California’s task force on reparations voted Tuesday to place limits on state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who lived in the U.S. in the 19th century, rejecting a proposal that sought to include all Black people regardless of lineage, NECN reports.

The 5-4 vote came after hours of debate, in which emotions ran high.

The Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP and vice-chair of the task force, urged the commission to set a clear definition of who would be eligible for reparations.

“Please, please, please I beg us tonight, take the first step,” he said. ”We've got to give emergency treatment to where it is needed."

Those who pushed for a lineage-only approach said that compensation based on genealogy presents the best chance of surviving a legal battle. Also, they would open eligibility to free Black people who migrated to the country before the 20th century because of the challenges of documenting family histories.

Those who were in favor of reparations for all Black people in the U.S. argued that systemic racism in housing, education, and employment has impacted all Black people, Also, they argued that they were defining eligibility thresholds too soon in the process.

Lisa Holder, civil rights attorney and task force member proposed directing economists working with the task force to use California’s estimated 2.6 million Black residents to calculate compensation while they continue hearing from the public.”

“We need to galvanize the base and that is Black people,” she said. “We can’t go into this reparations proposal without having all African Americans in California behind us.”

Kamilah Moore, an attorney, and chair of the task force noted that expanding eligibility was problematic and went beyond the purpose of the committee.

“That is going to aggrieve the victims of the institution of slavery, which are the direct descendants of the enslaved people in the United States,” she said. “It goes against the spirit of the law as written.”

Since the committee's first meeting, the question of eligibility has been a hotly contested issue. 

Arthur Ward, a Chicago resident called into Tuesday's virtual meeting, saying that he was a descendant of enslaved people and has family in California. He supports lineage-based reparations only and was disturbed by the panel’s concerns over the racial experiences of Black immigrants.

“When it comes to some sort of justice, some kind of recompense, we are supposed to step to the back of the line and allow Carribeans and Africans to be prioritized,” Ward said. “Taking this long to decide something that should not even be a question in the first place is an insult.”

Reginald Jones-Sawyer, California Assemblyman who voted against limiting eligibility, said that the panel should stop “bickering" over money that hasn’t been awarded yet and begin discussing solutions to close the wealth gap.

“We’re arguing over cash payments, which I firmly don’t believe are the be-all and end-all,” he said.

As EBONY previously reported, local governments across the country are working with cities to come up with ways to bring various reparations programs to Black people.

In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation creating the two-year reparations task force which made California the first state to conduct a study and move forward with a plan to research slavery and its devastating effects.

Besides money, compensation for Black California descendants could include business incubators, grants to non-profit organizations, free college, and assistance buying homes, advocates say.