photo of palm trees in front of a colorful sunset by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash

October 2, 2020: California has been working on a way to provide reparations for African Americans. This effort began in 2020, when Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation giving special consideration to Black Americans. The legislation. which was authored by former Assemblymember Shirley Weber, called for the creation of a task force that would study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans. This is a first-in-the-nation attempt at providing reparations.

Merriam-Webster dictionary provides few definitions of reparations. The most relevant one is: the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury.

Writing for Teen Vogue, (in 2019) Jameelah Nasheed pointed out: “Historically, various groups have received reparations, including (but not limited to) payments made to Holocaust survivors and Japanese-Americans after their forced captivity in internment camps. In these cases, reparations have been financial payments, which is how they’re typically framed for descendants of slaves in the U.S.”

Cal Matters reported that the nine-member reparations task force voted 5-4 in favor of defining eligibility for reparations based on lineage “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century.

In other words, the outcome of this vote establishes that only those Black Californians who are able to trace their lineage back to enslaved ancestors will be eligible for the state’s reparations. Other Black Californians – such as Black immigrants – will be excluded.

There are some opposing viewpoints about this. Kamiliah Moore, task force chairperson, said that going with a lineage-based approach would “aggrieve the victims of slavery”. Civil rights lawyer Lisa Holder argued against a strict lineage approach, stating, “We must make sure we include present day and future harms. The system that folks are advocating for here, where we splice things up, where only one small slice benefits, will not abate the harms of racism.”

The reparations task force is expected to release a reparations proposal in June 2023 with recommendations for the California Legislature. Many task force members said they expect cash payments to be one of the proposal as well as a formal apology. The task force also said that the eligibility determination will help economists tasked with quantifying the amount of reparations owed.

CBS News reported that today, Black residents are 5% of California’s population but are overrepresented in jails, prison, and homeless populations.

Testimony given to the reparations task force showed that California and local governments were complicit in stripping Black people of their wages and property, preventing them from building wealth to pass down to their children. Their homes were razed for redevelopment, and they were forced to live in predominantly minority neighborhoods, and couldn’t get bank loans that would allow them to purchase property.

March 30, 2022: California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations voted Tuesday to limit state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century, narrowly rejecting a proposal to include all Black people regardless of lineage. NPR reported.

The vote was split 5-4, and the hours-long debate was at times testy and emotional. Near the end, the Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP and vice chair of the task force, pleaded with the commission to move ahead with a clear definition of who would be eligible for restitution.

“Please, please, please I beg us tonight, take the first step,” he said. “We’ve got to give emergency treatment to where it is needed.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation creating the two-year reparations task force in 2020, making California the only state to move ahead with a study and plan, with a mission to study the institution of slavery and its harms and to educate the public about its findings.

Reparations at the federal level has not gone anywhere, but cities and universities are taking up the issue. The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, announced a city commission in February while the city of Boston is considering a proposal to form its own reparations commission.

The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, became the firs U.S. city to make reparations available to Black residents last year, although there are some who say the program has done nothing to right a wrong.

California’s task force members – nearly all of whom can trace their families back to enslaved ancestors in the U.S. – were aware that their deliberations over a pivotal question will shape reparations discussions across the country. The members were appointed by the governor and the leaders of the two legislative chambers.

Those favoring a lineage approach said that a compensation and restitution plan based on genealogy as opposed to race has the best chance of surviving a legal challenge. They also opened eligibility to free Black people who migrated to the country before the 20th century, given possible difficulties in documenting family history and the risk at the time of becoming enslaved.

Others on the task force argued that reparations should include all Black people in the U.S. who suffer from systemic racism in housing, education and employment and said they were defining eligibility too soon in the process.

Civil rights attorney and task force member Lisa Holder proposed directing economists working with the task force to use California’s estimated 2.6 million Black residents to calculate compensation while they continue hearing from the public.

“We need to galvanize the base and that is Black people,” she said. “We can’t go into this reparations proposal without having all African Americans in California behind us.”

But Kamilah Moore, a lawyer and chair of the task force, said expanding eligibility would create it’s own fissures and was beyond the purpose of the committee.

“That is going to aggrieve the victims of the institution of slavery, which are direct descendants of the enslaved people in the United States,” She said. “It goes against the spirit of the law as written.”

The committee is not even a year into its two-year process and there is no compensation plan of any kind on the table. Longtime advocates have spoken of the need for multifaceted remedies for related yet separate harms, such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration and redevelopment that resulted in the displacement of Black communities.

Compensation could include free college, assistance buying homes and launching businesses, and grants to churches and community organizations, advocates say.

The eligibility question has dogged the task force since it’s inaugural meeting in June, when viewers called in pleading with the nine-member group to devise targeted proposals and cash payments to make whole the descendants of enslaved people in the U.S.

Chicago resident Arthur Ward called in to Tuesday’s virtual meeting, saying that he was a descendant of enslaved people and has family in California. He supports reparations based only on lineage and expressed frustration with the panel’s concerns over Black immigrants who experience racism.

“When it comes to some sort of justice, some kind of recompense, we are supposed to step to the back of the line and allow Caribbean’s and Africans to be prioritized,” Ward said. “Taking this long to decide something that should not even been a question in the first place is an insult.”

California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, who voted against limiting eligibility, said there is no question that descendants of slaves are the priority, but he said the task force also needs to stop ongoing harm and prevent future harm from racism. He said he wished the panel would stop “bickering” over money they don’t have yet and start discussing how to close a severe wealth gap.

“We’re arguing over cash payments, which I firmly don’t believer the be all and end all,” he said.

Reparation critics say that California has no obligation to pay up given that the state did not practice slavery and did not enforce Jim Crow laws that segregated Black people from white people in the southern states.

But testimony provided to the committee shows California and local governments were complicit in stripping Black people of their wages and property, preventing them from building wealth to pass down to their children. Their homes were razed for redevelopment, and they were forced to live in predominantly minority neighborhoods and couldn’t get bank loans the would allow them to purchase property.

Today, Black residents are 5% of the state’s population but over-represented in jails, prison, and homeless populations. And Black homeowners continue to face discrimination in the form of home appraisals that are significantly lower than if the house were in a white neighborhood or the homeowners are white, according to testimony.

A report is due by June with a reparations proposals due by July 2023 for the Legislature to consider turning into law.

January 28, 2023: To help close the racial wealth gap, the U.S. government should pay $14 trillion in reparations to Black Americans, according to William A. Darity and A. Kristen Mullen, authors of “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century”, CNBC reported.

In an interview with CNBC, Darity, a Duke University professor, and Mullen, a forklorist and writer, said the federal government is financially responsible because it was culpable for the enslavement of Black Americans and legal segregation in the United States. Mullen said “the federal government was the party” to both the suppression of the Black vote and in some cases the destruction of Black people’s property.

She added that “the federal government is also the only entity that has the capacity to pay the debt.”

Darity and Mullen told CNBC that the cost of reparations would not need to be passed on to taxpayers.

“You don’t necessarily have to raise taxes to undertake these massive expenditure projects,” Darity said, citing the federal government’s $4.6 trillion Covid-19 spending as an example.

However, Darity warned that reparations could lead to inflation if not properly rolled out. To minimize risk, Darity suggested the payment should be spread out over a period of up to 10 years or the reparations should be provided in the form of assets rather than liquid cash.

“The key thing,” Darity said, “is that ultimately the discretion for the use of the funds must reside with the recipient.”

March 7, 2023: California’s Reparation Task Force has concluded its two-day public meeting geared toward compensating Black Americans affectedly the legacy of slavery. But the nine-member body is a long way off from the finish line, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The panel has until July 1 to submit its final report to the Legislature. In the meantime, it is focused on gathering feedback and working out the report’s moving parts.

One of the key discussions of the recent meeting was the creation of a new state agency – a “freedmen’s bureau” to be the authority should reparations become a reality.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 signed AB 3121, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, to explore how California might compensate for harms caused by enslavement and racial discrimination.

More task force meetings are scheduled for March 29 and 39 in Sacramento, and approval of the final report is set for May 2 in the capital.

There will be a June 30 meeting once the report is finalized. All meetings will be in person and broadcast online.

Here are some of the top takeaways from the task force’s two-day meeting:

Establishing A State Freedman’s Bureau

The idea for the proposed California American Freedman Affairs Agency was inspired by an act passed by Congress on March 3, 1865.

Back then, the federal government established a Freedmen’s Bureau to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and land to African Americans newly freed from enslavement.

Nearly 160 years later, California’s task force looks to create an agency with the power to implement reparations and have oversight to ensure its many goals are met.

They could include implementing programs and policies that benefit the quality of life for descendants of enslaved Blacks. It could also provide services to the descendant community through contracts, grants or partnerships with community-based organizations, private entities and other local, state and federal agencies.

“That’s what the spirit of this new independent agency would be. It would be a permanent place and space for this unique group of people to get the services that they’ve been denied and despoiled for centuries,” task force chair Kamilah Moore said.

The proposed state freedmen’s bureau could include different branches to cover different areas reparations, such as confirming genealogy for eligibility of services. Other branches might handle legal affairs, data and research, social services and family affairs, medical/psychological services and business affairs for entrepreneurship.

Many on the panel said the recommendations, if approved, would give the new state agency “teeth.”..

...Unjust Land Seizures

The task force hasn’t decided upon a definitive dollar amount for reparations. There have been some estimates in the media, but task force member Don Tamaki said the group has “left it up to the economists to do the number-crunching and they’re still looking at data on housing, mass incarceration and so forth. Work is being done, but it’s not ready to present.”

Five harms committed against Black Americans identified by the task force will likely impact how they ultimately calculate an amount.

Those harms include:

  • Property taken unjustly through eminent domain from 1850 to 2020
  • Devaluation of Black businesses from 1850 to 2020
  • Housing discrimination and redlining from 1933 to 1977
  • Mass incarceration and over policing from 1970 to 2020
  • Harms related to health from 1900 to 2000

Task force member Amos C. Brown reminded his colleagues not to “gloss over” the land and property component of that review.

“In 1900, we owned about 19 million acres of land. But now we have less than 3 million,” Brown said. “We (have to) look at how land was stolen from us in the Fillmore in San Francisco. In West Oakland, in South Central Los Angeles. And other areas across the state. And even Allensworth.”

Allensworth is a Central Valley town founded in the early 20th century by Blacks who were ex-slaves. It’s now managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreations.

Task force member Reginald Jones-Sawyer mentioned how eminent domain was used as a tool to displace residents of Black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, when the Century Freeway, Interstate 105 was built.

The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 21,000 residents had lost their homes because of the freeway which was completed in 1993. The Times reported that some of those residents were overwhelmed by the pain of being forced out, suffering heart attacks or dying by suicide. Highway engineers conceded that the cost of building interstates through cities was too great…

March 10, 2023: A proposal to pay Black people in California up to $1.2 million in restitution for slavery ran into political headwinds Wednesday as Gov. Gavin Newsom and a lawmaker who was on the state panel raised doubts about the prospect of cash payments, Politico reported.

State Sen. Steven Bradford said he wouldn’t count on the Legislature – though dominated by Democrats – to vote in favor of payments, one of the recommendations of a panel expected to release its final recommendations on July 1.

“I’m realistic enough to know that we might not have colleagues who are willing to do that,” Bradford told reporters.

He spoke after Newsom sparked an uproar with a statement that hailed the findings of the task force as a milestone but specifically noted that dealing with the legacy of slavery “is about much more than cash payments.”

The governor was acknowledging political reality, Bradford said.

“I think he’s setting a real realistic expectation that there probably won’t be check payments in the tune of or the amount of what we’ve battled around the last two years since we started this process,” he said.

The comments from Newsom and Bradford illustrated the considerable political obstacles to compensating Black people for the harms of slavery, even in a progressive state that drew praise for creating a groundbreaking task force. Those challenges will be magnified by California’s enormous budget deficit, the contentiousness of proposing cash payment and, Bradford acknowledged, resistance from fellow Democrats.

Newsom signed the task force into law in 2020, touting California as being the first state to study reparations and calling the bill a corrective to the “structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions.”

After months of meetings and public input, the panel released a semifinal report on May 6 calculating that the cumulative cost of mass incarceration, housing discrimination, and healthcare inequity could amount to $1.2 million per person at the high end.

It would be up to the Legislature and Newsom to enact any element of the report.

Many of the recommendations have already begun to be addressed, Newsom noted in a statement.

“We should continue to work as a nation to reconcile our original sin of slavery and understand how that history has shaped our country,” he said. “Dealing with the legacy of slavery is about much more than cash payments.”

Bradford similarly described an array of non-cash solutions that include more funding for healthcare, buying homes and bringing higher education. But he said Newsom’s statement also conceded the limitations of what California will be able to accomplish. “I’ve tried to temper people’s expectation that it might not be a check,” Bradford said.

The apparent retreat from payments drew criticism, including from the Reverend Amos Brown, a civil rights activist who was vice-chair of the reparations task force.

“We’re being disingenuous when we all of a sudden want to run away from money,” Brown said.

Any legislation arising from the work of the task force in the coming years could face a challenging path to Newsom’s desk. California is staring down a budget deficit estimated $22.5 billion in January.

Supporters of reparations have long stressed that the concept encompasses more than monetary payments. The author of the bill creating the panel, then-Assembly member Shirley Weber, said in 2020 that the measure “does not take a position on the form of reparations should take but does take a clear position on reparations as necessary.”

The panel’s report recommended offering “the payment of cash or its equivalent” to people who had been harmed by slavery. It also recommended the Legislature offer a “down payment’ with an immediate disbursement of a meaningful amount of funds.”

California has since moved to more directly compensate the descendants of enslaved people for their losses: A 2021 bill signed by Newsom returned a costal property called Bruce’s Beach to the descendants of Black owners who’d seen the land stripped away in the early 20th century. But the report noted that losses are not always easy to quantify.

“Not all specific harms perpetrated against the state’s African American residents involve land – or other property that can be easily returned,” the panel said. “In those cases, those individual harms must be remedied with monetary compensation.”

March 29, 2023: KQED reported that California’s Reparations Task Force is examining the historic harms of slavery and anti-Black racism in California. Last summer, the task force released a preliminary report (PDF) detailing California’s history of enslavement and its many decades of discriminatory policies – in housing, education, health care, criminal justice and other areas – that established the systemic racism that persists today. This summer, the task force will present recommendations on how Black residents should be compensated for this ensuring oppression.

If the task force’s recommendations are adopted by the state’s Legislature, many Black Californians will have to prove their eligibility for reparations. To help with this, a preliminary report proposed establishing a California African American Freedmen Affairs Agency to “support potential claimants with genealogical research to confirm eligibility.”

In a 5-4 vote in March 2022, the task force voted in favor of lineage-based reparations that would be “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the U.S. prior to the end of the 19th century.” But there’s still a lot yet to be finalized about what kind of specific documentation would be required to prove eligibility.

Eligibility has loomed over the first-in-the-nation statewide task force since it began meeting in June 2021. There’s a wide spectrum of opinion on how feasible it will be to document eligibility — and considerable concern about the emotional toll Black Californians will have to pay.

The task force will continue the debate on eligibility Wednesday and Thursday in Sacramento, including defining the parameters of a residency requirement…

…If a person can track their ancestry back to the 1870 census, and their relative was living in a state that practiced enslavement, some genealogists feel it is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the ancestor likely was enslaved. The census tracked additional components, like whether a person could read and write; that could lend support to the likelihood the person was enslaved since enslavers often forbid the people they held captive from becoming literate.

Black people were not counted as part of the country’s population until the 1870 census, the first undertaken after the Civil War. That’s because, until then, enslaved people were considered property, said Sharon Morgan, who runs Our Black Ancestry, a Facebook genealogy group with more than 36,000 members.

“For people who were enslaved, we were not considered people,” said Morgan, a genealogist in Macon, Mississippi, who has served as a consultant for the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society “You find them in property records.”…

…Kellie Farrish, a genealogist based in the East Bay, said the scavenger hunt described by Morgan is mostly a thing of the past because of the digitization of records.

“It used to be a lot of traveling,” said Farrish, who presented at a task force meeting in March of 2022.
And [the records are] in boxes, if they’re even maintained at all. That world just doesn’t exist anymore.”

Farrish, who owns Reparative Genealogy, which helps Black people trace their lineage to the earliest ancestor documented in the United States, has been working in genealogy for more than 15 years…

…Cheryl Grills, director of the Psychology Applied Research Center at Loyola Marymount University and a task force member, voted against lineage-based reparations because of the trauma associated with searching for enslaved ancestors.

“Not every Black person wants to do this genealogy thing. It could be triggering,” Grills said. “It could be traumatizing because [of] what the family had to go through, what the family suffered and endured.”…

May 1, 2023: The California Reparations Task Force published documents Monday indicating it plans to recommend the state apologize for racism and slavery and consider “down payments” of varying amounts to eligible African American residents, Cal Matters reported.

The documents, numbering more than 500 pages, do not contain an overall price tag for reparations, but they do include ways the state could calculate how much money African Americans in California have lost since 1850, when the state was established, through today due to certain government practices.

The loss calculations would vary depending on type of racial harm and how long a person has lived in California. The loss estimates range from $2,300 per person per year of residence for the over-policing of Black communities, to $77,000 total per person for Black-owned business losses and devaluations over the years.

The state-appointed task force faces a July 1 deadline to make reparations recommendations to the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Task force leaders have said they expect the Legislature to come up with actual reparation amounts.

The task force is also recommending a variety of policy changes to counteract discrimination.

“It is critical that we compensate, but not just compensate. We also need to evaluate policy that continues to hold us back,” said Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego city council member who is on the task force. She spoke at a “listening session” in San Diego Saturday.

Who would get reparations?

The task force documents discuss two kinds of reparations: those arising from particular instances of discrimination or harm that require an individual to file a claim, and those that involve distributing money or benefits to all eligible Black Californians for racial harm the entire community experienced.

A recent example of an individual claim was Bruce’s Beach. Where is My Land grew out of a local effort to help a Black family in Manhattan Beach regain ownership of a small part called Bruce’s Beach in Los Angeles County.

In the early 1900s, Bruce’s Beach was a haven for Black families who wanted to swim in the Pacific Ocean, but were blocked from most other beaches and pools in the county. Originally owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, the beach was a resort with a restaurant and dance hall.

The city of Manhattan Beach seized the property in 1927, claiming it for a public park. But the spot remained undeveloped for decades. The city deeded it to the state which transferred it to the county, which put a lifeguard station on it.

Now, surrounding the park are multi-million dollar luxury homes with ocean views.

“Can you imagine what that land would be worth?” Ward said. “Can you imagine how wealthy that family could have been?”

Before 2020, Ward said, she barely knew the history of Bruce’s Beach. After the national protests in response to the police murder of George Floyd, she held a Juneteenth picnic at Bruce’s Beach where two members of the Bruce family attended…

…Ward began advocating for the return of the land to the Bruces. She spent hours testifying at city counting meetings and before California Coastal Commission about the unjust history of eminent domain, while facing pushback from residents, including some who called the Bruces opportunists and claimed there was no systemic racism in Manhattan Beach.

Separately, state senator Steven Bradford -a Democrat from San Pedro who sits on the state’s reparations task force – had begun drafting Senate Bill 796, which would allow the county to return the land to the Bruces.

Legislators unanimously passed the bill, and in September 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed it. L.A. County, while publicly admitting the original land grab was motivated by racial prejudice, deeded the land back to the Bruce family in what many said was a rare case of a government reversing a multimillion-dollar eminent domain action.

“It is well documented that this move was a racially motivated attempt to drive out the successful Black business and its patrons,” The Board of Supervisors’ motion reads.

Recently, the county signed an agreement with Bruce descendants to continue leasing the property for $413,000 a year for two years. The county has since announced it will buy it from the family for 20 million.

The fight to return the beach met with some legal resistance. Joseph Ryan, a Palos Verdes resident and retired attorney, filed a lawsuit arguing that the land transfer would constitute “a gift” of public funds and therefore is unconstitutional. The Los Angeles Superior Court rejected Ryan’s suit last April, finding the return of land is not a gift…

USA TODAY (via Microsoft Start) reported that members of the California Reparations Task Force are set to vote this weekend on a plan detailing recommendations for state compensation for eligible African Americans for financial losses brought on by slavery and decades of institutional racism.

If passed, the group would submit final recommendations by June 30 to the California State Legislature, where lawmakers would decide whether to follow through with reparations and whether to accept or modify the methodology proposed by the task force.

“This is necessary because it’s long overdue from a state and federal level,” said Jovan Scott Lewis, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “Despite the progress that the country and state continue to make in various ways, we continue to see African Americans not benefiting from this progress.”

How are potential reparations calculated?

Earlier this week, the group issued more details, including potential payout estimates calculated by economist advisers who considered areas of harm affecting the state’s Black community and their resulting economic losses. Each was assessed over particular time frames “since different laws and policies inflected measurable injury across different periods,” the documents state.

The five areas of harm cited for consideration include health care inequities, housing discrimination, mass incarceration, and over-policing of African Americans, unjust taking of property by eminent domain, and devaluation of African American businesses.

Lewis, a member of the task force, said those areas extend beyond slavery itself, precluding arguments that California should not be responsible for reparations having not been a slave state.

According to the documents, “the state’s participation in the discriminatory denial of equal healthcare, unjust property takings and devaluation of African Americans businesses began with the founding of the state in 1850 and has continue to this day.”

As proposed by the task force, residents who can show descendant from enslaved persons and eligibility under each category could be entitled to certain amounts. For example, a Black resident who is 71 years old – the average life expectancy for the California Black population – and had lived in the state their entire life could be eligible for about $1.2 million.

“The task force is recommending a methodology, not a particular dollar amount,” Lewis said. “That’s not our responsibility. The state Legislature will have to decide whether or not they want to provide compensation to the community based on the losses we have calculated.”

A similar process was used in determination of reparations to eligible Japanese Americans affected by the injustices of World War II relocation and internment. Eligible surviving recipients received $20,000 and an apology from then-President Ronald Reagan…

What’s the next step?

Should the Legislature pursue reparations, the task force recommends kicking off the payout process with “down payments” representing “a meaningful amount of funds” to eligible recipients. It could also recommend the state issue a formal apology for its role in enforcing the federal fugitive slave law, construction of Confederate monuments, interracial marriage bans and segregation.

According to CalMatters, implementation would require formation of a new state agency oversee fund distribution and eligibility determination, including helping residents to trace their lineage.

Some expect the plan to meet opposition from Republican and moderate Democrat legislators.

Lewis said what the task force set out to do from the start was “was to respond to the breadth of harms that this community has experienced. This is a reasonable and responsible set of recommendations, and ultimately it will be up to the state, and the California public, to decide what to do.”

June 4, 2023: …And now, as California readies to finalize a discussion on reparations that could shape the lives of millions in the Golden State (Carolyn) Peters and other Black Angelenos are skeptical they will ever see the restitution they feel is deservedOregon Live reported.

After almost two years of meetings, California’s Reparations Task Force decided last month to recommend that the state issue a formal apology for the pervasive harms of slavery and discrimination and potentially provide billions of dollars in cash payments in a historic effort to make amends.

The group’s final report, due to the state Legislature by July 1, will act as a guide for lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will determine if the harms of slavery and lasting discrimination are worthy of reparations.

The current task force report offers reparations only to Californians who are descendants of enslaved Americans and calculates their monetary losses in three categories of community harms: health disparities, African American mass incarceration and over-policing, and housing discrimination.

And while the prospect of reparations has been the subject of much public discourse, the process is only vaguely understood in many of the communities the stand to benefit the most…

…Critics question whether the task force’s proposed recommendations are sufficient to address systemic issues in the Black community that remain prevalent today. Supporters, on the other hand, contend that billions of dollars in direct payments and a formal apology are the most effective ways to atone for generations of discrimination that have shaped the Black experience in Southern California.

Most legislators have not yet tipped their hand on where they stand, but the debate remains one of the hottest topics in town, particularly in Los Angeles communities such as Crenshaw, Leimert Park, and Inglewood – the heart of Black L.A…

June 6, 2023: As California prepares to release a report that will recommend reparations for descendants of enslaved people, federal lawmakers are pursuing their own efforts to redress the effects of slavery and the generations of discrimination that has followed for Black Americans, NBC News reported.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., introduced the latest federal effort to support reparations last month with H.R. 414, the Reparations Now Resolution, which seeks to advance reparations at the federal, state, and local levels.

Bush said the country has “a moral and legal obligation” to repair the “lasting harm” caused by the enslavement of millions of Africans, and by practices such as segregation and redlining on subsequent generations. The resolution indicates that a minimum of $14 trillion would be necessary to close the racial wealth gap and other inequities.

The resolution comes as the California reparations task force, established in 2020 to study and develop proposals, wraps up its work. Following a 500-page interim report last year, the group has held multiple public hearings, and will release its final report by July 1.

“I have, for the better part of two years, stated that reparations is more than just a check,” California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a task force member, said in a statement. “It is about removing institutional barriers in the form of laws that have and continue to marginalize Black communities in California.”

State lawmakers will need to propose policies as bills in the Legislature.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who has been in Congress since 1988, is a longtime supporter of reparations. She spoke when the statewide task force convened this year and was also a co-sponsor of Bush’s resolution on Capitol Hill.

“Congresswoman Bush’s reparation resolution couldn’t come at a more important time, as my home state of California continues to progress with the work being done by their reparations task force,” Lee said through a spokesperson. “We’re hopeful that the task force’s recommendations serve as a model for the federal government and for states across the country. It is far past time for the federal government to catch up. And make no mistake: We have the pieces in place here in Congress to move forward.

Members of the California task force, for their part, have said they want the report to have national impact.

“This will be the model for everyone, whether they do it at their local level, state level, or when they finally do national reparations,” Jones-Sawyer told NBC News in March. “This will be used by others,” he added. “And the reason ours will hold up is because the foundation of it is based on data, hard core data, suitable data.”

Lee re-introduced a resolution in May calling for the establishment of the first United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation to examine the effects of slavery, institutional racism and discrimination against people of color.

Lee said the many challenges Black communities face today – from health disparities laid bare by the pandemic, to economic inequality and poverty, to environmental racism – can be traced back to what she termed “400 years of systemic government-sanctioned racism.”

While calls for reparations in America date to slavery’s abolition in the 1860’s in 1989 Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced what would become H.R. 40 to study slavery, its effects and appropriate remedies. Conyers introduced the legislation at the beginning of each congressional session for nearly three decades (he died in 2019, two years after leaving Congress.)

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Texas, has taken up the mantle in the House of Representatives by introducing an updated version of H.R. 40. It would establish a commission to study reparations and consider a national apology and other redress for the institution of slavery, as well as subsequent racial and economic discrimination against African Americans.

The previous congress voted to advance the legislation out of committee and to the House floor for full consideration. It was the first time H.R. 40 had passed a committee vote, but it did not past beyond that historic step.

Lee described the measure as a “pathway for a governmental framework that will help restore the national balanced and unity in terms of wealth, health care, education, housing and the criminal justice system.” She added that it would enable Congress to start a movement toward the national reckoning that is needed to help bridge racial divides.

Predicting that “America will truly be the beneficiary,” Jackson Lee said that “reparations are ultimately about respect, reconciliation and healing – and the hope that one day, Americans of all backgrounds can walk together toward a more just future.”

In January, Sen. Cory Booker, D, N.J., introduced S. 40, the Senate companion legislation to H.R. 40.

“Our nation must reckon with its dark past of slavery and its continued oppression of African Americans, fueled by white supremacy and racism,” Booker said in a statement. “May of our bedrock domestic principles that have ushered millions of American into the middle class have systematically excluded Black individuals.”

All total, hundreds of organizations have endorsed the various reparations legislation now pending in Congress…

June 13, 2023: After more than two years of fact-finding, reports and public hearings, the California Reparations Task Force on June 29 will hand over to state lawmakers an extensive report and recommendations for compensation to eligible Black people of California for the harms of slavery NBC News reported.

The task force will hold its final meeting in Sacramento, the agenda says that members will issue final statements and make public the full report.

California was not a slave state, but more than 4,000 enslaved Black people were taken there between 1850 and 1860, typically by plantation owners, to work in the gold mines. Many settled in California after slavery ended, some creating wealth, buying land and building communities, only to face generations of discrimination, land theft or seizure, disproportionate overpricing, housing segregation, inadequate schools and other issues that have led to racial disparities in many areas of life.

In 2021, then-Assemblywoman Shirley Webber, a Democrat, authored a bill to form a task force to examine and develop reparation proposals for the harms of slavery on Black people in California. It is the most ambitious effort in the country to address redress for the impact of slavery on Black people, with task force members saying they want to create a reparations blueprint for the country.

The California Legislature will then have all the power. Lawmakers will review the recommendations and will have the authority to adopt, dismiss or adjust them. Whatever they decide must be approved by both houses before it would be presented to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign into law.

Here are some fundamental answers to key questions about the reparations efforts for Black people in California:

For many, reparations are about money. When could those eligible expect to receive funds and how much will the task force recommend?

The task force hired four economists to develop data-based determinants for the harms of slavery like housing, education, public health and others. However, task force member Don Tamaki said the committee’s final report will not include any dollar recommendations. Although previous reports indicated that the task force would recommend $1.2 million per eligible person, in installments, Tamaki said the committee decided ti have the economists propose methodologies to calculate harm. “Neither they nor the task force has recommended that the state pay any amount,” he said.

That means it will be up to the California Assembly to determine financial compensation to those eligible after reviewing the extensive report.

Tamaki added that should the Legislature want to provide monetary payment to eligible citizens the task force has recommended that the amount be calculated based on how long such persons lived in California and other factors.

Who would be eligible for reparations?

Figuring out who would receive reparation would be a complicated process. First, they would have to trace their lineage directly to a person who had been enslaved in the United States, or to African Americans who lived in the U.S. prior to 1900. This presumes “that such persons are descendants of enslaved ancestors or free persons who ran the risk of being enslaved during the 246 years that the institution of slavery existed in American,” Tamaki said.

However, determining that lineage may be a challenge. DNA testing from companies like can establish what parts of Africa someone is from and that person’s dominant gene pool. But DNA testing along may not determine if someone is a direct descendant of an enslaved African in the United States. Documents like birth certificate and census records can show a person’s lineage, but some may need a genealogist’s help – and hiring a genealogist is not inexpensive.

“But even that is not going to guarantee that someone can establish their lineage through records because the records were messy,” said psychologist Cheryl Grills, another task force member. “Records were destroyed. Buildings burned. Information was recorded incorrectly. Names were changed for various reasons. So that may be a challenge… Genealogists are going to be in high demand.”

Additionally, there would be tiers to eligibility based on the amount of time one lived in California – currently or in the past – and the calculations of the harms based on, say, the devaluation of Black businesses, financial losses due to redlining, housing discrimination, or the taking of land or property by eminent domain. “There are multiple calculations,” Grills said, meaning each eligible person would not get the same amount, if any at all.

How would California pay for financial reparations?

There are ways that the state could generate funds, Grills said, including tax programs. There’s also the opportunity for the state to pay out in installments rather than in a lump sum. “And in doing that,” Grills said, the Californian government “can stretch out the hit to the state budget.”

She added: “America is resourceful and California is a resourceful state. When it has come to a need to generate resources to handle a situation, American has found the money. When we had to come up with billions of dollars for Ukraine, nobody asked that question. The same with 9/11 victims. When we paid out reparations to Japanese Americans, nobody asked, “Where’s that money going to come from?” So, I have to ask the question, why now? It’s a veiled question that questions if Black people deserve to be compensated for what has been done to them… That’s what California has to do in this case of reparations.”

What programs will be recommended to address the harms of slavery?

The task force has recommended more than 100 programs or policies as redress for the harms of slavery. There are a dozen areas covered in the recommendations:

  • Racial terror
  • Political disenfranchisement
  • Housing segregation
  • Separate and unequal education
  • Racism in environment and infrastructure
  • Pathologizing the Black Family
  • Conrtrol over creative, cultural and intellectual life
  • Stolen labor and hindered opportunity
  • An unjust legal system
  • Mental and physical harm and neglect
  • The racial wealth gap

These areas are “as important as compensation for eligible individuals,” Tamaki said. Why? Because the aftereffects of slavery and racial discrimination are long-lasting and deep, leading to massive disparities for Black people in virtually every walk of life, including jobs, health care, education and housing and home ownership. For example, some formerly enslaved people who built wealth through owning land had their property taken, their descendants say, denying the creation of generational wealth.

“The task force has not recommended that individual compensation should be prioritized over any other remedy,” Tamaki said.

The committee recommended that many of these programs be run by or through the California American Freedmen’s Affairs Agency, which would establish an updated version of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the organization instituted in 1865, after the Civil War, to assist formerly enslaved people. Some opposed to the bureau say existing organizations that specialize and have established staff in specific areas should be charged with this task.

Who could be left out of receiving reparations?

Because of the complexity of establishing eligibility, there is potential for many to not receive reparations. Grills said, “our most vulnerable could be left out: children in the child welfare system who cannot trace their family heritage; our folks who are incarcerated who don’t have access to the tools to establish their lineage because they can’t hop on a computer in prison; and our folks who are suffering from mental illness, who aren’t going to have the wherewithal; and our folks who are unhoused.”

In those cases, Grills said, the freedman’s agency would be responsible for helping those who cannot establish lineage. And if that fails, “it is unclear what provision could be put in place to address this,” she added.

When will the California Legislature vote on the task force’s reparations recommendations?

No one is sure. The preliminary report was 500 pages; the final report may be double that size. So Grills said it is likely that the Assembly will digest its content over the summer and address it around September.

June 29, 2023: A task force examining reparations for Black residents in California released its final report Thursday with more than 115 recommendations for how the state should compensate those harmed by slavery and “historical atrocities.” CNN reported.

Recommendations in the landmark report comprised of more than 1,000 pages, include a formal apology on behalf of California to descendants of people enslaved in the United States and recommendations for reforms linked to health care, housing, education and criminal justice, among other areas.

The drafters of the report, which will be shared with the California State Legislature by July 1, hope it serves as a blueprint for future laws.

“We’re putting before the legislators in California the challenge to come up with a feasible way to address these issues over the years,” Don Tamaki, an attorney and task force member, told CNN. “To ignore them is just to invite not only the harm to continue, but to grow worse. We need to start this process.”

Tamaki said the task force members hope lawmakers commit to an effort that takes several years.

“These are harms that were literally centuries in the making,” said Tamaki. “So the repairs have to be long in the implementation,”

While the task force is recommending monetary compensation for those impacted, it did not provide a specific amount that should be paid. The amount should be determined by lawmakers, the task force said.

The task force hired a panel of experts, including economists, to calculate what Black Califorians have endured. Through their formula, they determined that an eligible person could be owed up to an estimated $1.2 million.

In the case of monetary reparations, only those individuals who can demonstrate that they are the descendant of either an enslaved African American in the US or free African American living in the US prior to 1900 should be eligible, the report says.

The task force also included ways to calculate reparations due to health disparities, mass incarceration and over-policing, housing discrimination and devaluation of African American businesses, according to the report.

“No, it isn’t just about a check in the mail,” Tamaki said. “It’s about everything else that’s created the disparities that we’re seeing today.”

In addition to the recommendations, the document details hundreds of years of enslavement, “racial terror and legal segregation” and discrimination that Black people in California and across the country have experienced.

The full implementation of these proposals could cost billions of dollars, according to experts. But at this point, there is no guarantee that all or any of the proposals will be passed by the California State Legislature and signed into law by the governor, nor is there a timetable.

“At its core, the task force’s finding is clear. Reparations for African Americans are appropriate. They are warranted. They are necessary. They are needed,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta during Thursday’s final meeting. “It’s time for California to begin remedying the debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships uniquely experienced by African Americans – hardships we unequivocally know are the results of centuries of slavery and discrimination.”

During the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting in Sacramento, speaker thanked the task force members for their yearslong work, recalled memories and names of their ancestors and urged lawmakers to support the proposal.

Attendees also stood up and chanted: “What do we want? Reparations! When do we want it? Now!”.

The state’s Black population includes more than 2.5 million people.

The task force was created in 2020 after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to establish the panel. Since then, the task force has held numerous public meetings, including more than 28 hours of public comments, and heard from 133 experts and witnesses.

Kamilah Moore, the chairperson of the panel, said she hopes their efforts reinvigorate the Black community to exercise “self-determination with a renewed spirit and energy that enables us to freely determine our political status and to pursue our economic social and cultural development.”

“We have been relegated to the bottom of the caste system in this country,” Moore said, noting that the final report also highlights the unjust treatment of other racial and ethnic groups in the state. “It is also my hope that the task force’s general efforts empowers these groups in their respective advocacy and ultimately strengthens the capacity for cross cultural allyship and movement building.”

July 6, 2023: The California reparations task force last week concluded two years of hard work with a 1,100 page, comprehensive report that details the harms of slavery on Black people from California, recommendations of financial compensation and the creation of myriad programs and policies to redress the historical wrongs. NBC News reported.

The report – compiled through exhaustive research by politicians, historians and economists and swayed by comments from the community over 12 public hearings – is encyclopedic in size. It has been hailed by task force members as a blueprint for other sates to follow in the pursuit of reparations.

For two task force members, that was the easy part. A daunting challenge now lies ahead.

Sen. Steven Bradford and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Saywer are also members of the California Legislature, which has been charged with digesting the report and finalizing recommendations to be submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign into law. The really hard part for Bradford and Jones-Sawyer will be garnering their colleagues’ support for reparations.

The difficulty is not lost on the two veteran politicians whose presence for two years on the task force gives them unparalleled insight for the upcoming battle.

“Absolutely, it will not be easy,” Jones-Sawyer said. “But we are up for the fight.”

Step one: Getting all the state Assembly members to read the full report – presented in hardback form – That alone could be a substantial hurdler to clear, Bradford said.

“I believe the completeness of the report will have an impact – if they read it.” he told NBC News. “And that’s the big challenge, making sure all my colleagues read it. Even in reading it, you have to believe it, you have to accept it and then you have to be willing to change your hearts and minds.”

The depth of this report called “a book of truth,” by task force member Lisa Holder, makes a thorough case for reparations as a way to make amends for California’s role in oppressing Black people through the remnants, policies, attitude and discrimination of slavery. The recommendations in the final report provide the “scholarly foundation,” task force member Don Tamaki said, to advance reforms in health care, housing, criminal justice, education and other areas “with continuing, persistent racial disparities.” Task force members believe the power of the report will be significant.

“In looking at this, you have to first admit the wrongs, and that’s the first challenge we have,” Bradford said. “And then it’s about coming up with real atonement, real policies that help address some of the harms done to Black people in California.”

He described the “appetite” for reparations among assemblymembers as “tempered at best.” He pointed out that while states such as Tennessee, Alabama and others voted last year to remove slavery and indentured servitude as penalty for crimes from their state Constitutions, the California Assembly failed to even vote on a similar measure.

Rather, state lawmakers squashed an amendment to remove “indentured servitude.”

“We still have it in our Constitution,” Bradford said. “We had colleagues who didn’t want to take that vote. So, by no stretch of the imagination do I believe this will be a cakewalk. It’s going to require some real massaging and networking, working our colleagues to get them to first read the report, accept what’s there and tackle legislation to address this.”

Task force members are championing their colleagues’ ability to get things done.

Tamaki said Bradford and Jones-Sawyer “understand they have the heavy burden of leading the process of transforming the recommendations into bills … But they are two highly experienced legislators with a lifetime of expertise in much of the subject matter addressed in the final report. Not only are they well connected with their legislative colleagues, both served as the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, which will be crucial in leading this effort.”

He pointed out that support outside of the state Assembly – from citizens and organizations – will be paramount, as well. To that end, more than 330 organizations have endorsed the work of the task force and call for reparations, including mainstream organizations such as the Bar associations for the counties of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Alameda, the California Wellness Foundation and the Weingart Foundation, the National Urban League, the NAACP and many other groups from the social services, civil rights, faith, academic and other sectors.

Because of the detail of the report and the involved discussion around it, Bradford said, an agreement on legislation for Newsom to consider likely would not come until next year. Cheryl Grills, a clinical psychologist and task force member, said that between now and then, Bradford and Jones-Sawyer will need help from the people to help influence the Legislature…

July 7, 2023: The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans delivered its final report to the California Legislature two days before the July 1 deadline, The Observer reported.

The nine-member committee submitted a 1075-page, brown-and-gold hardcover book with a comprehensive reparations plan that includes more than 115 recommendations and a survey. Published by the California Department of Justice, the report documents the harms enslaved ancestors of Black Californians experienced during chattel slavery and due to the Jim Crow laws that followed. It also details the history of discriminatory state polices in California.

Attorney Kamilah V. Moore, the task force chairperson, provided a summary of the group’s activities over the last two years leading up to the compilation of the first-in-the-nation report addressing the effects of slavery.

“As you all know, this illustrious nine-member California reparations task Force has been working diligently over a course of two years, not only to study the enumerable atrocities against the African American community with special considerations for those who are descendants of persons in slavery in the United States,” Moore said.

“Obviously, we’ve been working diligently to develop our numerous policy prescriptions to end what we consider to be lingering badges of slavery in California as well,” Moore added.

Ironically, the Task Force’s last meeting happened the day the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited the use of race-based affirmative action in college admissions. A couple of task force members addressed the decision before the meeting by stayed focused on the release of the report.

Each page of the report offers an explanation of reparations, evidence of past aggressions and systemic racism, and recommendations for restitution and atonement.

The report is 40 chapters, beginning with an Introduction; followed by evidence of Enslavement; Racial Terror; Political Disenfranchisement; Housing Segregation; Separate and Unequal Education; Racism in the Environment and Infrastructure; Pathologizing the African American Family; Control Over Creative, Cultural, and Intellectual Life; Stolen Labor; and Hindered Opportunity.

“I would like to commend Governor Gavin Newsom for making this Task Force a reality, Secretary of State Shirley Weber for authoring the legislation creating this Task Force, and each and every Member of the Reparations Task Force who have worked tirelessly over the past two years,” said Assemblywoman Lori Dr. Wilson, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus in a statement.

“The findings are clear. Lawmakers must take direct and determinative action to address the vast racial inequality which exists in California today. The California Legislative Black Caucus looks forward to partnering with the Newsom administration and our colleagues in the Legislative as we look towards the coming Legislative Session.”

Additionally, recommendations made by the task force include a request for a formal apology from the state and acknowledgment of discrimination against the descendants of enslaved Blacks.

“This work has been relentless, has been meticulous (and) it is unsaleable,” Oakland-based civil rights attorney and task force member Lisa Holder said. “It has been a work of a collective. We partnered with their Department of Justice, we partnered with hundreds of scholars, and we partnered with the community. Public commenters and participants in listening sessions who poured out their hearts and souls told us some of the most devastating stories of racial discriminations. They shared their pain and made themselves vulnerable during this process.”

The task forces decided on March 30, 2022, that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation, specifically, individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States. If reparations become law, a proposed California American Freedmen Affairs Agency would be responsible for identifying past harms and preventing future occurrences.

The specialized office, with additional branches across the state, would facilitate claims for restitution, process claims with the state, and assist claimants in proving eligibility through a “genealogy” department.

Marcus Champion, a board member of the National Assembly of American Slavery Descendants Los Angeles (NAASDLA) and the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), is a longtime reparations supporter and one of the activists who worked with Secretary of State Shirley N. Webber when she was an assembly member to make Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, the law that established the task force, a reality.

Speaking at a CJEC gathering in North Sacramento after the final task force meeting, Champion said now is the time to persuade the legislature to make reparations law.

“For us, on the ground as grassroots (organizations), we are about to start putting pressure on the legislators to make sure that the words are right,” Champion told California Black Media. “We’re about to make sure the community’s eligibility is right, make sure that there are cash payments, and make sure that this is not watered down and that this is real reparations.”

The 16th and final Task Force meeting was held in the First Floor Auditorium of the March Fong Eu Secretary of State Building in Sacramento in June 29. The facility was filled with an overflow of people waiting in the lobby and outside of the building.

All nine members of the task force were present as well as some of the speakers who testified before the panel over the last two years. California Attorney General Rob Bonta, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus, and Weber also spoke during the three-hour event.

“The policies and laws of this nation have affected every state and many instances beyond the state. It’s important to let people know that reparation is due whether you’re in Mississippi or you’re in California,” Weber said. “Reparation is due because the harm that has been done. And we need to begin to repair the harm and stop patching it up as we’ve done for many years.”

October 11, 2023: The Los Angeles Times reported that, for a strong majority of California voters, the question of whether the Golden State should offer cash payments to the descendants of enslaved African Americans has a clear answer: No.

But despite that dark finding, from a new UC Berkeley poll co-sponsored by The Times, most California voters possess a more nuanced view on the lasting legacy of slavery and how the state should address those wrongs. They agreed that slavery still affects today’s Black residents, and more than half said the state is either not doing enough, or just enough, to ensure a fair shake at success.

Those options, contained in a 1,080-page report on the effects of slavery and the discriminatory policies sanctioned by the government after slavery was abolished, may be taken up next year in the next legislative session, leaving plenty of room to explore the spectrum of opinions that votes have so far expressed, experts said.

“Often, people will be in favor of the principle but not the policy,” said Ange-Marie Hancock, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and a former department chair of political science at USC. “When you get to the question of what the government should do about it, that’s when the rubber hits the road.”

Richard Malone, a 71-year-old retiree in Rancho Cucamonga, who is a registered Republican, said he fears what California’s reparations plan could do to his tax bill. Already, he said, the state is becoming too expensive for people on fixed incomes.

“I know who will pay; It’s people like me,” said Maline, a retired IRS agent. “It won’t be the rich. It won’t be the poor. It will be all of us in the middle. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that our taxes will have to go up to pay for this.”

Malone, who is white, said he would rather see California legislators provide “more of a helping hand” to all disadvantaged residents regardless of race. That could include more investment in schools in low-income neighborhoods, he said, as well as a revamp of community colleges and trade schools to create pathways to jobs that will pay “not only a living wage, but a good wage.”

Malone said he supports some reparations, including the 1988 decision to pay $20,000 to each of more than 80,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated by the government during World War II. But he questioned whether Black people who were not enslaved themselves deserve that same treatment.

Malone’s concern echos the most common reason why most poll respondents opposed cash reparations. Six in 10 said its as unfair to ask today’s taxpayers to pay for wrongs committed in the past, while 53% said it would be unfair to single out one group when other racial and religious groups were also historically wrongs. About 1 in 5 said the proposal would cost too much.

Kamiliah Moore, the chair of the Reparations Task Force, said she considered it a win the 6 out of 10 California voters agreed that slavery still affects today’s Black residents.

She said that negative views on the task force and cash payments were partly shaped by media consumption, especially from right-wing news outlets. Those who vote Republican, own homes and live in rural areas reported hearing about the Reparations Task Force in significantly higher numbers than Democrats, city dwellers, and renters.

Cash payments were slightly more popular among women, younger voters, and those born in the U.S.

Moore said she would like to see a lawmaker introduce a billon cash reparations so the idea “can be debated in a democratic process.”

California Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who sat on the task force, recently introduced bill that would create the California American Freedman Affairs Agency, tasked with overseeing and implementing reparations, including cash reparations, and helping people determine their eligibility.

January 31, 2024: The California Black Caucus (CLBC) announced 14 reparations bills Wednesday that it plans to introduce as the first step to implement policy proposals outlined in a report released last summer by the Reparations Task Force. The Hill reported.

In a press release, the caucus describe the “2024 Reparations Priority Bill Package” as a “multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report.”

In introducing the 14 measures, California will become the first state to implement concrete legislative proposals to enact reparations, a movement that has been growing in recent years.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more! As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism,” CLBC Chair Lori Wilson said in the press release.

“This year’s legislative package tackles a wide range of issues; from criminal justice reforms to property rights to education, civil rights and food justice. The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build towards righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions,” Wilson added.

Among the proposals is an amendment to the California Constitution to “allow the State to fund programs for the purpose of increasing the life expectancy of, improving educational outcomes for, or lifting out of poverty specific groups.”

Another amendment would “prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons.”

One measure addresses “property takings,” and one would allow for the restoration of “property taken during race-based uses of eminent domain to its original owners or provide another effective remedy where appropriate, such as restitution or compensation.”

The first step in laying out the package will be “a resolution that recognizes that harm and a subsequent bill that requests a formal apology by the Governor and the Legislature for the role that the State played in the human rights violation and crimes against humanity on African Slaves and their descendants.”

The 14 measures are categorized under primary topics: Education, Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Reform, Health, and Business.

Education proposals include creating grants to increase enrollment in STEM-related career and technical education programs at high school and college levels. One measure also proposes “career education financial aid for redlined communities.”

In addition to addressing poverty, the civil rights proposals would include, for example, extending the CROWN Act to prohibit discrimination based on certain hairstyles, explicitly in competitive sports.

Criminal justice reform proposals would eliminate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) practice of banning books without proper oversight, restrict solitary confinement within CDCR detention facilities, and establish grants to fund community-driven solutions to decrease violence at the family, school and neighborhood levels.

Health measures would require advance notice to community stakeholders before grocery stores shut down in underserved or a at-risk communities, and another would “make medically supportive food and nutrition interventions, when deemed medically necessary.”

The sole business proposal would eliminate barriers to those obtaining occupational licenses for people with criminal records.

The California secretary of state praised the announcement, writing: “I am optimistic and encouraged by the work, and look forward to amazing and ground breaking outcomes. The nation is waiting for us to lead. And as California always does, we will lead in addressing a delayed justice called Reparations.”

Assemblymember and task force member Reggie Jones-Sawyer said in a statement: “We will endeavor to right the wrongs committed against black communities through laws and policies to restrict and alienate African Americans.”

January 31, 2024: California Legislative Black Caucus Introduces 2024 Reparations Legislative Package was introduced in a press release:

Today, the California Legislative Black Caucus announced the planned introduction of the 2024 Reparations Priority Bill Package. With the release of the historic Reparations Task Force Report last summer, the Caucus has announced its first step in what will be a multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more! As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism,” said Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. “This year’s legislative package tackles a wide range of issues; from criminal justice reforms to property rights to education, civil rights, and food justice. The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build towards righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions.”

One of the most powerful aspects of the Reparations Tasks Force Report was the detailed discussion of how laws in California were crafted to directly cause harm to its Black residents. That harm touched every aspect of their lives and many of those harms are still felt by Black Californians generations later. This is why the Caucus’ first step will be to introduce a resolution that recognizes that harm and a subsequent bill that requests a former apology by the Governor and the Legislature for the role that the State played in the human rights violation and crimes against humanity on African Slaves and their descendants.”

“As a result of the historic study by the California Reparations Task Force on the negative impacts of Jim Crow-styled laws brought to California, the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) will present its first set of bills based upon the recommendations set forth in the Task Force’s final report.

We will endeavor to right the wrongs committed against black communities through laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate African Americans. These atrocities are found in education, access to homeownership, and to capital for small business startups, all of which contributed to the denial of generational wealth over hundreds of years,” said Assemblymember Reginald Bryon Jones-Sawyer, Sr. “As a member of the Reparations Taskforce, I am proud of the two-year study that resulted in two separate reports totaling over 1,600 pages. These reports contain the most comprehensive empirical data and historical evidence ever collected on the issue of chattel slavery. There is no doubt about the far-reaching negative impacts of bigoted laws born from the end of slavery in our country.

Hundreds of legislative and budgetary reparatory recommendations were made within the final report and I, along with members of the Black Caucus, look forward to working with our legislative colleagues to achieve true reparations and justice for all black Californians.”

Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, responded to the release by saying, “As the author of AB 3121, I am pleased that the California Legislative Black Caucus has picked up the baton and is moving the state. forward in addressing the recommendations delivered to them seven months ago. I am optimistic and encouraged by the work, and look forward to amazing and ground breaking outcomes. The nation is waiting for us to lead. And as California always does, we will lead in addressing a delayed called Reparations.”

The following 14 measures have been or will be introduced from the noted authors with the full caucus as coauthors. This will represent the 2024 CLBC Reparation Priority Bill Package. For information on each measure, please reach out to the respective legislators’ office.


  • AB 1929 (McKinnon) – Expand access to career technical education by creating a competitive grant program to increase enrollment of descendants in STEM-related CTE programs at the high school and college levels.
  • AB XXX (McCarty) – Career Education Financial Aid for redlined communities


  • ACA (Jackson) – Amends the California Constitution to allow the State to fund programs for the purpose of increasing life expectancy of, improving educational outcomes for, or lifting out of poverty specific groups.
  • ACR 135 (Weber) – Formally recognizes and accepts responsibility for all of the harms and atrocities committed by representatives of the state who promoted, facilitated, enforced, and permitted the institution of chattel slavery.
  • AB 1815 (Weber) – Prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in all competitive sports by extending the CROWN Act to explicitly include competitive sports within California.
  • SB XXX(Bradford) – Property takings: Restore property taken during race-based uses of eminent domain to its original owners or provide another effective remedy where appropriate, such as restitution or compensation.
  • AB XXX (Jones-Sawyer) – Issues a formal apology for human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.


  • ACA 8 (Wilson) – Amend the California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons.
  • AB 1986 (Bryan) – Eliminate the CDCR practice of banning books without oversight and review.
  • AB XXX (Jones-Sawyer) – Fund community-driven solutions to decrease community violence at the family, school and neighborhood levels in African-American communities by establishing a state-funded grant program.
  • AB XXX (Holden) – Mandela Act: Restricts solitary confinement within CDCR detention facilities.


  • AB 1975 (Bonta) – Make medically supportive food and nutrition interventions, when deemed medically necessary by healthcare providers, a permanent part of Medi-Cal benefits in California.
  • SB XXX (Smallwood-Cuevas) – Address food injustice by requiring advance notification to community stakeholders prior to the closure of a grocery store in underserved or at-risk communities.


  • AB XXX (Gipson) – Eliminate barriers to licensure for people with criminal records. Expansion of AB 2138 to prioritize African American applicants seeking occupational licenses, especially those who are descendants.

A Press Conference with full details of each proposal will occur after February’s bill introduction deadline. A Media Advisory will be issued at least 48 hours in advance of the Press Conference.

January 31: California State lawmakers introduced a slate of reparations bills on Wednesday, including a proposal to restore property taken by “race-based” cases of eminent domain and a potentially unconstitutional measure to provide state funding for “specific groups” Politico reported.

The package marks a first-in-the-nation effort to give restitution to Black Americans who have been harmed by centuries of racist policies and practices. California’s legislative push is the culmination of years of research and debate, including 111-pages of recommendations issued last year by a task force.

Other states like Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts have commissioned reparation studies or task forces, but California is the first to attempt to turn those ideas into law.

The 14 measures introduces by the Legislative Black Caucus touch on education, civil rights and criminal justice, including reviving a years-old effort to restrict solitary confinement that failed to make it out of the statehouse as recently as last year.

Not included is any type of financial competition to descendants of Black slaves, a polarizing proposal that has received a cool response from many state Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblymember Lori Wilson, chair of the caucus, said in a statement. “We need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.”

Black lawmakers are already anticipating uphill battle. They anticipate spending many hours to educate fellow legislators and convince them to pass the bills.

Some of the measures could also run into legal trouble.

Democratic Assemblymember Corey Jackson, who represents a district north of San Diego, is proposing asking voters to change California’s Constitution to allow the state to fund programs aimed at “increasing the life expectancy of, improving educational outcomes for, or lifting out of poverty specific groups based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or marginalized genders, sexes, or sexual orientations.”

That plan could face a similar constitutional challenge like the one that ultimately dismantled affirmative action.

Other proposals include protections for “natural and protective” hairstyles in all competitive sports, and a formal apology by the governor and the Legislature for the state’s role in human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.

The caucus will flesh out the package in the coming weeks.

February 1, 2024: California’s Legislative Black Caucus released a slate of reparations bills to implement ideas from the state’s landmark task force on the issue. The proposals include potential compensation for property seized from Black owners, but do not call for widespread direct cash payments to descendants of enslaved Black people The Associated Press reported.

If approved, the proposals would expand access to technical education, fund community-driven solutions to violence and eliminate occupational licensing fees for people with criminal backgrounds. Another proposal would pay for programs that increase life expectancy, better educational outcomes or lift certain groups out of poverty.

Some of the measures would require amending the state constitution and are likely to face opposition. In 2022, the Democratic-controlled state Senate voted down a proposal to ban involuntary servitude and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has resisted restricting solitary confinement for prison inmates.

State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, said at a news conference Thursday that the Black caucus’s priority list does not preclude individual lawmakers from introducing additional reparations legislation. He cautioned that the journey will be long and difficult, but worth it.

“This is a defining moment not only in California history, but in American history as well,” said Bradford, who served on the nine-person state task force on reparations.

But the 14 proposals are already drawing criticism from advocates who don’t think they go far enough.

Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, which pushed to create the reparations task force, said the proposals are “not reparations.”

“Not one person who is a descendant who is unhoused will be off the street from that list of proposals. Not one single mom who is struggling who is a descendant will be helped,” he said. “Not one dime of the debt that’s owed is being repaid.”

California entered the union as a free state in 1850, but in practice, it sanctioned slavery and approved policies and practices that thwarted Black people from owning homes and starting businesses. Black communities were aggressively policed and their neighborhoods polluted, according to a groundbreaking report released as part of the committee’s work.

February 1, 2024: Lawmakers in California have revealed a sweeping set of legislative proposals aimed providing reparations for state residents who are descendants of enslaved Americans CNN reported.

The California Legislative Black Caucus announced the 2024 Reparations Priority Bill Package Wednesday, which lists 14 measures, including providing a formal apology for “human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”

The package also proposes creating a state-funded grant program to decrease community violence in Black neighborhoods and requiring advanced notification about grocery store closures in underserved and at-risk communities.

State lawmakers said in a news release Wednesday that some of the legislation has already been introduced in the state’s General Assembly, or will be introduced during the current legislative session.

Lawmakers said some of the measures that have already been introduced include expanding the state’s CROWN Act to ban hair discrimination in sports, creating a grant program that increased high school and college enrollment in STEM-related programs, and prohibiting book bans in prisons without review and oversight from the state’s correctional facilities.

Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said addressing reparations entails more than providing financial compensation.

“As laid out in the report, we need a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism, Wilson said in a statement.

“This year’s legislative package tackles a wide range of issues, from criminal justice reforms, to property rights, to education, civil rights and food justice. The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build towards righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions.”

Wilson said the caucus’ first step will be to introduce a resolution recognizing how California laws have harmed Black residents.

Last June, a task force examining reparations for Black residents in the state released its final report with more than 115 recommendations for how the state should make amends for slavery and “historical atrocities,” CNN previously reported.

Among the recommendations was a proposal for monetary compensations to be paid to descendants of enslaved Africans living in California. The report did not provide a specific amount that should be paid at the time the task force said the amount should be decided by lawmakers.

On Thursday, California state Sen. Steven Bradford, who was a member of the reparations task force, acknowledged that the state’s budget deficit could affect implementing the proposed measures.

“We have to have at least a placeholder in the budget for reparations,” Bradford told reporters during a news conference, adding that the state has reserves that could be designated to fund legislation.

The caucus said introducing the package was a first step in what it says will be “a multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report.”

The list of proposed bills in the California Legislature Black Caucus wants to pass this year would do the following:

  • ACA 7 – Amend the California Constitution to permit the state to fund programs for specific groups of people that help to increase life expectancy, improve educational outcomes and lift them out of poverty.
  • ACA 8 – Amend the California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated people.
  • ACR 135 – Formally recognize and accept the state’s responsibility for the harms and atrocities of state representatives who promoted, facilitated, enforced and permitted slavery.
  • AB 1815 – Prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in all competitive sports within California.
  • AB 1929 – Offer competitive grants to increase enrollment of African American descendants in STEM-related career technical education
  • AB 1975 – Offer medically supportive food and nutritional interventions as permanent Medi-Cal benefits in California.
  • AB 1986 – End the California prison system’s practice of banning books without oversight and review.

Proposals that the caucus intended to introduce in the next two weeks would seek to:

  • Offer career education financial aid to redlined communities.
  • Restore property taken under race-based eminent domain or offer other remedies to the original owner.
  • Issue a formal apology for human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.
  • Restrict solitary confinement in correctional detention facilities.
  • Offer state-funded grants for African American communities to decrease violence.
  • Require notification to community stakeholders before the closure of a grocery store in an underserved community.
  • Eliminate barriers to occupational licenses for people with criminal records.

February 1, 2024: California lawmakers announced the first set of reparations bills on Wednesday, with legislation that would require the state to recognize and apologize for systemic racism against Black residents for nearly two centuries, The Guardian reported.

The 14 proposed bills tackle a wide range of areas of discrimination, from mass incarceration to housing segregation, but do not include any financial compensation for descendants of longtime Black residents affected by the legacy of slavery, the most controversial recommendation to emerge from California’s previous reparations taskforce report.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Lori Wilson, a state assemblymember and the chair of the California Legislative Black caucus (CLBC), said in a statement announcing the legislation. Wilson, said the reparations package offered “a comprehensive approach to dismantling the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.”

California’s reparations taskforce, formed in the wake of nationwide racial justice protests in 2020 that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, released a 500-page report in 2022, documenting more than 170 years of state-sanctioned racism against Black residents, and followed it with a 1,100-page final report in 2023, that included a long list of potential ways the state could redress and repair these historic wrongs, including individual cash payments.

The reports attribute the enduring wealth gap between Black and white Americans to generations of “atrocities in nearly every sector of civil society” including “segregation, racial terror, [and] harmful racist neglect”.

THE CLBC said the “first step” of its reparations package would be a resolution, ACR 135, that recognizes “how laws in California were crafted to directly cause harm to its Black residents”, and that it would be followed by a bill requisition a formal apology by California’s governor and its legislature for the role California played in human rights violations against African slaves and their descendants.

The CLBC’s other bills include some sweeping measures and many smaller ones. Responding to the increased attention to how Black Californians’ property was repeatedly seized by local governments without proper compensation, one bill would “restore property taken during race-based uses of eminent domain to its original owners or provide another effective remedy where appropriate, such as restitution or compensation”. Another would “amend the California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons.”

Other bills would prohibit discrimination against natural hairstyles in competitive sports, require that grocery stores in under-served communities provide public notification before they close, block the state’s prison system from banning books without review, and create grant programs to expand access to career technical education in STEM fields and to fund “community-driven solutions to decrease community violence” in African-American communities.

The proposals, only some of which have been released with the full text of the legislation, have been met with both praise and skepticism.

Jonathan Burgess, a Sacramento firefighter who has been a prominent supporter of reparations, told CalMatters that the legislation was “phenomenal” and that “it’s a monumental, profound time.”

Erika Smith, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, called it “one of the most half-baked packages of bills that I’ve ever seen”, adding “I hope this gets better.”

California’s first-in-the-nation state reparations effort has inspired individual cities, including San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit, to form their own taskforces to consider reparations for Black residents. But it has also sparked thorny debates over who should be eligible for reparations, as well as major rightwing backlash, particularly with the 2023 taskforce recommendation that descendants of both enslaved and free Black Americans who lived in the US in the 19th century should receive financial payments as compensation for generations of discriminatory treatment.

While a majority of California voters believe the “legacy of slavery continues to impose a toll on Blacks residents”, reparations through cash payments to individuals are unpopular among most voters, according to an August 2023 poll.

The poll found that 75% of Black California voters supported reparations payments, but majorities of white, Asian and Pacific Islander and Latino voters opposed them.

February 2, 2024: The California Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday outlined the first set of reparations for the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved in the United States, with proposals that include a call for the state to issue a formal apology, to prohibit involuntary servitude in prisons and to return property seized by governments under race-based eminent domain. Los Angeles Times reported.

The caucus is not yet calling for cash payments in a list of 14 reparations bills it hopes to pass this year that would enact wide-ranging reforms in education, civil rights, criminal justice, health and business.

The package of legislation is based on recommendations issue by California’s Reparations Task Force at the conclusion of a two-year historical process to study the effects of slavery and suggest policy changes to state lawmakers.

Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), chair of the California Legislature Black Caucus, said the apology is the first priority on the list of bills that she hopes will begin the conversation at the Capitol about reparations as she and her colleagues launch a campaign to educate the public about the state’s legacy of racism.

The decision to forgo an immediate call for cash payments comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers struggle to offset a budget shortfall of at least $37.9 billion. Newsom has proposed dipping into the state’s rainy-day reserves, cutting $8.5 billion from climate change initiatives and reducing more than $1.2 billion for housing programs as means to reduce spending to account for the lower than expected tax revenue.

“We started realizing with the budget environment we were going to have to do more systemic policy change to address systemic racism versus big budget asks because there just wasn’t the budget for it,” Wilson said. “Our priorities centered around policy changes or creating opportunities.”

Newsom has echoed statements from the task force and Black lawmakers that reparations are about more than cash payments. In a recent interview, he said the finished reading through the task force’s report at the end of the year and his office is working on a detailed 30-page analysis of the recommendations that examines the work the state has already done and what more can be done.

When asked why his budget didn’t include reparations proposals, he said he knew the Black Caucus planned to share its own list of priorities and he didn’t want to get ahead of the group’s process.

“So, we wanted to engage them,” Newsom said. “Remember, this was initiated by the Legislature. This is a partnership, and they recognize that there are a lot of things in that report they recommended that we’ve already done and that we’re doing. This gave us time to assess all that. So, it’s been actively worked on.”

Cash payments, in particular, have struggled to earn support among Californian voters, according to recent opinion polls. Newsom disregarded the idea that reparations could be tough to pass in an election year.

“That’s not been part of my thinking,” Newsom said. “My thinking is just accountability to be honest and responsible and to take seriously the recommendations.”

Wilson described the legislative package as the first phase of a multi-year effort to pass reparations. She said she hopes educating the public about California’s role in slavery and the harm caused by racist policies will help her colleagues and Californians understand the need for the state to atone.

February 2, 2024: The California Legislative Black Caucus introduced more than a dozen reparations-related bills Wednesday, the day before the start of Black History Month. HuffPost reported.

The historic package of legislation follows the June 2023 release of a 500-page Reparation Task Force Report, which listed myriad recommendations to remedy generations of systemic harm against Black Californians, beginning during slavery.

None of the 14 bills includes cash payouts to Black residents across the board in the face of a projected state budget deficit of nearly $40 billion, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A 2023 poll by the institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, co-sponsored by the L.A. Times, found that the majority of California residents do not support reparations in the form of cash.

“We started realizing with the budget environment we were going to have to do more systemic policy change to address systemic racism, versus big budget asks because there just wasn’t the budget for it,” state Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (D) said, according to the L.A. Times. “Our priorities centered around policy changes or creating opportunities.”

The bills, known collectively as the 2024 CLBC Reparations Priority Bill Package, focus on improvements in education, health, business, prisons and civil rights. According to The Associated Press, several of the bills call for California’s Constitution to be changed, which will be a tough sell to some lawmakers.

The package also has its critics who say the bills don’t go far enough.

“Not one person who is a descendant who is unhoused will be off the street from that list of proposals. Not one single mom who is struggling who is a descendant will be helped,” Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, said, according to The Associated Press. “Not one dime of the debt that’s owed is being repaid.”…

February 22, 2024: Members of California’s Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday will detail a package of 14 reparations bills they are introducing to right historic wrongs carried out against the Black community, Reuters reported (via Microsoft Start).

The bills are meant to be the first step in a multi-year effort. Among several issues, they would compensate people whose property was taken in race-based cases of eminent domain, seek an apology from the governor and the legislature for human rights violations, and fund community-based programs to decrease violence in Black communities.

But none of the bills being proposed call for cash reparations to be paid, which has garnered criticism from some members of the Black community.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said in a written statement.

The 14 bills are the first legislative action from an extensive 1,100-page report delivered in June to lawmakers by the California Reparations Task Force, a group created by a state bill in 2020. The task force worked for two years on its report, which urged legislators to take action on over 100 recommendations.

Americans are divided on the issue or reparations.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey published earlier this year found that nearly 60% of respondents identifying as Democrat support reparations. Just 18% of Republicans do.

The split is even greater between Black and white Americans: the poll found that 74% of Black Americans favor reparations when compared to 26% of white Americans.

California Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer said the package of bills would address decades of laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate Black Americans.

“These atrocities are found in education, access to homeownership, and to capital for small business startups, all of which contributed to the denial of generational wealth over hundreds of years,” Jones-Sawyer said in a written statement.

Civil Rights attorney Areva Martin, the lead counsel for a group of over 1,000 survivors and their descendants whose community was taken by the city of Palm Springs in the 1950s and 1960s, praised the first legislative steps.

But Martin said cash payments need to be made to Black Californians – just as payments have been made to other wronged groups in the U.S., such as Japanese Americans interned in camps during World War Two.

“People get squirmish about cash payments – and they shouldn’t. There is only this trepidation when it comes to African Americans,” Martin said.

“I think some of that is because anti-Blackness is so pervasive. It also has to do with racist tropes around Black folks and our inability to handle money.”

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