Speakers launched heated barbs at the final California Reparations Task Force meeting Thursday and one called for a “divorce” from the U.S. The gathering came just over a month after the panel urged the state to shell out up to $1.2 million to each qualifying Black resident.
Sparks flew during the public speaking segment. One participant, Reggie Romaine, told the crowd that the $1.2 million recommendation would not be enough to make amends.
He told the task force that, while he appreciated their efforts towards reparations, they “opened up a whole can of worms.” He added, “America, from the evidence that they gave us, you’re guilty.”
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Romaine referred to the widely discredited 1619 Project, which claimed that the nation was founded on slavery. In his mind, the country “married” Black Americans and now owes them a divorce.
The terms, he declared, would be “half the money, half the land, alimony, child support, attorney fees, and everything else.”
He then endorsed his website for the “1619 Party.”
Several California citizens loudly proclaimed into the microphone that the time for redress is “now!” One speaker urged attendees to raise their fists into the air and chant a mantra for restitution.
Identified as Donnie Brown, the man told the crowd that today is “a day of celebration.” Then he asked the people to stand and let the world hear them chant.
Brown asked the gathering, “Answer my question: What do we want?” With several fists in the air, the loud response was, “reparations!” Brown followed with “when?” The crowd obligatorily yelled, “now!”
The meeting was the last in a series of public events held by the task force for state officials and Californians to have talks over the reparations issue. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom initially opposed the idea before caving into activists and launching this first-in-the-nation effort.
One Black woman told the audience that her ancestors were never repaid for their enslavement and did not reap “the promise of America.”
The chances of certain Californians getting a $1.2 million payday are slim. Even many supporters are attempting to dampen enthusiasm for a result that is not likely forthcoming.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, a member of the task force, said Thursday that people should not expect reparations “with one legislative cycle or two legislative cycles, or one bill.”