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They walk to make reparations to Black and Indigenous people, one step at a time

Angela Ruggiero, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Three white women dressed in all-black skirts, pants and sheer veils solemnly walked single-file down San Pablo Avenue one recent Thursday morning, drawing quizzical stares as they maintained their steadfast silence.

Bicyclists turned their heads, a mother pushing a baby stroller snapped a cellphone picture and motorists did double-takes as the women continued their measured pace, heads bowed, hands clasped together as if in prayer, followed by a male "ambassador" wearing a shirt that read "40 Days of Mourning and Returning."

Their journey to Oakland that July 23 day would cover nine miles, taking about six hours.

The walkers belong to a group called "Reparations Procession 2020." It's an exclusive group, with 50 or so members described by one organizer as "justice-oriented white folks."

But there's a reason behind the exclusivity: The group's mission is to collect and give reparations to Black and Indigenous people who historically have been exploited by white people, therefore that responsibility should fall on the white people who perpetrated the wrongs.

They do so anonymously because not taking credit for the funding is part of their atonement.


"In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, all this incredible energy was activated, much of it in the white community in the Bay Area that I haven't seen in my lifetime," said one organizer, who asked that his name not be published.

"We wanted to do something that was concretely useful," he said, describing the daily processions from Berkeley to Oakland that started on the Fourth of July as the embodiment of grief and action.

"Grief for what our ancestors have done, and what we failed to do to make things more humane and just," the organizer said.

And "action" in the form of collecting reparations money from fellow white people to distribute evenly between two community-based organizations, Black Solidarity Fund, which supports black business owners, and The Sogorea Te Land Trust, which works to return Ohlone land to Indigenous stewardship.


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