by Ray Levy Uyeda, Yes! Magazine
A Grassroots Culture Shift for Reparations
Until federal reparations are actualized, grassroots organizations across the country are heeding the call to right these wrongs.
“I felt, if I’m going to wait for the government to get on board with reparations, then how long am I going to be waiting?” says Sue Downing, who pays monthly reparations to individuals in her community in western Massachusetts as well as to her local chapter of the national organization Showing Up for Racial Justice.
When the chapter first started in 2014, organizer Kelly Silliman says, the group was focused on generalized work, such as showing up in solidarity to a protest or knocking on doors to educate white folks about white privilege. The chapter began educating its members on the importance of reparations and encouraged individuals to commit to monthly payments to three local BIPOC-led groups. The chapter’s accountability partners—a SURJ term for people of color, in this case Black, who volunteer to quite literally hold members accountable to their mission and goals—recommended that the organizers narrow their focus. With that in mind, the chapter committed to paying reparations to two Black queer and transgender organizers who had previously experienced racialized housing insecurity.