July 20, 2021 By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
CBM) – On July 9, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans held its second meeting in a series of 10.
During the Zoom conference, the group’s nine members shared differing views on how to best get Black Californians involved in their deliberations.
But they all agreed on one key point: having voices and ideas of African Americans across the state influence their conversations would be the best approach to successfully accomplish their work.
“A lot of things that’s important is we as a task force not let ourselves operate in a vacuum,” said Dr. Cheryl Grills, a member of the task force and professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “Not to assume that the public comments that happen at the end of our meetings are adequate to represent the community voice.”
Grills delivered a presentation titled “A Community Engagement Strategy for Taskforce Consideration.” In it, she put forth a plan to get Black Californians involved.
Grills suggested the task force hosts “listening sessions” across the state since it only has limited time to assess California’s role in slavery and Jim Crow discrimination — and follow that work up with developing resolutions to compensate African Americans for past and ongoing race-based injustices.
Regions in the southern, northern, and central part of the state (where many Black farmers reside) should be involved in the process, said Grills. The “listening sessions would go beyond” formal task force meetings and would not infringe upon scheduled discussions, Grills added.
The intent, she said, would be to involve Black Californians from varying backgrounds.
“Black folks exist in an ecosystem and the system includes a diverse, cultural base of people, social class, education levels, etc.,” said Grills. “So how do we make sure that those people are impacted. They need to be at the table.”
Through news coverage, Grills also suggested the National Association of Black Journalists could play a role in keeping the ongoing discourse about reparations “in the forefront and minds” of the Black community.
Lisa Holder, Esq. a nationally recognized trial attorney and task force member, emphasized that the proposal she prepared was not “in conflict” with Grills’ outreach plan and that her proposal offered a framework within which the task force can draw up its strategy to move forward.
Holder told fellow task force members that she and Grills are on the same page.
“This plan, for a lack of a better word, is in alignment with the blueprint we just saw (presented by Grills),” Holder clarified. “Grills focuses a little bit more on the details of how we can implement the community engagement plan. This outline I put together is a little bit broader and more of a concept.”
The meeting’s other seven participants were task force chair Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney, reparations scholar and activist; vice-chair Dr. Amos Brown, a civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose journey to leadership started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s; Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena);
Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles); San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe; Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley; and Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq. is an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.
After hearing Grills’ presentation, Brown raised concerns about transparency.
He also said that other groups around the state should have an opportunity to present a plan for community engagement.
“What will we do around this state without our giving due diligence to announce to everybody, that you can present a plan, too?” Brown asked. “Whether it’s northern, central California, whatever. We talk about transparency, but if we are going to be about it, then we should be about it.”
The task force voted 8-0 to consider both Holder’s and Grills’ community engagement plans. Brown opposed the motion and abstained, withholding his vote.
Bradford said he favored a “blending” of the two proposals. Both Grills and Bradford suggested that the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and the Mervyn Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University Dominguez Hills could assist in facilitating the statewide listening sessions, possibly through the California Department of Justice. Both academic research institutes are located in Southern California.
Steppe expressed confidence in her colleagues and the process.
“The (Black) community is going to play a huge role in getting whatever we present across the finish line,” she promised.
The task force also agreed to move public comments during the meeting from the end to the beginning of the sessions. Public comments will also expand from two minutes to three, Moore announced.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his allotment of five of nine representatives to the nation’s first-ever Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. The state task force is being assembled to meet the mandate of the Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, a landmark legislation Gov. Newsom signed into law last September 2020 that aims to promote racial justice and equity.
Earlier this year, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) appointed two other members to the task force: Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) and San Diego city Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is tasked with appointing the two remaining members.
AB 3121, which was authored by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she served in the state Assembly, mandates that the task force must submit written reports, “with a special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.”
The nine task force members will study the deep-rooted legacy of slavery and the expressions of systematic racism African Americans have encountered over centuries in the United States. The legislation also calls for scholars assembled by the Regents of the University of California to draft a research proposal analyze how the state and country have benefitted from slavery.
“California is leading the nation, in a bipartisan way, on the issue of reparations and racial justice, which is a discussion that is long overdue and deserves our utmost attention,” Newsom said.
Newsom selected an interdisciplinary team of academics, community leaders, and lawyers to spearhead the state’s effort.
He said each member of the task force has, “an expansive breadth of knowledge, experiences and understanding of issues impacting the African American community is the next step in our commitment as a state to build a California for all. ”The Black Leadership Council (BLC), a statewide organization of African American leaders in California, says it is “committed to ensuring reparations discussions can and will continue in California.”
The group applauded Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is a member of the reparations task force, and other members of the California Legislative Black Caucus for keeping the issue “front and center” in California politics.
AB 3121 states that the task force is required to, “Identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies.
The task force also needs to choose, “the form of compensation that should be awarded, the instrumentalities through which it should be awarded, and who should be eligible for this compensation,” the bill reads.
According to the bill, over 4 million African Americans were enslaved in the United States from 1619 to the year slavery was abolished in 1865.
The bill focuses on, “Leveling the playing field in our society and ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at achieving the California dream,” according to Newsom.Newsom’s task force appointments include four people of African descent and one Japanese American. They all have a credible track record of advocating for racial justice and equity in their respective communities. According to the legislation, Senate confirmation is not required for members of the task force, but they are eligible for a daily allowance for no more than ten meetings.
Newsom’s appointees are:· Dr. Amos Brown, 80, an award-winning civil rights leader and respected Bay Area pastor whose leadership journey started under the tutelage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 1960s. He protested alongside the Freedom Riders, a multiracial group of activists who fought segregation laws in the South during the Jim Crow era. He is also the current president of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP and a Member of the organization’s board of directors.
· Dr. Cheryl Grills, 62, is a clinical psychologist and professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Grills achieved international recognition for her research on racial trauma, healing, and implicit bias in the African American community. She also serves as a member of a few congressional caucuses and leads national COVID-19 initiatives focused on communities of color.
· Lisa Holder, 49, is a trial attorney who owns a law firm in Southern California. Holder is well known as an advocate for racial and social justice with more than two decades of legal experience.
· Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, 38, is an economic anthropologist and geographer whose research includes reparations, race, and economic inequality in the U.S. and Caribbean. Lewis is the chair of the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley, where he also works as an associate professor.
· Don Tamaki, 69, is an attorney best known for the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II. The case boosted the Redress Movement, a social movement inspired by landmark court cases that shaped human rights for Japanese Americans. Tamaki is also the co-founder of ‘Stop Repeating History,’ an intersectional campaign that aims to create public awareness on reparations and racial equity.
Once the team has a total of nine members, the task force will host its first meeting on June 1, 2021. The task force will also elect its own chair and vice-chair who will be supported by staff from the Office of the General Attorney of California.