Reparations, alone (a check in the mail), is not enough. There must be a pre-figured process to negotiate a mechanism with the state, the church, and the academy, to address the full scope of the injury, past, present, and future. Chattel Slavery robbed us of our culture and the ability to achieve self-determination. Fundamentally, slavery in the United States defined enslaved Africans and their descendants without the humanity of Peoplehood, dignity, and divinity.
On Friday, October 22, four members of the Northeast Region of The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations (N’COBRA) met in Washington, DC at the headquarters for the Jesuits of Canada and the
United States. This prearranged meeting was long in coming after the president of Georgetown University publicly apologized for buying, enslaving, and selling 272 enslaved Africans and their descendants. Representing the Northeast Region of N’COBRA were Woullard Lett, Northeast Region Representative, Ari Merretazon, the Mid-Atlantic Area Coordinator, Osaze Osayeba, Treasurer, and Sababu Shabaka, Secretary, Capital Area Coordinator. Representing the Society of Jesus/ were Fr. Kesicki, President of the Jesuit Conference, the organization that represents the Jesuits of the U.S. and Canada, along with Susanne
Krudys, Chief of Staff, of the Conference. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes. Woullard and Ari lead the discussion with backup and oversight from Osaze and Shabaka.
After the introduction formalities, we put the Jesuits in touch with our feelings about what happened to us, what we know about what they did to our Peoplehood in the past and what continues today. We started with the language. Jesuits continue to use the word “slave” to identify and define ancestors to this day. It’s in their texts and scriptures. Kesicki, used the term “slave” during the meeting right after we presented to him that our Ancestors were Africans “enslaved” by the Jesuits, and others under the system of chattel slavery. In essence, chattel slavery took us from under the covering of God and made us, non-humans, “slaves”— property and commodity to be bought and sold. He recognized what he had done and
“It is a tradition, and we still use it today, unfortunately.”
He made our point.
Getting the language right is the key to our Peoplehood and just cause for Jesuits, and others to correct. He agreed and will present “getting the language right” to the Jesuit Conference. We emphasized, there can be no “reconciliation” without “restitution” and “reparations.” We let him know that we are seeking cessation, assurances, and guarantees of non-repetition of dehumanizing language.
We want to gain satisfaction that every effort is being made by the Jesuits to engage in meaningful reconciliation to heal the psychological and structural damage of our Peoplehood starting with the language. We made it clear that we represent the Northeast region of NCOBRA and are separate from other groups seeking dialogue with the Jesuits. We challenged Fr. Kesicki that he would have to be bold and courageous as he speaks to the Society of Jesus about their complicity and their responsibility to repair the damage with a curriculum review to identify dehumanizing language and racist concepts. Near the end of the meeting, we recommended to him the book, “The Price of Reconciliation,” by Dr. Ronald Walters. This book will give him a look as to how we see the process of reconciliation. We offered him some steps the Jesuits could do immediately in the short term, such as national support for the passage of HR40, the bill to create a congressional commission to study the modern legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and propose recommendations—including reparations for black Americans, as they did for DACA (Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Also, we asked him to recognize the relationship between mass deportation and mass incarceration. We confirmed his understanding that, of necessity, we are seeking a commitment from him to engage in on-going discussions with us to reach agreement on a multifaceted reparation strategy.
Overall the meeting was productive and fruitful. Everyone gave his background and experience before the meeting, then the discussion began. It was made clear in a non-threatening way that reconciliation has to come with restitution. Our feedback to the Jesuits came with documentation and knowledge of the complicity in the crimes against humanity and its lingering effects on the Descendants of African Enslaved in the United States. (DAEUS)
Father Kesicki, appears to be very receptive to our viewpoints but came short of making any commitments because of the structured command and control system within the Society of Jesus organization. Each one of us believes the meeting ended with mutual respect and the willingness for