Reparations activists take fight for HR 40 to White House lawn with Pan-African flower garden

Washington DC - As Juneteenth approaches, reparations activists are taking their fight for HR 40 right to President Biden's front lawn.

Reparations activists prepare a Pan-African flag made out of flowers on the South Lawn of the White House.
Reparations activists prepare a Pan-African flag made out of flowers on the South Lawn of the White House.  © Screenshot/Twitter/Laura Pitter

Reparations advocates have called on the president to pass HR 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, by Juneteenth.

As the big day draws near, activists are making their demands almost impossible to ignore, setting up a 150-foot Pan-African flag flower installation outside the White House.

"This is an HR 40 reparations garden in the colors red, black, and green," said prominent reparations advocate Rev. Mark Thompson during the ceremony.

President Biden established Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021, but halfway into his presidency, he has not yet taken action to repair the damage caused by enslavement and centuries of racist policy in the US.

Though Juneteenth is a typically day of celebration, Thompson said, "For those of us in the coalition, there still is much more that needs to be done before we can celebrate."

"We will not be able to have a full celebration until HR 40 is implemented, either through passage in Congress or, as is symbolized today, via executive order by the president of the United States."

More advocates speak out

Reparations activists are calling on the federal government to address its own role in the enslavement and exploitation of Black people in the US.
Reparations activists are calling on the federal government to address its own role in the enslavement and exploitation of Black people in the US.  © Screenshot/Twitter/Laura Peralta

More activists took the mic to make the case for a federal reparations study commission.

Nkechi Taifa of the Reparation Education Project said, "Today on the Ellipse of the South Lawn of the White House, we come to resurrect the demands of Denmark Vesey and all of our ancestors for freedom – freedom! – from the vestiges and living legacies of the chattel enslavement period, freedom from the vestiges and living legacies Black Codes, the chain gangs, the convict leasing system, the sharecropping, the Jim Crow apartheid, the lynchings, the mass destruction of Black towns, the evisceration of the right to vote, the redlining, the Black-white wealth gap, the inferior and false education, the health disparities, the police killings, the mass incarceration, the denial of the right to self-determination."

"Today on the Ellipse of the South Lawn of the White House, we come to hold the federal government accountable for its role in this crime against humanity," she continued. "That's why we are here today on the grounds of the White House, surrounded by the red, black, and green symbol of freedom, to pronounce to the president of the United States that Black people can wait no longer for reparatory justice."

Dreisen Heath, Racial Justice Researcher and Advocate at Human Rights Watch, added, "We are standing in front of this White House built by enslaved labor, forced labor, to provide structure to our federal government that continues to undermine and suppress Black people today."

"If the federal government can recognize the significance of Juneteenth, they can recognize what comprehensively needs to be repaired."

Anyone who wants to add their voice to the call for HR 40 can send a letter to the White House through a form on the Human Rights Watch website.

Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/Laura Pitter

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