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  April 14, 2015

Growing Calls for Reparations for the International Slave Trade

TRNN's Jaisal Noor speaks to voices of the United States and African diaspora at the International Black Reparations Summit in New York City
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Jaisal Noor is a producer for The Real News Network. His stories have appeared on Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News and other independent news outlets. Jaisal was raised in the Baltimore-area, and has a degree in history from the University of Maryland, College Park.


JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: It's April 10th 2015, and a national and international summit on reparations is underway here in New York. Participants are demanding European and American governments compensate the descendants of African people for slavery, for forced free labor, and systemic racism and discrimination within the United States, in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Africa, and for all descendants of African people across the world.

Many are calling the reparations summit historic, as the 15 Caribbean countries that comprise CARICOM are finalizing how to extract reparations from European colonial powers.

JAMES EARLY, SCHOLAR AND ACTIVIST: It was Marcus Garvey a hundred years ago who said one day the Caribbean would raise up, and galvanize these scattered Africans who had been enslaved and exploited and abused.

NOOR: To date, European countries have failed to officially respond to CARICOM's request to begin the process of negotiating these demands.

DAVID COMMISSIONG, BARBADOS DELEGATE: They are demands that center around developmental programs in the areas of health, healthcare, public health. Education. Educational infrastructure. The psychological damage, the sense around--the need for cultural institutions.

NOOR: Scholar and activist James Early contrasts the reparations summit with the simultaneous U.S.-backed Summit of the Americas.

EARLY: We've had the critical voices like that of Jesus Chucho Garcia, political rep--, Afro political representative from Venezuela who is saying, why are you not talking about the situation of the 150 million Afro-descendants in Latin America? So that is another step, as has been pointed out here, that we do not yet in this movement have a clear political strategy. And it seems to me that the insertion into [realpolitik], not just as participants but leading voices, is where we could get the next stage of traction.

NOOR: Also taking part was Mireille Fanon, chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on Peoples of African Descent. She's also the daughter of Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born Afro-Caribbean black liberation theoretician whose works were influential in post-colonial studies. She says the West needs to do more than simply acknowledge and apologize for slavery and colonialism.

MIREILLE FANON, UN WORKING GROUP OF EXPERTS ON PEOPLES OF AFRICAN DESCENT: The people of African descent are racialized, discriminated, marginalized, ghettoized. But also African countries are. And suffering still now is suffering of former colonies. And for the, for the country freed form colonial enslavement, they are still, still suffered also for--under the--coming from this history.

NOOR: The conference also focused on the fight for reparations for people of African descent within the United States. Congressman John Conyers was a keynote speaker and was honored for his work advancing HR 40 in Congress, which would establish a commission to research the history of slavery and its effects on present-day America.

RAY WINBUSH, INSTITUTE OF URBAN RESEARCH, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: And we believe that the residual effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade creates issues of violence. It creates issues of criminality. And the criminals that, the criminogenic part of this, was the European slave trade.

NOOR: Ray Winbush is the director of the Insitute of Urban Research at Morgan State University.

WINBUSH: Because we never ask why. We'll see in Baltimore, for example, we'll see Roland Park and then we'll go to let's say, Sandtown Winchester. And we'll say, why. We don't say--we never ask why these communities got the way they did.

NOOR: According to the National Urban League, African-Americans continue to lag their white counterparts significantly when it comes to household income, poverty rates, and also critically, home ownership.

WINBUSH: I mean, think about the fact that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates said in an article over a year ago, we were shut out of housing. Especially in places like Baltimore, the so-called redlining era, which he shows has a direct consequence on economic stability. The stability of communities.

NOOR: The event was hosted by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a research, policy and advocacy group that rents space at The Real News Network headquarters in Baltimore.

DON ROJAS, INSTITUTE OF THE BLACK WORLD 21ST CENTURY: The ultimate objective is to build a vibrant, global reparations movement beginning this year. And taking the momentum of a very successful conference that we just had in New York, take that momentum and build on it.

NOOR: Don Rojas says corporations also need to be held accountable.

ROJAS: There are many huge multinational corporations with headquarters in Europe and headquarters in the United States that were also complicit in slavery. And so the demands are also going to be placed before them, in the months ahead.

NOOR: The National African-American Reparations Commission launched at the conference will be hosting interactive town hall meetings across the country to engage the public on the issue of reparations. The first meeting will be at The Real News headquarters in Baltimore in June.

From New York, this is Jaisal Noor.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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