I was assisted in the transcription and commentary of this open letter by a solid bottle of Cooper & Thief Red Blend (Aged in Bourbon Barrels) 2019 – Lodi California. A blend of Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Leading in with spiced vanilla, caramel, and bourbon. Inky and rich. A sustain of black cherry, figs, and plums. Medium tannins. Moderate acidity. Ending with maple, vanilla, and sweet spice. Clean but medium finish.
“You are growing into consciousness and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
“When we say that people [American Freedmen] are poor, we’re not talking about people just lacking money. We’re talking about people who are living under particular conditions that destroy values, minds, outlooks, spirits, and continue to perpetuate poverty through the types of [downtrodden] psychology that is ultimately inculcated within those people.”
Dr. Amos Wilson
Gentlemen of the Pure Reparations Movement – in this post I want to highlight the real fact of the Sister Soldiers in our movement. This powerful letter was penned by powerful Sister Morgan Malachi of the Tubman House Center For Reparative Justice (a link to their website is at the bottom of this post).
Her Twitter handle is: @Moreaga1865 – follow her.
One of the things that struck me about this letter is that it – in concrete writer-ship is showing me that the simple message and the complex implications of reparations is becoming the mentality of young American Freedmen. Right Now. At the same time – THE SISTERS have been absolutely breathtaking in their understanding, their up-front advocacy, and their steadfastness. I could find no lies in this letter. Between the lines though – that Black mama, sister, auntie, type protectiveness – Y’all know what I mean. That love. That unconditional trust. Came through.
The other reason I reposted this letter is because I was getting a little worn-out from the “advocational grind.” You Know? And getting tired of being unjustly attacked by some of the less enlightened advocates simply because I was born in 1956 (the Sisters protected me against that too – shot my opposition down). This letter (along with Sister Morgan) re-inspired and reinvigorated me to continue the work despite all the despites I could use to excuse myself from reparations justice activities.
Here It Is:
An Open Letter to American Freedmen (Otherwise Known as Black Americans) On the Issue of Lineage Based Reparations
By Tubman House Center For Reparative Justice
The growing grassroots push for reparations has been tainted by an erroneous narrative questioning who the descendants of US chattel slavery are and how this Black population can possibly be distinguished from the current Black immigrant population. This ahistorical narrative is extremely dismissive and rooted in the inherent disrespect of American Freedmen. We write this as members of the grassroots American Freedmen reparations community.
A so-called ‘legacy’ organization, the “National African American Reparations Commission” (NAARC), spoke out against lineage-based reparations in a recent press release, stating that this is the “second time” they’re addressing who qualifies for American Freedmen reparations. Did we not hear about it the first time because NAARC is only interested in maintaining their position as gatekeepers in the [reparations activist] community?
Who gave NAARC, and the affiliated organizations mentioned in the press release permission to assert themselves as the leaders in this movement? Affiliates like the “National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America” (N’COBRA), Black Lives Matter (BLM), Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), the NAACP, National Urban League, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, National Congress of Black Women, National Council of Negro Women, and the National Action Network (NAN)?
Did NAARC present their perspective to the masses of American Freedmen to obtain any consensus? No perspective given that we’ve seen. In truth, NAARC’s letter is rife with common misconceptions and obtuse questions used to muddle the righteous justice claim of American Freedmen. [See 1]
Queen Mother Moore was a leading figure in the reparations struggle of the twentieth century, she authored a pamphlet titled: “Why Reparations?” in 1963. The pamphlet is an extensive account of atrocities American Freedmen endured during slavery throughout the Reconstruction era. She also writes a timeline on direct reparation payments throughout history. Queen Mother Moore’s language and specificity of the people harmed and their descendants who demand repair was very clear. Here is a powerful passage from “Why Reparations?:” [See 2]
“Relative to members of the Black Race who boast of one white parent, and wish
to identify themselves with that parent rather than identify themselves with the
Black Race, the Committee follows the custom [as] established by the United
States Government and rules,’ …an individual with one drop of ‘Negro’ blood in
his or her veins is considered a Negro.’ However, the Committee declares that those individuals who do not wish to share in the just and fair Reparations, are
not obligated to do so. They are however, obligated not to join the enemies
[whites and Negro reparations oppositionists] of the American citizens of African
descent to campaign against the payment of Reparations.”
N’COBRA, NAARC, and IBW are acting as reparation oppositionists; they are obligated to remember their elders’ words and not act as the enemy of reparations for the American Freedmen. Queen Mother Moore was not talking about Africans, Caribbeans, or Black Latinos. She was discussing American Freedmen that can trace their lineage to United States chattel slavery exclusively.
NAARC is an organization that has not been relevant to American Freedmen in thirty years. This organization is in total opposition to the current political moment. IBW is also in association with a known federal informant – Ronald Karenga, a convicted torturer of Black women. These are the organizations supposedly appointed to the American Freedmen struggle for reparations? This is a complete farce. The purpose of reparations is to address a specific historical “LINEAGE” that is – descendants of chattel slavery in the United States. [Insertions of] Atlantic world slavery and imperialism are out of place in this discussion. [See 3 and 4]
The “confusion” being presented by anti-lineage based organizations such as N’COBRA, NAARC, and the IBW is abhorrent. The eligibility assertion made by NAARC that the opposing organizations are promoting “genetic based lineage” is false. Lineage-based reparations is solely based on identifying American Freedmen – whom are well documented on US census records. [See 5]
The United States government has accurately documented both our enslaved ancestors as well as Black people who immigrated to the United States. Enslaved American Freedmen and their descendants will not be located on any immigration documentation. The tactics used to disrupt lineage based reparations are not going unnoticed, and will continue to be fiercely refuted. Let there be no mistake, the American Freedmen population may not [yet] have a census designation – but we know exactly who we are. We are a distinct ethnic group that will not be collapsed under a false notion of universal Blackness.
Like American Freedmen lineage, the records of formerly enslaved American Freedmen (and their descendants) demanding the United States government pay reparations is another subject well documented in US History. On March 11, 1867 H.R. 29 was introduced. This bill outlined land confiscation within the “Confederate States of America” to be distributed to former slaves. [See 6]
Our ancestor Callie House was imprisoned in 1918 for daring to fight for the type of legislation being delayed by derisive notions that enslaved American Freedmen descendants are a mystical group of hard to designate people in America. American Freedmen and their ancestors who built America deserve better. We, the descendants of the formerly enslaved American Freedmen, will be as vigilant as our ancestors in ensuring the protection of our inheritance. We will confront disrespect and demand accountability from parties convoluting our full repair. We will confront those who seek to devalue our lineage with attempts to revise the history of the American Freedmen’s reparation movements.
We are here to say you will handle our people with the utmost respect within this sacred work of repairing our ancestral harms. Do not tell us it is difficult to know whom has been fully harmed as Black people living in America. We have no qualms directing you to American cemeteries throughout the country where our ancestors have been laid to rest for hundreds of years. Some of those cemeteries have been discovered underneath American colonial city buildings. American Freedmen lineage is abundantly clear to the people and the government (because there is extensive and comprehensive documentation available). Any confused parties are implored to research the history of American Freedmen. [See 7, 8, 9]
American Freedmen created a culture in the United States which is inextricably linked to our experience as enslaved people [in America]. We ask NAARC this: “Can someone simply move to Nigeria and become a Yoruba?” Can someone just move to Ghana and become an Asante? Why are American Freedmen expected to subsume and repair the entire Diaspora? If everyone otherwise lineaged and/or recently landed here can be an American Freedman – then who are we?
In the era before the 1965 Immigration Bill the numbers of Black immigrants were minuscule compared to our current era. Today these groups are here in larger numbers and have created their own separate ethnic based communities. This is why you have places such as “Little Liberia” and “Little Haiti.” What do these communities have to do with American Freedmen culture? Kwame Ture and Shirley Chisholm worked within established American Freedmen movements for liberation (as true allies and freedom fighters). They did not make the same ethnic distinctions current Black immigrants have made.
It is outrageous that NAARC would even mention Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, and Colin Powell in this conversation; they are obstructionists directly involved with American Freedmen oppression. During the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, American Freedmen Republican Alan Keyes had this to say about Obama:
“Well, frankly, I think that because of my race, race is no longer on the table.
As a matter of fact, I think it’s kind of strange – it’s one of those things that shows
that sometimes people don’t think things through. Barack Obama and I have the
same race – that is, physical characteristics. We are not from the same heritage.
And it’s about time people started to realize that there’s something racist about
not looking at the specific heritage of individuals, but only looking at their skin
“My ancestors toiled in slavery in this country. They were people who were
directly a part of the oppression of slavery in this country. My consciousness, who
I am as a person, has been deeply shaped by my struggle – deeply emotional and deeply painful – with the reality of that heritage and what it says about humanity, what it says about conscience, what it says about the terrible possibilities of human wickedness and injustice.”
“And that’s why, I believe, the slaughter of innocent life and the young is a direct
challenge to me, because of my heritage – not to do, with respect to that innocent
life in the womb, what others did with respect to my ancestors. That’s a burden I
bear. It’s also a great challenge that I feel.”
“Well, you know, I guess Mr. Keyes started off making a point that, somehow, he
is more authentically African American than I am. You know, I obviously find that
offensive, but moving forward, I thought this was a question about race.”
NAARC, N’COBRA, and the IBW continue to negate Obama’s ethnicity by pushing him into this discussion. American Freedmen are an ethnic group that Barack Obama – the 44th President of the United States is simply not a part of. The ethnicity of a formerly enslaved population should be respected and protected.
Obama also clashed with American Freedmen politicians in 2015 during Baltimore’s Freddie Gray uprisings. While addressing the growing clash between American Freedmen youth in Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department – Obama referred to our young people as a “Handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.” In reaction to Obama’s comment, Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes said:
“You might as well just call them [N-words] if you’re going to call the city’s youth
thugs. We don’t have to call them names such as that.”
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield had this to say on Obama’s comment:
”These are children, high school students, you know, and I would not want to
classify them as thugs. […] Certainly they are lawbreakers, but they’re still
children. […] These are youth, these are teenagers who are misguided, who
don’t have the same maturity that adults have, and I would not venture to call
Obama, Powell, and Harris have actively worked against Black liberation in America. They are also descendants of [Black] immigrants. How ironic is it that the people previously named were put in positions that American Freedmen still have not been able to access. [See 10 through 16]
NAARC mentions the murder of Amadou Diallo. Here is a perfect example of Black immigrants making distinctions based on ethnicity in America. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the late great Johnnie Cochran mobilized behind Kadiatou Diallo (Amadou Diallo’s mother). Al Sharpton was instrumental in the building of the Amadou Diallo Foundation. In return for the diligence American Freedmen activism provided, Kadi Diallo fired Johnnie Cochran and hired a white lawyer. Alton Maddox Jr., an Al Sharpton ally, was quoted saying in an op-ed article for The New York Amsterdam News:
”Make no mistake about it, […] the mother of Amadou Diallo …is no Rosa Parks. While Parks retained and stuck with an attorney of African ancestry, […] Kadiatou Diallo has suspiciously chosen to replace attorney Johnnie Cochran with a Wall Street law firm which has no history of rocking the boat or threatening the status quo.”
Alton Maddox Jr. goes on to say:
”All that the African community has done for Diallo, […] she announced
(through her recently retained white attorney) …that it was time for the city to
heal from the racial strife caused by the marches and demonstrations in the
aftermath of her son’s death. She is either an opportunist or a fool or both. Civil disobedience did not cause this city’s racial strife.”
Kadiatou Diallo chose to side with the system of white supremacy instead of resisting it. Therefore breaking the social contract between American Freedmen and Black immigrants. Kadiatou Diallo was also able to petition the US government for repair. The descendants of US chattel slavery deserve the same redress. Diallo’s mother Kadiatou Diallo is quoted talking about the ways she’s putting the settlement money she was awarded towards her specific ethnic advocacy:
“The foundation will be working on bringing the Amadou Diallo scholarship that has been proposed to help [immigrant] students, because, you know, my son came to America for a reason. He wanted to gain higher education in an American college”
American Freedmen should have the same opportunity. [See 17, 18]
Like Amadou Diallo, the murder of Eric Garner was a tragedy. The harm his immediate family suffered in the aftermath is the type of injustice American Freedmen can never see repaired. Erica Garner (Eric’s daughter) passed away at the age of 27. Her mother Esaw Snipes was quoted as saying:
“The only thing I can say is that she was a warrior […] She fought the good fight.
This is just the first fight in 27 years she lost. I warned her every day, you have to
slow down, you have to relax and slow down.”
Erica Garner herself was quoted saying:
“That’s the most annoying question I get. People ask: ‘When will you stop
marching? What do you want from marching?’ He was my father, […] I will always march.”
The direct result of generational harms can not be denied in the Garner family case. Even though families dealing with police violence have access to monetary redress, the lasting epigenetic effects on American Freedmen families will never compare to any other ethnicity in the US. [See 19, 20]
The wealth of America, without a shadow of a doubt, was built on the centuries of free labor from American Freedmen. Any organization representing the American Freedmen community that denies this simple fact is illegitimate. Slave labor definitively established this country as a global economic power.
Throughout history the harms of America were inflicted in overwhelming numbers to the descendants of US chattel slavery, not Black immigrants. Additionally, the decision – the choice to enter a well-known racialized society was not afforded to American Freedmen. US racism is a system of oppression. Systemic oppression was organized as a necessary mechanism of US chattel slavery, and American Freedmen were the targets of every form of racialized discrimination that was created after emancipation. Below is just a small selection of historic events. Let’s look at how many Black immigrants would have actually been affected. [See 21, 22]
The Homestead Act May 20 1862:
White people were given land by the American government, leaving behind American Freedmen. The 1860 US census documents 526 African immigrants and 7,353 immigrants from the West Indies. The American Freedmen population was not documented on the US census until 1870 at which time our numbers exceeded 4 million. The outrage and injustice of 4 million people is being conflated with the experiences of a miniscule number of Black immigrants. [See 23]
In 1933, the US government started a program to segregate America’s housing market. The 1930 US census documents zero African immigrants and 23,512 West Indian immigrants. In contrast, 1.7 million Italians were the highest immigrant population at the time. The 1930 US census documents 11.9 million American Freedmen impacted by Redlining. [See 24]
War On Drugs June 1971:
President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971. The 1970 US census records 61,463 Black African immigrants (once again at 1,008,533 – Italians were the highest immigrant population). The US Census shows in 1970, 22.6 million American Freedmen were about to be impacted by this war. [See 25]
Lineage based reparations is an indisputable reparative justice issue. From 1619 through the present day – American Freedmen have yet to be approached in this conversation with the honor that has been earned. These “legacy” organizations – N’COBRA, NAARC, and IBW absolutely do not speak for the American Freedmen justice claim. These organizations do not and will never have the right to obscure our struggle for reparations with shameless ethnicity erasure tactics. N’COBRA, NAARC, IBW, and all other agent provocateurs want to give American Freedmen inheritance away to ALL Black people in America. This will not happen and we are here to ensure the success of lineage based reparations. [See 26]
For truth, solidarity, and our ancestors we implore every American Freedman to make their disapproval and righteous anger known. Respectability politics will never prevent organizations like these from bastardizing our reparations claim. We will not allow respectability politics to influence the way we address N’COBRA, NAARC, IBW, and other irrelevant community leeches. We ask that the real grassroots reparations movement embody the strength of every ancestor that built America to ensure these Black gatekeepers understand fully that their time is up!
END OF LETTER
As you have read – this letter serves as an enlightenment and a warning.
There is no more important issue for American Freedmen to pursue at this time than reparations. Full Stop. This movement has no room for ambiguity or side conversations. No room for Black gatekeepers operating as proxies for white supremacy. It is time for the intelligent deployment of our anger and indignation into securing our withheld inheritance. This letter embodies that intelligence.
01. The NAARC position on reparations eligibility and in what forms it should take = https://reparationscomm.org/naarc-news/press-releases/who-should-receive-reparations-and-in-what-form-032522/
02. The Freedmen Absolute Blog – which includes the post “The Mascotting Of Queen Mother Audley Moore” = https://freedmenabsolute.com/2022/03/06/the-mascotting-of-queen-mother-audley-moore/
03. Dr. Maulana Karenga – “Lifting and Holding Up Heaven: Women’s and Men’s Work In the World” = https://ibw21.org/commentary/dr-maulana-karenga/lifting-and-holding-up-heaven-womens-and-mens-work-in-the-world-2/
04. The Kwanzaa Con: Created by a Rapist and Torturer = https://www.chicagonow.com/publius-forum/2011/12/the-kwanzaa-con-created-by-a-rapist-and-torturer/
05. Population of the United States in 1860 = https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/population/1860a-02.pdf
06. No Pensions for Ex-Slaves – National Archives = https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/summer/slave-pension.html
07. No Pensions for Ex-Slaves – National Archives = https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/summer/slave-pension.html
08. Philadelphia’s Black Burial Grounds and the Battle for Preservation = https://billypenn.com/2019/03/24/phillys-black-burial-grounds-and-the-battle-for-preservation/
09. Under Wall Street Lies a Legacy of Slavery – High Time for a Tour = https://thecorrespondent.com/5312/under-wall-street-lies-a-legacy-of-slavery-high-time-for-a-tour/715844997824-125573a2
10. Little Liberia = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Liberia
11. Little Haiti = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Haiti
12. Definition of Reparations = https://www.dictionary.com/browse/reparations
13. The Keyes – Obama Debates: Africans and African Americans = https://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/passages/4761530.0009.002/–keyes-obama-debates-africans-and-african-americans?rgn=main;view=fulltext
14. “The Problem With Thugs” (Freddie Gray) = https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-thugs-freddie-gray-20150429-story.html
15. “Black Lawmakers Push Back on Obama over ‘Thugs” = https://thehill.com/homenews/house/240807-black-lawmakers-push-back-on-obama-over-thugs/
16. “Barack Obama Is A War Criminal” = https://harvardpolitics.com/obama-war-criminal/
17. Kadi Diallo’s Trial = https://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/09/magazine/kadi-diallo-s-trial.html
18. Kadiatou Diallo, Mother of Amadou, Discusses $3M NYC Settlement = https://www.democracynow.org/2004/1/8/kadiatou_diallo_mother_of_amadou_discusses
19. “Erica Garner, Activist and Daughter of Eric Garner, Dies at 27” = https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/30/nyregion/erica-garner-dead.html
20. “Activist Erica Garner Remembered for Her Relentless Campaign for Justice” = https://www.washingtoninformer.com/erica-garner-activist-and-daughter-of-eric-garner-dies-after-heart-attack/
21. Foreign Born Population Statistics 1850 – 2010 = https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/foreignborn/#decade=1970
22. African Immigrant Population in U.S. Steadily Climbs = https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/14/african-immigrant-population-in-u-s-steadily-climbs/
23. The Homestead Act (1862) = https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/homestead-act
24. A “Forgotten History” Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America = https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america
25. A History of the Drug War = https://drugpolicy.org/issues/brief-history-drug-war
26. The NAARC position on reparations eligibility and in what forms it should take = https://reparationscomm.org/naarc-news/press-releases/who-should-receive-reparations-and-in-what-form-032522/
Tubman House Center For Reparative Justice Link = www.CallieTaskedUs.org
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