• Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

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California Task Force Votes to Offer Reparations Only to Descendants of Enslaved People

California is one step closer to determining who could receive reparations from the state.

In a closely watched decision, the state’s reparations task force voted Tuesday night to move forward with compensation for African-American descendants of enslaved people and descendants of freed Black people living in the United States before the 19th century.

This is a big deal, as California’s reparations effort is the first of its scale and is likely to serve as a model for the rest of the nation. Not to mention that Tuesday’s decision was highly contentious.

The vote, 5-4, came after weeks of debate about whether reparations should be for all 2.6 million Black Californians or limited to those who can trace their lineage to enslaved people. The panel ultimately decided to focus on those most hurt by slavery, instead of more broadly addressing the effects of racism directed at Black people.

“That’s not the point of reparations. Reparations is responding to the injuries of the specific group,” Jovan Scott Lewis, a U.C. Berkeley professor and task force member, said during Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a community who for centuries has been demanding recognition.”

In September 2020, California created the nine-member task force to study and recommend reparations. The panel is supposed to complete a report by the summer of 2023 that would detail who should get reparations, in what form and in what amounts.

For months, the panel has been hearing testimony and gathering evidence about the way Black Californians have been affected for generations by redlining, school segregation, voting restrictions and other discriminatory policies. (Here you can watch a livestream of Wednesday’s meeting, which will focus on the criminal justice system and hate crimes.)

But the task force’s mandate for who exactly deserved compensation was somewhat unclear. It called for a payment program for Black Californians that prioritized descendants of enslaved people, but did not detail what that meant.

Many on the panel bristled at the idea of excluding any Black Californians, given the widespread racism left behind by decades of slavery. A similar effort in Evanston, Ill., includes all Black residents.

“All roads start with chattel slavery. That’s absolutely how we begin,” Reginald Jones-Sawyer, who represents South Los Angeles in the State Assembly, said during Tuesday’s meeting. “The fact that we all came in, whether on a slave ship or a cruise ship — Guess what? We’re all in the same boat now.”

Other panelists expressed concerns that it would be difficult for descendants of enslaved people to prove their ancestry so they could qualify for payments. Others said they worried that barring some Black Californians from reparations would cause unnecessary fighting within the Black community.

But after hours of debate, those who wanted to limit the payments to descendants of enslaved people prevailed. Kamilah Moore, a lawyer and task force chair, said that trying to solve larger problems of racial equity was not the panel’s responsibility.

“That’s a whole other task force,” Moore said during the meeting. “This is a reparations task force for the institution of slavery.”

Chicken and chickpea tagine.


Today’s tip comes from Leslee Harman, who recommends walking around the Lake Hollywood Reservoir in Los Angeles:

“The view of the Mulholland Dam from the top of Lake Hollywood Drive takes my breath away every time. There is always plenty of parking on Lake Hollywood Drive, and the walk to the dam is flat pavement and only a mile (you can continue around the lake for a total of 3 miles). You see lavish homes in the Hollywood Hills in the distance but up close behind the chain link fence in the pines I always see deer munching nonchalantly. The fragrance in the early morning as the dew evaporates is invigorating. Once at the dam you’re greeted with a spectacular view of the lake and the hills and the Hollywood sign. The opposite side of the dam has an interesting Hollywood history. It originally could be seen from Hollywood Boulevard but when one of William Mulholland’s other water projects, the St. Francis Dam in Santa Francisquito Canyon in Los Angeles collapsed in 1928 and the resulting flood killed 431 people, Mulholland had the side of the damn facing Hollywood filled in with dirt and trees. Today you can still see the top half of the dam with the multiple California bear head sculptures. The walk feeds my love of nature and my love of Hollywood history.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


We’ve recently been publishing your notes about why you love your corner of California.

If you’d like to submit a love letter to your California city, neighborhood or region — or to the Golden State as a whole — please email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll keep sharing your missives in the newsletter.


Located between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, the San Vicente Redwoods preserve is home to mountain lions, bobcats, peregrine falcons and, of course, giant coast redwoods.

The land, which was purchased by conservation groups in 2011, was damaged in a fire in 2020. But that hasn’t stopped plans to install trails there, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The grand vision for the property includes 38 miles of hiking and biking paths. And next month, construction will start on the first leg — an 8.5-mile trail network set to open this fall.