Sacramento City Council recognizes lasting impact of slavery

Councilman Allen Warren hosts a community meeting regarding Grant High School facility repairs; April 7, 2014 at Robertson Community Center in Sacramento, Calif.
Councilman Allen Warren hosts a community meeting regarding Grant High School facility repairs; April 7, 2014 at Robertson Community Center in Sacramento, Calif. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren was surprised the city took so long to pass a resolution he introduced Tuesday recognizing slavery’s negative impact on race relations, he said.

Other cities took similar steps more than a decade ago. As part of a national movement in the early 2000s, San Francisco, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta and other cities and states passed resolutions asking Congress to explore the idea of reparations for the descendents of slaves.

When he started looking into the subject seven months ago, Warren said he was shocked to find that Sacramento hadn’t passed anything yet. The resolution the council approved Tuesday does not call for reparations but recognizes the severe long-term impacts of slavery on African Americans and other communities.

“It was really something that spoke to my spirit and my soul, and after we did the research I felt it was time that Sacramento took a stand,” he said. “I think most people recognize that slavery was a crime and a scar on our community, but we run from the discussion.”

Introduced in the last Council meeting during Black History Month, the resolution describes slavery as a crime against humanity with lingering effects, both historically against African Americans and in modern day human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage among migrant workers.

Though the resolution doesn’t get into solutions, Warren and some African American community leaders said it’s a step forward in the healing process for African Americans in the city.

Warren said he hopes the resolution inspires open and honest discussion of racial and ethnic tensions in Sacramento. Pleshette Robertson, CEO and founder of Sac Cultural Hub, said she wants the resolution to establish awareness of the lasting impact of slavery on African Americans.

“This can be an educational tool for people to understand where we came from and where we are now,” she said. The recovery period from slavery has been “overwhelming,” she said.

One of the solutions to the problems faced by African Americans is working together as a community, she said. Robertson is a member the Sacramento African American Nonprofit Coalition, a group of local nonprofits collaborating to raise money for local programs.

Shonna McDaniels, founder and director of the Sojourner Truth African American Museum, said she thinks the resolution is empowering because it’s an official recognition of what her museum teaches African American youths – slavery had a profound impact on the African American psyche.

Joshua Robinson, president of Sacramento City College’s Black Student Union, felt differently. He said he was confused because Warren prefaced the resolution Tuesday by talking about problems facing the African American community, but the resolution itself doesn’t mention solutions.

“I was glad to finally hear that we’re acknowledging that these things are bad, but I was disappointed because there was no resolution to repair them,” he said. He would have liked to hear more about ending poverty, education reform and prison reform in the resolution.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison