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Reparation efforts in California move forward

 July 10, 2024 at 3:43 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on KPBS. Today we're checking in on California's Reparations Task Force. Here's to conversations that keep you informed and inspired and make you think. California is budgeting $12 million for reparations.

S2: This is the first time we're going to have in the state budget , any state budget in this country , a line item for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people here in the country.

S1: We'll talk about how the money may be used and what the complicated process of eligibility could look like. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Three years ago , California became the first state in the nation to form a reparations task force. Now , the state has officially set aside 12 million for descendants of people who were enslaved under the United States race based system of chattel slavery. Right now , the California Legislative Black Caucus is on a statewide tour to promote its slate of 14 reparations bills. So on today's show , we're talking about the bills , the funding , and what this means in context of the nation. Emmanuel Felton covers race and ethnicity for the Washington Post. Emanuel , welcome to midday.

S2: Hey , thanks for having me.

S1: So glad you're here.

S2: So what we know is there are about 14 bills working their way through the legislature that address this idea of reparations not involved , direct payments. Some are , you know , um , efforts to pump money into communities where there's a lot of violence or to , you know , tackle some school equity issues or topics like that , or to start the agency that would actually run the reparations program. So we don't know what the first 12 million is for. That's a drop in the bucket compared to what the the state task force recommended , which was essentially hundreds of billions of dollars. But the question is , how do we get started in a time where , um , there is just very little money in the budget , and that's what that's what lawmakers were facing this session. Wow.

S1: Wow.

S2: Right. And I think I can't remember where it ended up , but it was it was in the hundreds or tens of billions. Right. And so California had a had a big hole to fill this year. And that was a very tough year for even reparations proponents to have their first go. Um , you know , the question has always been , can we afford this ? Uh , and so to , to go out in a year , one of the worst years in budgetary , you know , recent memory , uh , was was really it was a challenge for for advocates of reparations. And I think , you know , there are some who were really , towards the beginning of the session , upset that there were no direct cash payments. But I think once they got in , once they saw how bad the budget was , they realized that , hey , this is um , this isn't going to be the year we get everything we want. We just have to start , um , you know , chipping away at this , this , this grand project. And , you know , I think there there are folks who have always said reparations just means cash payments. And I've talked to those folks and some of them were even like , well , you know , this is historic in itself. This is the first time we're going to have in the state budget , any state budget in this country , a line item for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people here in the country. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , you know , no matter what reparations will actually look like. I mean , I know that's still to be determined , but who would be eligible and how would that part be determined ? Yeah.

S2: So that's been a big fight everywhere. What the indecision in California was. If you could trace your lineage back to a person who was either enslaved in this country or a free person of color in this country before 1900 , you would be you would qualify for California's reparations programs. That's not set in stone. That was the task force recommendation. But and that's been a really thorny that's been a thorny conversation. Um , you know , made more complicated by the fact that in California , there was very limited some Southerners brought their slaves to the state , to California was most was essentially a free state. There's very limited slavery in the state. And so in California , we're not necessarily talking about slavery , right ? We're talking about Jim Crow. We're talking about the decades of of things that came after slavery , that was sort of remnants of that , that , that institution , other institutions that held black people back. Um , and so the question is , why ended at 1900 ? So we ended that 1960 , or should we should it be all black folks , including more recent immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean ? Um , and that has been the fight across the country. Um , but , you know , California decided to to limit it to people who can trace their ancestry back to a black person who was in this country before 1900. Hmm.

S1: Hmm. And California has been leading the nation and a lot of these reparations efforts.

S2: There's a task force that's launching , um , Illinois. There's a task force , new Jersey , there's a task force there , city task force across the country. You know , in fact , the first people to pay out reparations is a town called Evanston , Illinois , which is a suburb of Chicago. And they're paying out reparations for their discriminatory housing segregation policies , um , from 1919 to 1969. Um , and so in that case , uh , anyone uh , it's a little complicated , but essentially people who trace their lineage back to people who are in black , folks who are in Evanston at that time qualify for $25,000 , with some exceptions. Um , but that's generally the the way the program works. And so , you know , evanston's ever since the 1st of May , but California is by far , uh , like years ahead of other states. Um , but the question is , does this turn into a real reparations program ? And that's still up in the air. I mean , you know , there's some thought that , you know , California is the progressive beacon in this country and leads the way , but it's also a state where only 5% of the population is black , right ? So , you know , the black population doesn't have the same electoral power that they do back east. Right. And so the question is , in California , can you convince Latinos and Asians , voters and politicians who don't necessarily have the same connection to this history , you know , that they should pay for the sort of maybe the the founding sands of California's white founding fathers. Hmm.

S1: Hmm. Have you gotten a taken the temperature on that ? Yeah.

S2: I mean , so what we've seen in both our own polling and polling done by UC Berkeley and some other folks who've polled just in California , is that , uh , Latino and Asian voters are definitely more interested or more open to the idea of reparations than white voters , but are still on a whole against the idea of cash payments for black vote or for black residents. So it's definitely still a hurdle. And , you know , some of the the most vocal opponents of reparations this year in Sacramento have been , um , Latino and , well , particularly some some Latino Republican , um , Assembly members who and state senators who have said , you know , it's just not fair. We weren't we weren't we weren't the you know , our ancestors aren't the people who made these policies. Why should we pay now ? Hmm.

S1: Well , what's been the rebuttal to that , if any ? Yeah.

S2: I think , you know , the the answer that I hear from , from advocates , it's like , well , when you , when you come to this country , when you assume , you know , when you start making a living based on this country's greatness and on its , you know , its prosperity , that prosperity was built on the backs of enslaved , um , black people. And that , you know , any American , every American owes something to those people. Is is usually the rebuttal. Okay.

S1: Okay. Well , how does the Legislative Black Caucus fit into all of this ? And what role does the California Task Force play ? Yeah.

S2: So , you know , the task force is pretty much done. It's disbanded. Um , you know , some of the the folks who were involved are still , you know , I would say almost all of them are still out there trying to rally support for reparations in different ways. You know , the conversation has really been among former cast members that I talked to is , how do we sell this to voters ? How do we sell this to everyday Californians ? Because that really that's going to be the hard part moving forward. I think , you know , you can find ways to find $12 million in the budget of a , you know , a state with a $300 billion budget. But when we talk about doing something much grander than that , you're going to need widespread support. And so whether it's public information campaigns or advocacy , that's really where I've been hearing the task. Former task force members are focusing , whereas , you know , and they're doing that with members of the Black Caucus , right. Um , and you see people like , uh , Senator Bradford really leading the charge , you know , this is his last , his last hurrah. And I think , like , this is one of the things that he wants to see , um , as part of his legacy as he's looking at retiring later this year. So I think there there are a lot of people who are out there traveling the state , really working hard on this issue. But it's it's a big one. It's this is this is California's venturing into territory that no one else has , really. Um , and I think the question for the nation has been like , you know , what is success ? What's possible ? And a state is progressive is California will really be the benchmark moving forward.

S1: So reparations have been long discussed at the federal level , but with no movement there.

S2: I think a lot of it comes down to timing. I think , you know , advocates there were able to get Governor Newsom to sign a bill right , in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Right. So there is this there is this momentum at that moment. So we get a task force , and that task force does this amazing job , right ? They produce this 1100 page report that that isn't as true indictment on California. It's it's not about the federal system. It's about how California specifically its its state government , its city governments not only failed black people , but actively held them back in many sectors of society. And so now we have this 1100 page report. We have this this manifesto essentially. And so California is ahead of the game because , you know , their task force got up and running at a time where there was a lot more political will behind the idea of solving the racial wealth gap and , and the sort of the really , um , the intractable racial injustices we see in this country. And , you know , sadly , I think with with everything in politics , there's a there's a pendulum swing and , and we've swung away from that , that , that fervor we had in the , in the days and months after George Floyd. Um , so that that set California up to , to tackle this issue in a way that no other state did. Um , the question is , now we're getting to money and we're getting to the money at a time where there's both a budget shortfall and we've seen less political will to tackle these issues of racial injustice in the country. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S2: I mean , you know , the Japanese American community who did , uh , get reparations in the 1980s , um , but that that came after a battle that started in the 70s. It was a long generational fight to get public support. And really , at that point , the federal support federal politicians behind the idea that this is something that had to be done to to rectify what happened during the war with internment camps. So it's always been , you know , getting the government to move is always a slow process on , especially on something that's big. Um , and so I think , you know , I think for , for reparations advocates , this is the long slog. This is , you know , the arguments are out there , and now it's about convincing Americans to do what they think is the right thing to do.

S1: Well , yeah.

S2: We'll see what happens with the 12 million. And then , you know , there'll be another legislative session and it'll just , you know , this is I think advocates are prepared for a multi-year , maybe a really generational battle to make this happen.

S1: I've been speaking with Emmanuel Felton , race and ethnicity reporter with the Washington Post. Emmanuel , thank you so much for joining us.

S2: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: Coming up , we'll hear from the former chair of California's Reparations Task force.

S3: Because of slavery , right ? No , actually , we were the financial instruments. We were the property given to people here.

S1: More when KPBS Midday Edition returns. Welcome back. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Black Californians with family members who were formerly enslaved are a few steps closer to seeing redress for the atrocities of chattel slavery and social injustice. We just talked about what reparations in California mean in the greater context of the U.S. now , we'll find out where efforts stand in the state. For two years , the California Reparations Task Force was charged with collecting the data and hearing from people with lived experience to form recommendations for reparations in the state. While the task force is now disbanded. The work of members is far from over. Camilla Moore was chair of the California Reparations Task Force. She joins us now. Camilla , welcome back to the show.

S3: Thanks so much for having me.

S1: Well , it's great to have you here. So California recently allocated $12 million for reparations to help fix systems and policies borne out of the legacy of chattel slavery.

S3: Um , you know , we found that under the 13th amendment , section two , in particular of the 13th amendment , it actually empowers Congress or actually should compel Congress to what we said , um , eradicate any lingering badges and incidents of slavery that still persists in this state and this society and that responsibility , not only , you know , um , is reserved to Congress , but to state legislatures as well. Um , and so , um , essentially , in terms of , you know , the work of the two years of the task force , the first year was the study phase where we were studying the various different atrocities , um , or those lingering badges and incidents of slavery that we identified. We identified 12 major areas of systemic discrimination or lingering badges and incidents of slavery that disproportionately impact descendants of American slaves from , you know , racial terror. So we we we look at a historical lens of these badges and incidents of slavery , but we also included , right , contemporary data as well to show that this , you know , these badges and incidents of slavery still persist. So , you know , from racial terror to political disenfranchisement to racism in the environment and infrastructure , to mental and physical harm and neglect. The wealth gap , you know , those are just some of the major areas of systemic discrimination that the task force identified and pretty much stated that there should be , um , you know , comprehensive policy , um , that should be enacted to address the these problems. And so , um , just to conclude , you know , the task force , we recommended over 115 policy recommendations over the last year of our work. You know , based on everything that we learned and studied in the first year of our work , that's essentially what it means to to the task force. You know , our task was to , you know , again , not only study , but to also develop , you know , comprehensive reparation proposals for this particular population is particular group of people. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , how are you feeling about it ? And is 12 million enough ? Yes.

S3: So , um , heard recent news , you know that in this next year's budget , California's next year's budget for 2024 to 2025 , um , there has been $12 million allocated for what would be considered reparations implementation funding , so that 12 million would be reserved for , you know , funding , you know , whatever reparations legislation passes through the legislature this summer. Um , and , and then as signed by Governor Newsom , you know , by his deadline of September 30th , whatever those bills are , you know , that 12 million allocation would be reserved to implementing those particular bills. And so , um , I think it's a great step in the right direction for , for many reasons. On its face , yes. It does not seem like enough. But at the same time , you know , the fact that the government , the state , you know , is reserving money to reparations , right ? It's it's unprecedented and it's showing that the state is at least willing to acknowledge the harm done , um , by their own policies , by their own actions or even omissions to this particular population. And so , you know , this , this $12 million essentially is kind of like a seed , right , of good faith. And it's and it's for helping to get the infrastructure kind of building up that infrastructure for what I , what what I see and what I envision to be more stronger and substantive reparations legislation in future legislative session.

S1: And the Legislative Black Caucus recently started their statewide tour here in San Diego , promoting 14 bills that would help to build that infrastructure you're talking about.

S3: You know , one of the bills , for instance , and all of these bills are , in one way or another , again , are rooted in the task force's final report and our recommendations. One of them is AC eight , uh , which is a constitutional amendment. It passed through the state legislature. And since it's a constitutional amendment , it's going to be on the ballot , um , this upcoming November for voters to decide. And that bill would , you know , amend the California Constitution to no longer allow , um , on its face , slavery or involuntary servitude in prisons , um , in California state prisons ? You know , another bill was SB 1050 , um , introduced by state Senator Stephen Bradford. But it's a part of the Klbk's priority package , um , that would allow for , you know , land restitution. So really a direct benefit to descendants or to families who have been directly impacted by unjust property taking. So let's say , you know , you were , you know , the government took your land via a racially motivated for eminent domain. You know , in that situation you would be provided , you know , land restitution. So either you could , you know , get compensation for that unjust property taking or in some instances that land could be conveyed back to you. And that's similar to what happened when LA County , some a couple of years ago , you know , conveyed land back to the descendants of the Bruce couple who owned a beach town resort in Manhattan Beach , and it was taken away by the government via racially motivated eminent domain. Um , and so that's that's another bill from your perspective.

S1: Is there anything else that should be taking priority at this point ? I know the task force had many recommendations. Um , some are taking priority now , some aren't.

S3: Absolutely. Thank you. And I was , um , I would say definitely two bills by Senator Stephen Bradford , um , that have been making incredible progress through the state legislature and are just two steps away from being on Governor Newsom's desk. Um , one of them is Senate Bill 1403. And that would create a new state agency agency for descendants of American slaves. Um , you know , that office would contain , you know , a legal council or secretary. And for now , you know , a genealogy office as well. Those would be the three primary offices. You know , that genealogy office , for instance , would be tasked with , you know , assisting people with their claims and making sure that they're , you know , eligible. But long term , right. This agency , um , would , you know , facilitate different , you know , reparations programs and policies and , you know , provide oversight to existing state agencies as well , you know , on issues concerning this population. And then another bill is SB 1331 , and that would create a new account in the state treasury , in California's Treasury to fund , you know , reparations policies and programs , um , for descendants of American slaves as well. So , for instance , those two bills , they actually passed the state Senate and now they're on the Assembly side. I think the next hearing is August 15th at the assembly suspense file. That's the process whereby no bills go that , you know , have a certain amount of funding attached to it. And then once it passes through that process , it goes to the state assembly floor for a vote and then to Governor Newsom's deaths. I would definitely say to keep an eye out on those two bills for sure. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , and , you know , on that office that you mentioned that would help people with their genealogy.

S3: And you know that it took a lot of debate and conversation to get to that point , you know , over ten months of the first year of our work was really kind of embroiled on this question , but we settled it through a majority vote , um , that the community of eligibility would be , you know , what we are calling lineage based rather than race based , which is important for a couple of reasons , but particularly from a legal perspective , whereby , you know , we live in a state like California that we learned through our expert testimony has even been called a don't say black state because , you know , race based affirmative action has been illegal per se in this state since 1996 with , you know , the passing of proposition 209 , the passage of of that constitutional amendment that , you know , prohibits race based considerations in the areas of contracting , education and employment. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , you know , I know that the undertaking , right , of like , tracing family roots , um , can be really intensive. And so to put that process into perspective , I want to talk about what chattel slavery is for those who don't quite understand its meaning , and specifically how it may impact one's ability to trace back family history.

S3: So , you know , that's something that we also talked about in terms of our report. You know , the first chapter in our report is is on enslavement. And then the 12 remaining chapters are on those badges and incidents of slavery that I mentioned. But , you know , in our enslavement chapter , we , we describe , you know , essentially what chattel slavery is. You know , essentially , before I get to describing it , it was important to describe , because a lot of people who who are against reparations , you even have very influential people like Elon Musk. Right. Saying something like this to Don lemon in an interview recently where he said , oh , we were all slaves , or we all came from slaves. And at one point in time and one , you know , in history. Um , but that that's really it's kind of ignorant of the real truth to what chattel slavery , you know , was. Right. And how was practice in the United States in particular , where , you know , essentially human beings were relegated to be financial instruments , to be considered chattel property , and it was hereditary , like so. So those elements together , um , made the system of slavery in the United States , um , unique. Right. Um , uh , practice in a way that's never been done before. Um , and many other societies where there was slavery , you know , wasn't hereditary in any sense. It wasn't codified into law. Right ? That if you were a slave and you were born to a mother who was enslaved , right ? Essentially to a black woman , right , you would be enslaved for the rest of your life. And that status would be , you know , passed down to your children , right ? That made , you know , a slavery in this country particularly unique. Um , right. When you think about , for instance , wills and trusts. Right ? In many instances , you know , we could have been the beneficiaries of , of certain , uh , of , of certain wealth passed down by these enslavers , but because of slavery , right ? No , actually , we were the financial instruments. We were the property given right to people. Just to kind of illustrate , you know , what that means , um , you understand that there's many different challenges to this , to this work in terms of eligibility , but that burden of proof should not be on right , the community , it should not be on descendants. And so that's why write SB 1403 that would create this new state agency with a genealogy office is so important because it transfers the burden of proof essentially from the community to the state. Um , and it will be the state funding those expert genealogists , some of um , uh , um , these expert genealogists to assist people in that work. Right. Taking that burden from them. Um , so I'm really looking forward to that. Um , you know , if and hopefully when it passes. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S3: Um , you know , this was a labor of love , as I mentioned earlier. You know , this was purely on a volunteer basis. And I personally made a lot of sacrifices to serve on this commission. And , you know , it just it's a wonderful feeling. And I'm really grateful for the opportunity , um , um , to be a part of what I considered , you know , this to be a very sacred political project. Um , you know , not only , you know , standing in the shoes of my ancestors to help , you know , achieve justice for them , but to also solve some , you know , various serious problems that are still plaguing communities today.

S1: I've been speaking with Camilla Moore. She chaired the California Reparations Task Force. Camila , thank you as always.

S3: Thank you so much for having me today.

S1: Coming up , a genealogist walks us through the process of tracing the ancestry of descendants of enslaved people.

S4: The records weren't kept , um , very well on enslaved people. And slavers actually did keep records. But what those records look like very poor and slaver per plantation.

S1: More to come when KPBS Midday Edition returns. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Reparations efforts in California are still moving along , and now have some funding and bills in progress to solidify what that may entail. We just heard some of the details from Camilla Moore , chair of the California Reparations Task Force. Now , let's look into what it could take to prove eligibility for cash payments and some of the challenges of that process. Adrian Abiodun is a professional genealogist with Legacy Tree genealogy. She's been in the field for 15 years. Adrian , welcome.

S4: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

S1: Well , glad to have you here. So for those who don't know , what is a genealogist.

S4: A genealogist is someone who is either by hobby or profession. They engage in the search for family. They they construct family trees , they put pedigrees together and lineage , and they are invested in it , just researching and extending the family. They could be someone who is , um , working on biographical information for families. So there's many , many things , many hats of genealogists can wear , but it's all about family history and lineage.


S4: And a lineage based approach would require genealogy. That would be a traditional genealogy effort where you're using records and documents to trace family histories. Um , or it could also involve DNA. It really depends on what they decide is going to be their requirements for proving that lineage.

S1: Well , during chattel slavery , black families were often broken up. Children were separated from their parents and sold off partners , siblings and grandparents all sold off. I imagine that that makes tracing family roots difficult.

S4: African American people , black American people , they don't have the easiest time tracing their family histories because of the impact of being in a descendant of a formerly enslaved group of people. And records weren't kept , um , very well on enslaved people , uh , as there is a truth and a lie to that part. Um , enslavers actually did keep records , but what those records look like very poor and slaver per plantation. Some enslavers were small and slavers , and maybe only had 1 or 2 , um , individuals that they enslaved. So we're talking about records. Usually people are talking about census records and how in particular 1850 , 1860 , they did not record African American people by name. They were either they were included on a slave census or a slave schedule that detailed them by their sex age , um , and the plantation owner. But if you dig deeper , yes , you can find records on enslaved people. It's usually those wills and probate records and court cases and some newspaper articles and things like that , where you're really digging to find the names of formerly enslaved people.

S1: And so , I mean , how do you navigate those challenges ? Because like in some I would imagine in some of those records , there are no names. It may just be child age five , you know , something like that. Um , and then not to mention the last name , once , um , a person was sold was changed to a different name altogether.

S4: That's how it works. And I think what I'm interested in , in this whole reparations and lineage based approach is , um , who's going to vet the research ? Who's going to conduct this level of research ? It's not a weakened activity per se. This could take several of years for a person to research their family history , um , decades even , um , that , yes , there have been advancements that make it easier. Records have been digitized. They're available online. You don't have to go to courthouses and such , but , um , there are still hurdles that are going to be very hard to overcome. So it's going to look very different from family to family. But I think , um , what people need to have is going to be patience with this. Um , if you're talking about starting with a person today and they have to prove their parents and their grandparents and then their great grandparents , and maybe they only have to go to their second great grandparents until they get to an enslaved person , or maybe their grand great grandparents. The records are going to be outside of California. They're going to be in southern states. They're going to need to have money to collect those vital records birth , marriage and death records , if they exist. Um , and you're right , things like name changes , uh , people name changes did not just occur right after the period of enslavement they occurred during Jim Crow era. They occurred as people were leaving the southern states and migrating to Chicago and New York and in LA for better opportunities. People were leaving to pass in other areas. So the African American experience in this country is multifold and very dynamic and researching one's ancestors. You may not even hit that brick wall at 1870. You might hit that brick wall sooner than that , like at your grandparents. Wow.

S1: Wow. Well , while you live in Florida , you and your extended family have a personal stake in what's happening here in California around reparations. And you're also dealing with some of those challenges.

S4: My mother was born and raised in California and her siblings still live out there. My first cousins live in , um , Southern California , so my interest is in if there were an eligibility for this as individuals who or a family who can prove that they do descend from formerly enslaved people. I'm just curious about the criteria. And again , what is going to be required for proof in how they're going to what what records are they're going to ask for. So I will say , yes , I can prove that we do come from enslaved people on one line , but there are multiple lines in my my mother's family history where we cannot prove we descend from formerly enslaved people. And what that means is , I've hit that 1870 brick wall. I've traced my family back to Mississippi. All of my ancestors seem to have come out of Mississippi on all sides. But I traced them as far back as I could. There. I have no idea who their enslavers were. Um , if their last names were changed prior to the 1870 , or if they were something else , or the same last name. I have no idea if they had siblings or were only children. Those are the types of challenges that you touched on a moment ago when you said people were sold , um , and brothers and sisters and parents and children were sold from north to south. And those are the things if you don't have any knowledge or any kind of family oral history , like like where you were raised on hearing these stories and they were passed down , those are the leads that you usually use in need when you start your search in documents. And for me , my search took nearly ten , 15 , 20 years to find some of the information that my family has now at its dispense.

S1: You'd mentioned that a lot of the leads come from , like the stories that you're told from maybe grandma or grandpa or something , you know , like in my family. And I'm sure in many families , some of our grandparents did not tell those stories because it was so emotionally taxing to relive the trauma. This work seems like it could have a heavy emotional load for you and for the people that you work with. So can you unpack what that's been like ? Yes.

S4: And it was the same way for my family. My my mother , as I mentioned in her siblings were all born in California. And her their parents had left Mississippi for the purpose of finding better opportunity , escaping , um , the oppressive South , uh , racism , Jim Crow , uh , things of that nature. And my mother and siblings and aunts , uncles did not grow up with an understanding of either of their parents families because or grandparents at that , you know , they they only knew one grandmother. Um , and they did not ask questions. They were the generation if you don't ask questions because , you know , it wasn't a child's place to ask those types of questions , but also because they were painful , um , and people wanted to move past that. So I literally have been the one sharing and telling the family about the history as I've gone digging. But it's been years and years because again , I'm doing this in the reverse. I should have my mother and my parents. My grandparents should have told me this information , but they did not and it was not shared. So when you don't have the families that do share that , that's already one challenge you're working with. And then , um , I find it has been my experience that I find that the people who seem to have a lot of information or know a lot about this , or have known about it for many years are the families that for whatever reason , we're like , we're not going to let this information die. This needs to be known. It needs to be retold. But a lot of families didn't have that.

S1: That's true. Well , you mentioned how long this process of sort of digging into your family roots , finding your ancestry can take.

S4: That's going to vary on , um , a lot of things. Um , one , their ability to understand what it is that they need to what evidence or information or documents that they need to obtain next. So the ability to skill the know how , um , it's also going to depend on how , um , how fast they want to get it done and whether or not they're able to retrieve certain records from certain repositories. And , you know , if they need a , a , um , military pension record from the National Archives. How many what's the wait time on that ? It's they don't send those to you in a week. That's let me give you a hint. Those usually take months. They can take months depending on a backlog or all kinds of things. Um , so the wait time or how long this could take for an individual really varies. Um , you're having to work with repositories. Like I said , the interesting thing about this is that , yes , California's acting as the responsible party for the reparations , but the individuals proving their lineage will have to almost undoubtedly have to interact with other states and their vital records systems to try to obtain birth and marriage and death records. If if they're using and asking for those type of documents to prove lineage. So southern states were formerly enslaved people came from they might need records from Arkansas or Tennessee or Alabama or Florida , Georgia , South Carolina , North Carolina , where their grandparents may have come from or their parents may have come from , or great grandparents may have come from prior to their time in California. Wow.

S1: Wow. So this really is a nationwide effort. It sounds like it sounds like. And right now there is a bill , though , to create a genealogy office for Californians to help people trace their lineage.

S4: Ask them very simple questions. You know , who was your mom and dad or who is my my grandma , my grandfather , you know , get their names , get any nicknames , get any , um , you know , information you can that way. And , you know , where were they born ? Where did they die ? What year , uh , did they , were they born and when did they die ? And then collect up that information and then start to figure out where they need to try to obtain records ? Again , I don't know what the proof requirements will be , but , um , most genealogy lineage requirements like , say , if you're joining a lineage organization , they usually required the very the very basics are those vital records , uh , marriage , uh , birth , death , uh , census records. Um , can be a great substitute for that. They usually are , um , newspaper articles , obituaries. Just try to collect up any record of information on family that helps to connect each generation , and that shows this person is the parent of this child and so forth. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , what do you think of California's lineage based approach ? I mean , what are the pros and cons in your eyes.

S4: As a genealogist ? I , I'm probably biased here , but I think it's the right way to prove you were a descendant of a formerly enslaved person. Otherwise , I'd have a hard time imagining how any government would go about doing so. You know , any not all black or African people of color in this country are descendants of formerly enslaved people. So , um , just as a checks and balances , I think this is a good way to go about it. However it is , it can be challenging. It will be a hard way. It won't. It won't be something I think that everyone will be able to do or swiftly be able to do at that. So it could take a couple of years to prove your lineage. It could , it could go with with assistance. Maybe you could even it could go faster than that. But I have several clients in my own work that I cannot prove their lineage to an enslaved person. And 40 hours , 100 hours. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. So I think it's the right thing to do. But I do feel it will be very time intensive.

S1: I've been speaking with professional genealogist Adrian Abiodun. Adrian , thank you so very much.

S4: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.

S1: That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, speaks about a package of reparations legislation at a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
Sophie Austin
Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, speaks about a package of reparations legislation at a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.

Three years ago, California became the first state in the nation to form a reparations task force. Now, the state has set aside $12 million for descendants of people who were enslaved, but it's unclear what programs the money will go toward.

As conversations around the use of these funds continue, the California Legislative Black Caucus is on a statewide tour to promote its slate of 14 reparations bills.

On Wednesday's Midday Edition show, we’re talking about the bills, the funding and more.