Launching the Mass Reparations Campaign

Against the Current, No. 102, January/February 2003

Reparations Mobilization Coalition

[The following is the statement of the National Reparations Education & Mobilization Coalition. The principal authors are Sam Anderson and Muntu Matsimela. Sam Anderson is compiling a Reparations Reader, scheduled for release by Doubleday in Fall 2003.]

THE REPARATIONS MOBILIZATION Coalition is working hard to build a Massive Black Reparations Campaign. We are working with other pro-reparations organizations and individuals, which will culminate in a mobilization of several million Black people not only demanding reparations but actively engaged in the various efforts for its realization.

We understand that a comprehensive Reparations campaign embraces ALL of our sites of struggle and areas of concern.

There are many reasons why we have a campaign for Reparations, not the least of which is the UN World Conference Against Racism’s announcement to the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world, that people of African descent are determined not to begin a new millennium with this UNRESOLVED issue of compensation for past and present crimes against African Humanity.

The following are some of the reasons for a National Campaign and Congress for Reparations for people of African descent.

* A Reparations Campaign enjoys major support within our communities. It has the capacity to revitalize the Black Liberation Movement and reassert the leading role of the Black progressive forces.

* A Reparations Campaign is primarily directed at the United States (Federal and State governments) but is also directed at other Western Imperialist Capitalist powers, corporations and individual families that have benefited from slavery as well. Foreign states who participated in the slave trade and slavery including the structures of the United Nations can still be used as part of an international Reparations strategy.

* A Reparations Campaign is fundamentally anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. It attacks the very heart of these oppressive systems. We have never been compensated for the millions and millions of hours of unpaid labor conservatively estimated to be $97 trillion for enslaved African labor in the US alone. Our ancestors were the backbone to the development of capitalism here in the United States and throughout the rest of the world!

* A Reparations Campaign will include the demand for compensation of the tens of thousands of Black men and women who were used as prison labor to work without pay on farms, factories and mines throughout the South from the time of Reconstruction to the present.

* A Reparations Campaign will include the demand to cancel the usury rates imposed upon us through killer mortgages and loan shark credit card interest rates.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans pay no federal, state or municipal taxes until there is economic parity between white America and Black America.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans have access to free education up to and including graduate work wherever one is accepted to study until there is education parity between white America and Black America.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand that African Americans have access to free health care for one’s entire life. This would include our choice of Western or non-Western medical care as well as free medicine and home care.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand the creation of a Reparations Cooperative Development Bank to help develop, employ and advance the Black communities of the United States. It will operate independent of the federal government and the monopolistic banking system. It will operate under the auspices of the UN’s international development banking system . . .

* A Reparations Campaign will include a debt cancellation demand resonating throughout Africa and the Diaspora. It will also support the demand for reparations presently unfolding for African nations and the Diaspora for the crimes of genocide, colonialism and present-day neocolonialism.

* A Reparations Campaign is a powerful tool to educate the people of the U.S. and world societies about a brutal and savage system that is the basis for institutional racism and white supremacist oppression today. A system which inflicted on African people the most horrific form of cultural genocide (virtually complete destruction of historical memory, religion, language, traditions, ancestry) and which continues to be the basis for the racist dehumanization and demonization of African peoples and other oppressed peoples of color.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand the return of all stolen African/African Descendant art. The Reparations Campaign will seek out stolen African art in museums, corporations and private hands. It will leave no stone unturned in the search for the thousands of sacred items of our African cultural and spiritual heritage.

* A Reparations Campaign will educate our people to the fact that our ancestral mothers have never been compensated for the reproduction of Human Capital (giving birth to an African child during slavery which meant that this child automatically had a “price value”) through rape and/or forced breeding.

The Black Woman has not only never been compensated for her brutal field work (and the tortuous work in the Master’s house), but also her domestic chores within the slave quarters. This most beastly form of slavery tried to humiliate and strip our ancestral mothers and fathers of their womanhood and manhood.

* A Reparations Campaign will educate our people to the fact that our ancestral fathers had to face systemic humiliating attempts to strip them of their manhood and dignity, the horrific legacy of which resonates throughout US cultural, governmental, and corporate institutions today.

* A Reparations Campaign will demand just compensation for the millions of Black children forced into horrific death inducing child labor from as early as three years old.

* A Reparations Campaign will expose the additional injuries inflicted during slavery: the never ending war against free Blacks. This war was in an anticipation of what would become of us during the post-slavery oppression period: rapes, lynchings, pogroms (state sanctioned and initiated murder) and anti-migration laws.

For instance, this included 19th century anti-migration laws — often written into state constitutions — that were passed to stop African Americans from settling in Illinois, Indiana and Oregon. This pattern of conscious legal exclusion denied our ancestors the possibility of benefiting from land grants made available for old and new members of these states. These are legal injuries that must be calculated into the reparations demands.

We cannot look at the oppression and repression of our enslaved and “free” ancestors as two distinct realities. They were just two sides of the same racist and capitalist coins that fed the banks and wallets of the ruling classes of Europe and the Americas.

* A Reparations Campaign is a self-reliant movement; it is a nation building campaign that allows Black people to address some of the fundamental issues confronting our survival today. It gives us the ability to create our very own self-determining institutions in developing jobs with a living wage, quality affordable housing, healthcare and anti-racist education.

* A Reparations Campaign will include the fight to free all U.S. political prisoners and prisoners of war as well as the battle to dismantle the racist prison industrial complex. They are the direct political descendants of our warrior-ancestors who gave their lives organizing for and fighting for our liberation and dignity from the 15th Century onwards.

Today’s U.S. political prisoners and prisoners of war are also the direct victims of U.S. capitalism’s systematic anti-freedom and unprincipled campaign called the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

* A Reparations Campaign is the most powerful weapon that can be used against racism and the right-wing onslaught on affirmative action and political disenfranchisement (voting-while-Black).

* A Reparations Campaign will create a strategic bridge between Africa and the Diaspora. Blacks from Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, and throughout the Caribbean are currently joining the International Reparations Campaign by the thousands.

* A Reparations Campaign is ultimately a political offensive. Issues such as homelessness, struggles for jobs, universal health care, decent affordable housing organizing against attacks on welfare, cutbacks on education, attacks on affirmative action, anti-gay violence, discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence, police brutality, racist and fascist attacks on the Black community, amnesty for political prisoners, the genocidal incarceration of Black youth, and the prison industrial complex, etc. all can be connected to and enhanced by a United Campaign for Reparations.

Contact: The Reparations Mobilization Coalition, 122 W. 27th St., 10th Floor, NYC 10001; or

ATC 102, January-February 2003