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One of the most concrete solutions to righting the wrongs of racial harm in the United States—slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and ongoing systemic racism—is reparations for Black Americans. While federal legislation on financial compensation has languished in Congress for decades, there have been great strides on local and state levels.
But that progress is likely invisible to a casual media consumer, as coverage of these myriad efforts in mainstream media has been cursory, at best. That’s why YES! has created “Realizing Reparations,” a six-part series of deeply reported stories that illuminate the rich ecosystems of reparations already growing throughout the country. We are proud to present this series, funded by a grant from the Decolonizing Wealth Project, during Black History Month.
As Torsheta Jackson explains in her examination of local reparations efforts, cities such as Evanston and Chicago in Illinois, as well as Asheville, North Carolina, are carrying out their own versions of reparations, paving the way for other cities around the nation to do the same.
But in Tulsa, Oklahoma, home to arguably the clearest incident of racial harm deserving of compensation, formal reparations efforts have stalled. In a powerful report centered on Greenwood and the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Anneliese Bruner, who has deep roots in that community, explores how the descendants of survivors are rebuilding economic power.
Meanwhile, the politically powerful state of California has gone the furthest of any state in realizing reparations. As Erin Aubry Kaplan reports, the California legislature is considering a bill based on careful recommendations by a reparations task force that it appointed some years ago. Yet the big question remains: Will there be cash compensation?
Because reparations are not restricted to compensating for the harms of slavery, they must also include recognition of the myriad lost opportunities that slavery’s legacy and ongoing systemic racism continue to deny Black people in the U.S. Torie Weiston Serdan knows firsthand the impact on Black youth who have been deprived of generational wealth. In a report that spans the nation, she examines how Black youth-centered spaces can be a form of reparations for a new generation, and explores the edges of what is possible in an economy that continues to marginalize young people of color.
There is an urgent need for a cultural shift on reparations at a time when right-wing forces are attacking history education. Given Hollywood and social media’s outsized impact on the public discourse, Jonita Davis scours through pop culture narratives on reparations and finds that young Black influencers are pushing the envelope on how to talk about the issue in simple terms. Our series opens with a forward-thinking report, where Trevor Smith explores what it means to identify as a “reparationist.” Examining how identity politics can further social justice, he raises comparisons to distinct identities such as abolitionist or feminist and leaves readers to consider becoming reparationists on the road toward realizing reparations.
Can “reparationist” be a distinct identity, akin to feminist or abolitionist, a label worn with pride by progressives who believe in reparative compensation for Black people?
By Trevor Smith
As the movement for reparations gains steam, mainstream and independent content creators continue to find new ways to advance the idea of reparative damages for Black people on screen.
By Jonita Davis
More to Explore
YES! was privileged to be the media partner of the inaugural Alight, Align, Arise conference—a historic and unprecedented national convening on reparations hosted by the Decolonizing Wealth Project. For three days in June 2023, hundreds of activists, organizers, politicians, and funders gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to connect, collaborate, and take action to make reparations a reality in our lifetimes. On the final day of the conference, DWP announced a $20 million campaign to support the reparations ecosystem with a new round of direct grantmaking of $3 million to be deployed in 2023, in addition to other resource and education programs to support the reparations movement over the next five years. YES! Senior Editor Sonali Kolhatkar was on location in Atlanta, and had in-depth conversations with more than a dozen leaders in the reparations movement—including elders who have dedicated decades to this fight, and young people who are bringing fresh energy and momentum to the movement.
Watch these exclusive video interviews below:
This series was funded by a grant from Liberated Capital, a fund of the Decolonizing Wealth Project, which is led by Edgar Villanueva, of the Lumbee tribe, and works globally to disrupt the existing systems of moving and controlling capital using education and healing programs, radical reparative giving, and storytelling. Reporting and production of the series was funded by this grant, but YES! maintained full editorial control of the content published herein.Read our editorial independence policy.
Sonali Kolhatkar joined YES! in summer 2021, building on a long and decorated career in broadcast and print journalism. She is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and host and creator of YES! Presents: Rising Up with Sonali, a nationally syndicated television and radio program airing on Free Speech TV and dozens of independent and community radio stations. She is also Senior Correspondent with the Independent Media Institute’s Economy for All project where she writes a weekly column. She is the author of Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (2023) and Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (2005). Her forthcoming book is called Talking About Abolition (Seven Stories Press, 2025). Sonali is co-director of the nonprofit group, Afghan Women’s Mission which she helped to co-found in 2000. She has a Master’s in Astronomy from the University of Hawai’i, and two undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. Sonali reflects on “My Journey From Astrophysicist to Radio Host” in her 2014 TEDx talk of the same name.