Posted on April 15, 2022

Reparations Advocates Toast Historic Moment in San Francisco

Janie Har, Associated Press, April 13, 2022

Members of California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force convened in a historic African American church in San Francisco on Wednesday, making their own history as they work to educate the public and develop a restitution proposal for the people harmed by the institution of slavery.

The two-day meeting at the Third Baptist Church in the city’s Fillmore district was the first time the nine-member task force gathered in person since its inaugural meeting nearly a year ago. {snip}


Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation creating the two-year reparations task force in 2020, making California the only state to move ahead with a mission to study the institution of slavery, educate people about its findings and develop remedies. Reparations at the federal level have not gone anywhere, but cities and universities across the country are taking up the issue.


In a dramatic vote last month, California’s task force split 5-4 to limit reparations to people who can show they are descended from enslaved or free Black people in the U.S. as of the 19th century. Those who favor broader eligibility says lineage-based reparations unfairly shuts out Black people who have also suffered systemic discrimination.

But Josiah Williams, a member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California in Oakland, said the vote validated African Americans who have striven throughout history to make society more equitable for everyone else, only to watch as some minority groups received compensation but not them.


Several members in the audience were with his coalition, which worked on the legislation to get the task force created. But others were learning about the state’s reparations efforts for the first time — as well as the possibility of having to collect paperwork to prove their eligibility for restitution.

Oakland native Terrill Johnson, 41, showed up Wednesday after a friend told him about the meeting.

“I didn’t even know this was an actual topic that was going on,” he said.

Attorney Cheryce Cryer, who had traveled from Los Angeles to attend the meeting in person, turned around in her pew to advise Johnson to start researching his lineage to enslaved ancestors.

“Don’t assume,” Cryer advised him. “Get your documentation together now.”