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Crosscurrents is our award-winning radio news magazine, broadcasting Mondays through Thursdays at 11 a.m. on 91.7 FM. We make joyful, informative stories that engage people across the economic, social, and cultural divides in our community. Listen to full episodes at kalw.org/crosscurrents

Repair and dispossession: Housing as reparations

Sparlha Swaby and her children in their new home in Oakland.
Sparlha Swaby
Sparlha Swaby and her children in their new home in Oakland.

This story aired in the August 14, 2023 episode of Crosscurrents.

"I don't know how to describe it, but ... the insistence on pursuing a dream and figuring out the avenues to get there ... I think that's something that Black people, our ancestors, have been doing forever."
Sparlha Swaby

On June 29, 2023, the State of California released a proposal on reparations. The fight for reparations for formerly enslaved Africans in America began as early as 1783 in Massachusetts where Belinda Sutton petitioned local courts to provide compensation for her years of enslavement under the royal family.

Here in California, the Taskforce for Reparations continues the fight. They released a report asserting that African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved continue to be impacted by slavery and recommends monetary compensation to address the harm.

One key component of reparations is housing. In California, Black people comprise 6% of the population but 40% of unhoused persons. The proposal addresses housing by recommending a number of policies, including tax relief and affordable housing for formerly segregated neighborhoods.

But which Black people qualify? And what is the larger vision for repair for the harm caused by racial violence against all Black people?

Click the play button above to listen to this story

I am an immigrant from Ghana, navigating race, place, and being in a time of great possibility and turmoil. I believe in the power of us, and of our collective imaginations, to bring forth a world that fulfills the entirety of our beings. I believe in the power of our dreams. I am a law school graduate and a budding optimist. Forward ever.