‘Reparations’ explores struggle to atone for slavery

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In Jon Osaki’s film, “Reparations,” Blacks and Asian Americans address the four-century struggle to atone for slavery in the U.S., and discuss the critical role that solidarity between communities plays in addressing systemic racism in America.

Osaki, an award-winning filmmaker and director of “Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066,” spoke to the Nichi Bei Weekly ahead of the film’s screening during Films of Remembrance beginning on Sunday, Feb. 27.

Nichi Bei Weekly: What inspired you to make “Reparations?”
Jon Osaki: After the murder of George Floyd, many Asian Americans were trying to sort out productive ways to respond and act as allies to the Black community. We decided to produce a film on the Black reparations movement and identify ways for Asian Americans to support healing in the Black community.

NBW; What has been the public reaction?
JO: It was a huge challenge to direct a film about a movement affecting another community. I had to approach this project with a tremendous amount of humility. It has been extremely gratifying that the film has been well-received by many in the Black community. For the AAPI community, there’s been a heightened awareness about the ways that lifting up the Black community benefits everyone.

NBW: What are you trying to convey in the context of what’s happening today?
JO: It’s clear that there are some who feel the white dominant power structure is being threatened in America. Every time there’s some form of racial reckoning, there is a white supremacist backlash, which happened when slaves were freed and is what we are seeing today in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

NBW: How does this story relate to the JA incarceration/redress/reparations story?
JO: When the JA Redress Movement was gaining momentum, the NAACP and many prominent Black leaders — instead of dismissing our redress movement — understood the power of standing up for other communities. JAs need to remember the support we received from leaders such as Congressman Ron Dellums. This historical solidarity between the Black and JA community is really a model for how communities of color can work together and lift each other up.

NBW: What is the status of HR40?
JO: My understanding is HR40 currently has about 200 Congressional co-sponsors, far more than when it was introduced 30 years ago. The environment is so volatile in D.C. that it has yet to be brought to the House floor for a full vote by Congress.

NBW: What can the JA community do to assist in the effort to pass HR40?
JO: It will require overwhelming support for HR40 to reach the House floor. The Stop Repeating History team is encouraging individuals to do the following:
1. Write your Congressional Representative and urge them to bring HR40 to the floor for a vote;

2. Engage in local/state reparations efforts by listening to public meetings and contacting city and state legislators to urge their support;

3. Educate yourself on these issues, and encourage others to support the issue of Black reparations.

“Reparations” will screen as part of the “Righting Civil Wrongs” program at the 11th annual Films of Remembrance on Sunday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m. PT, followed by a post-film discussion at noon. For more information, visit www.filmsofremembrance.org.

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The 2024 Films of Remembrance sheds light on the forced removal and incarceration of the Japanese American community into American concentration camps during World War II.