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The Experience of the Africans in the American Diaspora in their struggle for Reparations and lessons for Namibians

By Morgan Moss
Queen Mother Audley Moore petitioned the United Nations to recognize the demands for reparations of Blacks in America. She was a founding member of the Republic of New Afrika, advocating for the release of political prisoners, Black self-determination, land and reparations. Queen Mother Moore became known within the Black Power Movement circles in the 1960s, speaking at conferences, mentoring younger activists, and working and demanding for reparations until her death in 1996. (Texas Wesleyan Law Review, vol. 16, #4 Symposium edition 2010). In addition to Queen Mother Audley Moore vocalized reparations, mobilizing a million signatures in support of reparations.

Advocacy is crucial in her conception of reparations. Unlike Callie House who demanded pensions for ex-enslaved Blacks in America or their immediate descendants, Queen Mother Moore had a much broader vision of redress. She called for $500 trillion as partial compensation for historic injustice, which would be spread over four generations. She was explicit in conceiving the call for reparations as a grassroots mass movement, and her conception of reparations reflected that. Queen Mother Moore's idea was not to make one or two or three or ten little people a little wealthier.

Her idea was to give some form of recompense even unto our fourth generation to come, because we've been four generations injured and it's going to take four generations in order to heal us. Queen Mother Moore's conception of reparation was, "what the White man owes us for the damages committed against our families, our homes, and our people. She sought multi-generational redress designed to repair slavery's legacy of injury and damages. (Texas Wesleyan Law Review, vol. 16 #4 Symposium edition 2010.)

What might be called the "pre-modern" reparations movement in America peaked in 1969, when Former civil rights activist James Forman shocked America by interrupting services at New York City's prestigious Riverside Church to demand that churches and synagogues pay half a billion dollars in racial reparations. On May 4, 1969 speaking for the Black Economic Development Conference, James Forman disrupted religious services to read the Black Manifesto which charged American Churches and Synagogues with historic and on-going collaboration in global racism and colonialism, starting with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and demanded half a million dollars in reparations. He later increased the demand to $3 billion dollars.

James Forman was specific in his demands, calling for: funding of a Southern Land Bank; four publishing houses and television networks to generate jobs and capital, as well as to counter racist media representations; a research institute; a training center; and a black university. (Texas Wesleyan Law Review, vol. 16, #4 Symposium edition 2010).

The Black Manifesto's charges offended many religious communities, including some Black religious communities. Some religious institutions took up Forman's challenge. Riverside Church's own Minister later stated, "it is just and reasonable that amends be made by many institutions in society including, and perhaps especially, the church and funds be earmarked for the disadvantaged as restitution and penance". (Sugrue, Supra note 83, at 436)

In 1970 the Philadelphia Diocese created a half million dollars restitution fund that supported Black community development organizations and scholarships, and the United Methodists set aside $1.3 million for economic empowerment of Black people. The religious organization distributed over $2 million to various Black organizations.

Callie House, Queen Mother Moore, and James Forman were not alone in the history of reparations activism in America. Henry McNeal Turner, a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal church and a leading voice for Black emigration in the 1890s, called for $40 billion in reparations for the free service African Americans had provided the United States for over two hundred years. During the mid-twentieth century, almost every significant Black radical organization endorsed reparations at some point. The issue of reparations was a major component of Black Nationalist rhetoric during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, Republic of New Afrika, National Black United Front, and National Association of Black Social Workers all endorsed Black reparations to some degree. Reparation is a crucial component in Black Nationalist and Pan-African thought. Individual leaders in the struggle for racial equality, as diverse as Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Whitney Young, also at times supported reparation for Blacks in America.

Black Africans on the continent of Africa and in the Diaspora are becoming more familiar with the concept of reparations and what it means to our continuing struggle in Africa and the Diaspora for self-determination, healing, repair, redress, liberation, independence and freedom. Therefore, we must be clear that reparations means "repair" for the damages inflicted on a people or a nation.

In pursuit of this repair, we must be conscious of the fact that we are engaged in the process of internal reparations and assume the responsibility for repairing ourselves, which includes: changing the way we think, supporting our own traditional and modern institutions, supporting our families, supporting our own Black business enterprises, cleaning up our communities, and changing the way we relate to and think of each other as a people, these are just a few of the internal repairs we must constantly work on.

Most Black Africans realize that our minds were tampered with as a result of our forced colonization in Africa and forced capture and enslavement in America. Internal reparations require those groups and individuals that were injured to come together, formulate alternative solutions and implementation processes to begin healing and repairing their minds in order to peacefully move forward.

For example, Ovahereros, Namas, Demaras, San, Africans in the Diaspora and other affected societies must unite, struggle, fight, mobilize, and organize to demand external reparations from those governments, corporations, and institutions that are responsible for our historical and continuing state of oppression. Just as Jewish people proclaim, "Never Forget", Black African should do no less. We should "Never Forget" that "They owe us". Part of our internal repair is to consciously understand that "We are owed" and that we have a historic responsibility to demand reparations from those forces that continue to benefit from what they did to us and that lingers on as part of the vestiges of our enslavement, colonization, neocolonization and genocide. (Dr. Conrad Worrill, "They Owe Us")

As we continue to mobilize, organize, and unite around the issue of reparations, we should be clear that they owe us for: The genocide against the Ovahereros, Namas, Damaras, San, and other affected societies. The colonizing of our African culture, that forbade African people to engage in our traditional spiritual and cultural practices.

The destruction of the African Family.

The raping of African women and girls by the colonizer. Forcefully remove and acquisition of land.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: The United Nations World Conference Against Racism declared that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery were crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations. It must be understood that the invasions, intrusions, thefts, murders, pillaging, the decimation and destruction of African's land, bodies, minds, and spirits is the basis for our on-going struggle for reparations. In conclusion, our greatest challenge as an African people is that of getting our minds straight. Getting our minds straight requires that African people begin to relearn the African principle: rules, laws, and customs which guide our behavior and which serve as the foundation for all of our actions. At this juncture in history, we as African people have the capacity to straighten our own minds out, without the controlling help of anyone outside the African community.

In our efforts to straight out our minds, it should be clearly understood and internalized by all Africans that Europeans and Western imperialism have developed a method whose basic purpose is to replace all indigenous cultures with their own, mainly through religion, literacy modalities, military force, and structural adjustment programs.

Reparations Now! Morgan Moss, JR is a member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America,

(N'COBRA), International Commission, located in the United States of America,
e m a i l : mmossjr@hotmail.com website: www.ncobra.org)


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