by Orissa Arend
For The New Orleans Tribune
Local organizing coalition Justice and Beyond, the National African American Reparations Commission and Ashe Cultural Arts Center are hosting a “Reparations Town Hall Meeting” from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. The forum will be a multi-dimensional cultural, educational, and intellectual experience. Its purpose is to educate and energize, and to set the wheels in motion for our city council to establish a “Reparations Task Force” for Black New Orleanians. Reparations task forces already exist in Evanston, Ill., Ashville, NC, St. Louis, MO, and other cities.
Here, the task force would raise money for deposit in a “Community Reparations Fund” to support social and educational programs aimed at repairing the damage created by the historical crimes of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, legalized racial discrimination, and their devastating legacies — housing apartheid, inadequate education, the trauma of gun violence, health disparities, the peril of Black cultural extinction — and much more.
The event will kick off with an original play about reparations written and performed by Kathy Randels and Oliver Thomas and directed by Asali Ecclesiastes. Mama NOLA channeled by Kathy Randels is a wisdom character with the business savvy of a Storyville madam who is three hundred plus years old and still looks good. She and Councilman Oliver Thomas square off in a 30-minute performance about our history, our present, and our possible future.
Next, scholars and local activists will participate in a panel discussion about what reparations can accomplish and how the Community Reparations Fund would operate in New Orleans. Then our guests – one hundred community leaders, policymakers, national reparations activists, church leaders, youth, and culture bearers – will be treated to a healthy buffet lunch created by Meals from the Heart as they view the premiere of a short documentary film on cultural reparations by acclaimed producer/director Stacey Muhammad.
In the afternoon, breakout sessions with experienced professionals will delve into housing issues, violence prevention, improvements in health services, and cultural advancements and preservation. The forum will conclude with reports from each session. Throughout the day, songs, poetry, and spoken word will resound to keep the spirit moving.
The entire event will be recorded and live-streamed by the Level Up Campaign. This group, founded in 2014, reaches out to young people, 14 – 24 years old, through music and entertainment to provide enrichment programs, workforce training, and employment opportunities.
There is limited seating for those who are registered and vaccinated. You may also join virtually with questions and comments. Help us create a Reparations Task Force in New Orleans.
To register go to Eventbrite.com: Reparations for New Orleans 2022. There will be limited in-person attendance with proof of vaccination. If you want to attend in person, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.