Lawmakers and grassroots groups urge Biden to act on reparations and racial justice on President's Day

Washington DC - Over 150 grassroots groups joined Democratic lawmakers in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to take immediate action on reparations and other racial justice priorities.

Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Sheila Jackson Lee speak outside the Capitol in support of H.R. 40, legislation to enact a federal reparations commission for Black Americans.
Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Sheila Jackson Lee speak outside the Capitol in support of H.R. 40, legislation to enact a federal reparations commission for Black Americans.  © Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

"As members of Congress representing a broad spectrum of American society, we are united by the common goal of achieving racial equity and reparative justice, thereby enhancing our nation's ability to celebrate our shared humanity," Democratic Representatives Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman wrote in a letter to Biden on President's Day.

The lawmakers then called on Biden to take executive action to carry out the mandate in several critical pieces of legislation:

  • H.R. 40 / S. 40, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act;
  • H.Con.Res. 44 / 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, Recognizing that the United States has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm on the lives of millions of Black people in the United States;
  • H.R. 2952, The Restoring Artistic Protection Act of 2023;
  • H.Res.733, Recognizing "Banned Books Week";
  • H.R. 14, The John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2023;
  • H.R. 4699, The People's Response Act;
  • H.R. 1255 / S. 3257, Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr., and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act of 2023;
  • H.R. 765 / S. 233, The African American History Act; and
  • H.Res.988, The Equity for All Resolution.
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"This is a defining moment for our nation. Let us rise to meet it with courage, commitment, and a spirit of collaboration," the representatives wrote.

Grassroots groups elevate the demand for reparative justice

President Joe Biden is being urged by fellow Democrats as well as grassroots organizers to enact a federal reparations commission by executive order in addition to other racial justice priorities.
President Joe Biden is being urged by fellow Democrats as well as grassroots organizers to enact a federal reparations commission by executive order in addition to other racial justice priorities.  © Chip Somodevilla / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Also on Monday, more than 150 people-powered groups – including the National Black Justice Coalition, United By Equity, the Black Music Action Coalition, and more – sent a similar letter echoing the lawmakers' call for justice.

"For far too long, the scars and trauma of racial inequity have marred the United States. The time for change and action is now," they wrote.

The demand for Biden to exercise his executive privilege comes as the reparations movement gains steam around the country while remaining stalled at the federal level.

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"As we face another election year, this conversation regarding urgent executive action is not just about policy – it is about the people of the United States of America, the fate of our democracy, national unity, and national security," the groups stated.

"Together, we stand ready to support and engage in the work ahead. With your leadership, we can turn the tide of history. We can begin to heal the past and present wounds and move forward with a shared vision of an America that truly embodies the ideals of liberty, justice, equity, and equality for all."

"Together, we can reap the shared dividends of solidarity and common purpose."

Cover photo: Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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