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Yonela Boya is a young Black man from Katlehong. He writes poetry and is planning to publish his first poetry book later this year. He has studied Horticulture and has done an internship with eBukhosini Solutions. He has an invested interest in Pan-Afrikan community mobilization, Black Consciousness and decolonial transformation.

Black History Month Presentation – African History and The Need for Reparations

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The context within which we are gathered here today is a Pan Afrikan Nationalist context. We commemorate Black History month not to feel good about ourselves, it is not an exercise to just feel a moments pride at discovering our beautiful ancient history because our present is not so beautiful. That’s just part of it. We are here to remind each other that we need to be working towards a untied and liberated Afrika. We must locate the establishing of Black History week in 1926 which eventually became Black History month in 1976 in the global struggle for Pan Afrikan Nationalism. We are at war. We remind ourselves of our history so we can be proud of who we are, so we can gain tools that were used to build civilisations and to resist colonialism and slavery, to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of yesterday warriors, healers and builders. We remind ourselves of our history so we can build the future. We believe in the principle of SANKOFA.

Today we remind ourselves of the struggle for reparations.

Reparations is understood as practical forms of “transitional justice”, encompassing compensation, redress and restitution for systemic atrocities that the Western and Arab world have forced on Afrika and Afrikans historically. This discussion will look at reparations from a perspective of self-repair and the need for constructing a new state of mind as Afrikan people.
By self – repair we mean the individual and collective healing of black people. Psychological and spiritual healing. As black people we have not received any spiritual cleansing and psychological treatment for the oppression we have experienced and continue to experience.

By construction of a new state of mind we mean black people, individually and collectively operating under a mindset where we value ourselves and our communities enough to work towards improving ourselves as individuals and our communities. Operating together as a community, because of this new mind set, we shall be able relate to each other in such a way that we contribute to a united and liberated Afrikan continent. As ancestor Amos Wilson reminds us that “the ability of dominant whites to socially manufacture or markedly influence Afrikan states of consciousness and conduct in the interest of perpetuating white supremacy is both a source and product of the power relations and inequalities which inhere between these races.”

So why do we need reparations and how does that connect with self – repair and the construction of a new state of mind?

Afrika has been robbed. Not only of our physical strength and wealth and materials but of our cultural and spiritual wealth as well. We have been robbed of ourselves. The trauma sustained by our ancestors is still finding expression through our behaviours, our thoughts about ourselves and the world and our relation to each other as Black people and other peoples of the world. Post Traumatic Slave and Colonial syndrome is real. The wounds of the past fester in our social fabric. It is an inferiority complex that we carry today. We don’t believe in ourselves, in our abilities to change the conditions of our communities. The trauma has been imprinted in our DNA.
“Material want is bad enough but coupled with a spiritual poverty it kills. And this latter effect is probably the one that creates mountains of obstacles in the normal course of emancipation of black people”. “It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality” the above quotes from ancestor Steve Bantu Biko speak to the need for self – repair spiritually and psychologically (personality). What he was implying with the first quote is that our spiritual castration or lose of spiritual self is one of the obstacles on the road to emancipation. I further say that without Afrikan centred spiritual practices, even with all the spiritual or religious system of the world, our road will still be marked by obstacles. We need to heal and repair our spiritual integrity. The second quote speaks to the need to heal and repair the personality of the black man and woman, the mind and how he or she sees and values themself. That without black people being infused with pride, integrity and dignity, we shall forever be complicit in the crimes against our race.
This is why we need reparation directed at self repair and construction of a new state of mind. So that we march on the road to emancipation steadfastly. That we operate under a state of mind that moves us closer to our Pan Afrikan Nationalists aspirations.

So from who must we demand reparations?

Those that have been the perpetrators for our oppression, exploitation and dehumanisation are those whom we make the demands for reparations to. However, I am not naïve to believe that they would give us reparations. This would mean an admittance of wrong doing and guilt from their side which is not likely to happen. Reparations is a legal concept within the legal framework of the law of those that continue our systematic oppression and exploitation. Slavery, Colonialism and Apartheid were all once legal with laws and statutes regulating them. There have been many activists groups around the world who have advocated for reparations up to UN level but none of them have been successful such that we see the lives of black people improve globally or in the countries of origins of the groups.

In South Afrika the final TRC recommendations in 1997, recommended that an amount of 500 million rands be distributed among the victims of Apartheid. However, there are only 21676 officially identified victims of apartheid according to the TRC and only 17408 who received reparations in the form of monetary payment from the government. This was a once off payment of 30000 that was recommended to be an annual pay-out for 6 years. There are still legal battles surrounding the issue of reparations for Apartheid victims today. Many of which have not received what was promised them. However, 21676 victims is a drop in the ocean compared to the reality. The reality is that all black people were victims of Apartheid, even the black collaborators. It is deeply problematic that such a small section of the population are recognised as victims and even fewer got paid as though they were being conned.

Historically in a war or post war, reparations was paid by the defeated nation. At the end of the 1st European War which we are told is WW1, Germany paid reparations to the Allied nations until 1933 under the auspices of the treaty of Versailles. It is thus I argue that the source of tools, instrument and medicine for self – repair is the broken people themselves to come together and realise that they are broken, after such a realisation, the work begins to heal, to self and collectively heal. That we are broken as a people an important realisation to make collectively because without such a realisation we will not see the need to heal. This healing must come with constructing a new way of thinking, a state of mind that is resistant to the status quo. A mind set that will establish, promote and support black businesses. A mind set that will build or take control of the schools in our community. A mind set that values Afrikan culture and spirituality. A mind set that values family and respects other black people. A mind set that will love and respect self-first. A black power state of mind. A race first mentality. “The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. So black people I say to you. Take back your mind and take back your land.

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