Reparations takes center stage
For many years, the Black American community in North America and
Africans in the Diaspora specifically in Canada, the Caribbean and
South America have written and talked about receiving reparations from
the European and American Nations that have benefited from the
institution of slavery. However, until now, our audience has been
limited and our appeal has been marginalized.
The United Nations will hold a conference in Durban, South Africa,
from Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2001 entitled the UN World Conference Against
Racism. For this conference, the NGOís (Non-Governmental Organizations)
and others have been pushing to have the trans-Atlantic slave trade
declared a crime against humanity and move straight to the discussion on
reparations. America has threatened to boycott the conference if this
language and discussion is not changed. They also threatened to boycott
if the conference has a platform to declare Zionism as racism.
The topic of reparations started a long time ago in America and she
has always tried to circumvent the issue. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad
has been an advocate of reparations for the descendants of slavery.
However, he did not consistently use the word "reparations." He put his
position in writing 40-years-ago in 1961 when the Muhammad Speaks
newspaper presented the Nation of Islamís program, under the title of
"What the Muslims Want and What the Muslims Believe." In 1979, when
Minister Louis Farrakhan began to rebuild the Nation of
Islam he placed the same program in The Final Call newspaper.
There may be points on the Nation of Islamís reparations program
which others in the reparations movement may disagree with. We have the
right to disagree, yet our goal for reparations must still remain the
same. What we ask for, how we ask for it, and when and where are issues
that can be discussed down the road as we move through this journey.
When reading the points that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has raised
on reparations, they state: "1) We want freedom. We want a full and
complete freedom. 2) We want justice, Equal justice under the law. We
want justice applied equally to all, regardless of creed or class or
color. 3) We want equality of opportunity. We want equal membership in
society with the best in civilized society. 4) We want our people in
America whose parents or grandparents were descendants from slaves, to
be allowed to establish a separate state or territory of their own Ė
either on this continent or elsewhere. We believe that our former slave
masters are obligated to provide such land and that the area must be
fertile and minerally rich. We believe that our former slave masters are
obligated to maintain and supply our needs in this separate territory
for the next 20 to 25 years Ė until we are able to produce and supply
our own needs."
These four points are, basically, the Honorable Elijah Muhammadís
position on reparations. However, point number five reads, "We want
freedom for all Believers of Islam now held in federal prisons. We
want freedom for all Black men and women now under death sentence in
innumerable prisons in the North as well as the South." This does
not just pertain to Muslims, but it pertains to all Black men and women.
On the land issue it reads, "We want every Black man and woman to have
the freedom to accept or reject being separated from the slaver masterís
children and establish a land of their own."
As you read on to point number seven, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad
states, "As long as we are not allowed to establish a state or territory
of our own, we demand not only equal justice under the laws of the
United States, but equal employment opportunities Ė NOW!" Then he goes
on to say, "We do not believe that after 400 years of free or nearly
free labor, sweat and blood, which has helped America become rich and
powerful, that so many thousands of Black people should have to subsist
on relief, charity or live in poor houses." He then concludes with
another point of his reparations program. "We want the government of the
United States to exempt our people from all taxation as long as we are
deprived of equal justice under the laws of the land."
Those who have been involved in the reparations struggle for years,
i.e., the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NíCOBRA)
and other groups should be happy that reparations has taken center stage
worldwide and is now in the forefront of the hearts and minds of our
people. Many of those who did not have any idea of what the word
reparations meant at one time, are now echoing our call for reparations
on many different levels. We must take the words from Amari Baraka (Leroi
Jones) when during the height of our struggle in 1972; he challenged us
with the term "unity in diversity."
On the question of reparations, there must be unity on this
proposition though there is diversity in terms of our approach.
I do not think that those of us in the reparations movement should
condemn or move away from Randall Robinson. In regards to his book "The
Debt," his efforts should be applauded for he took the time to research
and write this book. We should thank David Horowitz for his newspaper
articles across the country, in particular, his articles that reached
the college campus newspapers. He brought us together as never before to
condemn him and his madness of why we should not receive reparations.
We should work together to get our churches, mosques and temples
involved on the proposition of reparations. Each of them could have
study groups at least once a month to discuss reparations. I strongly
suggest that after the conference in South Africa, that we have a
national convention on reparations and bring thousands of our people
into a location to discuss reparations over three days. The first
conference should be held in America, the Caribbean and then Africa. We
need to bring all the various views to the table. Next, we should issue
a solid, united platform for the governments of America and Europe to
We hope that this conference in South Africa will be the beginning.
This is a good opportunity from many of the reparations committees,
organizations, religious and secular societies who have lobbied for
reparations now to have a worldwide platform.
We should thank President Bush for opposing the conferencesí platform
to declare the Atlantic slave trade a crime against humanity and the
need for reparations. He is helping us to marshal our forces across this
country. He has made it an issue in areas that it would have never been
brought up as an issue.
We thank the forerunners of this proposition, but I would say as
someone who has been involved in this for years: Though others may be
getting the credit and it appears that some of us who have worked in
this vineyard for a very long time have been unrecognized, we should
push them forward. It does not matter who has been recognized, but the
objective we are trying to accomplish. Reparations must remain center