US Human Rights Network Blog
USHRN Celebrates Juneteenth with National Call on the IDPAD and discussions on reparationsJun 26, 2019
June 19 marked Juneteenth, an important annual celebration of the freedom of People of African Descent enslaved in the United States. Juneteenth is rooted in the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas, two and a half years after the federal Emancipation Proclamation took place on January 1, 1863. While Juneteenth is celebrated nationally as Black Independence Day or Freedom Day, it is also an opportunity for Black leaders and human rights defenders to gather and push forward important discussions about the status of People of African Descent on both the national and international level.
Among countless local, regional, and national meetings, this Juneteenth saw a Congressional Hearing on H.R. 40, a Bill to Form a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals; a Forum on Reparations organized by the National African American Reparations Commission and our partner the ACLU; and the first National Call on the International Decade for People of African Descent.
The recent national and international attention given to reparations for the transatlantic slave trade is unprecedented. USHRN Founding Board Member Dr. M. Thandabantu Iverson urges:
“Everyone who is interested in reparations should encourage members of the US Congress to see support for H.R. 40 (and the study of reparations) as an essential process for clarifying the comprehensive and enduring effects of the enslavement of Peoples of African Descent. Despite what many of us already recognize as the white supremacist stance of the White House, it makes good tactical sense to publicly emphasize the urgency of H.R. 40 as one means of demanding U.S. accountability to its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.”
Reparations, racial justice and equality
On May 29, 2019, the Network participated in a successful workshop on “Reparations, Racial Justice and Equality” held by the United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures in New York. The expert workshop was convened by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Dr. E. Tendayi Achiume.
USHRN attended the meeting and heard from independent experts including our partner at ENPAD, Michael McEachrane, NESRI Cathy Albisa, and various WGEPAD and CERD members, alongside leading independent activists and academics who presented their research on the topic of reparations and discussed international and regional mechanisms.
The meeting was part of the Special Rapporteur’s effort to gather information for her upcoming thematic report on reparations, racial justice, and equality for the Human Rights Council. The workshop was focused on research and experiences of People of African Descent in the United States and internationally, and included the experiences of Indigenous Peoples who also continue to fight for reparations packages.
The Special Rapporteur will continue meeting with experts globally through the end of June. She is accepting input from civil society to inform her report until June 30, 2019 regarding any of the following issues:
- Aspects of the reparations debates within the United Nations human rights system that have received insufficient attention in prior reports
- Challenges and opportunities for achieving racial justice through reparations mechanisms
- Barriers to advancing reparations mechanisms
- Lessons learned from past reparations schemes
- Complex reparations schemes, including schemes requiring land transfers or envisioning migration or transfer of populations
- How positive measures, development, and other structural policies aimed at achieving racial equality interplay with effective reparations schemes
- Perspectives on existing standards for reparations within international law
- Ensuring that reparations mechanisms respect the inherent dignity of victims and facilitate robust participation throughout both planning and execution
- The obligation of States to ensure private actors pay reparations for their violations or contributions to racial discrimination
- Lessons learned from previous and current domestic and transnational advocacy for reparations
Please email your written submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Call on the IDPAD
Following the workshop on reparations, USHRN co-sponsored a National Call on the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) on Juneteenth. The call was an opportunity for Black leaders and those fighting for the rights of People of African Descent to discuss the Decade as an opportunity to elevate and amplify their work. Over fifty people nationally and internationally participated in the call.
USHRN’s own Deputy Director, Salimah Hankins, spoke to introduce the Decade, discussing the Decade’s declared themes and goals as: recognition, the right to equality and non-discrimination; access to justice; and the right to development and measures against poverty. Salimah contextualized the Decade within the human rights framework and historic and contemporary struggles of Black communities in the United States.
Our partners Sakira Cook (The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights), Thenjiwe Tameika McHarris (Blackbird), Michael McEachrane and Esther Mamadou (ENPAD), and LaTosha Brown (USHRN Board Member/ENPAD) also spoke on the call, highlighting ongoing efforts towards a Permanent Forum and a Declaration for People of African Descent, as well as civil society work nationally and internationally to mobilize around the IDPAD.
The IDPAD call was the first in an ongoing series of monthly calls to mobilize a new International Network around the Decade.
Watch the recorded video of the National Call here.
This call was sponsored by: US Human Rights Network, Blackbird, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, European Network of People of African Descent, Black Voters Matter Fund, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Most Influential People of African Descent, Black Women’s Blueprint, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
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