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Harvard professor Charles Ogletree speaks in Portland on Reparations

On January, 19, Harvard professor Charles Ogletree spoke at the Reflections Bookstore in Northeast Portland on the topic of Reparations for the descendants of African American slaves. The event was preview of sorts of the upcoming Northwest Regional Reparations Conference, which is taking place at Portland State University from February 28 to March 2.

streaming AUDIO from the Ogletree event:
speech (22:12 min)
question and answer (22:25 min)

download Real Player to listen

On January, 19, Harvard professor Charles Ogletree spoke at the Reflections Bookstore in Northeast Portland on the topic of Reparations for the descendants of African American slaves. The event was preview of sorts of the upcoming Northwest Regional Reparations Conference, which is taking place at Portland State University from February 28 to March 2.

Reparations is a controversial topic, but Ogletree stated strongly that it is "an idea whose time has come". He characterized the battles during the 70's for civil rights, integration, and affirmative action as "piecemeal, partial, simplistic and very limited remedies for our problems" that did not result in real, significant change. The demand for Reparations, he said, is "not about a lawyer, or a politician, or any person -- it's about people." Paying back the debt would give African Americans the resources needed to overcome centuries of abuse and to create a new reality to replace the racist system that currently runs the country.

Reparations for property seized, liberty stolen and lives taken have been paid to Japanese-Americans for their internment during WWII, to Jews after the Holocaust, and to some Native Americans. Ogletree opened up history for the audience at Reflections and reminded everyone of the legacy of slavery. Much of the wealth of the United States was built on the labor of millions of African Americans, whose blood and sweat was forced to flow under bondage, without proper recompense and with great suffering.

How much has changed since slavery? "The problems we had as slaves were significant," Ogletree said. "We had problems with health care when we were slaves. We had problems with access to education as slaves. We had problems with access to jobs when we were slaves. We had problems with access to housing when we were slaves. You know what? I think we have those problems now. I think we have those problems today."

Yet the issue of Reparations goes further than money. "If we just get a check, and stay in the miserable situation we're in now, we'd make no progress. Because they'd happily pay us off, but we're not gonna go away. And they'd happily say, 'Go back to Africa.' Wait a minute! We built this country. We built all these temples. We made this the wealthiest country in the world, and now we're going to give it back and go somewhere else? No, no, no..."

"We're going to make sure that the investments of our slave brothers and sisters who aren't here, who can't speak, who don't have a voice, who don't even have a name... We have to make sure that the monuments that don't exist will be here so there will never be a time that citizens of this country can say they don't know about Africans and what they did to make it the great country that it is."

Ogletree, along with several well-known lawyers, is working on a series of legal cases that will be forcing the issue of Reparations in the U.S. courts. The monetary amount being discussed is in the trillions. "That's 12 zeros," Ogletree said. "We have an opportunity to transform who we are." The money should be spent to solve the problems of health, housing, education and employment that have been

Ogletree's analysis rejects the notion that class is at the heart of social problems in the U.S. "No matter how wealthy you are, it's race that matters," he said. "Racial profiling affects you without regard to class, right? People are stopped not because they're poor but because they're black... In many department stores, your race allows you a personal escort. 'Can I help you?' 'Can I follow you?' It has nothing to do with your income. It has everything to do with your race. No matter how much I make. No matter how many credit cards I have." 52% of people in jails are Black, though Blacks make up only 13% of the population. "That's a system that's built for failure."

Yet Ogletree ended on a hopeful note. "My pledge to you is that we're going to fight this battle with our last breath... And my challenge to you is this: Don't let this be another movement that dies from apathy." That is, only with community support and education can the Reparations Movement succeed. "We'll going to win this Reparations battle, and we'll win it for the next generation, as well as for those who sacrificed so long ago who made it possible for us to even be alive in America today."

Institutional and cultural racism in the United States runs deep, and has proven impossible to extricate so far. I don't think that most white people (myself included) have a clear idea -- or, more importantly, a true feeling -- of what it feels like to be born into brown skin, with all the historical baggage and contemporaneous manifestations that come with it. Just as men need to listen to women to overcome sexism, whites must listen to blacks to defeat racism. Listening is only the first step; action is the next.

One way to learn more about or support the Reparations Movement is by attending the Northwest Regional Reparations Conference at the end of this month. For more information, see: http://www.comfrey.net/reparations.

Come see video made from excerpts of Ogletree's speech at the next few pdx indy video collective "VIDEOS FROM THE RESISTANCE" showings:
2/5 - Lewis & Clark College, Council Chambers in Templeton, 7:00 p.m.
2/11 - Reed College, Biology 183 Lecture Hall, 8:00 p.m.
2/12 - Cascadia Forest Alliance, 1540 SE Clinton St., 6:30 p.m.
Related Black History Month events 01.Feb.2003 07:25


Everyone already knows that Pam Africa is speaking tonight at PSU Smith multicultural Center 6-8 p.m. in rm 228 (right?)

Reed College is hosting events and speakers as well that are also on the portland indy calendar:



(3203 SE Woodstock cr/str. 30th)

Events include lectures, readings, and an art exhibition

Reed College will celebrate Black History Month in February with four notable visitors: Randall Robinson, internationally respected advocate for human rights and democracy; renowned sociologist Orlando Patterson; poet, playwright, and activist Sonia Sanchez; and noted Portland artist Isaka Shamsud-Din. Events include lectures, readings, and an art exhibition (see schedule below for details). All events are free and open to the public; for information see  http://web.reed.edu/publicevents or call the Reed events
line at 503/777-7755.



Isaka Shamsud-Din, the first James DePreist Professor of art at Portland State University, is a lifelong Portland artist whose work appears in the Portland Art Museum and in many collections (including that of Reed College) around the region. Shamsud-Din's ties to PSU reach back to the 1960s, when he was president of the Black Student Union and later worked to introduce scholarship opportunities for minority students. Though he left Portland to be involved in the civil rights movement in the South and work in the San Francisco area, Shamsud-Din found himself in Portland again in the 1980s. He then involved himself in mural projects at local high schools and government buildings in an attempt to create a self-perpetuating sense of community among African American artists. He hopes to continue these efforts and more in his new position.

Randall Robinson is author of The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks; The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other; and Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America. A past president of TransAfrica and TransAfrica Forum, Robinson is widely recognized for his leadership of the Free South Africa Movement (which pushed successfully for the imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions to end apartheid in South Africa), his efforts to highlight the effect of globalization on Africa and the Caribbean, his work to win support for reparations for African Americans, and his efforts to alert Americans to the causes and implication of America's burgeoning prison industrial complex. Robinson has worked as assistant to Congressman Charles Diggs and Congressman William Clay, was a Ford Foundation Fellow, and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Sponsored by Reed's Multicultural Enrichment Committee.

Orlando Patterson is John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. His research into historical and contemporary America, with special emphasis on the intersecting problems of race, immigration, and multiculturalism, has distinguished him as one of the nation's leading authorities on slavery and its legacies. His books include Slavery and Social Death, Rituals of Blood: The Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries, and Freedom: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, for which he won the National Book Award. Recipient of the Ralph Bunche Sociological Award of the American Political Science Association for the best scholarly work on pluralism, Patterson is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of three novels, a number of anthologized short stories, and numerous reviews and critical essays that appear regularly in the New York Times, Newsweek, and the New Republic. Sponsored by Reed's Multicultural Enrichment Committee with support from the Reed sociology, anthropology, and political science departments; the Charles McKinley Fund; and the R.H. and B.D. Ellis sociology lecture fund.

Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Wounded in the House of a Friend, and most recently Shake Loose My Skin. Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, an American Book Award, a Pew Fellowship, the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, and the 2001Frost Medal for Distinguished Achievement from the Poetry Society of America. A founding member of the "Broadside Quartet," Sanchez is also known for her involvement in the civil rights movement and later in the black arts movement. She has lectured and has read her poetry widely nationally and internationally. Sponsored by Reed's Multicultural Enrichment Committee with support from Reed Arts Week (RAW), Reed's division of literature and languages, and the Reed visiting writers series.

resized pic for feature 01.Feb.2003 10:07

pdx indy graphics drone #6082

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They'll win in the courts 02.Feb.2003 03:23

Uncle Heshie

If you think they're gonna get courts in this country to award them reparations, you're nuts. We already know they're nuts. Who do they think the judges are, Tom Hayden and Susan Sarandon? Get real!! However, they do make a moral case, so I'll go $20. Where do I send my check?

Where to send the check 02.Feb.2003 09:19

quill quill1984@yahoo.com

According to what I learned in the powerful compelling call to action by Pam Africa and (sorry about this spelling) Vessala Mohammad Vay, as well as the PSU group struggling for years to have a Black Studies Major allowed at PSU, you can send your check to a variety of places to help the struggle for empowerment in black communities.

The hosts of this event, the Black Cultural Affairs Board, are presently working on getting a Black Studies Major made into reality at PSU, and need outside (non-student) help putting pressure on the PSU administration to have an education that better suits their needs. To contact these folks and offer support, email:  bcab@mail.pdx.edu

Currently around 1/3 of all black men between the ages of 15 and 25 are either incarcerated or on parole/probation. We need to advocate for amnesty for all Political Prisoners, while working on abolishing the whole racist prison system. The movement that is currently donating to their families or groups that provide prisoner supportlegally and financially would be a good place to start. Locally we have prisoner support campaigns for political prisoners (see sidebar here on indymedia), but when we were at the Seattle Race conference, we learned there is a Black Caucus Prisoner support group that is national. That would be my choice for supporting those who have fallen victim to this institutionalized racism that extends from the schools, colleges into the hospital and drug treatment centers, to the police departments all the way to the jails and the employers who won't hire convicted criminals, criminalized by this society's refusal to address the legacy of slavery that is the root of the economic disparity between the earning power of blacks and whites in this country.

I also read a flyer at PSU asking for support in writing letters to women of color in prison. The email given was:  n_neenee@hotmail.com

Supporting the Passage of HR 40 or bills like this in State houses would enable the formation of commissions to consider the subject of Raparations for descendants of African slaves.

It is also important for you to educate yourself on what exactly the Reparations movement is about... There are a number of good books out on the subject: Ogletree wrote one, and there are quite a few others:
--Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate over Reparations is the latest release, hot off the presses
--The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, by Randall Robinson ( He is speaking at Reed College Wed Feb 5 at 7:30 in Kaul Auditorium)
--White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, by Peggy McIntosh
--We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, MultiRacial Schools
--White Men Challenging Racism, Duke University Press,
--Great White Hoax: Responding to David Duke and the Politics of White Nationalism

Also there is a group that produces a fine paper detailing the wrongs being perpetuated. This group is called the New Afrikan Liberation Front, and if you want to support the more radical elements speaking out on reparations, support them. One of their recently fallen freedom fighters and other freedom fighters including Cynthia McKinney, appear in their newspaper, "Nation Time" that costs one dollar ("The Voice of the the new Afrikan Liberation Front" POB 340084 Jamiaca, NY 11434 Fax (718) 949-3937  iyaluua@aol.com). This group advocates a 3 phase approach to acheiving equality and liberation for Afrikans and all oppressed and exploited peoples: 1) Class Struggle for National Unity 2)National Unity for Self Government 3) Self Government for National Independence. You can find copies of this paper at Reflections Bookstore at Killingsworth and MLK.

Here's an excerpt from the Nation Time:

"The Principles of Unity of the New Afrikan Liberation Front are:
1)Land...The primary objective of the NALF is self-determination through a national liberation struggle for land (territory within the historic southeastern Black Belt, independence, and reparations
2)Who is the Enemy... For over 400 years our nation ahs been enslaved, first by the european settlers in north america, and currently, we are colonized by the political descendants of thos settlers, represented by the government of the united states of america. Our collective enemy is the united states government that oppresses and exploits our people through the systems of capitalist imperialism, sexist oppression and racial colonialism.
3) Self Defense/Armed Struggle...We recognize the right to self-defense, as well as the right to armed struggle for self-determination.
4) Prisoners of War, Political Prisoners and Exiles... We seek amnesty for POW's, PP's and Exiles as a non-negotiable self-determination demand.
5) Social Liberation... The fight against racial, class, sexist and social inequality is fundamental to New Afrikan self-determination. Our people are colonized based on the eurocentric myth of white supremacy andits ideoloty of racism. In prisons, work places and through calculated unemployment, our people's labor is exploited and miliions of us are kept poor and economically dependent on capitalism. New Afrikan women are sexually exploited, controlled through violence and socialized to inferior or submissive status by tradition, law and religion based on the ideology of patriarchy/male supremacy.
6) Unity and Autonomy of Organizations/Methods of resolving contradictions... We accept the leadership and discipline of the NALF as determined by a consensus of its membership organizations. The ideologivcal integrity of each organization within the NALF is mutually respected. We will practice constructive criticism and self-criticism for the purpose of resolving contradictions and internal differences.
7) A New Afrikan Consciousness... We recognize that culture is a weapon of resistance. In that light we are committed to building a movement to develop the National consciousness, culture and Spiritual connectedness of the New Afrikan people. Cultural revolution to create the New Afrikan woman and man is a vital aspect of our fight to be liberated from white supremacy, sexist oppressin and capitalism.
8) Our Cultural Symbols... We recognize the Red, Black, and green Flag, the New Afrikan Creed, the New Afrikan Declaration of Independence and the Code of Umoja as the unifying historical, and cultural symbols of our National Liberation Front and our independence movement.

The working theoretical expression of the New Afrikan Liberation Front will be the Three Phase Theory for New Afrikan Liberation"


To let those of you who weren't at this powerful speaking event last night, (topped off by inspiring poetry by Victorio Reyes, reading from his 1st book, The Rebirth of Crazy Horse, Poems for the Struggle,  rebelpoetry@sunstillrising.com), this is some of the insights I walked away thinking about the following message that I tried to take down in it's entirety:

Vessala (sp?) spoke passinately about the purpose of this Reparations movement. This is a movement to bring about equality through creating a change in this unjust system. This is an Afrikan agenda but it is of concern to ALL people. "Black People have no future under the present structure and authority in the U.S" This is the statement of the New Black Panther Party 30 years ago, and it is still true today. For until freedom is had for all living beings, nobody is truly free... It is Corporate America who must pay, and who must be taken down

August 2000 there was in International Conference on racism in Durham, South Africa. Colin Powell was forbidden to attend and represent our people. There was no representative for African American people. We went and 4 days later 9-11 occurred. There wasno time to deal with what committments we had made in Durham... not to allow Americans to remain misinformed ... and we did... unitl Aug 17th 2002 in Washington D.C. [post-conviction hearings for Mumia Abu Jamal] There never was a platform like that to deal with Reparations. Elders who had struggled for decades with this issue were overjoyed to know that others of the next generations are picking up this issue and running with it.

This unjust system and slave labor that still goes on [the 13th amendment states that slavery is outlawed UNLESS the person has committed a crime....The result is that this racist system judges when a "crime" is committed, and it also decides that slavery/imprisonment is justified-- rather than looking at the societal implications and working on these, more prisons are built to perpetuate the racist systems oppression of all without privelege, with an emphasis on blacks] Over 300 political prisoners are locked away down in maxi-maxi-prisons or on death row, receiving no human touch for decades. This is unknowably inhuman.

This Reparations movement seeks to educate, mobilize the youth to know there will be no reparations without you. The message to the youth must be to continue the struggle for liberation and justice. We must seize the power NOW. We must act NOW. Or we are leaving too much work to the next generations.

Dr. John henry Clark said the European slave trade was the worst act against humanity and the most protracted imposition of human sufferng ever levied. If we don't act on reparations now, we are betraying our own humanity. In 1972 Queen Mother Moore was at a political convention in Gary Indiana, passing out Reparations information. this cry has been heard for as early at the 1600's. HR 40 is unlikely to be put in place and acted on at a National Level. So Charles Barron from NY, now running for NYC Congress, and then for mayor, has set in motion a Queen Mother Commission bill, that would allow states to set in motion a congressional commission to conider the merit of Reparations and how this could happen.

There will be a Conference on Reparations Feb 28th thru March 2nd in Portland. We need to get involved and turn this country upside down! We need to be working with our youth and stand behind them and help them carry on this struggle... Political Prisoners in this country is as original as apple pie. These are PEOPLE with skills and merit, and are called nothin but killers and cop killers. What makes my life less important that a cop's? If a cop shoots at me, why can't I shoot back? Back then another crime causing the death of blacks was to look at/touch a white woman. ... Ex Huntsville Alabama: What's an Afrikan life worth in this country?

Malcolm said: There's nothing wrong with white people doing these things to us. He is doing what he needs to to save his nation. What is wrong is wrong with us to continue to let this happen! Nowadays people are more honest about what's going on and what it is we can do to stop it. What can we do to save the babies.. The revolution will not be televised. Neither will reparations!! And res assured Reparations is part of the revolution that manistream media will NOT bring into your living room!

I've come here to arm people here with information to take out into the street! Fanny Lou Hayman said, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I'm here to DO something!" The U.S has a helluva a thing coming, if they thing they are going to stop the Reparations Movement. Power to the people!

April 24th is Mumia's birthday. Help us celebrate in Harrisburg VA. That is where the governor who was then the top D.A (who later became mayor) at Mumia's trial, who said he's "going to kill Mumia".... This issue is not just about Mumia. It's about all lifers and political prisoners, because his case exemplifies what's wrong with this criminal INjustice system in the U.S. There is only one way to stop this from continuing. We have to unify!

All Power to the People!!

I'm not sending shit 02.Feb.2003 17:30

working for a living

this is absurd, I highly doubt the "professor" is disadvantaged and probably makes a better wage than most whites. You only option would be to trace the children of slave owners and make them pay, but such inherited debt has already been thrown out by the courts. So in otherwords, quit wasting everyone's time looking for freebies...