“The residue [of slavery] still runs in my veins. So reparations are needed,” said Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart.
Religious leaders, government officials, antiracism advocates and community members from across Philadelphia convened the Monday after Juneteenth to advocate for the descendants of enslaved Americans to be provided reparations.
The Rise Up for Reparations event, also titled the Juneteenth Multi-Faith Revival, filled the Friends Center with roughly 150 followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam for an afternoon of personal testimonies, music, poetry, religious readings and more, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The concept of reparations for Black Americans refers to financial payment and other social redress to level the playing field between Black Americans and white Americans. White Americans built generational wealth and social capital on the backs of Black people who were subjected to centuries of enslavement and trauma, leaving a legacy that is still felt today.
Among the speakers in attendance was Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, director of the mayor’s commission, who said that trauma is passed down from generation to generation through genetics, calling for reparations as a step toward collective healing, per the outlet.
“We are daily becoming reparations people,” Washington-Leapheart said. “We are here to kick off a faith-based moral movement for reparations, right here in the city of Philadelphia.”
She explained that scientific studies found that the residual trauma felt by pregnant people following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks resulted in decreased cortisol levels, which can increase stress and inflammation.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress and low cortisone levels in saliva were also discovered in the babies after birth, said Washington-Leapheart.
“The residue [of slavery] still runs in my veins. So reparations are needed,” Washington-Leapheart said.
Jared Jackson, a Black Jewish man who serves as executive director for Jews in All Hues, shared that he experiences multi-pronged bigotry in the form of anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism, according to the Inquirer.
“We have to do more than monetary reparations,” said Jackson. ”We need health care, we need better schools.”
Green Street Friends Meeting Reparations Committee member Lucy Duncan said that a goal of the event was to encourage white allies to co-advocate for reparations to their own religious congregations.
“I think it’s important for white people to do genealogical research and understand the level of complicity they have had either individually or collectively in [racial disparities],” Duncan said, explaining that complicity can look like accepting government benefits such as the GI Bill which did not grant Black veterans the same benefits as their white counterparts, for example.
“All of that, whether it’s a good mortgage deal, or land grants for white immigrants, is built-in complicity,” said Duncan, who co-chairs the mayor’s commission.
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