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400 Years of Terror: A Debt Still Owed

From June 20 -23 the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations  in America held their 3oth annual convention.

For four days in Detroit, activists, scholars, attorneys  and persons of great renown met to speak to that theme and craft strategy for continuing the forward motion of the reparations movement.

Not missed was the historical importance of this issue. This year, 2019 not only marked the 400th anniversary of the first Africans brought to what would become the United States of America, but also recognizes the thrust of this issue in the mainstream, with many presidential candidates speaking to reparations for descendants of Africans enslaved in the United States.

And of equal if not greater historical value is the two reparations bills now in Congress – HR 40 and S 1083. Both bills are entitled, the Commission To Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

The two major thrusts of the convention were crafted to speak to this historic moment by 1) defining reparations as “full repair,” and 2) crafting a national initiative to move the two reparations bills through Congress.

While many voices nationally have risen to speak to what they believe reparations should accomplish, N’COBRA met to assert that it has already been spelled out in  international law and norms.

“As some are asking what is reparations, we know that it is well established that reparations means “full reparations” and that reparations must “wipe out all consequences” of the harms or crimes committed.  To meet that level of  full repair, five components or  outcomes of a reparations plan are necessary: First the crimes must be halted, secondly projects, programs, and policies are initiated to bring about restitution; compensation is also awarded when the injury requires it. Finally acts under the heading ‘satisfaction,’ are implemented, i.e., returning the dignity to the injured and “rehabilitation” of physical, emotional, psychological and mental injury.  That ‘s why the two   Commission Bills are so important. These outcomes were crafted into the legislation,” said Kamm Howard, National Co Chair of N’COBRA.

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CONFERENCE ATTENDEES AT the 30th annual NCOBRA convention at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History heard powerful messages from renowned speakers, and activists in the struggle to move forward the issue of reparations for African Americans.

Many attendees spoke to these outcomes in the areas of health, criminal punishment, education, economic development and self-determination.

The second thrust of the Convention was to roll out a national plan, N’COBRA Action 535, to get HR 40 and S 1083 before both Houses of Congress for debate. HR 40 was introduced this session by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, that now has 67 co-sponsors – the most ever.

S 1083 was introduced in April by Senator Cory Booker.  Although just recently introduced, S 1083 has 13 co-sponsors.

“N’COBRA Action 535 or NA 535, is a national initiative to engage all 535 federal legislators in Congress in “principled dialog” around the two proposed reparations commission bills. Not since Reconstruction has there been a possibility of both houses of Congress to  debate the issue of redress for people of African descent. This is historic and must happen now. This can cannot be kicked down the road any longer.”

Atty Nkechi Taifa NCOBRA Conv


Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, although not able to attend the Legislations Luncheon where the NA 535 initiative was launched, as her schedule did  not allow, did make an appearance at the conclusion of the Convention.

The Congresswoman acknowledged N’COBRA’s longstanding work on reparations, and  in particular HR 40. She thanked N’COBRA for its current work on the bill and offered ways in which there can be stronger collaboration moving forward.

Senator Cory Booker sent N’COBRA   a letter of congratulations, apologizing for his inability to attend the Convention. Senator Booker thanked N’COBRA for work in getting co-sponsors signed on S083 and also welcomed N’COBRA’s  continued efforts in the bill’s progress.Judge Mathis NCOBRA Conv


At a gala banquet on Friday night , the Honorable Judge Mathis delivered a powerful address. Mathis left no doubt that his credibility on this issue is  solid on multiple levels. The judge also shared his knowledge that there are many people of prominence who are working behind the scenes and we can expect other meaningful contributions into this movement which he called a just demand.

Saturday night’s Town Hall keynote speaker was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan’s   presence at the N’COBRA Convention was just one more statement of how deep the Nation of Islam reaches into the national struggle for Black empowerment, liberation and justice. Minister Farrakhan admonished the attendees, in addition to intensifying the reparations demand, that we also must plan to meet many of our repair needs by creating greater unity within our community.

N’COBRA’s Convention was largely aided by the Nation of Islam. The NOI provided press, promotional and technical assistance before and during the convention and live streamed most of the activities.

To learn more about the Convention or to join N’COBRA’s efforts, go to for more information.



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