Proposed Boston Slavery Reparations Commission

BOSTON (AP) — Boston would form a new commission to assess how it can provide reparations and other forms of atonement for its role in slavery and its legacy of inequality, under a proposal presented to the council city ​​this week.

Councilwoman Julia Mejia, in an order presented Wednesday, asks the special panel to document the disparities and “historical damage” suffered by black Bostonians, drawing on oral histories, archival research, community forums and other resources.

The commission would then issue its findings within two years, outlining how Boston can officially apologize for its role in the slave trade, how the city’s laws and policies continue to disproportionately impact African Americans, and how these injuries can be reversed, according to a copy of the proposal provided to The Associated Press.

The proposal represents the “final stretch” in a decades-long effort to get the city to recognize and atone for its role in slavery, said Tammy Tai, deputy director of King Boston, a nonprofit that has helped develop Mejia’s proposal.

“We are at a catalyst moment,” she said Tuesday. “Repairs can actually take place in Boston.”

Spokespersons for Mayor Michelle Wu did not respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday, and Mejia said she would hold working sessions to “refine” the proposal before it is voted on by the legislature. advice.

“While we want to make sure this process happens quickly, we are also very conscious of the need to preserve the spirit of this order,” Mejia said in a statement.

Meanwhile, King Boston, who is working to create a Boston memorial to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, has already begun compiling historical research on the damage inflicted on the Boston’s black community that he hopes will be incorporated into the commission’s work. , according to Tai.

Mejia’s proposal indicates that Boston benefited from and was complicit in supporting and funding slavery even after Massachusetts abolished the practice in 1780.

City leaders also created a society that limited opportunities for black residents after emancipation. The result was that in 2015, a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston report found a wide wealth gap between Boston’s white families and black families, the proposal says.

The proposed order notes that atonement can take various forms, not just direct financial payments to affected Black residents. It says Boston may also consider “rehabilitation” efforts that provide care and services to victims, and restitution, which aims to restore a victim to their position before the violations occurred.

Tai said the city should look at how Evanston, Ill., has developed its repairs program. The Chicago suburb became the first U.S. city to start paying for repairs last year with a program giving eligible black residents housing subsidies to help pay down payments, home repairs and existing mortgages.

“It’s not just about issuing checks,” Tai said. “This is a complete healing of the community.

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