A Michigan grassroots effort is raising reparations, while the government lags

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By Sophia Saliby, NPR

Members of the Sycamore Creek Church
Members of the Sycamore Creek Church congregation bow their heads and pray over Justice League of Greater Lansing leaders, Willye Bryan and Prince Solace, as they hold a large check. (Sophia Saliby/WKAR)

The year 2020 was a turning point for Lansing, Michigan resident Willye Bryan. Between the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd and the health disparities that hit the African American community during the pandemic, she knew it was time for action.

“You start with slavery, which is the original sin, and it has left an aftermath of destruction in its path,” Bryan said.

The answer for Bryan was for what she calls the debt owed to African Americans to be repaid through reparations.

She started at her church, First Presbyterian Church of Lansing, a predominantly white congregation. Pastor Stanley Jenkins remembers when Bryan first brought it up.

“My first reaction was, ‘Well, that’ll never work.’ And then immediately, I said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

Most of the church stood behind them, pledging $100,000 over the course of 10 years. Individual congregants gave $80,000.

“There was a sense that people were waiting, even if they didn’t know it, for somebody to take that first step,” Jenkins said.

The initiative became known as the Justice League of Greater Lansing. They visited many houses of worship in the area to explain their mission.

Keep reading to learn how the Justice League of Greater Lansing raised and determined reparations.

Reparations exist to close the wealth gap created by slavery and racism.

More stories like this.

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