Passion for Justice

Radical Love Comes to Campus

Student talks about reparations with Cornel West and Chinyere Oparah

by Evan Elliot, USF News

How does it feel to step up on stage and guide a discussion with Cornel West and the provost of USF?

“I was nervous,” said Natalya Bomani ’22, the student who moderated the talk called “Radical Redistribution: Reparations for the Black Descendants of Enslaved Africans” with Cornel West and Chinyere Oparah on Feb. 23 in McLaren Conference Center on the Hilltop. 

“But at the same time, I got to meet with Dr. West before the event and he was such a gentle and down-to-earth person that I was like, ‘OK, I got this,’” said Bomani. “Also, Provost Chinyere and I walked together, with our arms around each other, to the event, and she said to me, ‘This will be just like we’re sitting at the kitchen table and we’re talking together.’ That helped a lot.”

To prepare for the talk, Bomani read two books by Cornel West: Race Matters and Breaking Bread, which he wrote with bell hooks. And she met with her professors and others on campus to get their thoughts and advice on questions to ask.

James Taylor, Candice Harrison, Brian Weiner, Ron Sundstrom, Aaron Hahn Tapper, Angeline Vuong of the McCarthy Center, Elizabeth Jay Friedman all helped me,” said Bomani. “Professor Hahn Tapper recommended a lot of really great readings, like the book From Here to Equality.” 

Some of her favorite moments from the talk?

“From Cornel West, one of the things that stuck with me is that reparations are a quest for truth and about the question of whether we are able to look at ourselves and critically examine just who we are as a people — like are we going to truly accept Black life?” said Bomani. 

“From Provost Chinyere, I loved how she talked about the intergenerational trauma of Black women and how unique our experience with systemic oppression has been. Women are sidelined a lot and I think to center us and to put us there at the fore was really important. There are really distinct experiences that we have based on our gender and sexuality, and that’s what enabled me as a moderator to come in and talk about queerness because I identify as queer and so does Provost Chinyere.”

Any surprises from the talk?

“I didn't think we were going to talk about love as much as we did,” said Bomani. “I was kind of expecting an academic talk about which programs and federal laws need to pass for reparations to happen, but it was more like an easy, organic conversation, like talking with my parents or grandparents.”

Her main takeaway?

“Most of our talk was really about community and love — radical love. Unconditional love. If we don’t have the courage to love each other despite our flaws and despite past conflict, and if we don’t have that passionate care for one another, then we’re not going to make it — because we’ve only survived as a collective.”

Bomani, a politics major, will graduate in May. She just landed a job as a project coordinator with Alameda County to create a guaranteed income program for foster youth. 

Bomani was hired by a USF graduate named Casey Farmer ’07. “Casey works in community engagement for Alameda County,” said Bomani. “She recruited me through the McCarthy Center. I’m very fortunate. Now I can breathe. And maybe think about law school. We’ll see.”

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