Land Back and Land of the Freed

During our recent fall congregational meeting, we discussed money in our budget for reparative debt payments.  Several years ago we made a commitment to step this amount up to $20,000 annually (currently at $15,000 for our 2023 budget).  At the meeting, a strong majority affirmed we are ready to step all the way up. Leadership Team will present this final version of the 2024 budget for a vote after worship December 3.

Reparative debt payments is the language we’re using for incorporating our commitment to antiracism and contesting White supremacy into where we direct funds. 

Reparative affirms that acknowledging past harms isn’t enough.  Justice calls for concrete steps toward repair. 

Debt stakes out the nature of the relationship between those who have profited from stolen land and unpaid labor, and those who have suffered its generational consequences.  

Payments likens this to a bill owed, rather than a gift given. 

Every year we have directed half of the payments toward a Native-led organization and half toward a Black-led organization, to be used however they deem necessary.  Here are some updates regarding the 2023 payments.

The Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio (NAICCO) has an active Land Back campaign through which they intend to purchase 20 acres in Central Ohio to create a center for cultural programming.  Two days ago NAICCO sent out a letter to supporters celebrating achieving their goal of $250,000.  They are still encouraging donations on #GivingTuesday2023 (November 28) to maximize their ability to make a down payment on land they hope to identify soon.  More information on how to give is HERE.    

Land of the Freed is a new organization led by descendants of the Randolph Freedpeople.  In the early 1800s Virginia slave owner John Randolph wrote in his will that his 383 slaves would be freed after his death.  The estate purchased 3200 acres in Mercer County, Ohio for these formerly enslaved persons to settle and farm.  However, as the freedpeople traveled up the Miami-Erie Canal toward their land they were confronted by a White mob that forced them out of the county.  The freedpeople dispersed and set up communities in Miami and Shelby counties.  Two initial projects of Land of the Freed are revitalization of the African Jackson Cemetery outside Piqua, and surveying the exact location of the land parcels purchased for the freedpeople.  Storytelling and reparation are future goals.  THIS seven minute video from the Ohio History Connection provides an excellent overview.   Miami County had pledged funds to Land of the Freed but our donation (payment) is the first they have received.    

It’s worth noting that both organizations/campaigns have the word “Land” in their title.  Loving the land, listening to the land, and learning the history of the land are integral to our faith journey and, we pray, the repair of harms, for the flourishing of all.