As the country celebrates Juneteenth, marking the freedom of African American slaves, Black groups in New Jersey and New York are calling for the study of reparations.
The Juneteenth March in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday afternoon is meant to push for the study and development of proposals to address reparations for descendants of Black slaves on a national and local level, said Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress in New Jersey.
HR 40, the bill introduced by Missouri Congressman Cori Bush, calls for establishing the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. The commission would examine slavery and discrimination.
The New Jersey bills A938and S386 call for the establishment of the New Jersey Reparations Task Force to conduct research and develop proposals and recommendations to address the generational harms caused by New Jersey’s role in America’s institution of slavery and its legacy of systemic racial discrimination.
New Jersey was the last state in the north to abolish slavery and has a complicated history, Hamm said. The Juneteenth March is a way to amplify the need to study how reparations should be made based on New Jersey’s history with the slave trade, Hamm added, noting that the state’s public schools are the fifth most segregated in the country.
New York lawmakers this month voted to create a commission to consider reparations to address the lingering negative effects of slavery under a bill passed by the state Legislature. New York is following the lead of California, which became the first state to form a reparations task force in 2020. That group recommended a formal apology from the state on its legacy of racism and discriminatory policies and the creation of an agency to provide a wide range of services for Black residents. They did not recommend specific payments for reparations.
The People’s Organization for Progress has supported the demand for Reparations since its inception 41 years ago. Recognizing the effects of slavery is important in addressing institutionalized racism, Hamm said.
In her call for the study of reparations, Bush said in a statement that the effects of slavery are generational.
"Black people continue to bear the harms of slavery and its vestiges, through the Black-white wealth gap, segregation and redlining, disparities in health outcomes, a racist and destructive criminal legal system, and countless other ways," Bush said. "Yet our federal government refuses to acknowledge the lasting harms of slavery and the unjust world it created for Black people."
More than two dozen organizations endorsed the Juneteenth March in Newark, including New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, African American Parades Organization, Black Lives Matter Paterson, and Ironbound Community Corporation.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Deriving its name from combining June and nineteenth, it is celebrated on the anniversary of the order by Major General Gordon Granger proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865.
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