- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Slavery-reparations supporters from all over the country will converge on the National Mall this weekend, seeking trillions of dollars from the public treasury.
They claim the cash as their right, contending that America's 34 million blacks still suffer from slavery, which ended 137 years ago.
Calling their march the "Millions for Reparations" rally with the slogan "They Owe Us," the organizers say they will continue such protests until the money is delivered.
"This is just the beginning of a mass movement," promised Baba Kalonji Tor Olusegun, a board member and co-founder of N'COBRA, a reparations group formed in 1988. "There are other actions being planned, and this rally is just a start."
The rally timed to coincide with the 115th anniversary of the birth of black nationalist Marcus Garvey is organized by a handful of advocacy groups, including N'COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America) and an organization called the National Black United Front.
Mr. Olusegun, 72, says America owes all the nation's blacks for "a white power structure that was built on the backs of enslaved blacks." The roster of those disenfranchised, he says, "has moved across the spectrum to all folks who are non-European." Recent reparations lawsuits against major corporations "are indicative of an awareness that the money gleaned from the slave trade has been diversified, and even institutions like Harvard are based on slave trade."
Over the past 15 years, conferences, rallies and marches have been held in support of reparations. Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, presents each legislative session a bill to study the issue; it is invariably soundly defeated.
Organizers are encouraging supporters to begin with a "Black Friday" during which they only buy goods and services from black businesses and vendors. The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, will speak Friday night at Plymouth Congregational Church in the District.
A Saturday gathering of the demonstrators is scheduled for 8 a.m. in Lincoln Park, and the march will progress to the Mall by noon. The forum on the Mall will not feature any celebrity speakers. Instead, "this will be about real people, not these 'big name' people who wouldn't stand up before," says Alvin Brown, an N'COBRA board member from St. Louis.
"These people like Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan never said anything about reparations" until recently, Mr. Brown says. "This event is for the grass roots, regular people who have something to say."
Marchers will come from many parts of the country. Two hundred persons signed up to ride a chartered bus from Houston after the City Council declined to endorse the Conyers proposal. A number of cities, including Dallas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and New York, have adopted resolutions backing Mr. Conyers' bill.
"People here are ready for this to move ahead and they are angry over the idea that we couldn't get enough votes to back that resolution," says a man who calls himself Omowale, a member of Houston's office of the National Black United Front. "It was an indictment of Houston, and this won't be forgotten."
Morris Griffin, a maintenance worker for Los Angeles County, has had his signs ready for weeks. "Fair Share!" one demands in large black letters. Flip it over and it says, "Reparations Now!"
"I want to see a black monument just like all the white monuments in Washington," says Mr. Griffin, a 6-foot-6 former college basketball player.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide