Asheville, North Carolina, agrees to shell out $2.1million in reparations after apologizing for city's role in slavery

A NORTH Carolina city will dedicate $2.1million to fund reparations as an effort at undoing the legacy of racism and slavery in the area.

The proposal from the Asheville City Council was approved as part of a budget agreement passed on Tuesday in addition to making June 19 or Juneteenth, the official date marking the end of slavery in the US, a paid holiday for city workers.

The city of Asheville first approved the initiative last July when its reparations bill received unanimous approval from City Council and joined the ranks of other states that have passed a reparations bill, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Iowa.

The money for reparations will come from city land first purchased for $3.7million in the 1970s as part of a series of urban renewal programs that tore apart black communities, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.

"We must collectively strive to close gaps of immeasurable distance between us and affirm the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Mayor Esther Manheimer read in the proclamation.

The money will not go directly into pockets, but will instead be used to invest in low-income black communities and fund a series of other programs to address the racial wealth gap.

City Manager Debra Campbell said the first phase of the program will fund a speaker series to address racial disparities.

The second phase, which is set to begin next month, will focus on the formation of a Reparations Commission.

The Commission will then put together a report including recommendations and strategies for distributing the funding, set to begin in January of next year, AVL Today reports.

"There was a question about, well, how will this be spent? What are the projects?" Campbell said.

"We don't know yet. What we do know is that we have asked the commission once it is formed, to provide us with short, medium and long-term initiatives."

During a public hearing on the subject, some residents and speakers said they thought the $2.1million amount was not enough, and that the city should instead divest from police departments.

The move puts Asheville in the ranks of local city governments to pass reparations bills, beginning with Evanston, Illinois, in March.

The Evanston program, which would give $400,000 to black households, was expected to serve as a blueprint for the country.

The bill faced backlash after black recipients of the money complained that the $25,000 amount could only go towards housing.

Many argued the money would eventually end up in the pockets of the same banks and real estate companies originally responsible for racist policies like "redlining," referring to the practice of banks routinely denying Black residents housing loans.

The Asheville resolution served as inspiration for Tulsa City Counselor Mykey Arthell in his project to impose reparations to address the Tulsa race massacre on "Black Wall Street" a century ago.

Arthell contacted the Councilman behind Asheville's reparations bill, Keith Young, and four months later, the City of Tulsa passed its own reparations act.

The bill came amidst demands that the city pay $1million each from lawyers for the descendants and survivors of the around 300 black people who lost their lives during the massacre.

The Tulsa race massacre occurred on May 31, 1921, when a white mob stormed the predominantly black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, dubbed "Black Wall Street" for its financial prosperity, and left at least 36 dead and thousands of homes burned.

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