Black or African American: new movement seeks clear definition–or division

Jessi Rich, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As America and its prime leaders prepare for the election of 2020, the issue of reparations for African Americans–a compensation for the 246 years their ancestors spent in bondage–has been the source of much debate. Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro have all expressed deliberate pro-reparation opinions; however, for a growing section of black Americans, that may not be enough.


American Descendants of Slavery, better known as ADOS, is a nascent association led by Howard University graduate Yvette Carnell and UCLA graduate Antonio Moore. Carnell is the host of the Breaking Brown political show, spreading “American black #ADOS news that matters.” Moore, an attorney, hosts Tonetalks, a podcast and YouTube channel focused on discussions that affect the black community.


 ADOS has very specific ideas about how reparations should be achieved. In one tweet, for example, Carnell emphasizes that reparations is urgent and must happen now or never, saying that “life is imploding.”


Reparations is not the movement’s only wish, however. ADOS’s main platform is that the term “black” should not lump together American-born black people with black immigrants. Those descendent of the American slaves should have their own identity, and a certain value based on that identity.


On their website, ADOS calls for a more fervent attempt at closing the wealth gap between black an white Americans. They argue that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has not been appropriately outlined and should be “reinstituted.” In the realm of education, ADOS claims that affirmative action was birthed originally for the descendants of black slaves and thus should only be applied for the benefit of those descendants. Similarly, ADOS calls for higher endowments for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).


ADOS lists several other ideas, including solutions for mass incarceration, a system of free healthcare for all ADOS, and a more central focus on the development and support of black-owned and operated media. 


In October, the ADOS movement held a conference in Louisville, Ky. Over a thousand supporters from across the nation were in attendance. Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who is running on a distinctly pro-reparations platform, spoke at the event, as well as black Harvard professor Cornel West.


More recently, rapper and activist Killer Mike expressed support for the movement as well. It seems as though the movement has grown beyond a Twitter hashtag and into a full-fledged debate over black identity.


ADOS criticizes the Democratic Party for focusing more on the assistance of black immigrants “than struggling black people who have been in the country for centuries,” a fact that many critics of the group find disturbing (New York Times).


There’s a circulating idea that ADOS is just a clandestine way to introduce Republican and/or conservative ideals into the broadly Democratic, anti-Trump black community. Though the group has claimed itself to be nonpartisan, for example, the hashtag has been used by many conservative voices. In this tweet, white conservative commentator Ann Coulter expresses her support, with some conditions.



In all, black Americans are split over ADOS and its values. Some see the growing movement as a breath of fresh air for the disenfranchised black community, but the majority view ADOS as divisive and truculent. Despite the criticism, founders Carnell and Moore don’t seem to be wavering. Only time will tell where the ADOS movement goes from here.


By: Jessi Rich

Featured Image: Danielle Scruggs, New York Times