In 2021, twenty-three organizations were selected by the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation as part of its Equitable Recovery Grant Initiative. Believing in the utmost importance of capitalizing on this moment, the cohort, calling themselves the Global Circle for Reparations and Healing, began to meet regularly to develop strategies to amplify and support each other’s work.
To that end, the Global Circle believed it imperative for reparations advocates, scholars, artists, and activists from around the world to come together to dialogue, learn from each other, and hopefully strengthen opportunities for collective action to advance a reparations and healing agenda worldwide. The discussions resulted in three major gatherings:
- A convening in Italy at which experts from around the world deepened their understanding of the role of the Global North in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and its legacies of colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, apartheid, genocide, and plunder
- A meeting with the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of accountability for its role in initiating and facilitating the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
- A global summit bringing reparations and racial healing practitioners together to learn about the current reparations and racial healing landscape, increase the knowledge base to include information about practical steps currently being implemented internationally to advance reparations and healing, and lay the groundwork for relationships upon which to develop collective action
On all three goals, the Global Circle met and even exceeded critical objectives. The cohort held a convening with participants from around the world in Bellagio, Italy at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center upon the invitation of Howard University Knight Journalism Professor and Creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones. That convening produced 15 Commitments to which attendees agreed will serve as the basis for global collective strategy development.
The Global Circle subsequently held a meeting at The Vatican in Rome, Italy with key Vatican Leadership. They issued a formal Presentment and discussed a plan for accountability for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the initiation of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Out of this meeting, the cohort developed, with input from Vatican leadership, an engagement strategy and list of contacts of key individuals and groups from the Roman Catholic Church around the world. Follow up meetings will take place with the Vatican in September 2022.
Following the activities over the summer, the Global Circle began its fall convenings to reflect on the prior months’ activities and chart a path forward for the network.
The current state of the movement
Although the need for reparatory and healing justice is stronger than ever, there are many gaps in knowledge, organization, resources, political will within governments, as well as unity in purpose and strategy within the movement. Yet, the momentum for reparations and healing is building. Energy is high, and the mission is clear. In the last three decades, a worldwide movement has emerged to increase advocacy for reparations and healing. This movement advocacy reached a turning point at the World Conference Against Racism (2001) and led to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (“DDPA”).It provided the international human rights foundation for the current movement for reparations and healing. There is now a heightened global awareness that the many common challenges Black people face are rooted in historical crimes. Major institutions such as corporations; academia; governmental organizations, including the African Union; as well as established and new philanthropies are providing resources for reparatory and healing efforts. New organizations are forming and there is a growing number of grassroots healing initiatives focused on addressing historical trauma. We are seeing increased engagement by youth, an increasing focus on reparations at the local level, growing acknowledgement of the societal-wide benefits of reparations and healing, increased academic involvement, and a growing use of the human rights framework.
What have we learned?
We have learned that: there are growing aspirations for unity in the movement; there is a desire to consolidate gains and knowledge; there is a recognizable fear of backlash, there’s a need for training in direct action; opportunities must be created for the Black world to work together to refine strategies, build bridges, and engender trust; there is a need to explore and understand the role of Africans in the slave trade; we must employ tried and tested, as well as new, healing approaches; there is an urgent need to confront the lie of white superiority and black inferiority; and, there is a need to create a technological platform for the development and implementation of a transcontinental plan of action for reparations and healing.
The Global Circle has developed an operational framework that will help the network achieve collectively developed objectives in 2023 and beyond. This operational framework builds on 2022 activities by creating six working groups addressing key issue areas identified by the Global Circle:
- Global Institutions, Structures, and Economy
- Inter and Intra-Community Healing
- Geo-Political Actors and Power Dynamics
- Media and Narrative-Building
- Partnerships and Movement-Building
- Inter-religious Institutions
Each working group will be led by leads who will work collaboratively with group members to develop action plans that will guide the working group’s work. The Global Circle will convene quarterly to ensure alignment and progress on stated objectives.
Finally, the Global Circle is planning a convening in 2023 to reflect on the prior year’s work. This convening will take place at the Bellagio Center and will serve as an opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and update the Global Circle’s strategy.