supremacy and American Christianity, with a focus on our politics.

If you’ve already registered — help us spread the word!
*Retweet Here*  * Share to Facebook*

White Supremacy and American Christianity
Saturday, October 29, 2022 | 12:30-2:00 PM Eastern

This event will take place on Zoom.
Co-Sponsored by the National Black Sisters’ Conference

Register and invite your friends and family!

 

Meet Our Speakers

Fr. Bryan Massingale, Robert P. Jones, Joan F. Neal headshots

Robert P. Jones is the President and Founder of PRRI, and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones speaks and writes regularly on politics, culture, and religion in national media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others.

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, as well as the Senior Ethics Fellow in Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Fr. Massingale is a noted authority on social and racial justice issues, particularly in Catholic spaces.

Joan F. Neal is the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer at NETWORK where she shares overall leadership of the organization and leads strategic planning and racial equity and justice transformation work. Joan F. Neal is an experienced organizational leader and an authority on the intersection of faith, justice, and federal policymaking.

Catholic Women Religious Sign-on to Urge a Reparations Study Commission

Letter to President Biden from Catholic Sisters and Associates of Religious Communities

Dear President Biden:

As Catholic Women Religious and associates of religious communities, we recognize, affirm, and commit to uplift the sacredness of Black lives. In this country, we must honestly reflect on the history of racist and immoral policies sanctioned by the United States government and Catholic institutions. It is time to provide repair and redress for the ongoing repercussions of chattel slavery and continued systemic racism.

For more than 400 years, our federal policies and economic practices fostered the Atlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, and other forms of discrimination. This sinful racism, which fueled the economy and built the very foundation of the United States, was given moral absolution by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic faith tradition calls for confession, penance, and restitution when a sin has been committed. Telling the truth is, indeed, the only way we can begin to repair and redress the pain caused by slavery and our country’s failure to repent for centuries of systemic racism.

President Biden, as people of faith, we call on you to act with courage and fulfill your campaign promise to ‘support a study of reparations’ by establishing a national reparations commission via executive order.* As Catholic institutions, including orders of women religious, grapple with and make reparations for their pasts, so must the United States.

The sinful legacy of white supremacy and the enduring racial wealth gap must no longer be allowed to deny Black people good health, educational, and economic outcomes. It is time to act on your commitments to dismantling racist laws, policies, and frameworks, and to advance racial equity by establishing a reparations commission. We implore you to answer this urgent moral imperative to advance justice and build a better future for our country.

Sincerely,

Catholic Sisters and Associates

*President Biden said during his campaign, “a Biden Administration will support a study of reparations. joebiden.com/blackamerica

Sisters and Associates – Add Your Name

*This sign-on letter is now closed. To continue making your voice heard, please send an email to the White House.

Rochester Reparations Vigil | NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Register for the Rochester, NY In-Person Prayer Vigil for Repair and Redress

Racism has been a well-preserved traveler across generations in large part because of government behavior, like: blocked access to the wealth-building opportunities of homeownership, racial bias throughout the criminal legal system, and segregation from “good” schools. Our communities suffer because redress has been denied. We’re glad you can join us!

Want to learn more about New York’s NETWORK Advocates Team, who are volunteer justice-seekers rooted in the community, or about future reparations events and actions? Contact Catherine Gillette, Senior NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Organizer.

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.”