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Faith coalition leads apology, highlights reparations campaign on Capitol lawn

Raised fist drawing, victory symbol, vintage illustration.
Raised fist drawing, victory symbol, vintage illustration.

Dozens from the Lansing area’s faith-based communities gathered at the state Capitol Monday for a formal apology for slavery.

The apology came from the Presbyterian Church USA’s litany of repentance that it formalized last year.

Reverend Stan Jenkins is with the First Presbyterian Church of Lansing. This was his third time leading a group in issuing the apology.

He said, each time, it provides a greater sense of what’s possible.

“We’re not there yet, we’re just beginning. But I think paralysis is the real enemy of any change. And each time we say it and there’s a gracious response, you add a little bit more in your hope column,” Jenkins said.

Monday’s event was organized by theJustice League of Greater Lansing, a faith-tied organization leading the call for slavery reparations in the area.

The group has set a goal of raising $1 million by the end of the year for a reparations endowment fund.

Willye Bryan is the Justice League’s founder.

“Obviously, the best form of reparations would come from the government because then it would involve everybody in the country. But that has not happened. And, should we sit and wait and hope it would happen, or do we do something?” Bryan said.

So far, her group says it’s nearly halfway to its million-dollar goal. Much of the money has come from churches and church communities.

Bryan emphasized, she doesn’t see it as charity work.

From her organization’s perspective, Black Americans are significantly behind whites and others when it comes to wealth accumulation and other socio-economic advantages as a direct result of slavery.

Meanwhile, other institutions have either directly or indirectly benefited from the slave trade and decades of Jim Crow segregation.

Bryan said supporting reparations is one way to reverse that.

“It allows churches who have certainly been complicit in slavery, its aftermath, the segregation in this country, churches have been complicit in that. So, we’re saying to churches, lead the charge in healing,” Bryan said.

Money from the endowment has three main goals, according to Justice League President Prince Solace.

Those are supporting education, home ownership, and businesses within the Black community.

“It’s important that we acknowledge the hurt that’s been done. To acknowledge the disparities of resources, economic opportunities that’s been done in order to come to a table and come up with a structural solution,” Solace said.

Outside of Lansing, other places in Michigan, like Detroit and Washtenaw County, have started their own governmental reparations task forces.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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