Reparations advocates urge President Joe Biden to act on HR-40 – Warn Black vote may be in jeopardy
On August 25th, the eve of the Rally and March commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the HR-40 Strategy Group convened a powerful assembly of reparations advocates at the gates to the White House to urge President Biden to create the HR-40 Commission by Executive Order immediately.
The diverse contingent of reparations leaders welcomed Rev. Dr. Robert Turner, Senior Pastor of Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, at the conclusion of his monthly 40-mile walk from the church to the White in support of HR-40.
Rev. Turner confessed to being extremely tired after a grueling walk of more than 83,000 steps, but he expressed joy at seeing the group of prominent leaders who welcomed him. He vowed to continue his monthly ’40-for-40′ walks until President Biden acts on HR-40. Rev. Turner’s remarks were followed by a succession of advocates who hammered home the urgency of the President creating the HR-40 Commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans:
• Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, set the tone sending a message to President Biden that his promise to “redeem the soul of America” cannot be realized without fulfilling the promissory note that Dr. King called on America to redeem at the March on Washington 60 years ago. “Redemption is reparations. No redemption without reparations,” Rev. Haynes declared.
• Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Black America’s leading political economist, stressed that the horrific massacres, destruction of prosperous Black neighborhoods and communities like Black Wall Street in Tulsa and the thousands of lynchings of Black men and women was the result of “White economic envy” of the progress African Americans made despite rigid racial barriers. Dr. Malveaux called on Biden to support HR-40 to address the injuries inflicted on Black people by White economic envy.
• Dr. E. Faye Williams, President of the International Dick Gregory Society, came fired up and ready for the fight, encouraging the leaders and advocates to be “long distance runners” like Brother Dick and keep pushing until Biden signs the HR-40 Executive Order.
• In that same vein, Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s National Advisor of Governance and Policy, informed those in attendance that Black America’s oldest and largest civil rights legacy organization reaffirmed its longstanding support of HR-40 at its recent National Convention in Boston, sending a clear message to President Biden that the NAACP will remain steadfast in the fight until HR-40 is adopted.
• Minister Christian Watkins, government relations advocate, Network Lobby, speaking on behalf of the more than one hundred thousand members of the powerful Catholic social justice organization Network Lobby, outlined the case for reparations and spoke to the urgency of the moment. He urged President Biden, as a Catholic man of faith, to take the long overdue step of moving HR-40 forward immediately.
• David Inoue, Executive Director, Japanese American Citizens League, cited the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations to Japanese Americans for their internment in concentration camps in the U.S during World War II, as an example that through struggle, compelling the U.S. government to make restitution through reparatory justice is possible. He reaffirmed the strong support of Japanese Americans for an executive order to establish the HR-40 Commission.
• In one of the highlights of the inspirational action, Vashti McKenzie, the first female Bishop of the AME Church and current President of the National Council of Churches, joined the leaders at the gates of the White House by recounting the long history of demands for reparations by African Americans and emphasized that the repair of Black communities is past time. Bishop McKenzie led the group in a call and response chant of “what time, past time,” as she called on the President to embrace HR-40.
• Kamm Howard, Executive Director of Reparations United, effectively made the closing argument for Biden to act on HR-40 immediately, warning that the failure to do so will dampen Black voter enthusiasm for the President’s re-election in 2024. He cited several studies which provide evidence that Black voters are the most reliable base for the Democratic Party. Howard predicted that creating the HR-40 Commission by Executive Order would “fire-up the Black base”, particularly among skeptical younger voters. He warned again: “Biden needs the Black vote.”
Dr. Ron Daniels, Facilitator for the HR-40 Strategy Group, was extremely pleased with the powerful commitments expressed by the leaders who gathered at the gates to the White House. He commended Rev. Dr. Robert Turner for his 40-for-40 walks as the kind of courageous moral act that will intensify the appeals for the President to act on HR-40. “We will await a response from President Biden to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, our visionary Lead Sponsor on HR-40,” Dr. Daniels said. “If he does not respond by the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, in the spirit of Dr. King, we will call for direct action to ensure that Biden gets the point that we intend to collect on the promissory note.”