BUSD Reparations Task Force
The system of chattel slavery on American soil ingrained race-based inequity in American society. It pervaded every aspect of daily American life and has persisted ever since the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery in 1865, including in race-based policies such as school segregation and redlining. Today, it persists in differences in literacy rates, home ownership, and educational outcomes. Multiple efforts have been made in the past 150+ years to address this engrained inequity. In 1968, for instance, Berkeley USD became the first major school district to voluntarily desegregate its schools. This was a critical step and provided a roadmap for other districts to follow. Unfortunately, equitable outcomes for BUSD students with ancestors who were enslaved in the U.S. have not followed. It is time to explore enacting and implement a program of reparations for such students.
The need for reparations in response to the institution of chattel slavery in the U.S. has existed for over 150 years but it has recently taken on increased public attention. A number of local jurisdictions in the Bay Area are exploring reparations, including the cities of Berkeley, Richmond, and San Francisco.
Examples of Reparations
Reparations as a policy tool to redress or respond to past harm are not new or unique. There are numerous examples of reparations programs throughout the U.S. and the world. A selection of those programs, drawn from the California Reparations Task Force report (released in June 2023), are described below – two each from the international, national, state and local levels.
(West) Germany – Israel (Luxembourg Agreement and Federal Compensation Final Law)
West Germany (and, later, a unified Germany) agreed to pay reparations to the survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants as well as the descendants of those who were murdered in the Holocaust. The reparations took the form of direct payments to survivors as well as compensation for health impacts. It is estimated that by 2000, Germany had paid more than US$38.6 billion in reparations to approximately two million recipients.
Canada (Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement)
Canada agreed to pay reparations to the survivors of its residential school system, which forcibly removed and enrolled hundreds and thousands of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children from the 1600s until the mid 1990s. Many of these children in the schools were physically and sexually abused and thousands more died or went missing. It is estimated that by 2012 Canada paid more than US$3.6 billion to approximately 78,400 recipients. The reparations program also included a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, commemorative projects, and mental health resources for former students.
Indian Claims Commission
The U.S. created the Indian Claims Commission to resolve tribal land claims against the U.S. and to make payments to tribes. It awarded approximately $800 million in total payments to tribes. However, not all claims were resolved by the Commission.
Civil Liberties Act of 1988
The U.S. agreed to pay reparations to Japanese Americans who were incarcerated between 1942 and 1946. Over 82,000 recipients received $20,000 each for a total allocation of almost $1.65 billion. The U.S. also issued a formal apology to each recipient.
Florida (Rosewood Claim Bill)
The State of Florida agreed to pay reparations for the massacre in and destruction of Rosewood in 1923. Florida made direct payments to the remaining survivors, paid compensation for the loss of property, and annually funded education scholarships to the direct descendants of African-American families from Rosewood. The total cost is estimated to be $2.1 million. Florida also directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a criminal investigation regarding the destruction of Rosewood and directed the state university system to continue researching the destruction of Rosewood, the history of race relations in Florida, and to develop educational materials about the destruction of Rosewood.
California (Sterilization Compensation Program)
The State of California agreed to pay reparations to individuals who were sterilized by staff in state-run homes and hospitals under a state-authorized eugenic sterilization program. California allocated a total of $4.5 million for direct payments to the estimated 244 survivors. California also issued a formal apology and ordered the creation of memorial plaques.
Evanston, IL (Restorative Housing/Cash Payment Program)
The City of Evanston, Illinois, agreed to pay reparations to African American residents, their descendants, or other residents who experienced housing discrimination by Evanston. Under the program, each recipient was awarded $25,000 to either purchase a home, conduct home improvements, or pay down their existing mortgage. Evanston has since expanded the program to include direct cash payments. Evanston also created an Equity and Empowerment Commission, honored local historical African-American sites, and issued an apology.
Asheville, NC (Reparations Commission)
The City of Asheville, North Carolina, created a Reparations Commission to recommend how to allocate $1.9 million to make amends for Asheville’s participation in and sanctioning of the enslavement of African Americans, its enforcement of segregation, its implementation of an urban renewal program that destroyed multiple successful African American communities, and many other harms the City inflicted upon African Americans living in Asheville.
Community Push for the Task Force
After the murder of George Floyd, local community members started meeting to explore the possibility of reparations in BUSD. Members included: local civic and religious leaders, BUSD families, former BUSD Board members, and BUSD staff (on their personal time). The effort included research into existing examples of reparations, discussions of policy and legal considerations. The effort culminated in a community letter requesting that BUSD establish a Reparations Task Force.
Purpose of the Task Force
In response to the legacy of chattel slavery in the U.S., BUSD seeks to explore the establishment of a program of reparations for BUSD students with ancestors who were enslaved in the U.S. To do so, the Task Force will more deeply explore and make recommendations on:
- How can BUSD fund reparations?
- What does reparations look like?
- How can and should BUSD implement such a program?
The District has selected Kad Smith to serve as the facilitator of the Task Force. Mr. Smith previously served as the Project Director at CompassPoint (www.compasspoint.org), a leadership development practice based in Oakland that “helps leaders, nonprofit organizations, and movements committed to social justice realize their full power.” He also previously served as the co-chair of Measure Y1 (Youth Voting). Mr. Smith is a BHS alumni who has gone back to school and is now enrolled at USF Law School.
Composition of the Task Force: 18 Members
- 5 BUSD Staff
- 3 BUSD Students
- 10 Community Members
Members are expected to attend and participate fully in each meeting. No additional obligations are expected, although additional meeting prep/support is welcome. One or two members would be asked to serve as chair/co-chairs and they would be expected to attend prep meetings with the facilitator in advance of every meeting and they would be expected to participate in any presentation to the School Board.
The Reparations Task Force engages the BUSD community in a variety of ways, including speaker and community education and engagement events, where attendees have the opportunity to learn more about reparations, ask questions, meet some members of the Reparations Task Force, and give feedback. School Board presentations, where community members can learn about the Task Force’s progress, are also opportunities for community members to provide public comment (at the beginning and end of meetings). These School Board meetings can be attended online or in person.
BOARD OF EDUCATION UPDATES
View the presentation on BUSD’s YouTube Channel (it begins at minute 2:28:30)
View the presentation deck at this link.
A TALK BY KAMILAH MOORE, CHAIR OF THE CALIFORNIA REPARATIONS TASK FORCE
Location: BUSD Board Room, 1231 Addison Street
Interpretation: Spanish Interpretation
A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION REGARDING REPARATIONS
Location: BUSD Board Room, 1231 Addison Street
Interpretation: Spanish interpretation
Meeting Calendar and Information
Please see the Reparations Task Force FAQ for additional information.
All meetings will be held from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on the following tentative dates:
|Thursday, March 30, 2023
|Monday, April 24, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Monday, May 22, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Thursday, June 29, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Monday, August 28, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Thursday, September 28, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Monday, October 23, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|
|Monday, November 27, 2023||Agenda/Presentation|