Caucasians Unite in Support of Reparations 2002

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Caucasians Unite in Support of Reparations
By Donna Lamb

Likely for the first time in U.S. history, a group of white supporters of reparations to descendants of enslaved Africans traveled from across the country to meet each other and to strategize about how we can best be of service to the reparations movement. We met in Atlanta Georgia from Friday, Feb. 22 to Sunday, the 24th, 2002. Before the three days were over, not only had we gotten to know each other and come to some important ideas about how we, as whites, can do even more to back up this Black-led initiative, we had met with the international reparations leader Mr. Silis Muhammad, attended an awards banquet, attended the annual Savior's Day celebration of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, and spoken on the radio twice. What's more, Brent Buell and Molly Secours, two filmmakers who took part in the weekend of events, shot hours of film which may be used at some future date as a tool for educating other Caucasians about reparations so that they, too, can see the rightness of the claim and come to support the movement as well.

WHO WE ARE

Ida Hakim, the founder of CURE, organized the meeting of white supporters. As with many things that started modestly but went on to shake the world, the gathering may have begun small, but it began--which is a tremendously important thing when it comes to whites supporting reparations to Blacks.

Along with Ida Hakim, who is recognized as a long-time reparations activist, the persons present were Ferrell Winfree, anti-racism activist among white Christians and CURE.'s representative in Tennessee; Molly Secours, filmmaker, writer, and social activist; Brent Buell, actor, filmmaker and writer; Janice Cline, teacher of English and Cultural Diversity in New York; Bryan Pennington, social activist who lives and works in Atlanta; Jim Cox, an early member of C.U.R.E. from Santa Fe, New Mexico; Tom Fox, a sincere young supporter; and myself, Donna Lamb, an anti-racism activist and journalist in New York City.

Coming from our homes on the East Coast, West Coast, and various cities in the South, we had spent our formative years in California, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio and upper New York State.

Along with the geographical diversity, one of the most exciting things was seeing how different each of the participants was in terms of what had shaped our lives and how we had come to support reparations. For example, one man spoke seriously yet humorously of having been a socialist from about the age of two. Another told courageously of his blatant racism throughout his childhood and young adulthood, and of how it changed. One woman sees her Christian beliefs as at the very core of everything she is and does, while another person identified himself as completely non-religious. And there were seasoned veterans in the struggle who were accustomed to going toe-to-toe with the most rabid white supremacists, as well as newcomers who were there to learn from the ground up.

What united us all was our firm conviction that full and complete reparations, including repatriation if people so desire, to descendants of enslaved Africans are long overdue, and that this nation stands totally in the wrong until that debt is paid. We also recognize that no amount of money or anything else can ever even come close to truly undoing the financial, spiritual, and psychological harm that the enslavement and its brutal aftermath caused, but that we must, in good faith, repair the damage as fully as we can.

One of the other things that was crystal clear from this cross-section of people is that there isn't any particular type of person or standard background that makes one eligible to be a white supporter of reparations. There is room for all. All a person needs is to see with their own eyes, to feel with their own heart that what this country did was wrong and that it must be set right through reparations.

DISCUSSING THE ISSUES

During our meetings, we spoke at length about, as we put it, "How I got this way"--how we came to support reparations. We also talked extensively about what our experience has been as we've discussed reparations with other whites. One thing we all found is that people who are flagrantly racist are often no more difficult to deal with than so-called "progressive" whites when it comes to the subject of reparations.

Ida Hakim also gave a brief talk on the many and diverse Black organizations, such as N'COBRA, IHRAAM, Self Determination Committee, December 12th Movement, AFRE and others, so we are more knowledgeable about the many important organizations that have been working for decades both nationally and internationally on behalf of reparations.

Later on, we held a workshop on how to answer the questions and statements that Caucasians bring up to try to prove we don't owe reparations. And finally, we discussed where we go from here, how we plan to extend our boundaries and reach out to more and more people most effectively.

MEETING SILIS MUHAMMAD

A high point for all of us was meeting the international reparations leader, Mr. Silis Muhammad, when he came to our meeting place to speak with us. Mr. Muhammad, who has been the CEO of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam since 1977, encouraged us in our work, and told us that the most important thing we could do was to continue what we are doing. He spoke for nearly an hour and a half about the effects of slavery on African Americans throughout the entire Americas region, and about the need for collective political recognition of all of the descendants of enslaved Africans by the UN and the world community.

As a person who has hungered, thirsted, to meet other white people who feel as I do--that assisting in bringing about reparations is a central, driving passion of their lives--you can just imagine what a thrilling weekend this was for me. I was also very moved to see how Silis Muhammad and other people we met in the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and elsewhere welcomed our efforts. It all made me surer than ever that we are right, and that a life used fighting for reparations is a life well spent.