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Slavery in New York City; a reparations resolution for General Convention




The New York Historical Society is sponsoring a major exhibit on
"Slavery in New York City," and you can experience it online at
http://www.slaveryinnewyork.org/tour_galleries.htm.  You will be
given an opportunity to load the latest version of Flash Player if
your browser detects that you do not already have it.

 

If you live in the NYC area or visit before the end of March, you owe
it to yourself to attend the exhibition.  It is brilliantly
organized, with something for everyone.  One of the experiences that
I found most engaging was a well in Gallery 3.  When you look into
it, you find that you are at the bottom of the well looking up at
several slave women who are talking in ways they would never dare
speak more publicly, as the laws became steadily more oppressive
regarding contact slaves could have with one another.  In another
exhibit, there is a computer game in which you are challenged to free
slaves hidden in a particular home in the city.  Each of the choices
that you make to find them and rescue them leads you to greater
understanding of the laws and conditions of slavery at that time.  
The exhibit does a fine job of showing you the wealth that slavery
enabled and the poverty that the slaves endured.

 

The exhibit covers only New York City and only the period from 1620 -
1820 and will continue only through March, after which a new exhibit
will view slavery from artists' perspectives, and then in the fall, a
third exhibit will cover the descendents of slaves and New York
City's involvement with them from 1820 to the present.

 

Several members of our Reparations Task Force visited the exhibit on
Monday night in conjunction with a lecture on Reparations by
Professor Charles Ogletree of the Harvard Law School.  The lecture
was sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association.  Ogletree's latest
book is WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED, which looks at Brown vs. Board of
Education and recovers the meaning of "deliberate," i.e. `slow.'

 

On January 28th the convention of the Diocese of Newark approved the
following resolution on Reparations to be brought to General
Convention in Columbus:

 

TITLE:  Church Responsibility in Reparations

 

Resolved, the House of ___________, concurring, That the 75th General
Convention establish a task force of the Executive Council to study,
document and report on the enslavement of Africans and their
descendants, the legacy of slavery, and the establishment of systemic
and institutional racism within the United States of America; and, be
it further

 

Resolved, That the task force specifically research and report on the
historical role of the Episcopal Church in these systems of slavery
and racism, so that we as a people of God can come to make a full,
faithful and informed accounting of the legacy we inherit and better
understand how we can work, both individually and collectively, to
"repair the breach"; and, be it further

 

Resolved, that the Episcopal Church support the passage of
legislation to establish "a commission to study reparations
proposals" as affirmation of our commitments to become a transformed,
anti-racist church and to work toward healing, reconciliation and a
restoration of wholeness to the family of God.

 

EXPLANATION:

This is an issue of human rights, equity, and justice. African
Americans continue to suffer serious damage spiritually,
economically, socially, culturally and to their family structures
because of the institution slavery. No restitution was made at the
time of emancipation; the economy of our new nation was built on
unpaid slave labor and generations of wealth were founded upon it. 
The African American community has been greatly disadvantaged as a
result of not having the opportunity to gain equity from their
labor. 

 

As importantly, the legacy of slavery has been a unique, systemic and
institutionalized racism that has resulted in disparities in every
area of life for Americans of African ancestry.  The Episcopal Church
benefited from the slave trade and the practice of slavery and has a
moral and ethical responsibility to acknowledge its role in this
injustice, to repent, to offer apology and to "repair the breach"
(Isaiah 58:12).

 

Historically, governments have made restitution for people who were
mistreated for grave injustice.  Efforts to gain economic redress for
the injustices of slavery in the United States began in the
Massachusetts legislature in 1787, but were taken up in earnest in
the mid-nineteenth century, accelerated after the Civil War and have
continued up until the present. 

 

The support of H.R. 40, a bill to create a commission for the study
of reparations, is an important first step in the process of
addressing the sins of slavery and its legacy of racism.  This bill
has been introduced in each of the last eight legislative sessions by
Representative John Conyers and has failed to make it out of
committee.   It is time for us to support addressing this issue as
Christians committed to justice for all God's family.

 

(Submitted by the Episcopal Diocese of Newark - Annual Convention,
January 28, 2006)

 

L.

Louie Crew

Chair of the Newark Deputation.  Member of Executive Council.

 





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