NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Northampton City Council passed a resolution on Thursday that called on the Mayor to investigate both modern and historic harms to Black city residents, recommending reparations.
“We felt it was the right thing to do and so we came together as a group and two years later the resolution is now passed by the Northampton City Council,” said John Berkowitz of the Northampton Reparations Committee.
During a City Council meeting about three weeks ago, Garrick Perry, Jamila Gore, and Marissa Elkins introduced the resolution. And a vote was taken Thursday night to pass the resolution.
A commission is now up to the Mayor after dozens of residents spoke in support. Where African-Americans would be the majority of the commission.
Which will work on increasing the number of black people living in the community through reparative justice policies. The commission will address why there are far fewer Black people living in the community, as the population currently sits at just under 3%. A far lower amount than the 13 or 14% proportion of the American population that is Black in many cities.
“We imagine the research will demonstrate why did that low percentage of Black people living in this community happen and then amongst the 2.7% that is Black in this city, almost 22% are under the poverty line in terms of being low income and low wealth,” expressed Berkowitz. “That’s disappropriated to the 10% of white people who are low income and low wealth who live in Northampton.”
Berkowitz told 22News, “It’s clear that economic inequality is growing out of discrimination, historic and current is leading to a significant disparity in economic fairness. We hope that the reparative justice initiatives will help to level the playing field and make it fairer, and that’s going to help the entire community.”
“Along with reparative justice policies to the City Council. These policies will begin with making a formal apology for these harms that were committed,” added Berkowitz. “Lives were stolen, labor was stolen and that’s what the wealth of our country was built on.”
The commission must be formed within six weeks, by the end of March. At least 13 members of the community will be nominated by the Mayor.
What has Amherst begun?
Amherst has begun a similar process. The African Heritage Reparation Assembly plans to consult with the community through a survey. Chair and Amhest City Councilor Michele Miller says it will give residents and stakeholders the chance to weigh in on eligibility, and use of funds, and allow a space for African American residents to share their experience in the town.