Congress members hold historic briefing on reparations and racial equity legislation

Washington DC - Members of Congress from both chambers on Wednesday held a joint briefing to urge passage of a slate of reparations and racial equity bills and resolutions.

Reps. Barbara Lee, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Jamie Raskin (from l. to r. clockwise) held a briefing urging the passage of legislation that addresses reparations and racial healing.
Reps. Barbara Lee, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Jamie Raskin (from l. to r. clockwise) held a briefing urging the passage of legislation that addresses reparations and racial healing.  © Collage: Credit Kimberly White & Chip Somodevilla & Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & Credit Mandel NGAN / AFP

Representatives Barbara Lee of California, Cori Bush of Missouri, Jamaal Bowman of New York, and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, along with Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, joined racial justice advocates at the Capitol to discuss what needs to be done to address the vestiges of enslavement and ongoing racial oppression.

During the meeting, the lawmakers discussed several measures proposed to recognize historic injustice and tackle present-day racial disparities, including:

  • H.R. 40, and its Senate companion S. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act
  • H.Con.Res.44, and its Senate companion S.Con. Res. 19, Urging the Establishment of a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation
  • H.Res.532, Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up
  • H.Res.414, the Reparations Now resolution
  • H.R. 2952, the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act of 2023
  • H.Res.1392, Recognizing "Banned Books Week"
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"As we confront the enduring legacy of racial discrimination, it is imperative that Congress take decisive action to not only acknowledge the historical wrongs inflicted that have systematically subjugated minority communities but also to implement reparative measures that can catalyze transformative change," Dr. David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a press release.

Together, the lawmakers' proposals provide a "legislative foundation as we strive to create a society where the pursuit of justice knows no bounds," added Dr. Marcus Anthony Hunter, co-convenor of the US Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Movement.

"It’s time for everyone to decide"

From l. to r.: Rep. Jamaal Bowman; Michele Ballantyne of the Recording Industry Association of America; Willie “Prophet" Stiggers of the Black Music Action Coalition; and Rep. Hank Johnson attend an event in Washington DC in support of the RAP Act.
From l. to r.: Rep. Jamaal Bowman; Michele Ballantyne of the Recording Industry Association of America; Willie “Prophet" Stiggers of the Black Music Action Coalition; and Rep. Hank Johnson attend an event in Washington DC in support of the RAP Act.  © TASOS KATOPODIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The much-needed legislation faces a steep uphill battle for passage given the Republican majority in the House and narrow Democratic majority in the Senate.

Nevertheless, activists and advocates want lawmakers to understand that Black voters are watching, and there will be no toleration for further delays on fulfilling US racial justice obligations.

"When my father was born, Black people were still fighting for the right to exercise the 15th Amendment – it was 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and Black people were dying to have fundamental rights," said Willie "Prophet" Stiggers, president and CEO of the Black Music Action Coalition.

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"Unfortunately, this fight is still underway. Social justice warriors have proven to be the voice for the voiceless and the advocates for disenfranchised communities nationwide," he continued.

"It’s time for everyone to decide – how are you going to use your power, your influence, your resources, your pocketbook, to end systemic racism?"

"Black voters are awake, aware, activated, and demand real action."

Cover photo: Collage: Credit Kimberly White & Chip Somodevilla & Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & Credit Mandel NGAN / AFP

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