In the midst of a global awakening to centuries of racism and black oppression, some African Americans are finally seeing concrete help – even if the help is not labeled as reparation.
Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the city will launch a guaranteed income project that will provide black and indigenous families with $ 500 a month.
The aid, which is aimed at low-income families in the city of 426,000 people, will last 18 months.
Mayor Schaaf stated that the money will be delivered “unconditionally” and that the recipients can use it as they wish.
“We designed this demonstration project to add to the evidence and start this relentless campaign to introduce a guaranteed federal income,” Mayor Schaaf told local broadcaster ABC News.
The broadcaster reported that the Oakland Resilient Families program has raised $ 6.75 million for the project to date from private donors, including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group.
The programs require residents to have at least one child under the age of 18 and an income equal to or less than 50 percent of the median income of the area – about $ 59,000 per year for a family of three.
Half of the spots are reserved for people earning less than 138 percent of the state poverty line, or about $ 30,000 a year for a family of three, ABC reported. Participants are selected at random from a pool of applicants who meet the admission requirements.
The report noted that the Oakland project is significant as it is one of the most pre-eminent efforts in the US to date, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation exclusively to black, indigenous and colored communities.
Oakland, where 24 percent of the population is black, is among a growing list of communities making financial payments or reparations to people of color.
Evanston, Illinois, a city that has 18 percent of its 74,500+ residents black, approved the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, which provides up to $ 25,000 in housing repayments or home repairs to African Americans.
In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a historic law paving the way for African Americans and descendants of slaves in the Golden State to receive reparations for slavery.
The bill, written by California MP Shirley Weber, sets up a nine-member working group to investigate the effects of the slave trade on blacks.
It does not commit to any particular payment, but the task force will make recommendations to lawmakers as to what type of compensation should be given, who should receive it, and what form it should take.
“After looking [the presidential] Debate can’t get this signing too early, ”Newsom said during a video conference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including rapper Ice Cube, who campaigned for the law.
“As a nation, we can only truly thrive if each of us has the opportunity to be successful. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias that are built into and permeate our democratic and economic institutions, ”said the governor.
Last summer, Asheville, a North Carolina city where blacks make up 11 percent of its 92,000-plus population, officially apologized for its role in slavery. The city council unanimously decided to pay compensation to Afro-American residents and their descendants.
“Hundreds of years of black blood spilled to fill the cup we drink from today,” said councilor Keith Young, one of two African-American councilors who voted 7-0 for redress.
“It is not enough to repeal laws. Black people in this country face systemic problems, ”said Young.
Asheville’s resolution does not provide for cash payments to African Americans, but does promise investment in areas where blacks face inequalities.
Earlier this year, Congress debated HR 40, a bill that does not place any monetary value on reparations, but rather focuses on examining and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of the African people, racial healing and transformation.
The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations for African Americans.
The Commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and the ongoing negative effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.
Congressman Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees, including Justice, Budget and Homeland Security, made the Reparations Act a top priority during the 117th Congress.
“I think if people start associating this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the filthy past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, can we find common ground for the passage of this law, “said Congressman Jackson Lee.
The Oakland project targets groups with the greatest wealth differentials in the city.
According to CNN and the Oakland Equality Index, the median income of white households in Oakland is almost three times that of black households.
“The poverty we all experience today is not a personal failure. It’s a system error, ”Schaaf remarked. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising instruments for system change, racial justice and economic mobility that we have seen for decades.”
Two years ago, 100 residents of Stockton, California received unconditional payments of $ 500, CNN reported. Other initiatives in Newark, New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia weren’t launched until 2020.
Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of advocate mayors founded in 2020.
Oakland Mayor Schaaf is also a founding member of the network.
“One of my hopes in testing a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled to have Oakland among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.
“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families Program will provide critical financial assistance to those most affected by systemic inequalities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”