Wilmington City Council creates task force to study reparations

Sean Greene Via WDEL

Wilmington City Council voted to create a task force to look into how possible future reparations for descendants of slaves could affect the city.

The City Council Taskforce to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans came into the mind of outgoing Council President Hanifa Shabazz, who said she looked at how similar task forces were created in Chicago; Providence, Rhode Island; and in Raleigh and Asheville, North Carolina as well as work done on the federal level by Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and Senator Corey Booker.

Councilman Chris Johnson, who introduced the resolution on Shabazz's behalf, said that it is a major concern for the Black community that holds about 2% of the wealth.

"Times are changing, I believe reparations is something that for descendants of Africans is not something that is tucked away in the shadow, it is something that is public, and it is due. What reparations look like will come from the federal governments and states, but it is big."

Johnson said his hope for the task force is that it's more than just handing out money.

"What we're talking about is community services. Investment in housing, loan forgiveness, there's a whole host of different ideas that can level the playing field because of over 200 years of oppression. For all Wilmingtonians, a city that is 70% African Americans, this is very important."

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First District Councilwoman Linda Gray voted present, saying that placing this task force into the hands of the new 108th Council that begins next month without their input is inappropriate, even if she supports the idea.

"In the city we have crime to deal with, we have housing problems, I think those are more of a priority for the next session to work on than this task force you are asking for."

The original proposal called for nine members to be selected by council's second meeting in February 2021, but an amendment by Vash Turner struck out the number of members and the timing of the task force's creation.

It is unclear when, or how, the task force would be seated, but it recommends working with the National Conference for Community and Justice, the ACLU, The Urban League, the NAACP, and others.

It was approved 10-1 with Gray's "present" vote and Ciro Adams voting "no."

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