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RE: “Why We Can’t Wait” Coalition Statement on US failure to establish H.R. 40 / S. 40 commission to study reparations for legacy of enslavement

The failure of the administration of US President Joe Biden to establish a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for Black people by executive order compounds the increasing loss of faith many Americans have in US democracy and further delays the reparatory justice that is long overdue. A diverse coalition of racial justice advocates had strongly urged that Biden issue such an order in light of the stalling in Congress of H.R. 40/S. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act. The failure on the part of the Biden administration to take this relatively modest step on reparations, the creation of a commission,  may fuel negative, compounding impacts on Black communities and the US economy at large. There is unprecedented support among the public and within US Congress for the creation of a federal reparations commission to study the legacy of enslavement and there is no excuse for continuing to delay taking this important step toward accountability and justice. As US Senators urged in a joint letter in June to President Biden, “Issuing an executive order to create this commission would be a fitting way to demonstrate your continued commitment to pursuing racial justice and equality in this country.”

The January 6 US Capitol Building attack in which many people associated with white supremacy and far right extremism appear to have played major roles is a reminder that the US must finally reckon with its long history of racial terror. Ahead of Juneteenth and amid a growing white nationalist movement, the Why We Can’t Wait Coalition gathered at the site of former President Donald Trump’s pre-insurrection speech to install a 150x50 foot community garden in the shape of the Pan-African/Black Liberation flag and demand the creation of a reparations commission. Our press conference on the White House Ellipse, which featured powerful remarks from coalition members representing National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), National Council of Churches, Color of Change, Reparation Education Project, and Human Rights Watch, was abruptly disrupted by Secret Service and we were required to evacuate for about 2 hours with little explanation. But the delay and other obstacles did not silence our coalition’s call for comprehensive redress and repair. The red, black and green floral display sent a physical reminder that enslaved Black people built the White House and that reparations for the cruelty of enslavement, anti-Black laws and institutional racism, and numerous continuing harms cannot wait.

Instead of taking the urged action as Juneteenth came and went, President Biden gave a speech on Juneteenth in which he stated that: “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments. They confront them to grow stronger. And that is what this great nation must continue to do.” But this so-called “great nation” has continued to deny our most painful moments by not providing full justice and reparations for Black people for centuries of human rights violations that continue to be perpetuated through racist systems.

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday was a symbolic action. In the absence of tangible reparative measures, Black constituents continue to ask this administration, does my life matter? The president could move beyond symbolism by creating a federal commission to study and develop reparations proposals.

The Biden administration needs to meet the moment on racial justice when so many Americans are losing faith in the very institutions and freedoms that hold US democracy together. According to a July 2022 New York Times/Sienna College poll, a majority of US voters do not believe that the nation’s system of government works. The poll also shows a significant increase in the number of those who believe that voting doesn’t matter. It is telling that Black people and young people are now those most likely to say that they don’t see a point in voting. A failure to heed the historic momentum of the reparations movement by creating a reparations commission through executive order—a gradual, pragmatic action—is a failure to give millions of disillusioned Americans something to believe in.

Empty, rhetorical promises will not deliver the justice and repair needed to correct the inequitable course of the US and its pervasive faultlines of criminalization and economic injustice, which largely fall along racial lines. Since Juneteenth 2022, Roe v. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court, dealing a devastating blow to Black women in particular; a 25-year-old Black man, Jayland Walker, was shot nearly 100 times and killed by Akron, Ohio police; Black communities are pushing back against landfill expansion and continued environmental racism in their neighborhoods; and new studies revealed that Black families are paying the ultimate price as inflation soars. US democracy is clearly in peril and the lived realities described present an even grimmer reality for people of African descent in the US that need to be comprehensively repaired.

Communities have been asking for the federal government to establish a reparations commission for decades, especially since the late Representative John Conyers first introduced bill H.R. 40 in 1989. It has been introduced every congressional session since but still the US government has failed to act. This year H.R. 40 had more support than ever in its history with 217 members of Congress committing to vote yes when it came to the floor for a vote. Still Congress, and now President Biden have failed to act. This stalling for over three decades is dehumanizing and racially exclusionary. Further inaction by this administration will only increase the debts owed and remedies needed.

There is still time to get this done and do the right thing, without continuing to allow trauma to Black communities to compound. It is time NOW to enact an executive order bringing a federal reparations commission into existence.


African Ancestral Society - Tulsa
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Amorifera Earthwares
Arrington & Owens LLC
Balanta B’urassa History & Genealogy Society in America
Batrice and Associates
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Bethel AME Church
Birmingham Black Economic Alliance
Black Music Action Coalition
BotaniCuisine, LLC
Campaign for Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans!
Church World Service
Collaborating Voices Foundation
Color of ChangeCommunity Healing Network
Cool 2 Be Charity 
Constructive Communities
Decolonizing Wealth Project
Democrats Abroad Global Progressive Caucus
Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force
Detroit Affordable Housing and Homelessness Task Force
Don’t Look Away Pact
Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC
Empowerment Temple AME Church
End New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN)
Faith For Black Lives
Fellowship of Reconciliation, Atlanta / Georgia chapter
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Fund for Reparations Now!!
Grassroots Reparations Campaign
Human Rights Watch
Incarcerated Nation Network
Integrative Wellness, LLC
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
International Black Summit
International Black Women’s Congress
International Center for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of MultiGenerational Legacies of Trauma
Japanese American Citizens League
Japanese American Citizens League – Florin Sacramento Valley Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League - Portland Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League - Seattle Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League - Twin Cities Chapter
Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project
Johnson & Klein Law
Just Equity For Health
King Boston
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Lights for Liberty
Loretto Community
Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
Make It Plain
Marked by COVID
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
National Birth Equity Collaborative
National Black United Front
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA)
National Council of Churches
National Employment Law Project
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
New Afrikan Peoples Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
New York Day of Rememberance
Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR)
Nikkei Progressives / NCRR Reparations Committee 
Northampton Parents Center
Oasis Health And Wellness Centers (OHWCI)
OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates
Racial Justice Rising
Racial Literacy Groups
Reparation Education Project, Inc.
Reparations Pledge
Rhythm of Life Wellness Ministry 
San Francisco Black & Jewish Unity Coalition
San Jose Nikkei Resisters
Scene & Heard Podcast
School of the Art Institute of Chicago and University of Chicago
Showing Up for Racial Justice Annapolis and Anne Arundel County (SURJ3A)
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership
Siyanda Land Collective
Soul 2 Soul Sisters 
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Action
The Adolescent Redemptive And Restorative Program
The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations
The Go Trading Company
The Jewel Nest
Think Peace Learning and Support Hub
Tsuru for Solidarity 
University of Californina, Los Angeles (UCLA)
UJamaa LLC.
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries
Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation 
Universal Human Rights Initiative
Welcome Home Reparations
Where Is My Land
Whm Msw Healing Well Inc.
Yoga Health


Alexandra Aaron, Student 
Joshua Babcock, Lecturer
Donna Bain
Judith Bentley, Coming Together Virginia
Colleen Boland
Margot Critchfield, Community Activist/Retired Episcopal Priest
Allen Davis, Racial Justice Rising 
Uuka Elegba
Jefferey Evangelos, State Representative, Maine Legislature
Frances Fisher, Actress
Matt Friend, Psychologist 
Pam Gallardo
Chelsea Handler, Comedian
Sherrill Hogen 
JoKatherine Holliman Page, Denver Black Reparations Council 
Kathleen Hubbard
Dr. Marcus Anthony Hunter, Professor UCLA
Elaine Klein 
Cornelia Klimczak
Ms. Janis Landes, Coming to the Table – Wilmington, NC
Margaret LaRaia, Narrative 4 
Alyssa Milano, Actress
William Moon, Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and CDF-Action
Dr. Julie Myers 
Sheila Murdock 
Rain Perry
Chelsea Price-Gallinat, Early Childhood Educator 
Eileen Rodan 
Mark Ruffalo, Actor
Susan Sarandon, Actress 
Roberta Schnorr, Retired Educator 
Leslie Stainton, Slave Dwelling Project 
Kelly Taylor, Teacher
Marky Watkins, Psychologist 
Jennifer Watts, Senior Curator, Library Special Projects

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