Activist calls for reparations study
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent June 19, 2014 10:52PM
Todd Deloney, of East Chicago, called on U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, to push for a vote on HR 40, a bill introduced in 1989 that forms a commission to study reparations to African-Americans for slavery and discrimination. The bill has never made it out of the Judiciary Committee. | Michael Gonzalez~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 21, 2014 4:03PM
MERRILLVILLE — Todd Deloney knew it was a stretch when he donned a sandwich board sign and began pacing in front of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s office Thursday.
But, he did it anyway. And, he chose Juneteenth to make his statement.
Deloney, 52, an East Chicago resident who also calls himself “The Agitator,” walked alone in front of Visclosky’s office to encourage the congressman to work to move HR 40, a 25-year-old bill, out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the U.S. House.
“Surely, I know what I’m doing would appear to be kind of far-fetched. However, I believe the Lord will make a way,” Deloney said. “I feel in my heart and soul that this is the least I can do in regards to my ancestors, when I look at what they did.”
HR 40 calls for a commission to study the impact of slavery and racial discrimination and possible reparations for African-Americans. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., first introduced the bill in 1989, with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as a co-sponsor. Conyers has re-introduced the bill every year since, but the bill has never made it out of committee.
Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the first time word of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas.
Deloney walked alone in front of the office as a personal statement and because of trouble getting others to join him, he said.
Celina Weatherwax, Visclosky’s communication manager, said Visclosky supports constituents’ rights to march, demonstrate and express themselves in a variety of ways, but Deloney never approached the congressman or his staff, she said.
“Congressman Visclosky encourages citizens of Northwest Indiana to partake in civic duties, and if they feel that’s the approach they’d like to take, that’s something that’s up to them to do,” she said. “We encourage (Deloney) to come and speak to us directly. He hasn’t done so yet.”
Deloney said he would meet with Weatherwax after his 90-minute demonstration. He wore a sandwich board sign that read, on the front, “Support HR 40. The commission to study proposals for African-Americans act. Descendants of slaves vote, too!”
Handing out money to black people in America is not the point of the bill, Deloney said, calling on Congress to “just conduct the study.”
“I would be willing, and I’m sure many blacks would be willing, too, to support whatever findings the commission come up with. We just want to make sure it gets studied.”