Noted legal experts in reparations gathered at the Saint Louis University School of Law Wednesday, Jan. 26, during the panel "Understanding Reparations: Social Movement, Phantom Menace and Search for Just Recompense." Hosted by the Black Law Students' Association (BLSA), the event attracted students, academic scholars and community members.
The panel addressed the call for reparations among blacks of African descent and other supporters of reparations for the horrors suffered by those of African descent during the Trans-Atlantic Holocaust of enslavement, the period of Jim Crow "justice" and continuous discrimination leading up to today.
Adjoa Aiyetoro, associate professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and Saint Louis University School of Law alumna. Photo by Chad Willia
The event featured speakers: Adjoa Aiyetoro, associate professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and Saint Louis University School of Law alumna; Adrienne Davis, the William M. Van Cleve professor of law at Washington University School of Law; and Carlton Mark Waterhouse, associate professor of law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.
"This dialogue is important for understanding just recompense to our country's ex-slaves and how this fits the principles of the U.S. Constitution," said Bryan Weaver, president of the Saint Louis University School of Law BLSA chapter. "The discussion of reparations also fits well with the Jesuit mission of SLU in that it emphasizes justice, atonement and recompense for past wrongs committed against those who have been rendered powerless in many instances."
"We have to put this on the agenda," said Aiyetoro, who addressed the need for the community to carry on reparations activism. "We have to continue to teach the younger generation to make it a priority."
Aiyetoro referenced the national and international efforts of reparations activists including the work of the Women's International Association of Peace and Freedom and the World Conference Against Racism. She also recognized the United Nations designation of 2011 as the "International Year for People of African Descent."
The panelists emphasized that reparations activism is a social movement that must focus on how to best benefit future generations, and they addressed the need for a renewed public understanding of the history of slavery to fully account not only for the atrocities that occurred but to also recognize the vast contributions of blacks of African descent.
"The past is an intricate and essential part of how we deal with the future," said Waterhouse. "One of the first things we have to repair is our public memory."
Davis, who noted several historical and modern activists throughout the reparations movement, compelled the crowd to not solely focus on the work to be done but to also acknowledge the accomplishments already achieved through reparations activism.
The panel coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Saint Louis University School of Law BLSA chapter. Aiyetoro, one of the early pioneers of SLU BLSA, helped to establish the organization as a strong voice of advocacy among the school's black law student population.
SLU BLSA currently has 30 members who are focused on articulating and addressing the academic, financial, political, social and professional needs of its membership and promoting the interaction between the membership and other organizations within the law school and the University generally, and the legal community and black community specifically. To learn more, visit the BLSA website.