Northampton City Council approves commission to study reparations for Black residents

City Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
City Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The City Council in Northampton, Massachusetts, has voted to form a commission to study the possibility of reparations for Black residents, workers and students. The move follows similar action in Amherst and Boston.

In a resolution, the Northampton City Council apologized for past decisions it said entrenched segregation and discrimination in areas like housing and licensing.

The City Council also voted to create a commission to study what initiatives should be funded to redress those harms and nourish Black community and culture.

City Councilor Garrick Perry, who co-sponsored the resolution, said he'll now work with the mayor's office and fellow councilors to put forth "kind of an outline of what the commission's charge will be and a timeline as well as what the composition of the commission will be."

Perry said they plans to have the outline ready by March 30.

"We are at a point after the pandemic really, our country, the world has been kind of fractured and separated and we're finally starting to take the steps towards coming back together," Perry said. "And part of that is acknowledging the past and working towards the future and — for me that's what this is all is about."

Perry said the city needs to find ways to improve diversity in city government.

The resolution calls for at least half of the commission to be Black members of the community. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, fewer than 3% of Northampton residents are Black.

The town of Amherst already has a reparations commission. Last June, the Town Council there approved placing $2 million over 10 years into an account to help end structural racism and achieve racial equality.

The Amherst commission is continuing to gather community input and plans to survey its residents on the subject next month. In June, the commission is scheduled to present recommendations to the Town Council.

More recently, in early February, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu formally appointed members to the city's reparations task force, less than two months after the city council unanimously approved the group's formation.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.



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