Volunteers panhandle for slavery reparations
PORTLAND, Ore. ” It was panhandling, it was performance art ” and it was a political statement about the legacy of slavery and reparations for black people.
A dozen volunteers, black and white, took to the streets of Portland on Wednesday to take part in what its creator called the National Day of Panhandling for Reparations.
They asked white passers-by to pay reparations for enslaving black people, and then they gave money to black passers-by.
“Artists take the lead on social issues,” the organizer, a Portland-based performance artist named damali ayo, told The Oregonian. “This is the way I’m taking the lead on a social issue. Taking it to the streets. Also to get the job done ” getting those reparations paid out.”
As volunteer Frances Miller asked passers-by for money, they reacted with confusion, amusement or annoyance. Some, like delivery man Jeremy Butyrin, gave money.
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“America’s history hasn’t been so kind to a lot of people,” said Butyrin, who gave $10. “You can’t always count on the government to take care of it. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.”
“I’m Slavic. I kind of understand,” he added. “My dad had to escape oppression to come over here.”
Moments later, Porter Miller, 58, walked by on his way to a bus stop. He didn’t understand why a stranger was offering him money. Once Frances Miller explained, he accepted.
“That’s pretty neat,” he said. “It makes me feel better. Makes me feel we’re appreciated here.”
About 70 volunteers were recruited in the United States, Great Britain and New Zealand, said ayo, who uses lowercase letters for her name. She is the author of a satirical book titled “How to Rent a Negro.”