By SHERRI WELCH
A new nonprofit led by 18 leaders from around the country is raising money to provide reparations for descendants of American slavery, starting with families in Detroit.
Reparation Generation’s Black-led, white-financed strategy will direct privately funded “reparative transfers” to Black Americans for home ownership and other wealth-building pursuits, including education and entrepreneurship, according to organizers.
Reparative transfers are not donations, philanthropy, gifts or acts of charity, the group’s founders said, but rather payments for moral obligations owed for racial and economic justice.
The nonprofit, whose founding board members are multiracial, is collecting tax-deductible donations from individuals, corporations and foundations to fund the payments to help Black Americans build wealth. To be eligible for
the payments, applicants must prove they are descendants of enslaved people.
So far, more than $400,000 has been raised from undisclosed individuals and family foundations, said co-chair Kiko Davis Snoddy, managing director of Northville-based Groovesville Productions and trustee of the Donald Davis Living Trust (which holds the majority share of Detroit-based First Independence Bank).Snoddy is working alongside David Mayer, the founder and president of California medical device company Mayer Laboratories Inc. and founder of Berkeley Housing Opportunities for Municipal Employees.
The eventual goal is to expand the reparations made through the group across the U.S., they said via email.
“We seek to show reparations in action and in turn, to pass a federal reparations act for Black Americans,” Davis Snoddy said. “Equity for Black Americans is good for all Americans. Systemic racism has kept the U.S. from reaching its full financial and economic potential.”
Reparation Generation is teaming with nationally known incubator Multiplier and local organizations in each target city to select participants, manage contributions and disburse the payments.
It launched its pilot application process in Detroit this week. The program will provide $25,000 payments to about 10 eligible homebuyers to help fund the purchase of a primary residence in the city that was home to direct descendants of enslaved people and those impacted by Jim Crow racial segregation laws in the South. The payments will be made on a first-come, first-served basis and disbursed within 90 days, organizers said.
The effort goes beyond providing money. In Detroit, the nonprofit is working with Greater Detroit Realtist Association to provide homebuyer education; Alan J. Young and Associates, which is doing pro bono auditing of applications to ensure compliance with requirements; social marketing firm The Guerilla Politic and Advantage Marketing for public relations and marketing assistance.
Black families have median wealth of $24,100, less than 13 percent of the $188,200 median wealth of white families, according to the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances released last fall by the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System. Hispanic families also trail with median wealth of $36,100.
“The American truism that hard work equals reward ignores the social inequities that slavery and ongoing structural racism have created for Black Americans,” Mayer said in a statement.
Government-sanctioned discriminatory practices such as “redlining” and racial covenants denied Blacks the same home-buying, and thus wealth building opportunities, enjoyed by whites, he said.
“Even today, a vast number of Americans wrongly believe that their ancestors simply reaped the benefits of their hard work. However, through a more careful reading of our hard history, it becomes clear that the same hard work by Black Americans more often than not resulted in little success in getting ahead,” Mayer said.
Homeownership is among the top ways to help families build wealth and to spur business development in the surrounding areas, Reparation Generation said.
Davis Snoddy and Mayer lead a board of 16 other founding board members from cities including Berkley, Los Angeles, Dallas, Nashville and metro Detroit, where half of the directors live. Local board members include:
- Pamela Alexander, director of community development, Ford Motor Company Fund
- Denise Brooks Williams, senior vice president and CEO, Henry Ford Health System’s North Market
- Ian Conyers, business consultant to startups and former Michigan state senator for District 4.
- Byna Elliott, managing director, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Kenneth Harris, president and CEO, National Business League Inc.
- Vivian Pickard, president and CEO, the Pickard Group LLC and former president, General Motors Foundation
- Xylinda Smith, Detroit-based sales representative, Meyer Laboratories
- Meagan Ward, principal and founder, Creatively Flawless media and communications company.
Reparation Generation will continue to seek contributions to expand the reparations, Davis Snoddy said.
Contributions to the group are tax-deductible given that it is a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit, which has been a “hot-debated issue,” she said. Reparations are not typically considered donations but rather reparative justice for something that was taken away, denied or stolen. The model is enabling Reparation Generation to attract both donations and grants.
Many foundations and corporations have money set aside for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and are looking for partners, Davis Snoddy said.
Pickard said she was “enthusiastically impressed that this idea of founding this organization came from white founders.”
“They wanted to put up the money and have the Black founders make decisions about how the money was disbursed,” she said. “What we’re trying to develop is a model that other institutions, including governments, nonprofits and others, can utilize for reparations.”
Those same founders are leading the fundraising for Reparation Generation, Pickard said, noting most of the money collected so far has come from West Coast individuals.
Harris says the program is taking a step toward overcoming the disadvantages created by generations of anti-Black racism, discrimination and exploitation.
“The failed historic promises of Reconstruction, the New Deal and even civil rights have led to systematic inequalities in lending and housing
discrimination, entrepreneurship marginalization, unequal education, police brutality, benign neglect policies, mass incarceration, employment discrimination and massive wealth and significant economic opportunity gaps,” Harris said in an email. “Reparation Generation is more than just empty promises, rhetoric-driven press conferences and platitudes. It is about healing this country with a stark assessment of the intergenerational effects of white supremacy on the Black economic well-being of today and the future.”