9:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu drinks some java at the Jamaica Plain Coffee Hour. | Mozart Street Playground, 10 Mozart Street, Jamaica Plain
11:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu joins the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bunker Hill public housing redevelopment. | 57 Walford Way, Charlestown
1 p.m. | Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll chairs a meeting of the Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Council. | Lynnfield Municipal Police Training Center, 425 Walnut St., Lynnfield
1 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu cuts the ribbon on the City's new "Slavery in Boston" exhibit. | Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston
A promise of 40 acres and a mule made to freed slaves was never fulfilled by the U.S. government, but 158 years after emancipation (and counting) descendants are starting to see progress on reparations. And a Western Massachusetts town helping to drive the movement could start doling out compensation meant to address the harm as soon as next year.
With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to deliver a final blow to affirmative action any day now, UMass Amherst Prof. Amilcar Shabazz — who serves on the town’s reparations panel — told MASSterList it’s time to take a direct approach to remedy the long-standing effects of entrenched structural racism on Black Americans as a result of slavery.
“We didn’t do it on Juneteenth in 1865 when we pushed blacks into neo-slavery that didn’t stop until the 1950s and even then, we didn’t begin to address and make up for the past harms. When are we ever going to do it?” Shabazz asked.
Shabazz and his colleagues on the Amherst panel will recommend the town begin reparations payments by the end of 2024. If town officials concur with the panel report due out later this month, Amherst would be the first Massachusetts community and second town in the nation to deliver some kind of direct repayment. Although, who qualifies hasn’t yet been decided.
Amherst has amassed roughly $500,000 for the effort through its excess cannabis tax revenue. The panel is still sussing out what reparations should look like in Amherst, but Shabazz said everything from cash payments to housing vouchers is still on the table.
Evanston, Illinois was the nation’s first to offer restitution — in the form of housing assistance direct to Black residents victimized by the city’s discriminatory housing practices more than six decades ago. And conversations around reparations have taken root in cities from San Francisco to Boston (and Northampton). Cambridge is returning some of its cannabis tax revenues back to Black-owned businesses.
Bills filed by state Sen. Liz Miranda would create a statewide reparations commission and another that would establish a reparations fund using excise taxes from “applicable educational institutions.”
Shabazz said the federal government should be responsible for reparations, but with roughly two-thirds of Americans opposed to payments for descendants of slaves, there is a clear need “to change hearts and minds on the ground at the local level first.”
Support — predictably — is heavily split across racial lines with 80 percent of white Americans against and 77 percent of Black Americans in favor, according to a recent Pew Research survey. Three-quarters of reparations supporters say the federal government should bear all or most of the financial responsibility— but bills have failed to gain traction in Congress.
Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush filed legislation this session calling for $14 trillion in reparations for Black Americans.
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