Maryanne Bernini Caughlin, Catherine Brown and Cornelia Klimczak: Unitarian Universalists advocating for reparations

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Published: 02-29-2024 3:39 PM

Modified: 02-29-2024 4:49 PM

Several members of the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence’s (USNF) Racial Justice Team attended New England Public Media’s and Springfield College’s Feb. 15 hosting of the screening of a very moving new documentary film “The Cost of Inheritance,” followed by an informative panel discussion on the issue of reparations owed to Black Americans for the harms of over four centuries of enslavement, segregation and racism.

We encourage others to seek out and view this film, which is available online. It features two white women whose ancestors in Maryland and Georgia enslaved Black people, and describes the relationships they developed with two Black people whose ancestors were enslaved on these very same plantations. The process by which they bridged the racial divide and reached healing through the justice of making reparations to the descendants of the people their own ancestors had harmed by enslavement is inspiring.

The Racial Justice Team will be hosting a viewing and discussion of “The Cost of Inheritance” at USNF on April 26 and welcome participants from the wider community. We are proud that Northampton has joined Boston, Amherst, Evanston, Illinois and other cities nationwide in the growing movement for reparations.

The Boston Reparations Commission released its Harms Report on Feb. 27 and the Northampton Reparations Commission, formed after the City Council passed the resolution a year ago, will release its Harms Report and its recommendations for reparations initiatives this summer.

We also encourage Gazette readers to advocate for the fulfillment of one of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign promises, the issuance of an executive order establishing a federal reparations commission. Local grassroots initiatives are an important start, but only the federal government has the resources that are truly owed for meaningful reparations.

As Unitarian Universalists, we are thankful that reparations, both locally and nationally, is a vital moral issue that our faith community, and increasing numbers of other groups, are discussing and acting upon.

Maryanne Bernini Caughlin


Catherine Brown


Cornelia Klimczak