By Victor Trammell for Your Black World (Source: www.yourblackworld.net) – Administrators of the U.S. Jesuit Conference of Priests (USJCP) just announced they will attempt to raise $100 million dollars to benefit the descendants of enslaved Black people.
During the days of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Black Africans were bought and sold–under the direct command of the Roman Catholic order. This new USJCP initiative is an attempt to foster racial reconciliation and atone for Catholic participation in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, The New York Times reports.
The foundation is a partnership with a group called GU272, representing the 272 enslaved people sold by Jesuit priests, courtesy of Maryland’s Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838. The Jesuits trafficked in slave labor for a century to finance their operations and eventually built what became Georgetown University.
In recent years, descendants of those slaves, who had been sold to a Louisiana plantation, have addressed that issue with Georgetown. This effort was part of a campaign formed to ensure that the hidden history was revealed. In turn, the institution has made efforts to acknowledge its role in slavery.
“From our inception, the GU272 Descendants Association has chosen to identify and rebuild our ancestors’ families that were separated and often destroyed by the brutal institution of slavery and to create a sustainable mechanism for investing forward in uplifting Descendants for many generations to come,” Cheryllyn Branche, President of the GU272 Descendants Association said in her official statement.
The Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki (president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States) said $15 million has already been placed in a trust set up for supporting the foundation. A national fundraising firm, Kesicki said, has been brought in to raise the rest of the money.
The firm expects to raise the entire $100 million within the next three to five years, the Times reported.
“This is an opportunity for Jesuits to begin a very serious process of truth and reconciliation. Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back,” Kesicki said.
Leaders of the descendants of the enslaved people had called on the Jesuits to commit to raising $1 billion. However, Kesicki and Joseph M. Stewart (president of the new foundation) said that was still a goal, which could be looked at for the future.
“We now have a pathway forward that has not been traveled before. They did not come running to us, but because we went to them with open arms and open hearts, they responded. They embraced our vision,” Stewart said in an interview with the Times (Gray, 2021).
Reference: Gray, M. (2021, March 16) Catholic Priests Pledge To Raise $100 Million In Restitution For Descendants Of Enslaved Black People. Retrieved from https://www.bet.com/news/national/2021/03/16/jesuit-priests-slavery-restitution-foundation-georgetown-fundraising.html
*Your Black World news correspondent Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.