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Bread for the City’s CEO George Jones Testifies in Support of Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023

At-large Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, along with the help and support of Councilmembers Trayon White, Sr., Anita Bonds, Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Zachary Parker, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, and Vincent C. Gray, introduced the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023. Per McDuffie, “This legislation seeks to acknowledge and address centuries of government-sanctioned policies and private practices that exploited Black people as chattel property, violently robbed Black communities of generational wealth, and baked anti-Black racism into the core of our institutions and society.” Bread for the City’s CEO George Jones testified in support of the Fund, noting Black people are centuries overdue for reparations. Read his full testimony below.

George A. Jones’ (CEO of Bread for the City) testimony on the Reparations Foundation Fund 

Good afternoon, Councilmember McDuffie

My name is George Jones, and I’m the Chief Executive Officer of Bread for the City.  

Bread for the City’s mission is to help Washington, DC residents living with low income to develop their power to determine the future of their own communities. We achieve this by providing food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to reduce the burden of poverty and seeking justice through community organizing and public advocacy. Additionally, we work to uproot racism, a major cause of poverty, and remain committed to treating our clients with the dignity and respect that all people deserve.

I am always pleased when any public policy maker, national or local, champions reparations as Councilmember McDuffie has done. I am predisposed to support any legislation designed to atone for and provide restoration from the harms and evils created by slavery and other oppressive laws, policies, and practices that Washington, DC, and the United States imposed on Black people. Black people have been enslaved, Jim Crowed, lynched, subjugated to legal separation, redlined, and racially profiled in the United States for over 400 years, and reparations are centuries overdue.

This legislation comes while other public policy efforts are being advanced across the United States, including in Los Angeles, Asheville, North Carolina, and Evanston, Illinois, to name a few. 

Bread for the City believes Washington D.C. can become the first explicitly anti-racist city-state in the United States. Creating a reparations program that provides fair and financially just payments to Black people in Washington D.C whose ancestors were exploited economically and whose opportunities to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were blocked for two centuries in Washington D.C and whose lives post slavery were subjected to racially violent Jim Crow laws and practices including housing, transportation, educational segregation, and more recently displacement, employment discrimination, and hyper-policing. 

I thoroughly support any idea of providing reparations to Black people affected by Jim Crow-era legislation. However, as it relates to the current legislation, there are several things I am concerned about. 

The database DISB will develop will focus on slavery, but slavery and racist harms extend further than those who are direct descendants of slaves. I believe the task force has the ability to make proposals to address racist harms beyond slavery, including Jim Crow and structural and institutional racism, generally. The database should also include a wider date range from 1865 to now.

The sources for the reparations taxes and fees can potentially use money from Black people to pay them for reparations which seems antithetical to the whole idea. Those sources are also only projected to provide a few million dollars. Even with the sources being problematic, they will not provide economic justice to the descendants of slaves and Black people who have been oppressed for at least two centuries. It wouldn’t be just or have any meaningful impact economically.

The call for community input in decisions on who is on the Task Force is critical. The setup currently in place proposes that the Mayor chooses five members and the Council chooses four members. The Mayor’s appointees must include one academic with expertise in civil rights and two appointees from civil society and reparations organizations. It also says no more than four council members themselves. This appointing process gives no voice to community members affected by these decisions. The Task Force will supposedly also run for only one year, which is insufficient time for decisions and plans to be thoughtfully implemented.

The current policy supposes that no real solution for distributing these modest funds might be found or agreed upon within the next five years. The legislation suggests it will be given to baby bonds and small businesses, excluding scores of residents who would justly deserve reparations and perhaps provide reparation funds to people who are not the harmed class of DC residents. 

I believe that reparations are long overdue for Black people in this country and Washington, DC. I am encouraged that reparations are on the table for public policy. Still, I hope that the policymakers driven by community direction and voices will restructure the proposal to make it much more robust and unapologetically designed for all Black people in DC who can rightfully claim harm from the past sins of slavery, Jim Crow, legal segregation, and other systemic forms of racism that have been a part of the history of this city. 

Again I thank Chairman McDuffie and the other city council members who support reparations and happily pledge my time and perspective to help create a more robust and just proposal.

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