Kristine Hendrix

Earlier this year, I began the hashtag #FergusonFiveYearsLater to honor the upcoming anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising and to acknowledge the fact that five years later so much has changed and so much has stayed the same.

As we reckon with the last five years and the re-invigorated climate of overt racism and white supremacist violence that’s emboldened and endorsed by those in the nation's highest office, it’s urgent and necessary work to dig into the festering wounds on which America is founded and to grapple with what healing might look like. The global reparations movement is the balm for what ails us, both spiritually and pragmatically.

Several organizations – Truth Telling Project, the Mike Brown Jnr Chosen for Change Foundation, Fellowship of Reconciliation, N’COBRA and more – are collaborating to hold a National Convening on Reparations at St. Mark Church over the anniversary weekend.

The Convening will see over a hundred activists and organizers from local and national Black-led grassroots organizations come together in solidarity with the families of those impacted by police violence to examine reparations through the lens of police brutality.

We join alongside the many other groups clamoring for reparative justice at a time when the issue is gathering acceptance in the wider community and public discourse.

Polling shows almost one-third of Americans support some form of reparations, 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought here, with a congressional hearing finally taking place in Washington last month on H.R 40 some three decades after former U.S. Rep. John Conyers began bringing his legislation to study reparations to the table.

We see reparations as a key component of any process of healing and reconciliation, a process that acknowledges not just slavery, but its putrid legacy, via segregation, Jim Crow, redlining, voter suppression, the prison-industrial system and the arbitrary brutalization and executions of black people by those employed to “protect and serve.”

Our campaign is focused on educating and sharing the truth about the black experience in this country to encourage the repair and transformation of social and behavioral patterns and to put an end to the continuous violence – both structural and direct – against communities of color.

The campaign works to facilitate structural and individual repair by creating direct grassroots reparational relationships. A grassroots  - or interpersonal – approach to reparations encourages people and institutions of moral conscience to reflect on their unfair advantages and do their part to repair generations of structural discrimination and political inequality that have caused massive harm and trauma to black folk. 

We believe it is imperative for spiritual and faith communities in particular to be involved in the work of reconciliation. These communities are called upon to accept and acknowledge their complicity in the structural injustices of racism and white supremacy, as well as to own their role and responsibility for repairing harm done. 

The Convening will culminate in a National Day of Reparations on August 11. The goal will be to assist faith communities to become better educated about reparations as a spiritual practice rooted in sacred principles such as repentance, restitution, rehabilitation, reconciliation, and repair. Given the transformative values of this campaign, increasing awareness in faith communities offers the potential for them to engage in the long-term work of advocacy for policy and system changes and healing.

Reparations is a spiritual journey and peace treaty for the healing Black Americans are owed and this nation deserves. Those who yearn for freedom cannot rest.

Ferguson taught me so much. It gave me hopes, dreams and perspective. It gave me life and brought me near death. It taught me the problems are complex and the solutions aren’t simple, but that this region and this nation must begin the process of repair. Ferguson has seen enough programs and not-for-profit dollars that don’t have a lasting impact on communities. Black communities are owed reparations: a true system that acknowledges the sins of the past and present, and that radically changes our culture into one of healing and repair where systems of oppression no longer exist.

Kristine Hendrix is a mother, Ferguson activist, national organizer for the Truth Telling Project, a contributor to We Stay Woke podcast and president of the University City Board of Education.

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