Editor’s note: City Council is holding hearings Thursday, June 22 at 10am on a resolution to create a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force. AND 1 and B Lab Co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert plans to deliver a version of this testimony at the hearing.
I am a two-time local entrepreneur. The organizations I co-founded — the AND 1 basketball company and B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corporation movement — created hundreds of quality jobs offering meaningful work in the Philadelphia area. For nearly a decade, I was board chair of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, which serves thousands of Philadelphia students and families. I am one of dozens of local members of a national community called White Men for Racial Justice.
I support City Council Resolution # 230532 to create a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force “to study and develop reparations proposals for Black Philadelphian Descendants of Enslaved Africans in the United States.”
I am a resident of Chester County, not Philadelphia, yet I benefit from living in the Greater Philadelphia area. I benefit from access to culture — restaurants, music, arts, and sports. I benefit from access to higher education, business opportunities, talent, and investment. I benefit from access to public transportation, and regional and international travel.
As a resident of the Philadelphia suburbs, I will take pride in the existence of a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force. I will take pride in saying I live in community with brothers and sisters in the Philadelphia area who have the courage to own our shared history and invest in our shared future.
The existence of a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force will begin a courageous process of truth telling, healing and repair for harm that has been done. That truth telling will be healing hopefully for most Black Philadelphians, but also for me.
Healing in any relationship begins with an authentic acknowledgment of harm done, a commitment to not repeat that harm, and a credible effort to repair that harm. If I harm someone, and make no effort to make amends, I am harmed because I am living out of integrity with my own values, and that is painful. It is painful to live with the knowledge that I am not the man I hope to be, or say that I am.
I will take pride in saying I live in community with brothers and sisters in the Philadelphia area who have the courage to own our shared history and invest in our shared future.
I will benefit from the existence of a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force because its existence will signal to the more than 40 percent of Philadelphians who identify as Black that I know their story, or at least that I am interested and willing to know their story. Regardless of whether I personally, or my ancestors, caused harm to them, or their ancestors, I am willing to explore how I may have benefited from that harm simply because of my Whiteness, and ultimately to own my part in making amends.
I do not need to know today the full accounting of that harm, let alone the mechanisms for how we might make restitution for those harms. I do not need to know what The Promised Land looks like, or even what the journey will entail, in order to know that I want to reach The Promised Land. I support the creation of a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force because I want to live in a Philadelphia region that cares about each other’s stories, that is courageous enough to own its mistakes, that is wise enough to recognize that we are more power-full when everyone feels valued and when everyone has access to equitable resources to reach our full potential.
We are the City of Brotherly Love. Yet we haven’t always loved our brothers and sisters. Love requires us to do hard things — like reckoning with our past so we can move forward together.
We are the home of the Liberty Bell, yet we haven’t always been champions of liberty. Liberty for one requires liberty for all. Also, liberty does not exist without responsibility. Liberty begins with the freedom to have your story fully known. Responsibility begins with the choice to know fully someone else’s story.
We are the birthplace of American democracy, yet we haven’t always acted as if all people are created equal. I support the creation of a Philadelphia Reparations Task Force so that we can take a small and important step toward telling a new, more complete, more honest, and more inspiring American story in which we make good on the American promise of liberty and justice for all.
The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.
MORE ON CITY COUNCIL
Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons