Reparations. Very few topics get both sides of the political spectrum going like Reparations. We have done a previous video on why reparations to the African American community is important, click up here if you have missed it.
The topic of reparations to African Americans is not new, it’s just something that gets brought up as a controversial issue every so often. In fact, lawmakers in Congress introduced a bill that would form a commission to study and develop reparations proposals in the US back in 1989. But the bill never passed.
Since 2020, there have been efforts made by cities and states across the country to develop programs that would pay reparations to the Black community in their areas. California was the first state to set up its own reparations commission.
Austin City Council members approved a resolution to perform a study to quantify the cost of systemic racism in 2021. But the process has been moving so slow that it has even frustrated Austin Mayor Steve Adler. The resolution will have the city manager study the monetary value of the city’s past racist policies towards the Black community. Then the goal is to establish a fund which will offer resources and support for Black owned businesses and organizations. But several delays have dragged this process into an almost complete stop.
Austin’s resolution does not mention any restitution payments, which are traditionally thought of as direct reparations.
In 2021, the city of Durham passed a budget that included $6 million towards what they deemed was a form of reparations. That money will be for green and equitable infrastructure in historically Black neighborhoods. The city intends to budget this money every year going forward.
Community leaders intend to spend the approved money on affordable housing, COVID-19 recovery, and safety in areas where Black residents face disparities. But we could not find any information on how this money has been spent thus far in 2022.
Tullahassee, Oklahoma has a very interesting history. This small town of fewer than 100 people is the oldest surviving all-Black town that was established after slavery was abolished. Many of the first Black people to live in Tullahassee actually had been enslaved by Native American tribes that had allied with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
This once thriving Black town has joined the movement for reparations. Mayor Keisha Currin says the town was devastated by government policies that divested it just like other Black communities across the country. While other cities are looking for ways to right the wrongs they committed against their own Black population, Tullahassee is looking for funds to rebuild the whole town. Town leaders are looking towards the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Department of Commerce to get the funds and initiatives to rebuild Tullahassee.
St Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America with a population of 300,000. Nearly half of the residents are Black and most of them live in north St Louis, where the rate of crime and poverty are the highest.
Mayor Tishaura Jones has appointed a reparations commission that will make recommendations on how to repair the harms done by racism, slavery, and segregation. The mayor also signed a bill this year allowing taxpayers to voluntarily donate to a slavery reparations fund. Residents and companies can contribute to this fund by adding donations to yearly property tax bills or joint water and refuse collection bills that are issued quarterly.
It is unclear how the money in this fund will be allocated towards Black residents but the mayor views this move as just the first step towards reparations.
Evanston became the first US city to issue slavery reparations when it selected 16 black residents to receive $25,000 each for home repair or property costs in its first phase. The housing program is part of a plan to distribute $10 million to Black residents of Evanston. This comes after a report pointed at the city’s racist housing policies as the strongest case for reparations.
The effort will prioritize descendants of Evanston residents that lived in the city between 1919 and 1969, the time period when the city’s zoning ordinances were in full effect. This plan is not without its critics. Some have said this plan is just a housing plan dressed up as reparations as others say true reparations would be direct cash payments instead of focusing on housing. This first phase has only affected 16 residents out of an estimated population of 12,000 Black residents, but others see it as a good symbolic gesture and start.
Berkeley city council passed the first phase to address the economic injury made to African Americans in Berkeley. The council will allocate funding towards hiring a consultant that will make policy recommendations to the city. Berkeley leaders envision the whole reparations process will have four parts: reckoning, acknowledgement, accountability, and redress.
One of the biggest issues Berkeley, just like any other city, will have to solve is the matter of who will qualify to get reparations money. Berkeley was once around 23% Black, but now the Black population is down to about 8%. Would former Berkeley residents who were driven away by discriminatory policies be allowed to partake in reparation compensation? That question and many, many more will have to be addressed before any amount of money is allocated to this cause.
Providence, Rhode Island
The city of Providence has allocated $10 million towards reparations. This budget was signed by Mayor Jorge Elorza after months of meetings by a commission that determined how the American Rescue Plan Act fund would be spent.
The biggest chunk of the budget will go towards homeownership and financial literacy, workforce training, and small business grants. Other plans of the program include funding the creation of Black-owned media outlets and African heritage cultural organizations.
A commission to study the issue of racial inequality and reparations was formed and an almost 200 page report was released detailing how people of color have been harmed by the city’s institutions for more than four centuries.
Providence’s plan does not include direct cash payments.
Asheville was one of the very first cities to pass a measure to provide reparation funding for its Black residents. But as you might guess, it is not direct cash payments. Just like the other cities, Asheville’s proposal is to focus its funds to promote homeownership and business opportunities for African Americans in the city. The city approved that measure back in 2020.
This year, a Reparations Commission has been set up to make short and long term recommendations to the City Council.
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