‘Imagine if our nation was accountable’: Online talk explores racial reparations

  • Luisah Teish, a teacher and author, conducted a ceremony in an online presentation on racial reparations on Sunday. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2020 3:57:33 PM

GREENFIELD — In consideration of its support for racial reparations, members of the local Racial Justice Rising group tuned in to a Zoom discussion on Sunday about the topic, conducted by the Grassroots Reparations Campaign, an organization with members in different parts of the country.

The basic idea of reparations is that Black people are at a social disadvantage as a result of the history of slavery and racism — and that the way to repair that damage would be to acknowledge it through laws and government policies. There are different views on what exactly those laws and policies should do.

Racial Justice Rising is a local group that grew out of research on the history of slavery, conducted from 2004 to 2008 with involvement from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

One result of that project was an online campaign called the Mass Slavery Apology, which has now been signed by more than 500 people, most of them in Western Massachusetts, according to Racial Justice Rising member Teegrey Iannuzzi.

The Mass Slavery Apology campaign has always endorsed the idea of reparations, Iannuzzi explained. People who sign the apology commit to observing Black leaders’ arguments in favor of reparations, she said.

“They are the ones that will define how reparations need to take place,” Iannuzzi said. “Reparations is one of the restorative actions. An apology is meaningless without restorative action.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Grassroots Reparations Campaign held an online discussion on reparations, which was characterized by speakers as a ceremony.

David Ragland, director of the Grassroots Reparations Campaign, said reparations should be thought of as a spiritual journey, in that it entails a promise to change behavior and not repeat past failures.

“Imagine if our nation was accountable,” Ragland said. “That would begin to heal the deep gulf that is between us.”

The program featured a ceremony conducted by Luisah Teish, a teacher and author, and several songs. This was followed by small-group discussions about making a personal commitment to reparations.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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