Los Angeles seeks participants for survey on reparations

By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The city’s Civil Rights Department is seeking more participants for a survey designed specifically to identify potential reparations benefits for past and present Black residents of Los Angeles.

Former Mayor Eric Garcetti created the Reparations Advisory Commission in 2021 to explore compensation for Black residents and families impacted by a number of “harms” in the city, including home-buying discrimination, school segregation, voter suppression, police brutality, denied access to quality health care and other areas.

Survey organizers admitted they are considerably short of the goal of 4,000 participants to submit information by the Dec. 31 deadline.

“We need people to participate and fill out the survey,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the Civil Rights Department. “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to do this work. It’s an opportunity to show L.A. how the lingering horrors of slavery and discrimination have affected Black residents in our city.”

The survey, entitled the “Black Experience Study,” is a joint project under the direction of the Civil Rights Department that includes the Reparations Advisory Commission and Cal State Northridge. A three-person team of faculty members at Northridge is assisting with research and collecting data from the surveys.

Residents can access the survey at BlackExperienceLA.com. On the home page, look for the link “Complete The Survey.” The survey takes 25-30 minutes to complete. There is no cost and personal information is not collected or shared.

Survey questions lead responders to address specific situations that may have affected them or their families.

In addition to completing the survey, participants will have the option to join a focus group or do an online interview about their story.

Even if residents moved out of L.A., Maddox said, they can still participate in the survey.

“This survey is really a healing exercise,” said Mandla Kayise, an education and community consultant and one of the seven appointed members of the Reparations Advisory Commission. “It gives people a chance to reconstruct their family history and tell their stories. The stories are a critical part of this project.”

When the survey drive is completed, the data will be compiled and used to finalize a report developed by the Civil Rights Department and the Reparations Advisory Commission. The report will be submitted to the City Council and Mayor Karen Bass.

Garcetti had support from the City Council when he recommended the creation of the Black Experience Study. Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson (Eighth District) and Curren Price (Ninth District) and former 10th District Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas were instrumental in getting the project approved and assigning the Civil Rights Departments to take the lead role.

“We want to determine the ways the city can help repair the harms done to so many enslaved families like mine and so many others,” Harris-Dawson said in a statement. “The project is important to me and my constituents. We want a process that hears from everyone.”

Maddox said the Black Experience Study is a separate project from the reparations program that the state of California is attempting to implement. Gov. Newsom introduced legislation that would initiate reparations benefits for Blacks around the state. Approval for state legislation is still pending.

Efforts for reparations in Los Angeles are moving forward.

“For generations, the community has demanded a reckoning responding to the level of harms experienced,” Maddox said. “The commission is meeting that demand with this study. It’s time for us to step up and make a record of what Black L.A. has faced.”

Maddox’s staff and members of the Reparations Advisory Commission are taking more steps to get the word out about the survey. More online information sessions will be scheduled, as well as in-person meetings with churches, community groups and nonprofit organizations. The Civil Rights Department had a booth at the Taste Of Soul on Oct. 21 to help promote the survey.

Kayise is hopeful an increase in survey participants will raise more awareness nationally on the reparations issue.

“L.A. has the opportunity to become a model that could lead to legislation in Congress,” Kayise said. “This is the kind of groundwork that typically needs to be done for reparations to get recognized at the national level.”

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com.