Davis Talks Reparations, Immigration During Maywood Town Hall

Friday, August 2, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Congressman Danny K. Davis holds forth during his Maywood town hall on Aug. 1. | Michael Romain

Congressman Danny K. Davis addressed a range of concerns brought to him by area residents during his town hall held at Village Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, on Aug. 1.

The following is a summary of some issue areas that Davis addressed during Thursday’s event, which attracted roughly 50 people.

Reparations

Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones wanted to know the status of the reparations debate in Washington D.C.

Davis said that he signed onto HR 40 — a bill introduced by former Michigan congressman John Conyers, who Davis called his “dear friend.” The bill would establish the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans.

“Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society,” according to a summary of the bill at Congress.gov.

Congress considered the bill for the first time during a hearing in June. Conyers introduced the legislation in 1989.

“People are beginning to at least openly talk about it,” Davis said, before noting that similar measures are in the works in Springfield and Chicago.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, some Chicago aldermen are planning to introduce a draft reparations ordinance in September that calls for the city to dole out a variety of resources, such as “free public transportation on the CTA” and “free water filters to deal with high lead levels” to address the lingering effects of slavery in the African American community.

And National Public Radio Illinois reported that the House Judiciary Committee held hearings in June on reparations for African Americans.

Davis said that one prominent sign that the debate on reparations is becoming increasingly mainstream is that many current Democratic presidential candidates have thrown their support toward the idea.

“That means they’ve already conducted polls,” Davis said. “These professional politicians wouldn’t say they are in favor of some form of reparations unless they’ve scoped it out.”

Teaching African American history in schools

Maywood resident Barbara Cole asked Davis why more school districts aren’t teaching African American history.

“Research has said that if African American children knew this history, they would do better in school,” Cole said.

Davis said that state law already requires school districts to teach Black history, but there hasn’t been much movement by districts toward complying with the law.

“Chicago Public Schools pretended a few years ago that they were getting ready to start [adequately teaching Black history],” Davis said. “They gave a contract to Harold Washington’s brother, a curator at DuSable Museum, and they prepared a curriculum and paid him money to do it. I ain’t heard nothing about nobody teaching African American history yet.”

Davis said that the only way school districts will get more serious about teaching Black history in a comprehensive way is if African American lawmakers, particularly at the state level, “really expressed outrage.”

Immigration reform

Rose Ocampo, a member of the Maywood-based Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership, asked Davis what Congress is doing to stop separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Davis said he is “pro immigration” and supports comprehensive immigration reform, adding that “it’s unconscionable that our immigration people would separate children from their parents at the border.”

Youth vaping

One woman in the audience expressed concern about the number of young people who use electronic e-cigarettes that simulate smoking, a practice widely known as vaping. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seven in 10 American teenagers are exposed to e-cigarette ads.

The woman asked if Davis would support the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.

“I will indeed,” the congressman said.

The U.S. Census

One man in attendance asked Davis to explain the importance of the U.S. Census.

“They were taking the census back in the Old Testament,” Davis said. “Moses told his brother Aaron to go and number the people, so we’d know how many of us it is … The census started in this country in 1790 and we’ve been taking them ever since.”

Davis said that if “every place in America will get about $1,400 per person,” he said. “If you get 1,000 people who don’t get counted, add up $1,400 for 10 years. Let’s say you’ve got 100 guys in the penitentiary who actually live in Maywood, but on the day they count people they’re in Pontiac in the penitentiary, that money for 10 years for that 100 men won’t come here; it will go to Pontiac — for 10 years.”

Davis also explained that he was cautiously optimistic that President Donald Trump’s attempts to get a citizenship question put on the 2020 census will be unsuccessful. The congressman said that he opposed the citizenship question.

“As of right now, the Supreme Court has determined that [the question] is not necessary, although Trump has not given up,” Davis said. “He’s still looking for a way. If that ends up being the case, many immigrants, especially if they’re in the country illegally, won’t fill out census forms.” VFP

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