EXCLUSIVE: 1st CA reparations bills announced by Black Caucus, making history

Julian Glover Image
Friday, February 2, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: 1st CA reparations bills announced by Black Caucus
Members of the California Legislative Black Caucus announced a package of reparations bills in a first effort to repair Black Californians.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- On Wednesday, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus announced a package of reparations bills in a first effort to repair Black Californians harmed by the legacy of slavery and anti-Black policies in the century and a half since emancipation.

The bills announced, on the eve of Black History Month, aim to make good on some of the more than 100 proposals issued by California's first-in-the-nation state reparations task force in the summer of 2023.

The Black Caucus announced more than a dozen bills ranging from policies that would compensate families for racially-motivated land taking sanctioned by the government, expanding access to education and training, and a formal apology by the state for human rights violations and crimes against humanity against enslaved Africans and their descendants.

ABC7 News anchor and race and social justice reporter Julian Glover spoke exclusively with State Senator Steven Bradford of southern California who is also authoring two additional bills - one would work to expand Black homeownership and the other would provide property tax relief.

Senator Bradford served on California's nine-member state Reparations Task Force and argues reparations for Black Americans is long overdue.

RELATED: Push for reparations in California takes significant step forward

"Reparations is not charity, it's not a handout. It's not a gift. It is what was promised and what is owed. It's something that is 160 years overdue to African Americans who built this country. We wouldn't be the great nation that we are today if it wasn't for 400 years of free labor," he said.

In the last legislative cycle, Bradford introduced SB490 which seeks to create a new state agency to oversee and fund the disbursement of any reparations passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

"I'm hoping that we'll all be successful. I'm realistic enough to know that there's going to be some setbacks," he added.

Senator Bradford and Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer are the two legislative leaders who also served on California's first-in-the-nation reparations task force.

"We have this momentous task of trying to get legislation and budget recommendations done, especially in his tight budget year. Fortunately, all of the California Legislative Black Caucus, all 12 members have joined in the fight to make this happen. We're looking at probably a five year strategy on how to do this," said Jones-Sawyer.

VIDEO: What reparations could look like for Black Californians as task force prepares for final vote

Here's what reparations would look like for Black Californians as the task force prepares for the final vote in Oakland Saturday.

There is a notable absence from the package of bills being proposed that many who attended the reparations task force's meetings have demanded: direct cash payments for Black Californians that can trace their lineage to an enslaved African American.

"Reparations is more than just a check," said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. "The amount of positivity that's going to come out of the non-monetary things will outweigh the check," he said.

Jones-Sawyer is co-authoring the apology legislation and hopes it will be a first step in the healing process for Black Californians and the state as a whole.

Other bills announced as a part of the reparations package includes:

  • Expanding access to career technical education
  • Financial aid for redlined communities
  • Extending the CROWN Act to prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in all competitive sports
  • Prohibiting involuntary servitude for incarcerated people
  • Eliminating the practice of banning books in prisons without oversight and review
  • Funding community-driven solutions to decrease community violence at the family, school, and neighborhood level
  • Restrict solitary confinement in detention facilities
  • Promote access to healthy foods thru Medi-Cal and requiring advanced notification before closing grocery stores in at-risk communities
  • Eliminating barriers to occupational licenses for people with criminal records, especially those who are descendants of the enslaved
  • The legislative items come from the pages of the more than 1,100 page final report of the California Reparations Task Force.

    In 2020, California became the first state in the nation to create a state task force to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.

    The proposals released by the task force were just that - recommendations. It is now up to the State Senate and Assembly to turn some, all, or none of those suggestions into concrete policy proposals. And even in California, in a state where democrats hold a supermajority, the political calculus involved is far from simple.

    Both Senator Bradford and Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer confirm Governor Newsom has met with the legislative Black Caucus and appears open to working with the group.

    RELATED: Newsom declines to publicly support reparations payments recommended by California task force

    "It's going to be a real opportunity for not only the governor, but my colleagues as well to demonstrate real profiles and courage. It's going to test all of us," said Bradford.

    As for the Black Californians who can draw their lineage back to enslaved Africans brought to America - they say reparations are long overdue.

    "My great grandfather was a sharecropper who had 17 children and worked from sunup to sundown and died with absolutely nothing," said Andrea Jordan of Sacramento. "They took his land and created laws to keep his land. And he died with a frown on his face."

    "What do you think he would say about you being here making sure your voice is heard and carrying on his legacy," asked ABC7 News' Julian Glover.

    "I would hope that he would be proud and know that I stand on his shoulders. And there are no better soldiers to stand," said Jordan.

    Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

    If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live