North Carolina slavery bill defended (FCN, 06-20-2005)

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Major grassroots organizations, scholars and activists dismissed the July 28th announcement by Wachovia highlighting its $10 million in new funding to “national partnerships.”

“None of the initiatives cited reflect any groundbreaking thinking or action,” stated Dr. Conrad Worrill, Chair of the National Black United Front. “They’re partnering with mainstream civil rights organizations to promote ‘safe’ initiatives is the equivalent of leftovers from the big house being presented to the enslaved as a new meal. Wachovia is not doing anything that takes them outside of their current corporate agenda or goals. All they have done is present their ongoing corporate goals in new packaging to mainstream civil rights organizations. It is the greatest ‘sleight of hand trick’ since Houdini.”


While Wachovia’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Thompson, insists that the partnerships are meant to “make a meaningful difference for African Americans,” Dr. Raymond Winbush, editor/author of the book, “Should America Pay: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations” and International Advisor to the Global Afrikan Congress, firmly states that, “If Wachovia was really interested in atoning for its participation in one of the most horrendous crimes against humanity in world history–that of enslavement and its aftermath–it first would have negotiated in good faith with those grassroots organizations, scholars and activists who have been working on the issues of reparations and atonement for years. Wachovia would have worked with them to craft a plan instead of telling them what they were going to do. What they have done in the process is comparable to a criminal determining his/her own sentence: they have decided what they want to do and then told their partners to take it or leave it. “Wachovia pats itself on the back for a $10 million initiative while discounting the fact that it values each of the 4 million Africans ‘emancipated’ in 1865 at $2.25.”

Ken Thompson has countered that the partnerships with mainstream civil rights organizations “…reflect feedback and ideas that we received from employees, customers and community organizations, including many leaders in the African-American community.

But Iris Dunmore, Economic Representative of the National Black United Front, observes “any organization that accepts this money is legitimizing an illegitimate process and must be held accountable by our community. Wachovia’s effort is corporate duplicity in its highest form and must not be allowed to stand as a symbol of atonement or resolution to its shameful past.”

William Merritt, Director of the National Black United Front states that “Wachovia’s timidity in even using the term ‘reparations’ is indicative of how the master-slave relationship is still alive and well at its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.”

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, who has pioneered efforts to seek corporate restitution for their ties to slavery and Chair of the Restitution Study Group, says, “Our national grassroots support is probably larger than any Black organization in this nation as polls indicate that over 75% of African Americans want corporations complicit in slavery to pay restitution (Gallup/CNN/USA Today 2002). Our base is at least 24 million of the 39.2 million African Americans in this country. This is a significant number to consider for a company interested in emerging markets.”

It is important to note that Wachovia has set aside $75 billion over the next five years under the Community Redevelopment Act (CRA), and that such capacity suggests that financing the proposed healing initiatives sought by reparations groups should not pose any problem to the corporation.

Adeyemi Bandele, longtime activist, organizer and Executive Director of Men on the Move, declared that “action must be taken against any corporation that wishes to make inconsequential economic gestures towards organizations by giving them just another program rather than making systemic changes that will have a ripple effect throughout the African community in America. “We see them for what they are, a corporate publicity stunt designed to deceive the Black community or it reflects an ignorance of the tremendous depth of the crime committed against humanity and the African American community by the African Slave trade.”

Leslie Brown, filmmaker and CEO of Untold Legacy Productions Inc., says “I would hope that Wachovia would reconsider its current position and increase funding beyond the $10 million over five years, as well as the number of organizations the company will monetarily support. Specifically, those non-traditional organizations that seek to address the cruel and brutal legacy of slavery. As one of the first corporations to disclose complicity and profits gained during the Transatlantic Slave trade, Wachovia has the responsibility to set a precedent that goes beyond the standard apology and business as usual.”

Dorothy Benton Lewis, former National Co-Chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) says, “Wachovia and all who participated must pay the price for enslaving Africans in America. The $10 million given from their corporate slush funds to mainstream Black organizations represents hush money and business as usual. It does not represent a down payment on their atrocities. Even Muammar Qaddafi showed more respect and accountability with his reparations offer to family members of a downed airliner. And when one considers that banks can parlay a $5 billion African debt into $35 billion with interest, clearly time (by their own standards) increases the debt. We offered them an honorable, inclusive and respectful way to involve the grassroots community responsible for making them come clean, and they ignored it, choosing to deal with the folks in the house rather than those in the community. We will continue to organize the African American community to expose this low regard for African life and blatant disrespect for their descendants who are demanding justice, truth and accountability for the crime against African humanity and enslavement in this country.”

Grassroots organizations, mainstream civil rights groups, activists and scholars will continue to press Wachovia for a true response to its June 1st announcement of historical ties to slavery.