Have you seen the June Atlantic Monthly cover article, The Case for Reparations?
I saw it over Memorial Day weekend while I was attending the National Gathering of Coming to the Table. This organization is composed of both descendants of slaveholders and the enslaved and aims to heal the historic harms of slavery. It might sound hard to believe but, I was actually in my second reparations session of the weekend when I learned of the article. (The Gathering facilitators polled participants beforehand to see what kind of subjects they’d want us to focus on during our weekend together. Reparations was so popular, that our planning committee felt two “reparations” sessions were needed.)
I helped facilitate the first session and was inspired to hear the variety of forms reparations might take, in particular how my co-facilitator put the idea into action. After connecting with descendants of the people her ancestors enslaved, she set up a scholarship fund to help support those descendants’ and others’ educations.
In the next session, my cousin pulled the Atlantic Monthly article from her bag. The facilitators had already read it as had many of the other participants. As we went around the table talking about our own experiences of ancestors lost to lynchings, land lost to shady dealings, faith lost to the forced and unpaid labor of generations of people without recompense, all of us agreed that at the very least, Congress should pass bill HR40 to study reparations.
As I drove the six hours home from our conference site at Eastern Mennonite University campus in Harrisonburg, VA past rolling hills, pregnant pastures, grazing cows and horses, I felt inspired. I’d arrived at the conference feeling lackluster. As a board member, I had participated in strategic planning sessions before the conference got started where we brainstormed ideas on how to partner with organizations that lined up with our missions and values while also getting the word out about our young organization. I couldn’t imagine how we would do this. But then, I could never have imagined being on any board or that an organization like Coming to the Table would even exist. I ended up at Coming to the Table because I was researching my family’s history and came across descendants of the family that had enslaved my ancestors:
- which led me to an article about the kin of slaves and masters, featuring my reparations co-facilitator of the education fund fame
- which led me to more researching and the cousin who pulled out the Atlantic Monthly article
- which eloquently outlined that there is already an easy solution to looking at reparations in bill HR40
- which lines up with CTTT’s missions and values.
Gotta love serendipity.
Thanks to everyone in the reparations groups and to all who came to Coming to the Table’s National Gathering for the inspiration of your individual stories. You motivated Coming to the Table to start a petition to urge Congress to pass HR40. Please sign it here. A study of reparations is long overdue.
What has ancestral serendipity inspired you to do?