Home National news New England Town Considers Accelerating Reparations Timeline in Pioneering Initiative

New England Town Considers Accelerating Reparations Timeline in Pioneering Initiative

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Officials in Amherst, Massachusetts, are contemplating accelerating their groundbreaking reparations initiative. Located in the so-called Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, Amherst established one of the nation’s first reparation funds for Black residents two years ago, and town officials are now deliberating options to expedite the allocation of the $2 million endowment.

The Amherst Town Council sought to address historical injustices resulting from slavery and discrimination in 2020 as a response to widespread protests following the tragic death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Officials said the fund’s inception marked a significant stride towards reconciliation and equity.

The proposed funding plan, equivalent to the annual tax revenue generated from cannabis sales, currently stands at an estimated $200,000 annually. The original strategy entailed a decade-long effort to grow the fund before disbursing up to $100,000 yearly in the town, where the Black population constitutes approximately 6%.

The Assembly, which the town manager appointed, now favors a potentially shorter timeline. One proposition suggests allocating $100,000 from cannabis tax revenue annually towards reparations. Another option is to achieve the $2 million target in four years rather than the initially envisioned 10.

“The recommendations we’ve made will begin to make this space one that is more inviting, welcoming, and hospitable for people of African descent,” asserted Amilcar Shabazz, a distinguished member of the Assembly and a professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts. Shabazz, who authored a comprehensive book on reparations, emphasized the transformative potential of the endeavor.

Amherst joins a growing roster of American communities, organizations, and institutions committed to providing reparations for Black individuals. The movement spans states like California, cities like Providence, religious denominations including the Episcopal Church, and prestigious colleges such as Georgetown University.

Advocates in Amherst have pointed to Evanston, Illinois, which recently became the first U.S. city to implement reparations. Evanston’s program utilizes tax revenues from marijuana sales to provide eligible Black residents with $25,000 housing grants for down payments, repairs, or existing mortgages.

California has also made significant strides in the pursuit of reparations, with a task force presenting lawmakers with a report containing over 100 recommendations earlier this year. The exhaustive 1,100-page report meticulously outlines California’s historical role in perpetuating discrimination against Black residents. Proposed remedies range from formal apologies to financial restitution for descendants of enslaved individuals impacted by discriminatory policing and housing policies.

In December 2020, the Amherst Town Council adopted the African Heritage Reparation Assembly, which officials called a pivotal step in affirming the town’s commitment to ending structural racism and achieving racial equity for Black residents. The Assembly’s mandate was to formulate reparations proposals and a comprehensive Municipal Reparations Plan, encompassing both a reparations fund and a community-wide process of reconciliation and repair.

The plan includes eligibility criteria determined and approved by the broader Amherst Black community through a comprehensive census and community feedback process. Additional strategies to combat anti-Black structural and communal racism, such as truth-telling and reconciliation events, will be integrated. “Collaboration with other groups striving for racial equity in Amherst and engagement with key community stakeholders will be prioritized,” officials stated.

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