Friends pledge $500,000 in slavery reparations

'The Green Street’s Reparations Committee was launched in 2020, after conversations around white privilege and racial diversity.'

A US Quaker Meeting has said that it plans to give $500,000 as reparations to black neighbours over the next decade.

Green Street Friends in Germantown, Pennsylvania, started with a legal clinic last month to help preserve the wealth of black homeowners. The monthly clinics are part of this year’s goal to provide $50,000 in real estate and legal services, to address problems like tangled titles, wills, and deed transfers.

Green Street member Lucy Duncan told the Philadelphia newsletter BillyPenn that local Friends were looking past their abolitionist achievements to less-publicised ‘Quaker complicity’.

‘William Penn was the first slaveholder in Philadelphia, and there were many enslavers among Quakers in that particular time,’ Lucy Duncan said. ‘We were clear that as a Meeting Quaker community, that we did have complicity.’

Among the less-celebrated moments, she said, were Quakers’ slow response to calls from the Philadelphia branch of the 1969 National Black Economic Development Conference (NBEDC) that Philadelphia Society of Friends pay $5 million over a few years to Black Power organisations, including an immediate payout of $500,000. This was part of a wider call to US religious organisations from the ‘Black Manifesto’, which was issued by SNCC and Black Panther Party organiser James Forman. Activist Muhammad Kenyatta, vice-president of the conference and head of the Greater Philadelphia branch, eventually went on a hunger strike, condemning the city’s Quakers for being ‘dishonest about their history of racism and cowed by black men who break the mold of that history and refuse to come to the Quakers as hat-in-hand supplicants’.

In the end, individual Quakers donated around $5,000 to the NBEDC.

The Green Street’s Reparations Committee was launched in 2020, after conversations around white privilege and racial diversity. One member, Lola George, led a six-month ‘spirituality of money’ workshop, where Friends strove to understand class distinctions and view money as ‘a covenant’ and ‘a promise’. ‘We wanted to really raise consciousness [of] the way that our socialisation as white people would create defences to really moving deeply into this work,’ said Lucy Duncan, who was fired from American Friends Service Committee in January after criticising its restructuring plans.

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