BOSTON (AP) — The Boston City Council voted Wednesday to form a task force to study how to bring reparations and other forms of atonement to black Bostonians for the city’s role in slavery and its legacy of inequality.
The unanimous vote means Boston is now joining a talk on reparations taking place across the country from Providence, Rhode Island to California.
Boston is closely watched given its troubled racial history, including its role in supporting and funding slavery even after Massachusetts abolished the practice in 1780. Proponents of reparations cited his history of segregated housing, as well as a post-emancipation political economy that limited opportunities for black Bostonians. The result, they said, is a wide wealth gap between white and black families that persists to this day.
“This ordinance is just the beginning of a long-awaited but necessary conversation,” said Councilor Julia Mejia. “The city of Boston, like many areas in the United States, has benefited from the labor of enslaved African Americans and further disadvantaged them by denying them participation in the same economic mobility opportunities as their white counterparts.”
Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP’s Boston branch, called the vote a “historic and important step forward in a deliberative, robust and inclusive process designed to help our city realize the role it played in supporting black enslavement.” has better understand The United States.”
Lawmakers across the country have been urging their states and cities to consider reparations. Evanston, Illinois, last year became the first US city to provide reparations to black residents, and officials in New York will again seek to set up a state reparations commission. California formed a commission to study the issue and is meeting on Wednesday to consider what form of reparations and eligibility requirements for receiving possible payments could be accepted.
in the Providence, Rhode Island, the mayor proposed earlier this year to spend $10 million in federal coronavirus funds for reparation efforts. The money would be spent on financial literacy and home ownership, workforce training, small business development and other programs recently recommended by the city’s indemnity commission.
In Boston, activists have been calling for the city to pay for it for years role in slavery. The idea of reparations was first proposed by Bill Owens in the 1980s. the first black senator in Massachusetts. He died earlier this year.
Rev. Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, which has campaigned for reparations for several years, concedes the ordinance wasn’t perfect but “moves our city forward.”
“This indemnity ordinance brings us closer to justice for the living heritage of those who were once enslaved in Boston,” he said. “We can only look forward to a productive redress process and a changed perception of Boston.”
That task force in Boston will examine reparation models and examine the differences that have existed in the city in relation to the African American community. It will also collect data on “historical harm” to black Bostonians and hold hearings where it will collect community testimony on issues they have faced.
The panel will make recommendations for redress and ways to eliminate policies and laws that continue to harm black Bostonians. It will also recommend how the city will issue a formal apology to the “People of Boston for the commission of gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity against African slaves and their descendants.”
“The time is ripe for us to begin a process of exploring the mechanisms through which robust reparations policies for Boston’s black community can manifest,” Councilwoman Tania Fernandes Anderson said in a statement. “After centuries of ingrained and embedded structures of institutional racism, such as those epitomized by slavery, legalized segregation, redlining, lynching, racist real estate practices, and injustices in education, healthcare and policing, among others, it is clear that a debt is owed to the people who have faced these matters.”
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