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The small ‘Reparations’ request that allowed for some healing

Reagan Jackson, an artist and teacher, didn't think she would participate in a 'Reparations' experiment that started in Seattle.
Michael Maine
Reagan Jackson, an artist and teacher, didn't think she would participate in a 'Reparations' experiment that started in Seattle.

Artist Reagan Jackson submitted a request to Seattle’s Reparations project. She explained why in this transcribed interview with KUOW's Bill Radke: 

Our country is like a war-torn nation.

There are a lot of people of all ethnic persuasions who are walking around, grieving. And so Natasha Marin (founder of the 'Reparations' experiment) said, “OK, I know you're hurting. And some of you who are hurting actually have some needs based on systemic injustices that have happened, that are still continuing to happen every day.

“And some of you have some privileges that you might be able to like leverage those to help the people who are in need.”

But growing up as a black woman here in the United States, I have learned repeatedly that if I want something, I need to go get it. The idea for me of asking other people for help – it's nice in theory. It's something I would advise somebody else to do.

But when it comes down to my personal needs, I don't want to be getting charity. I have a job. I can live my life; I can do these things on my own.

Related: The woman started a ‘Reparations’ experiment in Seattle

So for me, it felt disquieting. But then within that, I saw an opportunity.

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "If I leave KUOW right now, and I go down the Ave and get in my car – a police officer could pull me over and kill me.", "style": "inset"}]]  I was glued to the ‘Reparations’ page on Facebook. I had to watch. I had to see who was giving what. And who was receiving. I was having this experience, “Wow, people are really taking this seriously.”

And I saw more and more interactions of people willing to share their stories and say, “Hey, I'm a single mom, and I just need groceries this month,” or, “I need a kidney.”

Then I'm seeing these white people responding with offers saying, “Hey, I may not be able to fund your vacation, but I can help you get this job,” or, “I can look at your resume and help you write a compelling cover letter that will help you get the resources that you need.

I found it to be very touching to a point where I thought, OK, maybe. Maybe there's something to this. So I decided to try.

I thought about what I could legitimately accept and what would go toward my healing. Healing because: 

Watching Philando Castile get shot for no reason and watching everyone else get shot for no reason – for selling cigarettes, selling CDs, driving with a broken taillight. 

Over the last several years, maybe over the course of a lifetime, I've been having this continuous revelation that I live in a country where it's totally OK to kill me.

Like, if I leave KUOW right now, and I go down the Ave and get in my car – a police officer could pull me over and kill me.

Then he or she would get a paid vacation – love that – and my family would be totally destroyed, and I wouldn't get to live any more. 

There's no justice. We've been told repeatedly that, for whatever reason, even though murder is illegal, this doesn't constitute murder. Because they didn't mean it? Because it was an accident?

Yeah. I need some healing from that.

It's hard to get up in the morning and think about these things. And this is where I live. This is where I'm from.

I thought, "What would make me feel immediately better?" So I asked for a $100 gift certificate to Michaels. 

I could go home, I could have a nice cup of tea, and I could just paint and zone out – maybe just for an hour. That would be something.

The first person who answered me is a woman who lives in Colorado. She wrote that she's an artist as well, and that she couldn't afford to send me a gift certificate, but that she had some extra paint and glitter, and she would be happy to send me a care package.

And she also sent a piece of her own art, which was really sweet.

The second person who answered me is here in Seattle. Apparently we knew each other 16 years ago; I think she was a professor I had here at the University of Washington.

She wrote me with an apology, saying that 16 years ago I mentioned something that came up for me, and that she responded defensively.

I absolutely have no idea what happened. It might have been something, it might not have been something – we might not have actually ever met – but it was a very sincere apology. And it made me feel weird.

I sat on it for a couple of days before I responded. I thought, "If I wrote somebody after 16 years, I would want a response."

So I responded and I basically just said, "You know, we're cool, there's nothing I'm harboring from 16 years ago that needs resolution between us. And I'm glad you're on your path, and that you're doing this deep forgiveness work, or whatever it is that prompted you to contact me."

She wrote me back and said that she honored my request, and that I should check my e-mail. And there was the gift certificate for $100 to Michaels.

Then I went to work, and I was thumbing through the roster of girls that I'm about to take to a writers' camp. And one of those girls is her daughter. 

The ‘Reparations’ project has meant the beginning of a deeper and longer conversation about a lot of different things, and about where we're going from here.

People of color are not treated like people – still – in this country. And that's something that has to change in order for us to move forward.

There is inequity in terms of who has privilege and power and who doesn't. For that to be balanced, white people are going to have to give up some power and privilege, and people of color are also going to have to accept some power and privilege.

We're going to have to learn to give and receive. And we're also going to have to learn how to connect. So for me, this project was about connection more than anything else.

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Year started with KUOW: 2012
Year started with KUOW: 1985 – 1986, 1991 – 2004, 2012