New HR 40 Reparations Bill
Congressman John Conyers Introduces New HR40 Reparations Bill
At the start of the 115th Congress of the United States 2017-2018, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), the dean of the Congress, introduced a revised HR40, his long-standing reparations study bill. The new bill, entitled, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, as its title indicates, will focus on reparations remedies.
"The revised bill reflects the advances in the legal and societal discussion of the transatlantic slave trade and reparations,” said Cong. Conyers. He went on to state, “In the past, the focus on the social effects of slavery, segregation and its continuing economic implications remained largely ignored by mainstream analysis. …the call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions both in our community and American society as a whole.”
At the June 12th, 2015 inaugural meeting of the National African American Reparations Commission, (NAARC), the representative of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA), made a compelling argument that HR40 as it was then written had lost its relevance, as much of what it was to "find," had already been settled, both domestically and internationally. Particularly, it has been internationally settled that there has been ongoing injury to current Blacks in American from the crimes of enslavement and segregation (apartheid).
NAARC, convened and chaired by Dr. Ron Daniels of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and State of the Black World Conference, assigned a team of its commissioners to produce a revised version to submit to Cong. Conyers. The team was led by Dr. Iva Carruthers of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and also included Dr. Joyce King, the Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership, Georgia State University; and Kamm Howard, Legislative Commission Chair of NCOBRA. Cong. Conyers approved NAARC’s revised bill, in nearly its entirety. The final version with additional input from other NAARC Commissioners and the Movement for Black Lives coalition, was completed just days before its introduction.
Following the submission of the bill, Dr. Ron Daniels (NAARC) remarked, “Updating HR-40 to examine reparations remedies is a significant step forward in addressing the devastating inter-generational harms inflicted by centuries of enslavement and structural racism on African Americans. This assessment and action is especially important given the "state of emergency" in numerous Black communities across this country. Once again, Congressman John Conyers is to be commended for his vision and courage for introducing this vital measure."
Also acknowledging Cong. Conyers continued commitment to repair, Kamm Howard (NCOBRA), who added much of the language regarding settled international understandings of reparations, noted: "NCOBRA is very pleased with the forward, progressive action of Congressman Conyers with the introduction of the revised HR40. The new legislation is in accord with international norms and standards of reparatory justice, seeks to truly address the multi-generational injury, mass inequalities and discrimination that plague, and will continue to plague African descendants in America, if left unaddressed. The Commission, which this legislation seeks to form, will be charged with coming up with long-range measures that will address every aspect of the injurious legacy of the crimes of enslavement and segregation (apartheid), as well as the ongoing attacks on our humanity.”
Kamm also asserted, “This adds to the momentum of a revitalizing reparations movement, not only nationally but also internationally. This can be model legislation for African Descendants globally…” The above statement references previous work here in the U.S., as well as reparations work by African descendants throughout the Diaspora.
Jumoke Ifetayo, National Male Co-chair of NCOBRA stated that “the introduction of this new reparations legislation is a historical marker building on the work of NCOBRA’s Legislative commissioners and Congressman Conyers. NCOBRA is excited about continuing to work on organizing around this new reparations legislation. Simultaneously, we must begin a national conversation on developing a comprehensive, grassroots-based and widely-supported reparations proposal for African descendants.”
In June 2016, the Illinois State Legislature passed a unanimous resolution calling on President Obama to form a Study Commission for Reparations for Slavery as an Executive order. The bill was introduced by Rep. La Shawn Ford. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocTypeID=HR&DocNum=1011&GAID=13&SessionID=88&LegID=95184
The Illinois House resolution inspired Illinois State Senator, Donne Trotter, a long-time reparations proponent, to introduce a similar resolution, at the request of N’COBRA, at the National Black Caucus of State Legislators national conference in December 2016. This resolution also passed unanimously. http://nbcsl.org/public-policy/resolutions/item/1932.html
Internationally, the Caribbean Community of States (CARICOM), through the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), continues to push mightily ahead for reparations from former colonial governments for “enslavement and native genocide.” It was the CRC that inspired Dr. Ron Daniels to convene NAARC. Since then, the European Reparations Commission and commissions in Canada, Columbia and Brazil have also been formed, patterned after the CRC and NAARC. Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the CRC, stated that introduction of the new HR40 adds further momentum to a just and righteous cause whose time has come: “We salute Cong. Conyers on this bold and courageous initiative which will inspire reparations advocates in the Caribbean and around the world to press on with the struggle for social and economic repair and restitution for the historical crimes of slavery.”
Playing an additional key role, NCOBRA's Legislation Commission was charged with getting original congressional cosponsors to sign on to the new bill at its introduction. NCOBRA was very successful in getting 20 Congresswomen and Congressmen to sign on to this bill as original cosponsors. This has been the most since 2003 and again in 2005 when there were 23 original cosponsors. (For a full list of cosponsors as well as text of the new bill, click on the link https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/40?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+40%22%5D%7D&r=1
Moving forward, Cong. Conyers has scheduled a Press Conference and Briefing to announce the new bill and provide the rationale for its revision. The Briefing will be held in on February 16, 2017 at 2226 Rayburn Bldg., 50 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. EST. This briefing is targeted for legislators and their staff, reparations activists, Movement for Black Lives coalition members and other organization leaders who would like to be better informed of this bill and want to lend their support in publicizing and moving the new HR40 through the congressional process.
Key in that process, Cong. Conyers believes, is getting 100 cosponsors signed on to this bill. That will be the immediate goal of Cong. Conyers, NAARC and NCOBRA. With 47 Congressional Black Caucus members in the House of Representatives and 6 non-CBC members already signed on, this goal will be a challenge but certainly accomplishable according to those charged with this task.
For those interested in attending the Briefing or in forwarding this motion in any way, contact Kamm Howard, NCOBRA Legislative Commission Chair at [email protected], (773) 520-0369 or go to www.ncobraonline.org.