My Support for Reparations
Bill Mefford

Bill Mefford

Executive Director

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On Thursday, June 15, I will testify in front of the Business and Economic Development Committee of the DC Council in support of the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023. Here is my testimony. 

Thank you Chairperson McDuffie and Committee Members for holding this hearing today and for allowing me to testify. It is my pleasure to testify today in strong support of the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023.
My name is Bill Mefford, and I am the Executive Director of the Festival Center. We are a faith-based community center providing affordable housing to nonprofits and justice-seeking organizations in DC.

Reparations is an issue we have been advocating for at the Festival Center. This past Christmas we brought together five faith leaders and academics who wrote weekly reflections on the lectionary passages for each of the five Sundays of Advent looking at Advent through the lens of reparations. We focused on reparations because Advent is a time of expectation for Christians awaiting the coming of a Messiah who will “bring justice to the nations,” a Savior who will make that which is broken straight, bring in those who are cast out, and repair all who have been harmed.

Though there are many elected leaders who want to white-wash U.S. history and forget about a legacy of enslavement and genocide, we must acknowledge past harms if we want to bring about needed repair and healing, which is at the heart of liberation. One of the writers for the Advent study, Dr. Renee Harrison, an Associate Professor of African American and U.S. Religious History at Howard University School of Divinity, wrote that Advent, “reminds America of its breach of God’s promise and crimes against Black-bodied people. The enslavement of nearly four million Black women, men, and children, to help forge this young nation into being, and to enrich institutions, corporations, families, and individuals for generations to come is one of the most significant breaches in human history. This breach cannot simply be addressed by acknowledgement.”

And because we need more than mere acknowledgement, this legislation becomes necessary. It is necessary because it will establish a slavery era database of records related to slaveholding as well as set up a task force to study and make proposals for Africans Americans directly wronged by slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism.

The need for this legislation has only grown with time. A 2016 report by the Institute of Policy Studies reported that it would take 228 years for the racial wealth gap to close between Black and White households, though this would only happen if White households stopped accruing wealth today. In 2016, the Urban Institute reported that White households in the DC Metro area have a net worth 81 times greater than Black households.

These historic and institutional injustices need legislative solutions, which is why I am supporting the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023 and urge its quick passage.

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