The City Council today agreed to have a committee consider the idea of creating a Reparations Commission to come up with ways to pay Black Bostonians for centuries of slavery, discrimination and redlining.
"The solution to injustice is justice," said City Councilor Julia Mejia (at large), who formally proposed the commission with councilors Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury) and Brian Worrell (Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale). She said that Boston continued to benefit from slavery long after the state outlawed it in 1780 and who noted ongoing inequities in the housing market have led to Black residents having far fewer assets than their White counterparts.
The proposed commission would study the history of harm to African-Americans in Boston, then recommend possible reparations for them.
Mejia noted the recent death of Bill Owens, who first championed the idea as a state senator. "We have an obligation to pick up where he left off," Mejia said.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty questioned whether Mejia was proposing paying would-be commission members up to $50,000 a year - and enrolling them in the city pension system. Mejia said the goal was to compensate commission members similarly to the way members of the police civilian review board are paid for their service, but added the specifics could be hashed out in committee meetings.
In addition to the three sponsors, councilors Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton), Ruthzee Louijeune (at large), Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, Mission Hill), Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale) , Kenzie Bok (Back Bay, Mission Hill, Beacon Hill, Fenway) and Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, downtown) signed on to support studying a possible commission.
The proposal now goes to the Council's committee on government operations for public hearings and creation of an ordinance for a council vote.