DA RTF Member Testifies in Support of Washington, D.C., Reparations Task Force

Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force member Kaitlyn Kennedy was personally invited by District of Columbia Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie to testify in support of the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023. A transcript of Kaitlyn’s remarks, delivered on June 15 before the Committee on Business and Economic Development, is shared below, while a recording of the hearing is available here. We thank Councilmember McDuffie for his commitment to reparative justice and his inclusion of Americans abroad in these critical discussions. 

If you are a Washington, D.C., voter living abroad, please reach out to your elected officials urging them to support this legislation. Let’s ensure Washington, D.C., becomes the next city to establish a reparations task force! 

Kaitlyn Kennedy’s Testimony on the Reparations Foundation Fund and Task Force Establishment Act of 2023

Hello, my name is Kaitlyn Kennedy, and I’m testifying today from Germany. I volunteer with the Democrats Abroad Reparations Task Force, chaired by my partner, Antar Keith. I want to start by thanking Councilmember McDuffie and his team for inviting me to speak. It is an honor to be with you to express support for a Washington, D.C., reparations task force.

Through Democrats Abroad, Antar and I have met many Black Americans from all across the U.S.—including Washington, D.C.—living in countries around the world. While anti-Black racism exists everywhere, the oppression and pervasive disparities Black Americans face in the U.S. are unparalleled. This has been true for Antar. Due to a lack of generational wealth, he struggled to pay rent, work his way through college, pay off his student debt, and stay afloat as a teacher in his community. Despite many systemic hurdles, Antar made it to Germany, where he has been able to achieve a level of security he never knew in America. But while moving outside the U.S. can bring safety and security, many of the traumas, stigmas, and difficulties remain, and we see firsthand how American racism is exported beyond U.S. borders.

Our government’s failure to address the vestiges of enslavement perpetuates the conditions that keep many Black Americans in a static underclass. This failure to act also makes it difficult for those who have left the country to feel that they can return.

Living in Germany, our taxes go toward funding reparations for victims of the Holocaust and their family members. Children and youth are educated throughout their school career about the German government’s human rights abuses. We also see the German government’s investment in fostering a culture of remembrance every time we walk out the door, with well-maintained Stolpersteine in the streets commemorating the victims of Nazi persecution and a Holocaust memorial just blocks from our home. This comes in stark contrast to what we see – or don’t see – in the U.S., where Black burial grounds and cultural heritage sites are under constant threat of destruction while monuments to enslavers and their defenders still stand. These differences, just like the disparities across wealth, education, employment, health, and the criminal injustice system, are the result of policy choices, and we can reverse them through policy. Creating a reparations task force in our nation’s capital would be a great step in the right direction.

Our hope is that the D.C. reparations task force will prioritize community outreach, with ample opportunities for community input in determining commission members and at all stages of their work. It’s crucial that adequate time be allotted for community feedback on any recommendations developed. We would also like to ask that at least some of the task force hearings be online or hybrid sessions at accessible times for Black Americans living abroad. 

While we believe the federal government has a distinct moral and legal responsibility to provide repair to Black Americans, we applaud cities like Washington, D.C., that are taking the lead. We encourage the D.C. Council to prioritize passage of this legislation. Thank you.