LSTC’s Reparations Initiative
Understanding the Work of the Reparations Task Force
At a meeting of the LSTC Board of Directors in February 2023, President James Nieman expressed his aspirations and unwavering commitment to address historical injustices of the past by laying out his plan for how reparations could intersect with the sale and relocation of LSTC’s building. During this meeting, Nieman proposed the formation of a dedicated task force led by the board, which became official this past spring when the Executive Committee of the LSTC Board of Directors established a Reparations Task Force to examine and propose a reparations plan in the wake of the seminary’s sale of its building at 1100 E 55th Street.
Since its inception, the task force has been working diligently, meeting regularly, and conducting in-depth research to craft a multifaceted plan that addresses historical injustices, fosters healing, and lays the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive future. Upon completion of the proposal, the Task Force will submit the report to the Board of Directors for adoption later this year.
In a recent discussion with the task force, team members shared an update on what they’ve learned through their research and discussions while offering an insightful glimpse of how they see their proposal taking shape. They spoke about the invaluable lessons they’ve learned while gathering the threads of history and beginning to shape a vision for redress.
The team includes President James Nieman as support staff and board members Morgan Gates, Terry Goff, Greg Lewis, and Kristi Ferguson.
From the Task Force
Frequently Asked Questions
What are reparations, and what does it mean as LSTC defines it for this initiative?
Reparations, as a concept, refers to the act of making amends or providing compensation for the injustices and harm suffered by specific groups or individuals. They are a path towards rectifying systemic discrimination, oppression and addressing the deeply rooted structural issues that perpetuate inequality. Reparations come in various forms, encompassing financial compensation, land restitution, educational opportunities, and more. Their nature depends on the historical context and the injustices they seek to rectify.
As LSTC is coming to understand it, reparations are based on our study of other work that has been happening. It is a process of repairing, healing, and restoring people hurt and harmed because of their group identity. For LSTC, as a theological institution of higher education, reparations means living according to our Christian values and the belief that God has created us all in God’s image and called us Beloved. We are called to act justly and to treat one another in that same scope of belovedness and justice. So, reparations for LSTC is attempting to make right or to claim ownership of the ways that we have been complicit in systems of harm and ways that we have perpetuated direct harm.
There has been a lot of confusion about what reparations are and are not. Reparations are not merely financial compensation. According to the United Nations, reparations includes these key components: Cessation/Assurance of Non-Repetition, Learning, Acknowledgment, Restitution and Repatriation, Compensation, Satisfaction, and Rehabilitation. These concepts are rooted in international law that involves specific forms of repair to specific individuals, groups of people, or nations for specific harms they have experienced in violation of their human rights. Therefore, reparations cannot be achieved simply through “acknowledgment or an apology” or “investment in underprivileged communities.” The approach to reparations must be comprehensive for it to be successful.
To that point, two things are essential to point out from our discussions and our work. Reparations or financial penalties can only be expressed as financial penalties for actions that have occurred. We take a much broader view of reparations as being a comprehensive reparative process, and certainly, there’s an economic element to it, but there are many other elements also. And the healing and the repair are critical to even offering an opportunity for a community or affected group of people to be satisfied.
Why is LSTC exploring a reparations initiative?
At the heart of LSTC’s reparations work lies a particular historical issue—or what we, as a committee have identified as the trigger or focal event. It is the land purchase at 1100 East 55th Street in Chicago’s Hyde Park. This acquisition, which seemed straightforward then, resulted in relocating individuals and families from 199 units, 31 of which were non-white families.
In the early 1960s, seven buildings stood on this site, housing a diverse community of students and families. While LSTC’s board established a committee to aid in the relocation of students, and other residents received assistance from the Department of Urban Renewal, in hindsight, LSTC’s land purchase is viewed in the context of broader urban renewal projects from the 1950s and 1960s. While touted as efforts to revitalize deteriorating urban areas, these projects had profound social and racial implications. They resulted in the displacement of residents, the obliteration of established communities, and the loss of affordable housing, leaving a legacy of socio-economic disparities.
What framework is LSTC using to guide its reparations program?
One of our learnings so far is that we’ve looked at reparations programs from other institutions, and none of them exactly fits what we think we’re trying to do. We’ve observed other programs, but their situations are very different from LSTC’s.
So the framework we are following is drawn largely from the United Nation’s approach to reparations. They have outlined a comprehensive framework for reparations with stages that serve as a roadmap to healing and justice as communities seek to address past wrongs and pave the way for a more equitable future.
The stages are:
- Cessation: Ending Harm and Guaranteeing Non-Repetition The first stage of the UN’s reparations framework is the cessation of harm. This involves taking immediate action to stop ongoing injustices and guaranteeing that such harms will not be repeated. This commitment to non-repetition is crucial in preventing the perpetuation of systemic discrimination and oppression.
- Learning: Exploring the History and Implications of Harm To heal, we must first understand. Learning involves an in-depth exploration of the history and implications of the harm inflicted on specific groups or individuals. It requires extensive research, documentation, and truth-seeking to create a comprehensive understanding of the injustices committed.
- Acknowledgment: Admitting the Specific Harm in Concrete Terms Acknowledgment is a pivotal step towards reconciliation. Governments and institutions must admit the specific harm they have inflicted on individuals or communities in clear and concrete terms. This acknowledgment validates the suffering and paves the way for the healing process.
- Restitution/Repatriation: Returning to Prior Situation or Locale, if Possible Restitution and repatriation are forms of reparative justice that focus on returning affected individuals or communities to their prior situation or locale whenever possible. This may involve returning lands, properties, or allowing individuals to return to their place of origin.
- Compensation: Responding Financially if Restitution/Repatriation is Not Possible Financial compensation serves as an essential means of redress when restitution or repatriation is not feasible. It is designed to restore dignity and justice to those affected by offering financial reparations proportionate to the harm suffered.
- Satisfaction: Responding by Therapeutic or Reputational Means Satisfaction comes in the form of therapeutic or reputational responses. This stage aims to provide emotional healing and restore reputations for individuals or communities suffering. It acknowledges the deep emotional scars left by historical injustices.
- Rehabilitation: Redressing Ongoing Legal, Medical, and Psychological Care The rehabilitation stage of reparations focuses on addressing the ongoing legal, medical, and psychological needs of those affected. It seeks to empower individuals and communities with the tools and support necessary to overcome the socio-economic disparities caused by past injustices.
How will LSTC determine the scope of its reparations initiative?
Using the UN’s framework of reparations, LSTC plans to engage with and participate in actions that address legacy housing displacement and discrimination issues stemming from actions such as the decisions which placed LSTC in a residential neighborhood and displaced students and families.
Within the “Learning” stage or pathway to redress we (the Task Force) are considering the establishment of a new re-formulated Pero Center that would broaden the scope of the Center’s work to include Reparations Studies. Dr. Thomas has provided us with a draft proposal of a Reparations course that could be offered as new curriculum and further research might yield more areas of intellectual inquiry. We might seek partnership with McCormick Theological Seminary and Catholic Theological Union.
The seminary might consider the following options:
- Establish a reparations resource hub online
- Support community programs, initiatives, and projects that specifically benefit Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities
- Sponsor workshops, seminars, and conferences that promote BIPOC leadership, cultural heritage, and religious traditions.
- Fund scholarships or programs that support BIPOC students
- Collaborate with local BIPOC community organizations to create internship and job placement opportunities for LSTC students.
- Develop programs that address the specific needs and challenges faced by BIPOC students, faculty, and staff in theological education.
- Issue a formal public statement acknowledging LSTC’s historical role in perpetuating injustices against BIPOC communities and expressing a commitment to reparations and reconciliation.
- Commit to the celebration of a public event of repentance, engaging representatives of the communities surrounding LSTC who were impacted by the actions in the past.
- Create opportunities for LSTC representatives to engage with these communities, by discussing collaborative approaches to promote sustainable relationships, healing, and reconciliation.
- Organize public events, such as forums, panel discussions, and lectures, that foster dialogue on the history and implications of racial injustices and the importance of reparations for Native Americans, African Americans, Latinx/Hispanics, and other marginalized communities.
Who has the committee met with so far?
The Reparations Task Force of the LSTC Board of Directors has actively engaged with various stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive and well-informed approach to their mission. In their first listening session on April 24, 2023, the task force met with the Master’s Student Association, where members including Lyndsay Monsen, Kathryn Linthicum, Erik Boss, Olivia Riddle, Sarah Freyermuth, along with board representatives Morgan Gates, Kristi Ferguson, Terry Goff, Greg Lewis, and President James Nieman were present. This initial dialogue was an essential starting point in gathering input and perspectives from students deeply committed to the LSTC community.
Subsequently, the task force continued their discussions and consultations. On August 8, 2023, they convened with the Antiracism Transformation Team, fostering a dialogue with Vima Couvertier-Cruz, John Dahmer, James Foster, Mavis Hardy, board members Terry Goff, Morgan Gates, Kristi Ferguson, Greg Lewis, and President James Nieman. These interactions aimed to gain insights from the team dedicated to advancing antiracism within the institution and ensuring that the reparations initiative aligns with broader antiracist goals.
Moreover, the task force undertook a series of meetings, including engagements with LSTC faculty members Drs. Perry, Wickware, and Thomas, and they also met with Ghian Foreman, Father Trail, and Bishop Yehiel Curry, indicating a broad and inclusive approach in gathering input. These interactions highlight the task force’s commitment to engaging with various individuals and groups, ensuring that a rich tapestry thoroughly informs the reparations plan of voices and perspectives.
What is the timeline for the work of the task force?
I am a member of the LSTC community. How can I be involved in this process?
Here are several ways you can get involved and be a part of this transformative journey:
- Join a Committee or Volunteer: Depending on the direction we take for the final home base of our initiative, there may be opportunities for community members to join committees or volunteer their time and expertise. We want to make it easy for everyone to contribute effectively.
- Engage in Community Activities: Stay connected and engaged with the LSTC community by participating in events, discussions, and activities related to the reparations initiative—your presence and support matter.
- Access Resources: When launched, our website will serve as a central hub for information and resources related to the reparations initiative. Stay informed, learn more about the issues, and understand the history and implications.
- Provide Feedback: We value your input and insights. As we progress, the website will offer a feedback loop where you can share your thoughts, comments, and concerns. Your feedback is invaluable in shaping the direction of our efforts.
- Dedicated Email Address: To streamline communication, we are considering creating a dedicated email address for this initiative. This will offer a direct channel for you to reach out and share your thoughts or inquiries with us.
- Timely Responses: We are committed to engaging with your feedback. When you contact us via the dedicated email address or through the website, we aim to respond promptly, typically within 24 to 48 hours. We want to ensure that your voice is heard and valued.
By actively participating in this initiative, you become an integral part of the journey towards justice and healing. Together, we can make a real difference within the LSTC community and beyond. We look forward to your involvement and engagement in this essential endeavor.
How did the class of 2023 contribute to this initiative?
Each year, graduating students at LSTC mark their time on campus by giving a “class gift.” Distinct from, but in partnership with the seminary, the class of 2023, raised funds to support and encourage the larger institutional commitment to long-term and sustainable, authentic relationships with our neighbors of the surrounding community, especially BIPOC individuals. You can contribute to this campaign by visiting the class of 2023’s LSTC Reparation Fund website.
Links to Committee Research and Additional Reparations Resources
- Reparations Stages, United Nations
- Reconsidering Reparations Reconsidering Reparations, Dr. Alfred L. Brophy
- Reparations: The Time is Now!, Coming To The Table (CTTT) Reparations Working Group
- Authentic Diversity, ELCA
- Black Reparations, Bernard Boxill
- The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow, and Their Legacies
- Making Amends: Debate Continues Over Reparations for U.S. Slavery, National Public Radio
- Reparations for Slavery: A Reader, Saltzberger, Ronald Paul and Mary C. Turck
- The Deed, Gimlet Media, Podcast
- M4BLReparations Toolkit
- A History of Segregation in Chicago, Chicago Business