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What is Owed?

Author: GBH News

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Boston - like many cities around the US - has begun to wrestle with the notion of paying reparations to Black people to make up for 400 years of enslavement and economic exclusion. But in Boston, this debate is layered in history. It was here that slavery was first legalized in the American colonies; it was here that founders of American independence are buried alongside the Black people they enslaved; and it was here that legislation was introduced in the 1980s that became the model of a national bill calling for reparations - a bill that is still on agenda in the U.S Congress. In “What Is Owed?”, a new 7-part podcast, GBH News political reporter Saraya Wintersmith seeks to understand what reparations might look like in one of the oldest cities in America, uncovering the lessons for a successful reparations framework through the stories of its architects, past and present.

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Credits:

Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith

Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell

Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits

Editor: Paul Singer

Production oversight: Lee Hill

Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott

Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams

Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh

Project Manager: Meiqian He

Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
9 Episodes
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Boston - like many cities around the US - has begun to wrestle with the notion of paying reparations to Black people to make up for 400 years of enslavement and economic exclusion. But in Boston, this debate is layered in history. It was here that slavery was first legalized in the American colonies; it was here that founders of American independence are buried alongside the Black people they enslaved; and it was here that legislation was introduced in the 1980s that became the model of a national bill calling for reparations - a bill that is still on agenda in the U.S Congress. In “What Is Owed?”, a new 7-part podcast, GBH News political reporter Saraya Wintersmith seeks to understand what reparations might look like in one of the oldest cities in America, uncovering the lessons for a successful reparations framework through the stories of its architects, past and present. ——- Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
We look back at the history of efforts in Boston to explore reparations, particularly through the lens of Sen. Bill Owens, the first Black member of the Massachusetts Senate. At the end of the 1980s, Owens, inspired by activism he had seen in Detroit, introduced a bill to pay reparations to Black descendants of enslaved people. That bill is credited as being a model for national legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers in every session of the U.S. Congress since 1989 to create a national commission on reparations. ——— Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
One of the biggest challenges for a local reparations effort is determining who should get repaid. Historically, the idea of reparations has been tied to the forsaken promise of 400,000 acres the U.S. government was going to give to formerly enslaved people due to the atrocities of slavery. However, the harms endured by Black people have not been confined to that period. We start the episode at Cape Coast Castle, a slave trading outpost on the coast of Ghana where enslaved people were first taken from the African continent and sold into the institution of slavery. We use this first point of harm to begin a discussion with a series of Black political thinkers about how the harms against Black people can begin to be addressed through reparations. ——- Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
Boston, a city entrenched in the history of the American Revolution, creates a task force to explore the city’s history of slavery and economic discrimination and to consider reparations for Black citizens. The effort is delicately balanced to navigate political challenges – and yet it is immediately beset with delay and mismanaging, leading some city residents to wonder whether Boston is really serious. ————- Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
Although reparations has been historically fought for by Black people, the duty will be ultimately carried out by the government. To understand this role, we look at one of the biggest reparation efforts launched in history – repaying survivors of the Nazi regime. In this episode, we focus on the reparations paid by the Austrian government in response to WWII and how the nation prepared itself before reckoning with the harm done to others. Then we look at one of the most comprehensive proposed reparation plans for the U.S. and see how the two compare. ——— Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
As Boston begins its first steps into considering reparations, we look at the city of Evanston, Illinois - which is already doing it. Evanston is the first city in the U.S. to enact municipally-funded reparations legislation. Robin Rue Simmons is a former city alderman who led the passage of the bill, which began disbursements in January 2022. In this episode, Rue Simmons and her collaborators talk about what they learned during the efforts to move their city towards reparations as well as how the effort changed their city. ——— Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
We’re talking about the “R” words. Race. And Reparations. With Ibram X. Kendi, founder and director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. ————- Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
Boston’s Mayor and members of the reparations task force speak about the progress made so far, the challenges going forward, and what they think reparations could actually look like. ————- Credits: Host, Producer and Writer: Saraya Wintersmith Senior Producer: Jerome Campbell Editorial Assistant: Mara Mellits Editor: Paul Singer Production oversight: Lee Hill Mixing & Sound Design: David Goodman and Gary Mott Theme Song and original music: Malik Williams Artwork: Matt Welch and Mamie-Hawa Bawoh Project Manager: Meiqian He Managing Producer for GBH Podcasts: Devin Maverick Robins
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