Posted on August 19, 2021

White People Are Venmoing Black People Money. They Call It ‘Reparations.’

Michela Moscufo, NBC News, August 13, 2021

At an extended-stay hotel on the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky, Kinisha Carey stepped outside to get some air.

Carey and her five children had been evicted from their home in west Louisville in February 2020, because she couldn’t pay rent after losing her job. {snip}


Finally alone that evening in July 2020, she typed a message on Facebook to her friend Chanelle Helm, a community organizer, asking for help.

Carey said her message said “something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be alive for the rest of the day.’”

Within minutes she received a response. Helm wanted to help.

Helm could pay her rent, groceries and transportation for as long as it took Carey to get back on her feet. The money, Carey eventually learned, came from a Louisville organization called Reparations Roundtable.

The group is one of a small cohort that has popped up in recent years that are using social media to crowdsource funds to distribute to Black people, and calling these efforts a form of reparations. Especially through the pandemic and the racial justice movement, efforts like Reparations Roundtable have been expanding and can now process thousands of dollars a month. Such groups coordinate dozens of volunteers and boards of directors and, one has registered as a nonprofit.

While crowdfunding and mutual aid are not new concepts, these groups reflect a new stage within the centuries-old reparations debate over slavery, economic inequality and the social safety net. Specifically through education and outreach on social media, organizers are trying to make reparations something that everyone can participate in — particularly white people with disposable income or inherited wealth.

Yet despite the growth of these crowdfunding campaigns, some experts are concerned that focusing on individual reparations might distract from the effort to secure reparations on a federal level.

“The relevant party that bears responsibility is the federal government,” said William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy, African and African American studies, and economics at Duke University, and a reparations scholar. “This is not a matter of individual guilt.”

Organizers respond that not only should their work be considered a legitimate form of reparations, it is an essential part of the larger movement.


Through Reparations Roundtable, Carey’s rent and expenses were paid for three months. Volunteers dropped off books for her children, coordinated apartment rentals and bought them groceries.


Reparations Roundtable, which Helm co-founded in 2017, has a staff of seven volunteers, all of whom are white.

Using different social media platforms, and their personal networks, these volunteers raise money to support about 35 people on a regular basis and to support other efforts, such as eviction prevention and bail programs. Individuals are supported financially, or in-kind, for as long as it takes them to return to stability.

Most of the people are in crisis, although payments also go to new mothers, arrested people and students struggling to afford higher education, for example.

Reparations organizers interviewed for this article have each developed different policies for collecting and distributing payments. They have adapted grassroots organizing techniques to give cash, pay bail and cover rent for Black people, in most cases prioritizing Black trans people. Recipients of these reparations either reach out to the organizations directly or are identified by community organizers such as Helm.


The primary mode of crowdsourcing for Reparations Roundtable is Facebook. To enter the private group, which has 170 members from across the country, donors commit to paying $25 a month and following community guidelines, which includes “fight white supremacy.”


In 2017, the Reparations Roundtable came together in Louisville. In 2018, the group Tucson Reparations was formed in Arizona. Other similar groups formed during the pandemic in Cleveland; Brooklyn, New York; Philadelphia; and Austin, Texas.


Reparations organizers saw how direct giving online ebbed and flowed with the news cycle. After Floyd’s murder, the Facebook group Reparations: Requests and Offerings grew from 15,000 members to 21,000 members in just a few weeks. The account Deepwaters.pool raised over $2,000 on its first day in June.

Reparations Roundtable in Louisville raised over $50,000 in the two days following the announcement that the police officers involved in the home raid in which Breonna Taylor was killed would not be charged.

“Those types of surges happen when something terrible happens,” Didi Williams, the Reparations: Requests and Offerings administrator, said. “It’s like an outpouring of guilt.”

Organizers in Cleveland redistributed over $40,000 in cash and another $40,000 in donated goods and services. The response was so “astronomical,” organizer Erin McCardle said, that by September the group freezed its own accounts to properly process the funds.


Since closing down, and doing a “deep analysis,” Reparations Now has trained 40 more volunteers and shifted the leadership structure to ensure that decisions about the distribution of money are made by local Black and Indigenous leaders.


Ming, 25, who goes by one name and uses they/them pronouns, and roommate Khadijah Rose launched a GoFundMe drive with another roommate, Sunny Marks, for Covid-related supplies for the Black trans community in Philadelphia. They tripled their fundraising goal.

{snip} Out of that success Ming and Rose formed the Coalition for Black Trans Economic Liberation.


This fall, the coalition became a nonprofit in the state of Pennsylvania. In addition to a Slack channel and a board of directors, it has also set up a 24-hour hotline. In June they had distributed over $20,000.


Organizers say they understand how politically fraught the term reparations has become. Ming said that’s why they opted to use “economic liberation” instead.