A local radio station and a grass roots activist group are teaming up to put on a free concert at Kingston Point that will highlight the issue of reparations to African-Americans for slavery and institutional racism.
The Radio Kingston-sponsored show dubbed “The Fall Fling” is slated for this Sunday, Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. The show will feature a hip-hop dance party with Radio Kingston DJ Micah Blumenthal and a performance by “Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads,” a band that offers reggae interpretations of the music of iconic New Wave band Talking Heads.
The event features a voluntary “reparations pricing” structure which asks white attendees to make a suggested donation of $10.79 (107.9 being Radio Kingston’s new FM frequency) to cover their own admission, as well as free admission for nonwhite people. Event organizers say that they included the deliberately provocative (but entirely voluntary) pricing scheme to spark discussion around the issue of reparations.
“We want people to maybe be a little shocked by it,” said Callie Jayne who hosts “Rise Up Radio” on Radio Kingston and is a founder of the grass roots racial and economic justice group Rise Up Kingston. “To get the discussion started in our community.”
The issue of reparations for slavery has been around since at least 1865 with the never-fulfilled promise of “40 acres and a mule” for newly freed slaves. An effort to form a committee to examine potential reparations has been stalled in Congress since the late 1980s. “The Case for Reparations,” an influential 2014 article in The Atlantic by author Ta-Nehisi Coates, sparked renewed interest in the issue. In the article, Coates argues that even setting aside slavery, a case for reparations to black Americans can be made based on decades of Jim Crow laws, racist housing and lending practices and discriminatory federal policies that cumulatively hobbled black families’ ability to accrue and pass on wealth and property to subsequent generations. Supporters of reparations also argue that the impact of both slavery and state-sponsored racism are still felt by African Americans today.
“We don’t know where exactly we are going to go, we don’t know what reparations would look like,” said Jayne. “But we do know that there are families struggling locally that have been impacted by the legacy of slavery.”
The Fall Fling is part of a broader effort to begin a conversation about reparations on the local level. Jayne has addressed the issue on her “Rise Ip Radio” program on Radio Kingston as has Blumenthal on his weekly hip-hop show. Radio Kingston Station Manager Jimmy Buff said he sees the reparations discussion as in line with the community-based radio station’s mission to facilitate conversations on a local level.
“We want to have community conversations about a lot of things,” said Buff. “We think this is an important one but it’s by no means the only one. We believe our city is a place where people can talk to each other.”
Jayne said Rise Up Kingston hoped to follow up on the concert with a community-wide conversation in about a month. Meanwhile, she said, the show at Kingston Point was open and welcoming to all, regardless of their views on reparations.
“If you don’t agree with this, that’s great,” said Jayne. “Just come enjoy a reggae concert with your community.”