The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign wrote to express its support for the upcoming hearing on this important issue on September 24, 2019 from 10:15 am -11:15 am in the Ruben Dario Room at the GSB Building of the Organization of American Statesor on reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States.
Dr. Paulo Abrão
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1889 F Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Re: Reparations for slavery and other forms of structural racial discrimination in the United States Hearing – 173rd ordinary period of sessions
Esteemed Executive Secretary,
The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign is writing to express its support for the upcoming hearing being held on this important issue on September 24, 2019 from 10:15 am -11:15 am in the Ruben Dario Room at the GSB Building of the Organization of American Statesor on reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States.
The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign is a reparative justice and prison abolitionist initiative seeking to divest Harvard University’s endowment from the prison-industrial-complex. At our core, we value the repair and re-empowerment for those directly impacted by the carceral system we are ultimately seeking to dismantle. The system of modern incarceration is one of the many infrastructures that exists as a barrier of liberation for black people in this country. A relic of slavery, prisons are responsible for myriad forms of violence against Black communties: disappearing black people from their homes, trapping them in cages where they are often forced into situations of unpaid labor, subjecting their minds and bodies to mental and physical trauma, and socially and financially disabling them.
Through our prison abolitionist politic, we see the modern United States system of incarceration as directly linked to the incomplete abolition of slavery after the Civil War. One of the most significant parts of that failure was in the lack of reparations to formerly enslaved African Americans, who were released from bondage only to be left destitute, homeless, subject to Jim Crow discrimination and state-sponsored racial terrorism, and relegated to coercive labor contracts with their former enslavers. As a result, there are institutions such as Harvard that are able to build their wealth off of industries that capitalize off human caging of disproportionately Black and brown bodies.
As such, and as abolitionists who are carrying on the legacy of our ancestors who fought for black emancipation from slavery, we view reparations as essential to our own organizational mission. Our work to protect the sanctity of black lives and black liberation necessitates a world in which black people are given reparations to level the playing field with our white counterparts whose ancestors were not stolen from their land and placed in bondage. There is no way to chip away at white supremacy without an effort to uplift communities still suffering under the yoke of trauma we have inherited from slavery, including its physical manifestations in the forms of prison and police. This country owes black people reparations for its racist and inhumane crimes against us.
HPDC understands the treatment of Black people during slavery and its resultant conditions that many Black people have been forced to endure as intergenerational human rights violations. Every rights violation merits a remedy. Our belief, as with many other groups, aligns with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which previously found that Afro-descendants in the Americas suffer from a situation of structural discrimination, evidenced in indicators relating to poverty, political participation, contact with the criminal justice system, and access to quality housing, health care, and education. In addition, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has recognized that racism and structural discrimination against people of African descent are “rooted in the infamous regime of slavery.”
The hearing would further highlight the need to address legacy of slavery and its continued impact on African Americans and the U.S.
We look forward to your findings and appreciate you taking the time to hold this hearing.
Members of the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign