Harvard, National Council of Churches, Reform Jews seeking reparations blueprint

by | Feb 20, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — A professor and students at Harvard Kennedy School are joining forces with prominent Christian and Jewish organizations to develop a faith-based blueprint to advance the possibility of reparations for African Americans.The National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism have become a client of several students in the school’s “Creating Justice in Real Time” course and hope by the end of the semester to create new ways — such as resources for congregations and proposed legislation for Congress — to move conversations into action.
“We’re trying to build a grassroots, congregation-level strategy to take up the whole matter of federal reparations and ultimately establish a commission and ultimately push for legislation that addresses America’s profound racial wealth gap,” said the Rev. Cornell William Brooks, a former president of the NAACP and a professor at the Kennedy School, Harvard’s school of public policy and government.
The Rev. Cornell William Brooks. Courtesy photo
Brooks, who also is a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School, leads a collaborative at Harvard that he describes as “a think-and-do tank” that involves college and graduate students of divinity, business and law, working with political leaders and social justice organizations. The African Methodist Episcopal minister said this semester marks the first time the collaborative has signed a memorandum of understanding with religious organizations that are expected to implement what they and the students develop as soon as 2024.
“This is not a mere research paper,” he said. “How do you get the academic research out of the journals, into people’s hands, into their heads, and into legislation?”
More than half a century after “the Black Manifesto” demanded $500 million in reparations from white churches and synagogues for the mistreatment of African Americans, religious institutions and denominations have helped lead the way amid continuing national debate. In recent years, Virginia Theological Seminary began paying descendants of African Americans “whose labor built and sustained” it. In January, Reconstructionist Jews called for reparations to descendants of slaves and Indigeno …

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