In January 2024 members of the organisations coordinating the Hub (Seeding Reparations, Shared Assets and ORFC) supported teams who brought together ten sessions that ran across both days of the Conference - with a particular spotlight on Reparations.

For the last three years, organisers of the Justice Hub at the ORFC have focussed on social justice, particularly as they relate to addressing issues of land, race, food, class, climate, abolition, disability, health, gender, wealth, and migration.

Reparations was this year's Justice Hub theme. Reparations is defined differently by different people, but Land In Our Names (LION)’s working example is that reparations are holistic, and are about “the redistribution of resources to Black and People of colour. It is about creating spaces for Black and People of Colour (BPOC) to heal and repair intergenerational traumas”. 

The opening panel, Land as Reparations and How to Get There, recognised that part of the repair needed is to recognise the right of oppressed peoples to shape reparations. Esther Stanford-Xosei suggested that repair is holistic and “is also about repairing the divisions that are not [only] between humans but in the way in which we relate to our environment”. Part of this work is to embrace knowledge systems which have been exploited and erased. ‘Property ownership’ is a very alien concept to many people on the planet, so repair is recognizing the rights of peoples to shape relations to land in their own trajectory. Cognitive, environmental and reparative justice combined is referred to as “planet repairs”. 

Andre Kpodonu highlighted “the voracious hunger” of the neo-colonial capitalist system, which acts “like a vacuum, sucking in resources, eventually leading to systemic collapse”. Society has allowed a vast set of economic activities to take place, including industrial-extractive forms of agriculture, which are disastrous for planetary repairs and we know must end. In contrast, Miriam Rose suggested one element of reparations could be to regain knowledge from each other about what it has meant (and still means) to be Indigenous in different ecological and cultural contexts, which presents “an opportunity for all of us” to work together in the repair process.

Seeding Reparations ran two sessions, the design of which drew on important learning from activists of colour involved in the US civil rights movement. Learning of the struggles of the 1960s and 70s, civil rights leaders such as Bernice Johnson Reagon suggest that it is important to have “home” (or caucus) spaces, as well as coalition spaces. In her essay “Coalition Politics”, Reagon describes how caucuses allowed African Americans in the US the opportunity to discuss issues that they had in common with each other. 

Following Reagon’s teaching, ORFC’s first two lunchtime sessions saw those already active in reparations movements meeting in two separate spaces in parallel, depending on whether they identified as people of colour or white people. While not all the white people immediately accepted this distinction, everyone agreed to proceed. A key output from the “white” session was a list of emotions that were chosen as appropriate to air among other white people, but which it would not be necessarily helpful for them to share in coalition spaces. Another list described the skills, feelings and information that white people could usefully share in a coalition space, such as administrative support, energy, enthusiasm, contacts with those who own land.

The conversation in the BPOC caucus space followed a similar format, providing space to explore experiences of being in coalition spaces and how participants might be able to hold collective intentionality within them. Using body mapping as a framework, the group explored that the intention within these spaces is often deeply rooted in the practical and material needs that growers and food system change-makers of colour experience. And yet far too often the anticipation of being shut down, drowned out, and/or harmed, derails spaces from pursuing these needs. Participants committed to collective regulation of their nervous system. Through reassuring glances, nods and willful optimism the coalition space held accountable to its purpose - to further work that currently has few other spaces which might permit this. 

The session at lunchtime on the second day was a self-organised “coalition space”, which used an open-space approach to allow people to talk about the topics in which they were most interested. We thus had two large groups - one looking at the mechanics of taking forward reparations work and the other looking at how to build better bridges between people who are involved in different aspects of reparations work. 

In other sessions, Nicki and Miranda from No Borders in Climate Justice talked about the advancement of systems of enclosure to the increasing militarisation of borders and rise in nationalistic hostility towards movement of people. These are patterns associated with colonial capitalism, and in the UK are mirrored by Trespass laws denoted by ‘Keep Out’ signs on the edges of private land - a reality that the Right to Roam campaign has effectively drawn our attention to. They spoke about flipping the narrative around climate refugees away from needing to deal with the climate crisis to stem migration, to making it so that people can stay if they want to, and also have the choice to leave. The same could be done for others facing forced migration worldwide, and also those facing eviction or other forms of dispossession in the UK, due to economic, legal and cultural exclusions. 

Liba hosted a wonderful anti-oppression circle BIPOC poetry workshop. It was an interdisciplinary exploration of creativity and artistic practice as a means of reparation, healing, or expression for evolving subjects. Reparations for BIPOC individuals can take numerous forms. By hosting a poetry workshop, Liba explored what this might look like within the arts. This post initiates a series of conversations with artists and culture-makers about the potential of distributive justice in the arts to mend the historical and ongoing impact of anti-Blackness and oppression within marginalised communities. After attending a conference held by BIPOC individuals, you can find many safe spaces focused on liberation from oppression. These spaces are especially helpful if you are new to environmentalism and unsure where to start.

Rachel Solnick, Claire Ratinon, Josina Calliste and Mona Bani, all prominent figures in the field, further expanded on this topic through an art exhibition and insightful panel discussion called ‘Repairing the Land’. In these sessions, the theme of lineage was repeatedly explored and emphasised. This topic played a critical role in understanding the importance of narrative, highlighting how our personal and collective histories shape and influence the stories we tell and the way we perceive the world around us and current day injustices. Samson Hart, alongside Rachel, conducted a heartwarming session called ‘Sharing our Land Stories and Lineages’ centred on Jewish lineage and culture. Together, we expressed solidarity for Palestine, Congo, Sudan, and other regions currently affected by conflict.

Rosina and Miss Divine from Black and Green Futures hosted a podcast-style panel with grower Amrish and Carlos, a cocoa farmer, on what it means to be part of diasporic communities, making ancestral connections to land. Amrish spoke of the right to farm a piece of land in India without owning it; the lack of ownership made it so easy for colonisers (the British), with their ideas of private property to justify taking land from locals. Treating Mother Earth as a person, rather than something that can be owned, in his view, makes land more difficult to exploit. On the topic of exploitation, Solidarity Across Land Trades (SALT), a new land workers’ union held a ‘Know Your Rights’ workshop in the Justice Hub, exclusively for those involved in land work without power to hire and fire. 

In her contribution to the session “Repairing the Land: an enquiry into ecological, cultural and social repair”, Naomi Terry alluded to the presentation of an apple tree as “English”, during the conference’s opening plenary, which took place a quarter of a mile up the street from the Hub. A tree was blessed with poetry and songs, led by the English Folk singer, Sam Lee. Such a presentation was ironic, noted Terry, given that the first peoples to have domesticated apples had been Indigenous peoples from the Global South, in what we now call Central Asia. Perhaps future years could see the reclaiming of and recognition of missing stories as an essential step in bringing about reparative justice. 

More wise words came from Naomi in summarising with these highlights from the first session on Land Reparations, which are some key takeaways not just on the reparations movement, but also for us in the land justice movement:

  • How we exist in connected but distinct communities of struggle
  • Repairing knowledge systems is key
  • Needing to dismantle the problematic concept of property
  • Relinquishing wealth and power is important
  • It is a waste of our lives to make the same mistakes again that have already been made

We felt that highlighting this partnership and this moment in time was on point - and feedback we received from attendees suggested that too. Moving forward with the Justice Hub and looking towards 2024, and in the vein of doing the work of repair, we are in discussions with the ORFC to try to continue to improve the accessibility of those more economically marginalised and to be able to platform more ideas and people who have historically drawn the short straw of cognitive injustice. These discussions on reparations have fed into a collaborative project steered by Shared Assets and Seeding Reparations to develop a shared resource on Land Reparations - which we expect will be published after the summer.

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