Dr. Rev. Amos Brown
Posted: December 22, 2022
Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
The Rev. Amos C. Brown is vice-chair and the senior member serving on the nine-member California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
Brown, 80, says he is “extremely pleased” with what the committee has accomplished after four meetings.
The task force held its fifth and final two-day meeting session of 2021 on Tuesday, Dec. 7 and Wednesday, Dec. 8. As written in Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, the group has until 2023 to present a set of recommendations to the state for consideration.
“The task force has been extremely focused and substantive. We have some of the best minds – people who know the history, psychology, and sociology of the pressure Black folks in this country have felt,” Brown told California Black Media.
The task force was created after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 3121 into law in September 2020. California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber authored the bill while she served in the State Assembly representing the 79th District in San Diego.
The law calls for the state to set up a task force to study slavery, Jim Crow segregation and other injustices African Americans have faced historically in California and across the United States.
The group will then recommend appropriate ways to educate the Californians about reparations and propose ways to compensate descendants of enslaved people based on the task force’s findings.
The members of the task force come from diverse professional backgrounds. So far, the panel has heard testimony from a range of experts and witnesses, including descendants and representatives of people or families the government denied justice in the past; as well as historians, economists and academics.
“We’re about balance, inclusion, and stating the case precisely so that it doesn’t face paralysis of analysis or become just another study,” Brown said. “We have had too many studies of Black folks in the past. Now is the time to show us that we are serious about being one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
According to Brown, African Americans in his hometown of San Francisco, need to overcome decades of psychological damage imposed by racism, discrimination and unfair government policies, including some urban renewal programs that hurt Black families more than they helped.
On Nov. 22, Brown joined, actor Danny Glover, other local Black leaders, and members of the San Francisco Reparations Committee, to ask the city to donate the historic Fillmore Heritage Center to the African American community.
Many have referred to the Fillmore neighborhood as the “Harlem of the West” in the 1940s, Brown said. By 1945, over 30,000 Black Americans lived in the historic area.
Today, around 6% of San Francisco’s population of nearly 875,000 people are Black or mixed-race African Americans.
“San Francisco City leaders have a moral obligation to right the racist wrongs that destroyed that culture and that community and allow the Fillmore Heritage Center to live up to the full meaning of its name,” Glover said in a statement.
In 2007, the center became a venue for Jazz and Blues, reminiscent of the culture and Fillmore night clubs that attracted musical greats Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and others.
Last May, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appoint a 15-member African American Reparations Advisory Committee.
“That building, that land, represents the disenfranchisement, redlining of Black folks in this town, and the redevelopment agency not being fair,” Brown said. “The Fillmore, 12 blocks, itself was the hub of Black entertainment, Black culture, Black
businesses and Black life. You just can’t wipe out our history or our heritage.”
Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1941, Brown says he was delivering JET magazine when the popular weekly published graphic photos of 14-year-old Emmett Till murdered by a White racist mob in August1955 in Money, Mississippi, a rural area known for the cultivation of cotton. The lynching of Till ignited the civil rights movement.
“Emmett and I were the same age,” Brown said. “When I picked up a copy (of Jet magazine), I saw that mutilated head. It horrified me. I remember it vividly.”
Brown first arrived in the city of San Francisco in 1956 with Medgar Evers, who was a state official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Mississippi.
Evers brought the 15-year-old Brown to the Bay Area to attend the NAACP’s national convention where he first met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A year before, Brown had started the NAACP’s first youth council.
Brown later studied under King at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
In 1961, he was arrested with King at a lunch counter sit-in and joined the Freedom Riders, a group of activists who protested segregation in the South.
“In 1960, before I joined the Freedom Riders, the NAACP Youth Council actually organized the first ‘sit-down protest’ in Oklahoma City in August 1958,” Brown said “The first sit-down movement did not start in Greensboro, North Carolina. It began in Oklahoma City, Wichita (Kansas), and Louisville (Kentucky) under the auspices of the Youth Council of the NAACP.”
Brown earned a Doctor of Theology from United Theological Seminary in Ohio and a Master of Theology from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
Brown has been the Pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco since 1976. From 1996 to 2001, he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is president of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP and a member of the organization’s national board of directors.
Brown said he is monitoring reparation legislation and conversations across the country to see if proposals being put forward are in sync with California’s efforts.
“What I want to accomplish is: Black people being and knowing that something was done about their pain -- that can be done in the state of California,” Brown said. “Things can never be perfect, but at least collectively people of conscious and good will can stand up and say, ‘this is what we must do to right this wrong.’”
Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the Black community owned less than 1% of the United States’ total wealth, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was told during its fourth meeting.
Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law, shared the statistics during the “Racism in Banking, Tax, and Labor” portion of the two-day meeting on Oct.13.
From her perspective, the power of wealth and personal income is still unequally distributed. And that inequality, in her view, has always been allowed, preserved and compounded by laws and government policy.
“More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged,” Baradaran told the Task Force, tracing the wealth gap from the period after the Civil War when President Lincoln granted formerly enslaved Blacks their freedom to the present day.
“The gap between average White wealth and Black wealth has actually increased over the last decades. Today, across every social-economic level, Black families have a fraction of the wealth that White families have,” she said.
Baradaran has written a range of entries and books about banking law, financial inclusion, inequality, and the racial wealth gap. Her scholarship includes the books “How the Other Half Banks” and “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” both published by the Harvard University Press.
Baradaran has also published several articles on race and economics, including “Jim Crow Credit” in the Irvine Law Review, “Regulation by Hypothetical” in the Vanderbilt Law Review, and “How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking” in the Emory Law Journal.
A 43-year-old immigrant born in Orumieh, Iran, Baradaran, testified that her work on the wealth gap in America was conducted from a “research angle” and she respectfully “submitted” her testimony “in that light,” she said.
In her research, Baradaran explained that she discovered an intentional system of financial oppression.
“This wealth chasm doesn’t abate with income or with education. In other words, this is a wealth gap that is pretty much tied to a history of exclusion and exploitation and not to be remedied by higher education and higher income,” Baradaran said.
According to a January 2020 report, the Public Policy Institute of California said African American and Latino families make up 12% of those with incomes above the 90th percentile in the state, despite comprising 43% of all families in California.
In addition, PPIC reported that such disparities mirror the fact that African American and Latino adults are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and have higher unemployment rates, and African American adults are less likely to be in the labor force.
Many issues support these activities that range from disparities around education, local job opportunities, and incarceration to discrimination in the labor market, according to PPIC.
“While California’s economy outperforms the nation’s, its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states,” the report stated.
“Without target policies, it will continue to grow,” Baradaran said of the wealth gap. “And I want to be clear of how this wealth gap will continue to grow. It was created, maintained, and perpetuated through public policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Black men and women have been shut out of most avenues of middle-class creations. Black homes, farms, and savings were not given the full protection of the law. Especially as these properties were subjected to racial terrorism. The American middle-class was not created that way (to support Black communities).”
A June 2018 working paper from the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute written by economists familiar with moderate-to-weak Black wealth backs up Baradaran’s assessment.
Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the authors of the report wrote that strategies to deny Blacks access to wealth started at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, picked up around the civil rights movement, and resurfaced around the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
Authored by Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, and Ulrike I. Steins, the “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016” explains a close analysis of racial inequality, pre-and post-civil rights eras.
The economists wrote that the median Black household has less than 11% of the wealth of the median White household, which is about $15,000 versus $140,000 in 2016 prices.
“The overall summary is bleak,” the report states. “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.”
Baradaran recently participated in the virtual symposium, “Racism and the Economy: Focus on the Wealth Divide” hosted by 12 District Banks of the Federal Reserve System, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
There are some positives that are not typically included in discussions about the challenges Blacks have experience historically in efforts to obtain wealth, Baradaran said. Many African Americans, specifically in California, were able to subvert the systems that discriminated against them.
“Black institutions have been creative and innovative serving their communities in a hostile climate,” Baradaran said. “I’ve written a book about the long history of entrepreneurship, self-help, and mutual uplift. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided stellar education and Black banks have supported Black businesses, churches, and families.”
California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, tax, and environmental justice.
All of these areas were covered with expert testimony during the two-day meeting held on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13. The task force is charged with exploring California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights.
Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their White counterparts.
“Banks and corporations have engaged in lending and hiring practices that helped to solidify patterns of racial inequality,” Jacqueline Jones, a history professor from the University of Texas told the Task Force.
The Racism in Banking, Tax and Labor segment also featured testimonies by Williams Spriggs (former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. Spriggs now serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO), Thomas Craemer (public policy professor at the University of Connecticut), and Lawrence Lucas (U.S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees).
The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans will conduct its fifth and final meeting of 2021 on Dec. 6 and Dec.7
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.