Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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Support H.R.40: A Bill Related to Reparations for People of African Descent in America

March 3, 2021

First Church is committed to a Vision for Being an Antiracist Church. Part of living into our Vision includes support for individual, local, and churchwide reparations. Recently as a guest preacher at Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in Central Square, Senior Minister Dan Smith called for Cambridge to consider becoming a “Reparations City,” and he described how we at First Church have begun the discussion about personal and collective steps that we can take to “repair the breach.”

The Missions and Social Justice Committee invites you to take time to learn about H.R. 40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

The time to aggressively support movement on H.R. 40 has long since come. Yet for years we have been told that the time is not right for such a heated discussion! Are we to say justice will never visit people of African descent in America? No, we will not conclude that! We must Seize the Time!

a bit of background

On January 3, 2017, at the opening of the 115th Congress of the United States, the late Rep. John Conyers introduced a revised H.R. 40 bill. The previous version was first introduced in 1989 and was historically referred to as the “Reparations Study Bill.” The revised H.R. 40 was referred to as the “Reparations Remedy Bill”.

The bill is an attempt to address the undeniable reality that to achieve equality and to end racial injustice, we must acknowledge and materially address past and continuing harms. Without addressing the accumulated result of past harms we are destined to recreate them. Notwithstanding the reinvented, unabated and increased evidence of an urgent transgenerational racial divide, H.R. 40 has been ignored, denied and rendered irrelevant by all but a few members of the U.S. Congress.

forms reparations can take

Under the international concepts of “full reparations” and “special measures,” reparations must “wipe out all consequences” of the harm and “include the full span of legislative, executive, administrative, budgetary and regulatory instruments, at every level in the State apparatus … ”   Read more here.

H.R. 40 Today

The current H.R. 40, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), is, in her words, “intended to create the framework for a national discussion on the enduring impact of slavery and its complex legacy to begin that necessary process of atonement.”

With the rise and normalization of white supremacist expression during the Trump administration, the discussion of H.R. 40 and the concept of restorative justice have gained more urgency, garnering the attention of mainstream commentators and illustrating the need for a national reckoning.