LOS ANGELES — This fall, the city of LA’s Reparations Advisory Commission has been hosting a series of community conversations asking the public for input. The seven-member commission is tasked with determining how to address the injustices of slavery.

Its most recent engagement event in November featured over 90 community members on Zoom and Facebook Live sharing experiences on several topics, including housing, policing, education and voting and political power. 

The commission was established in June 2021 as part of the city’s Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department. The department’s Executive Director, Capri Maddox, spoke with “Inside the Issues” host Alex Cohen about the goals of the commission. 

Maddox spoke about California’s history with slavery. In 1852, the state passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which made it legal for free Black people to be deported and re-enslaved in the south. 

Maddox also pointed to practices that contributed to the lack of wealth that many Black communities continue to face. 

“Keep in mind that redlining was the continuation of slavery,” said Maddox, referring to the practice of refusing to lend mortgages in certain areas using color-coded maps that often discriminated against Black neighborhoods. “Of course, we had lynching and Jim Crow and segregated schools and a number of wrongs that happened to the African-American population, but we want to be intentional to figure out exactly how do we repair this harm.”

California also has a group looking into reparations at the state level. The state’s Reparations Task Force has until July 1 to complete its final report with recommendations for how California can address its history of discriminatory policies against Black residents.

In responding to critics who say reparations are not the way to go, Maddox says the city can not move forward if there is no equity and that it’s impossible to ignore the connection to the past. 

“I’m all about personal accountability,” she said. “But you cannot tell me that having the lack of education, the lack of job opportunities, the housing discrimination, and just a flat out increased number of hate and discrimination that happens against African-Americans on a daily basis … that there is not a nexus [to slavery.]” 

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