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California Assembly Passes Reparations Resolution; Paves Way for Compensation Discussions

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The process the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) promised to initiate to pass a package of reparations bills began Feb. 26, on the Assembly floor at the State Capitol with the passage of Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 135.

Authored by Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), ACR 135 — or the “Human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants recognizes the “harms and atrocities committed by representatives of the State of California who promoted, facilitated, enforced and permitted the institution of chattel slavery,” according to the language of the resolution.

The measure was unanimously approved with a 57-0 vote on the Assembly floor.

“ACR 135 is not only a resolution to affirm the (California Reparations Task Force) report,” Weber. Said during her presentation on the Assembly floor.  “It is also meant to educate ourselves on California’s history. Ida B. Wells wrote, ‘The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.’ The reparations task force turned the light on truth, and this is laid out in ACR 135.”

The nine-member reparations task force submitted a comprehensive 1,075-page report to the Legislature on June 28, 2023. The report contains the panel’s findings from a two-year study that involved investigations of harms, testimonies from community members, and up to 115 recommendations for compensation for eligible Black Californians.

On Jan. 31, the CLBC announced the introduction of the 2024 Reparations Priority Bill Package, which includes 14 pieces of legislation that represents the first step in a multi-year effort to implement the legislative recommendations in the report.

ACR 15 was among the list of considerations.

Regarding the passage of significant legislation related to reparations for Black Californians, Weber is following in her mother’s footsteps.

Her mother, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, authored AB 3121, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, as an Assemblymember representing the 79th District. This legislation was the first-in-the-nation bill created at the state level to study and recommend redress for past injustices against the descendants of African people enslaved in the United States.

During the announcement of the rollout of the bills on Feb. 21, CLBC Chair, Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), said the package was part of “30 reparations bills” the Black lawmakers are developing. A bill requesting a formal apology from the Governor and the Legislature for California’s historical injustices against African Americans is next in line, Wilson said.

The passage of ACR 135 will officially open discussions about reparations, Wilson said.

“This year’s legislative package tackles a wide range of issues from criminal justice reforms to property rights to education, civil rights, and food justice,” Wilson stated. “The Caucus is looking to make strides in the second half of this legislative session as we build towards righting the wrongs of California’s past in future sessions.”

Before the vote, members from the CLBC spoke about the significance of the report, educating their colleagues about the issues that affected the Black community after slavery, and the task ahead to get the reparations bills to the Governor’s desk.

The members of the CLBC that spoke on the floor were Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D- Ladera Heights), Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside), Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D- Los Angeles), Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).

Other members of the Assembly body shared their sentiments about ACR 135 as well.

Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland), the first Native American elected to the California Legislature, expressed his support for the bill.

“The consequences of those 246 years of slavery and a 100 of segregation still plague African Americans today, and indeed plagues all Americans today,” said Ramos. “It is a history of trauma that still needs to come to light to make sure we can overcome and start the healing process – not only in our nation but here also in the state of California. During those times of slavery, bondage and oppression, many African Americans fled that type of treatment to find solitude with Native American tribes.”

Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-Corona) condemned the state’s dark past.

“I rise in commendation of racial discrimination and the despicable indefensible treatment of Black Californians in our state’s early years,” Essayli said. “But I also rise as a proud Californian and believe that despite the bleak history of our early days our state has often been at the forefront of the fight for racial equality.”

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