WBEZ | reparations http://www.wbez.org/tags/reparations Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Staple Singers' anthem a call for civil rights and reparations http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-08/staple-singers-anthem-call-civil-rights-and-reparations-108515 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 9.30.53 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>One of the more stirring and heartfelt songs from the civil rights era is <em>When Will We Be Paid</em>, by the Chicago soul and gospel group The Staple Singers.</p><p>In plainspoken but soulful terms Mavis Staples unpacks the backbone of American prosperity: black slave labor.</p><p><em>We worked this country<br />From shore to shore<br />Our women cooked all your food<br />And washed all your clothes<br />We picked cotton and laid the railroad steel<br />Worked our hands down to the bone at your lumber mill</em></p><p>The Staples released the song in 1970 on <em>We&rsquo;ll Get Over</em>, their second album on the Stax label. The great performance of the song above comes from the film <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0244807/">Soul to Soul</a>, which documents a 1971 concert in Ghana, featuring mostly American R&amp;B, soul and jazz performers.</p><p>The song itself <a href="http://blog.kexp.org/2010/02/17/kexp-documentaries-civil-rights-songs-%E2%80%93-when-will-we-be-paid-for-the-work-weve-done/">was inspired by a passage</a> in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr&rsquo;s <em>I Have a Dream Speech</em>, given at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which took place 50 years ago this month.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note &hellip; a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Despite those credentials, and the Staples&rsquo; role in the civil rights movement, <em>When Will We Be Paid</em> is not recalled alongside some of the other great anthems of the era, like <em>We Shall Overcome</em>, <em>Go Tell it on the Mountain</em>, and <em>People Get Ready</em>. And neither the song nor the album were a hit for the Staples.</p><p>I wonder if that&rsquo;s in part because the song can be read as an argument for what&rsquo;s proven a controversial topic: reparations. That idea has been around <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reparations_for_slavery_debate_in_the_United_States">since the end of the Civil War</a>, that direct descendants of slaves, either individually or as a group, deserve some kind of monetary compensation for the wrongs suffered by their ancestors.</p><p>Of course the meaning of <em>When Will We Be Paid</em> is also much broader. Following Dr. King&rsquo;s logic, the &ldquo;bad check&rdquo; is a metaphor for the failure to achieve full equality for blacks in America. And the Staples double down on notion by invoking &ldquo;women&rsquo;s work,&rdquo; arguing that equality will only be paid in full if it also extends to black women.</p><p>But the litany of abuses in <a href="http://contreinfo.info/article.php3?id_article=480">the lyrics</a>, the claim that &ldquo;Anytime we ask for pay or a loan/That&rsquo;s when everything seems to turn out wrong,&rdquo; the repeated refrain of &ldquo;When will we get paid/For the work we&rsquo;ve done&rdquo; suggests the song speaks not just of the political but the economic forms of redress required to make the check good.</p><p>If the Staples did have reparations in mind, they&rsquo;d be in good company, at least when it comes to Chicago and Illinois. Many of the more recent arguments for reparations have come from here, made by activists like <a href="http://www.ncobra.org/">N&rsquo;COBRA</a> and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and by <a href="http://www.finalcall.com/national/reparations5-30-2000.htm">politicians like Dorothy Tillman</a>, Jan Schakowsky, Bobby Rush and Danny Davis. Reparations even came up as a <a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/10/mayoral-candidates-spar-over-reparations/">topic for debate</a> in Chicago&rsquo;s last Mayoral election.</p><p>Davis was part of a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_National_Coalition_of_Blacks_for_Reparations_in_America">Congressional group</a> charged with studying the idea of reparations in 2001. He thinks there is something unique about Chicago&rsquo;s position on reparations.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago sent the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_De_Priest">very first African American</a> to become a member of Congress after the period of Reconstruction,&rdquo; said Davis. &ldquo;Illinois has been the state that has elected two [African American] United State Senators. So Chicago has had a level of progression related to issue raising that many other places in the country have not experienced.&rdquo;</p><p>Though his own group came to naught in terms of serious discussion or recommendations, and never gained broader support from Congress, Davis doesn&rsquo;t think the issue has gone away.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anyone can deny that slavery has had an adverse effect on many of its descendants,&rdquo; Davis said. &ldquo;People whose relatives or foreparents were enslaved are still feeling the impact and are still being disadvantaged as a result.&rdquo;</p><p>But that is exactly what&rsquo;s proven so controversial about reparations: is payment required to repair that damage? And if so, how much, to whom, and why African Americans, and not other disadvantaged groups?</p><p>Davis thinks reparations don&rsquo;t have to mean paying people outright. He has in mind special incentives like education and training to lift people out of poverty, all of which he thinks can &ldquo;in a sense be called reparations.&rdquo; But reaching consensus on what those would look like has proven no less complex.</p><p>As for The Staple Singers, Davis say&rsquo;s he is a great fan of the group and has been since seeing them as a child in Crossett, Arkansas. To him, the song evokes a key claim for blacks, one that has yet to be fully answered.</p><p>&ldquo;The notion of when will we be paid, or when will we really reach the point when there is full citizenship, with no barriers, no prohibitions, with nothing that holds us back and reminds us of this previous condition of servitude, when will that happen -- if it will?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is WBEZ&rsquo;s Arts and Culture reporter and co-host of <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. Follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison?ref=tn_tnmn">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport#">Instagram</a></em></p></p> Sat, 24 Aug 2013 09:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-08/staple-singers-anthem-call-civil-rights-and-reparations-108515 Northwestern to investigate founder’s connection to historic massacre http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-investigate-founder%E2%80%99s-connection-historic-massacre-105689 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80401078" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/evans%20letter.gif" style="float: left; height: 380px; width: 280px;" title="A letter from Washington in 1865 asked John Evans to resign as governor of Colorado over his role in Sandy Creek. (Colorado State Archives)" />When Gary Alan Fine was named the John Evans Professor of Sociology at Northwestern, he wanted to know more about his title.</p><p>&ldquo;I got on the internet and googled, and within 30 seconds I was shocked,&rdquo; Fine said. He found out Evans was governor of Colorado in 1864, the year of the Sand Creek Massacre.</p><p>Colorado cavalrymen murdered more than 150 civilian Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians in one of the most notorious mass killings in U.S. history.</p><p>&ldquo;Children killed in front of their mothers, women who had their breasts cut off, I mean just a horrific story,&rdquo; Fine said, calling it one of most significant events of genocide in U.S. history.</p><p>Colorado&rsquo;s frontier government was effectively at war with the Cheyenne&rsquo;s and the Arapahoes, but the government had offered up the Sand Creek camp as a refuge for tribal members who were willing not to fight white settlers and railroad men. In other words, the massacre amounted to a bloody attack on a peaceful refugee camp.</p><p>Evans was not present at Sand Creek &ndash; he was out of the state on business &ndash; but as the territorial governor he somehow approved the action. He was removed from his post as governor after <a href="http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/four/sandcrk.htm#smith" target="_blank">Congress caught wind of the events</a>, but he remained president of Northwestern&rsquo;s Board of Trustees for thirty years after the fact.</p><p>The City of Evanston is Evans&rsquo; best-known namesake, and his fortune as a railroad mogul played a major role in Northwestern&rsquo;s early development. Multiple emeritus positions and the school&rsquo;s alumni house all carry Evans&rsquo; name.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Northwestern Senior Adam Mendel took note when he saw Evans&rsquo; name connected to Sand Creek in readings for a class. After further researching Evans and finding out that he was considered culpable for the massacre, Mendel got together with members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance to demand an explanation from the university as to why this part of Evans past was not in the biography of Evans on the university website.</p><p>Mendel said the students wanted &ldquo;recognition of John Evans&rsquo; role in Sand Creek and the way in which his profits from clearing the land of the Native population led to the development of the school.&rdquo;</p><p>They put together a petition that asks for the establishment of a Native American studies program and a scholarship fund for Cheyenne and Arapaho students. The group also wants a permanent memorial built on campus with input from the tribes.</p><p>The university responded in mid-February by announcing a committee of seven scholars to research Evans. The committee plans to release a report in 2014 on Evans&rsquo; connection to the massacre and on links between Evans&rsquo; financial contributions his policies towards Native tribes as governor of Colorado.</p><p>&ldquo;The year 2014 will mark the 150th anniversary of Sand Creek, so it is appropriate to assess how and what we report about John Evans as part of our institutional history, and if and in what way we should continue to recognize his contributions to the University,&rdquo; Provost Daniel Linzer said in a statement. &ldquo;Although Sand Creek occurred 13 years after the establishment of Northwestern, we would like to know in detail the nature of John Evans&rsquo; relationship with the University when he was territorial governor and afterwards.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m ecstatic that the committee is going to be formed,&rdquo; Mendel said.</p><p>He&rsquo;s disappointed that the committee does not include students or any members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, but said it&rsquo;s a great start.</p><p>Fine has high hopes for where the research could take the university.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What do we owe the Cheyenne and Arapaho, what do we owe native students, what do we owe the students today in terms of remembering our own traumatic history. How do you memorialize trauma?&rdquo; Fine asked.</p><p>He cites the work of Brown University, which formed a committee in 2003 to <a href="http://brown.edu/Research/Slavery_Justice/about/letter.html" target="_blank">address historic links to slavery</a> at the university. In 2007, Brown announced it would give $10 million in an endowment to local public schools as a form of reparations.</p><p>Fine hopes Northwestern will eventually do something similar by helping Native American students get access to higher education. Recent numbers show just seven percent of Native American kindergarteners end up graduating from college.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-investigate-founder%E2%80%99s-connection-historic-massacre-105689