Activists demand at public hearing for California reparations committee to pay $350,000 to every Black resident

Josue Torres
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During the recent inaugural meeting of the state’s reparations task group, discussions on how to quantify potential financial compensation calculations and potential eligibility requirements started.

A Black California businessman sought $600,000 from California taxpayers.

Max Fennell, a 35-year-old businessman, and the first black professional triathlete was one of those who spoke at the public hearing. He advocated for every person to receive $350,000 in compensation in order to eliminate the wealth gap between races and for Black-owned businesses to receive $250,000 in order to support their growth.

During his speech, Fennell said: “We’re telling you; we’re not asking”.

He also said what he’s asking for is $350,000 per black American in California, small business grants of $250,000, and lands of 15–20 acres.

Fennell shared a video of himself and about 60 other people attending the hearings on Instagram, saying “witnessing history”.

Since 2021, a task committee that is the first of its type in the country has been researching historical events and academic literature to support its demand for reparations for Black people in California.

The decision on compensation will be made by the committee by July 1.

The group convened in Oakland’s City Hall, where the Black Panthers were founded but has seen a decline in its African American population due to rising housing costs.

Deon Jenkins, a candidate for the California Senate, stated at the hearing that any funding intended to combat housing inequality should be in line with the state’s average home price, which is around $800,000.

While Richmond City Council member Demnlus Johnson III said that it is noteworthy that the matter is even being discussed in public.

In order to solve an issue, you must first identify it, he stated. Having it all out in the open and placed on the line is a tremendous accomplishment, but of course, “we want to see it addressed right away because the time is now”.

The committee’s head criticized rumors that the organization intended to suggest that each applicant for the program get $225,000 the day before the hearings started.

According to Kamilah V. Moore, the number provided to the committee by an economic research team indicates the state of California’s “maximum responsibility” for housing inequality, according to a series of interviews she conducted on December 13.

It’s not only for Black individuals, it also applies to anyone who experienced housing inequality between 1933 and 1977.

Moore said that when the task panel agreed in March that the community of eligibility would be based on lineage rather than race, in reality, that number of beneficiaries would be lowered.

It probably won’t be only Black people, she continued, when looking at who was really harmed by housing inequality at that specific time period.

Moore discussed the necessity for a Bureau of African American Affairs. She used the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ track record of effectiveness in managing issues pertaining to Native Americans to support her argument.

Oakland councilman Carroll Fife brought up California’s homelessness issue.

In California, homelessness is at an all-time high, according to Fife. And in part, because some groups, particularly Black Americans, have been denied access to homes.

To lessen discrepancies in how Black people are treated, committee members will provide first policy suggestions, such as audits of governmental organizations that deal with child welfare and jail.

The panel spoke about the state’s potential response to its effects on Black families whose homes were taken through eminent domain. After lawmakers last year decided to give Bruce’s Beach, a beachfront property, back to the Black inhabitants who had owned it until it was taken from them in the 20th century, the issue attracted new attention.

Local reparations initiatives were discussed by representatives from Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and other California communities.

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