On Wednesday, Feb. 2, Boston City Councilors Julia Mejia, Tania F. Anderson, and Brian Worrell introduced An Ordinance Creating a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. This ordinance will formally establish a commission whose goal is to, among other things, collect data and document historic harms and inequities experienced by African Americans in Boston, create forums/spaces in the Boston community to gather/share information regarding historic harms and conditions, and to develop a report with specific reparations proposals to address historic and contemporary inequalities resulting from structures and policies which have produced harm. The ordinance was written by Dr. Jemadari Kamara, Chair of Africana Studies Department of UMass Boston, and Yvette Modestin, founder and director of Encuentro Diaspora Afro.
“This is about Black liberation, honoring those whose shoulders we stand on, and planning for those who come after us,” said Yvette Modestin, who co-authored the ordinance alongside Dr. Kamara. “The self determination of the Black Boston community to define for ourselves what reparative justice looks like is crucial. But this is just the beginning. It’s about mind, it’s about feet, and it’s about heart.”
In October of 2021, the Boston City Council held a hearing on reparations and its impact on the civil rights of Black Bostonians, during which several community members came forward urging the Council to help create a commission to explore what reparations will look like in Boston. This ordinance is the result of that work.
“It should not be lost on us that we are filing this shortly after the passing of Senator Bill Owens, who pioneered reparations efforts way back in the 1980s,” said Councilor Mejia on Wednesday. “We have an obligation to pick up where he left off. We are calling for this reparations commission today because of a history of segregation and injustice in Boston, and the way we have gone about addressing that is by centering the community and letting them lead the change.”
“It is past time to compensate the descendents of those who were enslaved and forced to labor without pay for centuries, who suffered another century of legalized segregation, redlining, and other racist laws, and who continue to be victimized by current racism in jobs, policing, housing, education, and healthcare,” said Councilor Anderson.
“Our nation has a long and painful history of slavery, segregation, and discrimination that has impacted countless Black and Brown people,” said Councilor Worrell. “This Commission will finally create an official venue for these important conversations that will expose truth and lead to reconciliation and true equity within our City.”