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In Arrears

“They owe us!”

This is the mantra of the reparations movement, the sociopolitical campaign asking for restitution for descendants of slaves, which held a rally this past Saturday at the Millions for Reparations March outside of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Reparations demands not only a national apology from the U.S. government for the ills African-Americans endured throughout slavery, but restitution paid to the descendants of slaves from the profits various U.S. companies accrued from unpaid slave labor.

Though attendees at the weekend march didn’t number in the millions of its namesake, many were happy with the turnout. Muata Currie of the Capital District Reparations Mobilization Committee, which chartered a bus bringing 25 people to the rally, was impressed with the number of groups attending from across the country.

“There was a very festive atmosphere with a lot of organizations and related causes handing out literature and vendors selling books,” Currie said. “The purpose of a rally like this is to gather information, energize and head back to your community to teach.”

The monetary ends are being sought through a number of lawsuits to be brought against U.S. companies like Aetna, New York Life, American International Group, J.P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan Bank and FleetBoston Financial Group by a reparations coordinating committee featuring prominent black scholars and lawyers like Cornel West, Charles Ogletree, Randall Robinson and Johnnie Cochran.

“There is a lot of skepticism about the lawsuits,” Currie said. “America doesn’t have a good reputation for being just with its black citizens. In the most strict sense, African-American people can’t be paid back for the miseries of slavery, but this isn’t just about an amount of money, restitution is about repair.”

Currie said there is a lot of talk among those in the restitution community as to what should be done next to further the movement. It is important for all progressive-minded people to continue pushing the issue with local governmental leaders, he said.

“Any improvements for blacks in America have come through great social pressure and a variety of tactics,” Currie said. “Twenty-five years ago, this was a laughable idea, but look where we are today. To have an educated mass of people will change things.”


In the archives: Alice Green. Photo by Scott Gries

Go Look up Alice

The University at Albany announced last week the acquisition of the life’s work of Dr. Alice Green, including her writings, career activities and history of events since 1965. The Green collection, which will comprise 3.5 cubic feet of materials, will become a part of the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, which is housed at the New Library Building located in the uptown campus of the university.

“I am delighted and flattered that they would ask me to give them my material,” said Green. “The bottom line is that I hope it can be useful, and if the public and students can find this information and these materials valuable, then that is great.”

The collection will follow Green’s career as a criminologist from her days as a graduate student at the university up to her present position as founder and executive director for the Center for Law and Justice. The center is an Albany-based organization that works to educate and advocate for poor communities and communities of color, so that they can effectively participate in social and political change.

“It’s just an incredible enrichment to our archives,” said Brian Keough, head of the Grenander Special Collections and Archives. “Her papers augment our other collections, including National Death Penalty Archives, that are related to her career and papers.”

Green has been active in the criminal justice system in New York State since she graduated from the university. She is known best for her dedication to prison reform and her advocacy work on behalf of prisoners’ rights. She also ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1998 on the Green Party ticket, with a platform emphasis on a progressive approach to criminal justice.

“It took me a while to decide to give up my material,” said Green. “For some reason you think you ought to hold onto it. Hopefully, it can be useful to people who are trying to understand the history of our community and understand a different perspective on the issues that we have been dealing with in criminal justice and race.”


What’s Your Perspective?

Looking for a place to voice your dissent over issues related to the war on terror? How about the war in Afghanistan, racial profiling of Muslims, the pending war in Iraq, or the ongoing standoff between Israel and Palestine? A new local radio program, which will air for the first time this Friday from 5 to 6 PM on WRPI, looks to provide such a forum. The show, titled Capital District for Justice and Peace Free Palestine Radio, was expected to launch last Friday but was delayed one week due to technical difficulties.

The hour-long program intends to give the public an appropriate place to hold discussions concerning a plethora of topics here in the United States and abroad.

Yunus Fiske, the show’s founder and host, said that he hopes that listeners will hear alternative perspectives, ones that are not readily heard in the mainstream media, about a variety of issues.

“I don’t think that the mainstream media does a good job at covering many situations, and people are only getting one perspective on things,” explained Fiske.

For example, he cites the situation between Israel and Palestine.

“People think that if you are against Israel’s occupation of Palestine, then you are supporting terrorism or you want Israel to fall into the sea,” said Fiske. “That is just not the case. The hope is that people will listen to different points of view, and have a better understanding of where people are coming from and hear different perspectives about all of these issues that affect our lives. In many instances, people want the same thing, which is peace.”

The call-in program is open to anyone, as long as they are respectful and rational, and refrain from profanity. Call WRPI at 276-6247 on Fridays from 5 to 6 if you care to join in.


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