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Asheville council votes 7-0 for reparations to blacks
Sunday, 19 July 2020 19:46

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council voted 7-0 to provide reparations to the city’s black residents and their descendants during its July 14 online meeting.

Prior to the vote, council officially “apologized for Asheville’s historic role in slavery, discrimination and denial of basic liberties” to black residents, the Asheville Citizen TImes reported.

It was “an extraordinary move,” the ACT noted.

In a separate report, Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) stated, “The move officially recognizes the injustices of centuries and attempts to right the wrongs... The resolution calls on Asheville organizations to apologize and make amends with the black community, pushes for generational wealth, and seeks to establish a Community Reparations Commission, among several other steps.”

The ACT quoted Councilman Keith Young, who is black and was the measure’s chief advocate, as saying, “Hundreds of years of black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today.

“It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature,” Young said, according to the ACT.

Meanwhile, Young told News 13 on July 10, “We need to be made whole in areas of health care, education, employment, criminal justice, business ownership, home ownership, overall equity and, of course, generational wealth.”

The resolution “does not mandate direct payments,” the ACT noted. “ Instead it will make investments in areas where black residents face disparities.”

The resolution states, “The resulting budgetary and programmatic priorities may include but not be limited to increasing minority home ownership and access to other affordable housing, increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities, strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice.”


In addition, the city will create the Community Reparations Commission, inviting community groups and other local governments to join, the ACT reported. “It will be the commission’s job to make concrete recommendations for programs and resources to be used.”

Sheneika Smith, council’s other black council member, said that the elected officials had gotten many emails from those “asking, ‘Why should we pay for what happened during slavery?’” the ACT quoted Smith as saying.

Slavery “is this institution that serves as the starting point for the building of the strong economic floor for white America, while attempting to keep blacks subordinate forever to its progress,” Smith said, according to the ACT.

“Council allowed an hour of public comment on the measure,” the ACT reported. “Many who were not able to speak before the vote waited for another hour-long comment period afterward, pushing the meeting late into the night.”

In other action, council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the temporary installation of a Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Asheville.

Smith, who spearheaded the project along with Asheville Area Arts Council, said the mural could be painted around the Vance Monument within the next two weeks. “All fundraising done by donations have been raised to pay the artists as well was funds for the paint,” Smith said over the weekend, News 13 noted. “But we will continue to fundraiser because we also want funds to cover the costs for when the mural is removed.”

Lead artists Jenny Pickens, Joseph Pearson and Marie Cochran, along with volunteers, will have 12 hours to complete the mural, based on the city permit.

Also, after a discussion, council tabled a resolution to allow City Attorney Brad Branham to enter into a contract with Hillard Heintze, a Chicago-based consultant, to evaluate Asheville police actions during protests.



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